Whenever you think you’re too busy to read, keep in mind that successful people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet set aside time—a full week, in Gates’ case—just to read.
“Plenty of CEOs read books, obviously, but not many do it like Gates,” writes Geoff Colvin in Fortune. “He devours them. As CEO, he scheduled a week each year at a quiet location where he would be entirely undisturbed so he could just read and think.” And Warren Buffet says he spends up to 80 percent of his time reading, Colvin adds (though, not necessarily just books).
In comparison, researchers at the London School of Economics and Harvard Business School found that CEOs they studied spent only 11 percent of their work time working alone, while other research has found that CEOs spend 33 percent of their time in meetings and 30 percent on email, Colvin writes.
So if summer is the time when you actually can find time for reading, here are some books that are on our list:
- Obviously, the first list to start out with is Gates’ own summer reading list (which, as an overachiever, he released in mid-May). And if you’ve got a high schooler whining about why they have to learn trigonometry because they’ll never need it the rest of their life, How Not to be Wrong, by Jordan Ellenberg, is the book for you. Or them.
“Ellenberg, a mathematician and writer, explains how math plays into our daily lives without our even knowing it,” Gates explains. “Each chapter starts with a subject that seems fairly straightforward—electoral politics, say, or the Massachusetts lottery—and then uses it as a jumping-off point to talk about the math involved.”
- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who famously committed to read a book every two weeks in 2015, doesn’t always agree with Gates on everything, but they agree on one thing: the book Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari.
“This book is a big history narrative of human civilization — from how we developed from hunter-gatherers early on to how we organize our society and economy today,” Zuckerberg explains.
- We’re always happy to read anything by Henry Petroski, and his most recent book is the The Road Taken, on infrastructure—not routers and cables, but roads and bridges.
You may wonder what a book on roads and bridges has to do with your job, but you’d be surprised. “Politicians aren’t drawn to megaprojects just because they believe the initial rosy cost projections and therefore underestimate the risk of complications,” writes Josh Barro in the New York Times review of the book. “They also see an opportunity to build their legacy: It’s more fun to say ‘I built that bridge’ than ‘I retrofitted that bridge.’” Sound like any managers you know?
- Interestingly, this year has proved to be a tipping point—to allude to another book often found on these lists—for people to point out the paucity of books by women on such lists. “Through his foundation, billionaire Bill Gateschampions STEM education for women and girls,” writes Ainsley O’Connell in Fast Company, before noting that his list (which, admittedly, has only five books on it this year) doesn’t have any books by women on it. She goes on to suggest several, including The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science is Still a Boy’s Club, by Eileen Pollack.
Not that the sex of the author is the only barometer of diversity, of course. “The predicament of diversity is like a Russian nesting doll—once we crack one layer, there’s always another, a fractal-like subdivision that begins at the infinite and approaches the infinitesimal, getting exponentially granular with each layer, but can never be fully finished,” writes Maria Popova, who submitted her own list in response to the overabundance of testosterone on other lists. “Due to that infinite fractal progression, no attempt to ‘solve’ diversity—especially no thirty-item list—could ever hope to be complete.”
- We’re big fans of behavioral economics here, and there’s two recent books on the subject we’re hoping to tackle this summer: The Confidence Game, by Maria Konnikova, and Smarter Faster Better, by Charles Duhigg. The first one is about con men, why they’re believed, and why you still fall for it, while the second one will end up saving you time just because you won’t have to read any more books on productivity, writes Joel Stein in Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
That said, if you really like reading other people’s book lists, check out the Long Now Foundation. It has no less a goal than curating a collection it calls the Manual for Civilization, which is intended to include the roughly 3500 books most essential to sustain or rebuild civilization. As such, the organization has solicited suggestions from a variety of people ranging from Stewart Brand to Brian Eno “to make sure we don’t just get a bunch of books on how to make fire,” the organization explains.
Here’s hoping you read something this summer that will help you learn how to make fire—metaphorically, at least.
Simplicity 2.0 is where we examine the intricate and transitory world of technology—through a Laserfiche lens. By keeping an eye on larger trends, we aim to make software that’s relevant to modern day workers, rather than build technology for technology’s sake.
Subscribe to Simplicity 2.0 and follow us on Twitter. If what we’re saying piques your interest, head over to Laserfiche.com where you’ll see how we apply the lessons learned on Simplicity 2.0 to our own processes, products and industry.