Books and Culture

7 books that everyone should read in 2019, recommended by execs from Twitter, Square and more

Emma Newburger
Billionaire investor Ray Dalio wrote "Principles," a book that has been has hailed by a range of leaders and entrepreneurs for its insights.
Scott Mlyn | CNBC

A new year means new reads. To get your 2019 reading list started, CNBC Make It has collected book recommendations from a range of tech leaders and start-up execs. Let these selections inspire and motivate you in the year ahead to drive innovation and make lasting change.


Author: Tara Westover
What it's about: In this celebrated memoir, a young woman who was raised by survivalists decides to leave her family to pursue a formal education. After overcoming a range of challenges, she eventually graduates with a PhD from Cambridge University.
Why you should read it: The book made a number of must-read lists in 2018, including Barack Obama's. Says Sarah LaFleur, CEO of clothing start-up MM.LaFleur: "It is the most remarkable memoir I've ever read. I finished it in three days — I couldn't put it down. It teaches the importance of learning to think for yourself, to challenge the status quo, and to always seek your own truth."

"So You Want To Talk About Race?"

Author: Ijeoma Oluo
What it's about: This book addresses tough issues such as privilege and intersectionality to craft an accessible look at the racial landscape in America.
Why you should read it: "It's the most direct and disarming approach to the topic that I've ever read," says Leslie Berland, the CMO of Twitter. Readers will walk away with a "deeper understanding" of these tough issues and "tangible tools for having meaningful conversations about race."

"Measure what Matters"

Author: John Doerr
What it's about: This book, written by engineer and acclaimed venture capitalist Doerr, explores how companies can set better goals and move from ideas to execution with a system that focuses on objective key results (OKRs), or the key things that need to be accomplished.
Why you should read it: Top CEOs from Larry Page to Susan Wojcicki swear by this book for managers looking to engage their teams. "Not only will it teach you how to employ a super useful framework that will drive focus and growth," says Kamini Rangappan Lane, the CMO of peer-to-peer marketplace Tradesy, "but the book has really interesting, real life anecdotes from everyone from Bono to Bill Gates."


Author: Hector Garcia, Francesc Miralles
What it's about: This book explores ikigai, a Japanese concept of living and doing with joy, providing a framework for living with purpose.
Why you should read it: "It is an inspiring book that motivates us to continuously strive to find our passion and pursue only what makes us fulfilled," says Rachel Drori, founder and CEO of Daily Harvest, a subscription box company. "I started [Daily Harvest] because of my passion to keep myself and my family healthy, and it grew into an initiative to bring more fruits and vegetables into everyone's life. Reading 'Ikigai' inspires me to keep at it."

"Competing Against Luck"

Author: Clayton Christensen
What it's about: This book by Harvard professor and innovation expert Christensen proposes that customers "hire" a company to complete certain "jobs." Knowing why customers make these decisions can help companies develop innovative products and services that meet real needs.
Why you should read it: "Christensen provides a unique framework to think about innovation, customer needs and building great products to serve those needs," says Gokul Rajaram, the Caviar Lead at Square. "The Jobs To Be Done (JTBD) framework espoused in the book is now increasingly used as the bedrock of strategy formulation at a growing number of companies — including at Caviar and Square."

"Shoe Dog"

Author: Phil Knight
What it's about: This memoir by Nike's co-founder Phil Knight traces the tough early days of building the iconic shoe company.
Why you should read it: "It's a phenomenal story about perseverance," says Stephen Kuhl, the CEO of Burrow, a furniture start-up. "We gift each new employee his book because it's fascinating to hear how he learned by doing, and grew Nike from a small factory to one of the most recognizable brands in history. Believe it or not, Burrow's manufacturing journey has been similar so far, and it's a must-read for anyone at a products company."


Author: Ray Dalio
What it's about: Dalio, a successful investor and entrepreneur, shares the principles he's honed over decades to be successful in both life and business.
Why you should read it: Both Bill Gates and Tony Robbins find Dalio's insights both "invaluable" and "extraordinary." The book has impacted others as well. "Dalio's radical approach to leadership, business and life will transform how you think about all three," says Michael Martin, the CEO of Rapid SOS, a technology company.

Slack’s CEO recommended this book to his entire leadership team