When someone reads the right book at the right time in their life, it can have a profound effect. Such is the case for the people on this list, who come from all walks of life. These people have singled out a book that they read which had a life-changing effect on them. They, in turn, affected the worlds of popular culture, science, technology, and politics.
10 Competing Against Time – Tim Cook
Competing Against Time Best Price: $5.21 Buy New $17.20 (as of 05:20 EST - Details) After graduating from college, Tim Cook got into computers when he landed his first job with IBM in 1982. In 1996, he started to work for Apple when they were at the lowest point in their company’s history, having lost $1 billion the previous fiscal year. Cook is credited with reorganizing the company’s manufacturing operations. He simplified the network of manufacturers and distributors, and he improved Apple’s systems to keep better track of inventory. When Apple became one of the most successful companies of all time, Cook was hailed as a brilliant manager with an amazing ability to communicate. After the death of Steve Jobs in 2011, Cook took over as CEO of Apple.
The book that had the greatest effect on Cook, which he is known to hand out to colleagues, is Competing Against Time, by George Stalk Jr. and Thomas M. Hout. The book is about how time management is one of the most important aspects of a company. When a company organizes their time, it cuts down on costs and makes customers happier. Based on ideas from the book, Cook tried to impress upon his employees that it is important to give your customers what they want, when they want it, because if you don’t, your competitor will.
Cook is described here as opposed to Jobs himself, because Jobs had a lot of books that influenced him, and there isn’t a single one to point out. One notable book that Jobs liked was Be Here Now, by Ram Dass. The book was very influential in the hippie movement, and it is about meditation, yoga, and spirituality.
9 The Little Prince – James Dean
During James Dean’s short life, he made just three films. All of them are considered classics, and he was posthumously nominated for two Academy Awards. His brief flash of stardom still shines today, 60 years after dying in a tragic car accident at the age of 24, on September 30, 1955.
Dean’s favorite book was one that he read in high school, which was the classic and beloved novella The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Published in 1943, The Little Prince is narrated by a pilot who crashes in the Sahara Desert. As he is fixing his plane, a little blond boy, the titular little prince, approaches him and asks for help with drawing a sheep. After they become friends, the prince tells the pilot that he came from a tiny planet called Asteroid 325. He left his planet because he got lonely. As he talks to the pilot, he explains that on his journey, he encountered grown-ups for the first time, and he was not impressed with the attitudes of the people he met.
The Little Prince, which the author said is “a book for children that is written for adults,” is about disillusionment with adult life and the dangers of being narrow-minded. One of the main messages is that it is important to keep an open mind and always be curious.
Dean deeply identified with the book and took it with him any time he moved. The book was so important to Dean that his good friend, biographer, and possible lover, William Bast, wrote about it in an inscription on Dean’s memorial near his crash site. The inscription starts off with Dean’s favorite line from the book, “What is essential is invisible to the eye.” It is then followed by Bast’s explanation, “This quotation from Jean Antoine de Saint Exupery’s ‘The Little Prince’ was probably James Dean’s favorite. It seemed to hold a deep and private significance for him, and he read it often especially with those he loved.”
The Remains of the Day Best Price: $0.99 Buy New $4.44 (as of 02:45 EST - Details) 8 The Remains Of The Day – Jeff Bezos
Amazon got its start in 1995 when its founder, Jeff Bezos, left his job as vice president of a Wall Street firm and moved to Seattle to focus on building the business. Originally, Amazon started as an online bookseller and has since grown to be the biggest marketplace on the Internet.
Bezos obviously saw the value in books, so he was asked what was the most influential book he’s ever read. Perhaps, because of Amazon’s success and corporate culture, one might think that it would be some business book. Instead, it is the Man Booker Award–winning Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro. The 1989 novel is told from the point of view of an English butler named Mr. Stevens, who tells the story though his diary and everyday events. The plot revolves around his work and his undying love for a housekeeper who used to work at the manor with him.
Bezos said he loved the book because he thought it was impossibly perfect. He did not know someone could actually write something like that. When he was asked if he saw any parallels between his work with Amazon and the book, he said, “What we’re doing here is unusual but nowhere in the same league as impossible.”
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