Leadership

10 great books for your holiday gift list recommended by Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson and other top leaders

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Books make great holiday gifts and if you're looking for ideas, consider selections recommended by top leaders, trendsetters, millionaires and billionaires. These books, all recommended or praised this year by big names such as Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon, run the gamut from fiction to history to self-help. They're sure to please a range of names on your gift list.

1. For science and history buffs

Title: "Energy and Civilization: A History"
Author: Vaclav Smil
Recommended by: Bill Gates
What the book's about: In Vaclav Smil's book, the author and professor looks at world history not through rotating names of kings and queens but through how humans have harnessed energy from caveman days to modern cultural and social advancements. The analysis spans pre-agricultural foraging societies through today's fossil fuel-driven civilization.

Why Bill Gates thinks it's great: Gates said Smil's book made him feel even more optimistic about how soon the next generation in clean energy will be reached, "from carbon-natural liquid fuels to game-changing improvements in energy generation, storage and transmission."

Gates said he waits for new books from Vaclav Smil "the way some people wait for the next 'Star Wars' movie." He's also praised Smil's ability to capture the big picture as well as history's most remarkable details.

2. For those seeking inspiration

Title: "The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row"
Author: Anthony Ray Hinton
Recommended by: Oprah Winfrey
What the book's about: At 29 years old, Anthony Ray Hinton was arrested and charged with two counts of capital murder in Alabama. His memoir tells the story of how he was falsely convicted and released from death row after 30 years.

Why Oprah Winfrey thinks it's great: Though she's chosen very few memoirs for her esteemed book club, Winfrey says "this story reads like an epic novel." She added, "throughout the book try to imagine yourself falsely accused and in a 5-by-7 cell for 30 years," said Winfrey. Hinton "is a remarkable storyteller and when you read [this book], you'll be swept away into this unbelievable, dramatic true story."

3. For leaders and feminists alike

Title: "That's What She Said"
Author: Joanne Lipman
Recommended by: Mark Cuban
What the book's about: In "That's What She Said," former USA Today editor in chief Joanne Lipman tackles gender norms in the workplace and offers solutions on gender gap issues. Using anecdotes from numerous corporate flubs, recent studies and stories from her own experience, Lipman offers a roadmap for empowering women.

Why Mark Cuban thinks it's great: As a business leader, Cuban said the book provides "amazing insights" that could help anyone recognize workplace issues, communication challenges and possible solutions.

"One of my most important takeaways from the book was learning that treating everyone equally doesn't mean treating everyone the same," said Cuban in a Barron's interview. "Each person has unique qualities that can benefit a company in ways I hadn't fully considered. This book helped me. It will help you, too."

4. For the chill overachiever

Title: "Super Mind"
Author: Norman Rosenthal
Recommended by: Ray Dalio
What the book's about: Research psychiatrist Norman Rosenthal explores how anyone can perform at peak aptitude through the daily practice of Transcendental Meditation, heightening physical, emotional and intellectual capabilities.

Why Ray Dalio thinks it's great: As the billionaire founder of Bridgewater Associates, Dalio has found refuge in meditation. Aside from being featured in the book, Dalio has meditated almost every day since 1969 and said Transcendental Meditation has "helped him feel like a ninja in the midst of battle."

"It gives you an equanimity, a centeredness, a calmness — so that you can thoughtfully deal with things in a better way without being emotionally hijacked," he told CNBC Make It earlier this year. Meditation is "very powerful," he said. "It gave me an equilibrium that really helped me."

5. For the hopeless romantic

Title: "Next Year in Havana"
Author: Chanel Cleeton
Recommended by: Reese Witherspoon
What the book's about: The historic romance novel follows Marisol, a Cuban-American woman, who travels from Miami to Cuba to visit her grandmother's home country. When she does, she discovers a family secret that's been kept for nearly six decades.

Why Reese Witherspoon thinks it's great: She selected "Next Year In Havana" as a summer read for her book club that celebrates women's stories. On Instagram, she lauded the book, adding, "I can never resist a good romance."

"It's a beautiful novel that's full of forbidden passions, family secrets and a lot of courage and sacrifice," wrote Witherspoon on Instagram. "In the end, it's all about love."

6. For the changemaker

Title: "New Power"
Author: Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms
Recommended by: Richard Branson
What the book's about: The authors look at the forces shaping the hyperconnected 21st century and how that's impacting politics, business and society.

Why Richard Branson thinks it's great: The billionaire founder of Virgin Group suggests the book for those who "want to understand how the world is changing, what's really happening and how we can all find our way." He says, "this book could not be coming at a better time."

7. For the poet

Title: "Milk and Honey"
Author: Rupi Kuar
Recommended by: Emma Watson
What the book's about: This book, originally self-published, has sold millions of copies around the world. The collection of poetry and prose describes survival, violence, abuse, love and loss.

Why Emma Watson thinks it's great: As part of her work with UN Women, the actress recommended Kuar's book in her feminist book club "Our Shared Shelf" because of the author's "audacious" topics.

"Unlike poems I have often spent weeks unraveling, Rupi's poems are not designed to obscure meaning or entertain too much ambiguity — they hit you like punches to the stomach," wrote Watson. "Her sharing, leadership and representation is so generous and brave."

Added Watson, "I will be forever grateful that she took subjects, that as a woman, I still carry shame about, and made them art. It took me an extra step forward and gave me new language."

8. For the fiction lover

Title: "She Would Be King"
Author: Wayétu Moore
Recommended by: Sarah Jessica Parker
What the book's about: "She Would Be King" uses history and magical realism to reimagine the story of the West African country Liberia in its early years. Its three main characters have special gifts and powers that are used to cope with tensions between the African American settlers and indigenous tribes in the country.

Why Sarah Jessica Parker thinks it's great: Upon selecting it for Book Club Central this fall, Parker said the "novel dazzles with beauty and transcendent, transformative humanity."

The author "illuminates what it means to be of and from places that are both faraway and inescapably familiar," wrote Parker. "She took me away from the chaos of our world and it was hard to leave hers. So I offer another very special treat for my fellow bookworms."

9. For moguls and philosophers

Title: "Atlas Shrugged"
Author: Ayn Rand
Praised by: Kevin O'Leary
What the book's about: The fiction book is set in a dystopian America in which private businesses are under the attack of government. Both heroes and villains in "Atlas Shrugged" are businessmen and the story calls into question whether the fundamentals of capitalism are inherently good or evil.

Why Kevin O'Leary thinks it's great: "Atlas Shrugged" is one of the books the entrepreneur and "Shark Tank" star says most influenced his success. Earlier this year, he told the New York Times that it helped him realized "that in capitalism, either you believe in the intrinsic concept about the pursuit of wealth and why it's good for you, or you don't. I never question it."

"I never even think for a second that it was not the right path," he continued. "To me there is darkness and light. Capitalism is the light. Socialism is the darkness. Nothing could ever change my mind about that."

10. For the friend seeking calm

Title: "The Power of Now"
Author: Eckhart Tolle
Recommended by: Huda Kattan
What the book's about: This long-time best-seller tells the story of an awakening by spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle, resulting in a book that has reportedly helped millions find peace and fulfillment in their lives.

Why Huda Kattan thinks it's great: "The Power of Now" taught Kattan, the founder of billion-dollar beauty business Huda Beauty, not only how to be present but to also appreciate silence. "Sometimes, we're just so busy, we're doing so much that we're not aware of our surroundings and the beauty that is actually around us and the beauty that's within us," Kattan told CNBC Make It. "[The book] made me want to take a step back, see everything as it is and to silence my mind."

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Disclosure: These items have been handpicked by our editorial team. CNBC has affiliate relationships with some retailers so, in some cases, if you purchase an item from one of our gift guides, we may get a small share of the revenue from your purchase. This holiday season, the proceeds will be donated to the Council for Economic Education, which supports economic and financial education.