Looking for inspiration as you head into the new year? I asked a few top founders and VCs to talk their favorite reads of 2017. These books made the lists of some of the most innovative minds in the business.


Robert Reffkin

Founder and CEO, Compass

Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood's Creative Artists Agency

By James A. Miller

This book details the rise of CAA, one of the largest and most successful talent agencies in the history of the world. As the CEO of a real estate technology company, I found so many parallels between the experience of the talent agent and real estate agent. Michael Ovitz and his cofounders were well served by their incredible focus on clients—a principle we take to heart at our company.

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Jonathan Swanson

Cofounder and President, Thumbtack

Amusing Ourselves to Death

By Neil Postman

This book offers the most compelling, foundational explanation for what is happening to our political discourse today. Although it was written in 1984, Neil Postman not only predicts our current political environment he also explains why it is happening.

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Polly Rodriguez

Cofounder and CEO, Unbound

Letters of Note

By Shaun Usher

My all-time favorite. Copywriting is my passion and written correspondence is a lost art. This collection of famous letters is wonderful for drawing inspiration and sparking creativity. I especially love Iggy Pop's note of encouragement to a teenage fan and F. Scott Fitzgerald's to his daughter, Scottie, on what to worry about.

What She Ate

By Laura Shapiro

The stories of five women as told through their diets, which is far more fascinating than it sounds. I particularly enjoyed reading Eleanor Roosevelt and Eva Braun's chapters. Who knew Hitler was a vegetarian and addicted to sweets?

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Ethan Agarwal

Founder and CEO, Aaptiv

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

By Brad Stone

Provides fascinating insight into the thought process and complexity of the world’s most impressive CEO, Jeff Bezos. A combination of ambition, intellect, and vision led to Amazon's insurmountable dominance. The most exciting indication is that he's just getting started.

The Intelligent Investor

By Benjamin Graham

Every CEO is fundamentally an investor. You are investing your resources (time, capital, team resources) to generate an ROI. No one understands investing or can articulate it as clearly as Ben Graham. I read this once a year and encourage other CEOs to do the same.

The Black Swan

By Nassim Nicholas Taleb

CEOs are usually looking for the black swan, or believe they have found it. It's important to remember both the likelihood of a black swan event occurring and the size of the possible impact. Though professorial in his prose, I find tremendous value in Taleb's argument.

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Byron Deeter

The Elon Musk Blog Series: Wait But Why

By Tim Urban

Tim Urban is pure mind candy. Start with this one, and then I recommend the AI and Cryonics pieces online next if you want to move into full “mindbender” mode.


By James Kerr

Includes unique insights into one of the world’s most high performing teams, the legendary All Blacks of New Zealand. Its lessons are broadly applicable to all leaders.

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

By Brad Stone

This story offers insights, sometimes controversial ones, into the birth and growth of the most dominant company in tech.


Danielle Morrill

Cofounder and CEO, Mattermark

The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class

By Elizabeth Currid-Hallket

Full of insights about building products for the people with "first-world problems" and thinking about what is worth paying for when you can buy anything.

The Mandarins

By Simone de Beauvoir

This one is very relevant to our Trump moment. Set in WWII France as the occupation of Paris is ending and the War thereafter. It explores coming of age moments for young idealists whose premises are challenged.

The Power

By Naomi Alderman

A great dystopian sci-fi novel. Offers a deep reflection on the responsibility that comes with power, written from an angle that will shift your perspective.


Nick Weever

Co-founder and CEO, eero

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

By Douglas Adams

I just reread this one—always a great read! It’s obviously fun, and for being published in 1979, it predicted well where some technology would head.

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Steve Vassallo

General Partner, Foundation Capital

The Way to Design

To be honest, the book I love most this year is the one that I wrote. And not because it’s mine, but because it belongs to the scores of designers, designers-turned-entrepreneurs, and design scholars I interviewed. It’s filled with their insights, as well as my own, about what designers need to know to start a company, and what everyone needs to know to create design-led organizations.

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Paul Arnold

Founder and Partner, Switch Ventures

How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking

By Jordan Ellenberg

Because math. A great book for the casual reader that I’d recommend to anyone. A well-written reminder of the power of math in making better decisions—whether investing or with anything else.

Pioneering Portfolio Management: An Unconventional Approach to Institutional Investment

By David F. Swensen

The smartest take on asset allocation you will find. This helps me keep an eye on the bigger picture. It is a classic that is worth rereading every few years.

Anti-Intellectualism in American Life

By Richard Hofstadter

Want to understand what's going on with American culture and politics right now? Hofstadter’s book presents a key piece of the puzzle.