If you go through Forbes’ list of richest people in the world, chances are they have one thing in common: they read books, be it novels or non-fiction. Photo: File

DURBAN – If you go through Forbes’ list of richest people in the world, the chances are good that most of the self-made billionaires have one thing in common: they read books, be it novels or non-fiction.

Here are some biographies and business books that entrepreneurs (and prospective entrepreneurs) can read to get inspired, learn from, or just enjoy.

As Walt Disney said, “there is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island”.

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

Jeff Bezos, number one on the “rich list”, loves reading and through books, in more ways than one, turned Amazon into one of the most successful and biggest companies in the world.

According to the book, “Jeff’s Reading List” is a list of books Bezos recommends to Amazon employees – find it here.

One thing entrepreneurs can learn from Bezos and how he built the company, is doing everything for the customer. It is no wonder that Amazon’s mission is “to be the earth’s most customer-centric company”.

“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.” – Jim Rohn

Arguably most entrepreneurs want to rise above the ordinary and be extraordinary.

An example of an extraordinary tale is that of Phil Night, the co-founder of Nike.

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

Night tells the story of the humble beginnings of the now famous shoe company. Through grit and determination (and some luck) Night went from selling shoes out of his car’s boot to listing the company on the New York Stock Exchange.

Today Nike, with its famous Swoosh logo, Nike is one of the most recognisable and successful brands. For any aspiring entrepreneur, the company’s famous slogan must act as a call to action: “Just Do It”!

“Read 500 pages…every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.” – Warren Buffett

The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

Buffett is an avid reader and one of the world’s most successful investors. Every year thousands of people flock to hear the ‘Oracle of Omaha’ speak at the annual meeting of his company, Berkshire Hathaway.

The author of the book, Alice Schroeder, had unprecedented access to Buffett, and anyone can learn many life lessons, and business insights, from the man himself in this book.

Jannie Mouton – “And then they fired me”

Mouton is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in South Africa and was famously fired from the brokerage firm he co-founded.

In his biograpy, Mouton tells of how he started to read and summarise books about successful entrepreneurs after he got fired, and Mortimer J. Adler’s quote rings true:

“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.”

After he got fired (and after many books!) Mouton founded PSG, with success stories like Capitec and Curro under his belt, and today he is one of the richest people in South Africa.

“I read books” – Elon Musk, when asked how he learned to build rockets

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

The South African born Musk is the Chief Executive of Tesla and Space-X, and he is pushing the boundaries in terms of renewable energy and space exploration.

To be successful, entrepreneurs must sometimes think differently and out of the box, something Musk is renowned for.

Dream Big - Cristiane Correa

At Mercantile Bank, we have been inspired by the story of how three former investment bankers from Brazil launched themselves in the global market in the most unassuming manner; acquiring Anheuser-Busch, Burger King and Heinz. Their leadership philosophy is one of meritocracy, simplicity and cost efficiency. We have adopted this philosophy in our own approach of doing business and constantly drive ourselves to “Dream Big”

Some other quotes on reading by successful entrepreneurs:

“Reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding.” – Bill Gates

“I would continuously search for new ideas. I read every book and magazine I could. Heck, 3 bucks for a magazine, 20 bucks for a book. One good idea that led to a customer or solution and it paid for itself many times over.” – Mark Cuban

“Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today.” – Mark Zuckerberg

Some other books to consider:

From Good to Great – Jim Collins

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey

Grit – Angela Duckworth

The Innovator’s Dilemma – Clayton M. Christensen

The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz

Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson 

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE