12 books to read this summer by billionaires who founded businesses and grew them into legendary empires

  • Autobiographies make for good summer reading, and the life stories of entrepreneurs offer both entertainment and insight.
  • Business Insider compiled this list of 12 books by billionaire business leaders who started from relatively modest beginnings, in alphabetical order by last name.
  • From Marc Benioff to Oprah Winfrey, each title offers insights into the principles and strategies that helped guide their success.
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‘Behind the Cloud’ by Marc Benioff

Marc Benioff has been selling software for four decades, starting as a 15-year-old with programming applications and games that earned him enough royalties to pay for college.

His 2009 book gives readers a peek inside the rise of Salesforce, which he founded in a rented apartment after a 13-year stint with Oracle and is today worth nearly $168 billion.

Throughout the book, Benioff weaves 111 of his entrepreneurial tips, from “integrate philanthropy from the beginning” to “have the courage to pursue your innovation — before it is obvious to the market.”

Find it here »


‘The Virgin Way’ by Richard Branson

Richard Branson has nearly 50 years of entrepreneurial experience. Though he’s most well-known as the billionaire founder of Virgin Group, he started his first business venture, Student magazine, at the age of 16 and funded it with a necklace his mother found on the ground.

His book, “The Virgin Way,” offers lessons on management and hiring, as well as a look into his failures. 

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‘How Did You Do It, Truett?’ by S. Truett Cathy

This bite-sized book from Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy chronicles his rise to success from working two decades at a diner to leading a multibillion-dollar sandwich chain.

Cathy attributes his success to keeping things simple and to a commitment to principles, such as his decision to keep restaurants closed on Sundays.

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‘How to Win at the Sport of Business’ by Mark Cuban

Dallas Mavericks owner and “Shark Tank” investor Mark Cuban often talks about how he started his career “broke as a joke,” stocking up on cheap eats at a local bar.

In “How to Win at the Sport of Business,” Cuban fleshes out his best insights on entrepreneurship from his personal blog, learned in the course of founding and selling several blockbuster businesses.

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‘Direct from Dell’ by Michael Dell

With $1,000 and an idea, Michael Dell launched the company that would become Dell Computer Corp from his freshman dorm room at the University of Texas.

Written in two parts, the book describes the tech company’s growth into a $100 billion business and details the management approach that enabled Dell to become the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

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‘Business at the Speed of Thought’ by Bill Gates

Bill Gates is the second richest person in the world, with a net worth of $98 billion. In his book, “Business at the Speed of Thought,” the Microsoft founder explains how technology can enhance business operations, urging business owners to see it as a strategic asset. The book was initially published in 1999, but many of Gates’ insights remain relevant today.

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‘Driven From Within’ by Michael Jordan

Though not your typical entrepreneur, Michael Jordan began his career as an athlete and solidified his wealth through business, including several restaurant locations and a few startup investments. 

The basketball legend’s Air Jordan shoe brought Nike’s Jordan brand to $1 billion in sales and his ownership of the Charlotte Hornets NBA franchise has made him one of the richest Black men in America. 

His book, “Driven from Within,” shows how his work ethic and success come from his inner determination.

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‘Shoe Dog’ by Phil Knight

In “Shoe Dog,” Nike cofounder Phil Knight tells how he built the world’s biggest athletic company, which he started in 1964 with his former track coach. Knight spent 52 years at the helm of the company until he retired as chairman in 2016.

The book takes readers on the entrepreneur’s personal journey to success and has been lauded as a “must read” for any founder.

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‘Built from Scratch’ by Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank

When Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank both got fired from a hardware chain, they decided to team up to build a company that would completely transform the home-improvement industry.

In their book, the duo share advice that guided their 20-year journey to build a company from nothing to more than 760 stores and $30 billion in revenue.

Written in 2001, Blank and Marcus’ customer-centric approach to business has current-day echoes in the philosophy that has made companies like Amazon such knock-out success stories.

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‘Call Me Ted’ by Ted Turner

Ted Turner had an inauspicious start to his career, having been expelled from Brown University and returning home to work for his father’s billboard business.

After his father died by suicide, Turner took over the company and leveraged the opportunity to build a global media empire that includes CNN.

This autobiography weaves the personal and professional together to show how a boy from Cincinnati became one of the most powerful figures in media.

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‘Made in America’ by Sam Walton

Before there was Jeff Bezos, there was Sam Walton. Indeed, the Amazon founder and CEO says Walton’s autobiography is one of his one of his favorite books.

In the book, Walton describes how he started with a $20,000 loan and $5,000 in savings and grew his retail empire from a small variety store in Arkansas to a global marketplace.

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‘What I Know for Sure’ by Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey knows how to build an entrepreneurial empire.

She started her career as a reporter, then entered the entertainment industry as a talk-show host to then become an actress, executive producer, and media mogul. In 2009, Forbes dubbed her the wealthiest Black American of the 20th century.

Her book, “What I know for Sure,” is a collection of columns she wrote for O, the Oprah Magazine, based on her personal life experiences. 

Find it here »

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