12 books that shaped the way Jeff Bezos, now the world’s richest man, thinks about success – CNBC

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Jeff Bezos, now the world’s richest man with a net worth of over $90 billion, loves books.

For one, the company that made him a multi-billionaire started as an online book retailer. He’s spent his career changing the way books are published and sold, devouring many small bookstores in the process.

But on a more personal level, the Amazon founder and CEO also has an abiding love of reading, and it has played a key role in forming him as a leader.

In biography “The Everything Store,” author Brad Stone describes how books shaped Bezos’ leadership style and way of thinking. In fact, Stone writes that there’s a list of books Amazon employees refer to as “Jeff’s Reading List.”

It includes autobiographies, business and technology reads and even a novel, and according to Stone, many Amazon executives have made their way through these volumes.

Ishiguro’s novel is a first-person narrative told by a butler who recalls his time serving in the army during the first World War. The book explores the meaning of duty, the pursuit of greatness and the sacrifices that come with both. Stone writes that it is Bezos’ favorite novel.

“Bezos has said he learns more from novels than nonfiction,” Stone writes.

This famous management read explains how companies that succeed build environments where “employees who embrace the central mission flourish,” Stone writes.

“The key thing about a book is that you lose yourself in the author’s world.”
-Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO, Amazon

“A video game designer argues that intelligent systems can be created from the bottom up if one devises a set of primitive building blocks,” Stone writes. “The book was influential in the creation of Amazon Web Services, or AWS, the service that popularized the notion of the cloud.”

Author and business consultant Collins briefed Amazon executives on many of the principles in this book before its publication, according to Stone.

It explains how “companies must confront the brutal facts of their business, find out what they are uniquely good at and master their flywheel, in which each part of the business reinforces and accelerates the other parts.”

In this book, Christensen argues that companies improve by embracing disruptive innovation. Michael Bloomberg, founder and CEO of the eponymous company, once described the book as “absolutely brilliant.”

“An enormously influential business book whose principles Amazon acted on and that facilitated the creation of the Kindle and [Amazon Web Services],” Stone writes. “Some companies are reluctant to embrace disruptive technology because it might alienate customers and undermine their core business, but Christensen argues that ignoring potential disruption is even costlier.”

“In his autobiography, Walmart’s founder expounds on the principles of discount retailing and discusses his core values of frugality and a bias for action — a willingness to try a lot of things and make many mistakes,” Stone writes. “Bezos included both in Amazon’s corporate values.”

This book explores how major American, European and Japanese companies applied a series of “lean thinking” principles in an attempt to cut costs and boost efficiency to survive the 1991 recession and grow over the rest of the decade.

“[The book is] a collection of memos to employees by the chairman of the now defunct investment bank Bear Stearns,” Stone writes. “In his memos, Greenberg is constantly restating the bank’s core values, especially modesty and frugality.”

“An influential computer scientist makes the counterintuitive argument that small groups of engineers are more effective than larger ones at handling complex software projects,” Stone writes.

“An exposition of the science of manufacturing written in the guise of the novel, the book encourages companies to identify the biggest constraints in their operations,” Stone writes, “and then structure their organizations to get the most out of those constraints.”

“[This is] a guide to using data to measure everything from customer satisfaction to the effectiveness of marketing,” Stone writes. “Amazon employees must support all assertions with data, and if the data has a weakness, they must point it out or their colleagues will do it for them.”

“The scholar argues that people are wired to see patterns in chaos while remaining blind to unpredictable events, with massive consequences. Experimentation and empiricism trumps the easy and obvious narrative,” Stone writes.

For Bezos, the most important thing a book can provide is an escape.

“The key thing about a book is that you lose yourself in the author’s world,” Bezos tells The Washington Post.

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Check out the No. 1 takeaway from Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s favorite book

This is an updated version of a previously published article.


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