Reading Routines of Successful Business Leaders

While there may be different roads to success, many of the world’s most famous business leaders have attributed their success to an insatiable reading habit. Here are some of the reading practices shared by our world’s most respected individuals.

1. Warren Buffett

In the early days of Buffett’s investment career, he would read 600-1000 pages in a single day. Decades later, he still devotes 80% of his day to reading. The Berkshire Hathaway tycoon reportedly spends five to six hours a day reading not one, but five newspapers – The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes, The Financial Times and The New York Times – and this reading marathon all begins right after breakfast.

At the age of 19, he picked up a copy of Benjamin Graham’s “The Intelligent Investor” and it shaped his investment philosophy. With the intellectual framework for investing that he gained, Buffett was well on his way towards success which is now worth billions.

This business magnate reads widely not because he has to, but because he simply loves to. “I read and think”, he once maintained. “So I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life.”

As Buffett said himself, “Read 500 pages every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”

2. Bill Gates

As a child, there was not one type of book that did not interest Bill Gates. He read so much that his parents ended up making a new rule that might have seemed impossible for him to abide by: no books at the dinner table. Today, his personal blog GatesNotes features a wide selection of book recommendations that we should all consider taking up.

Gates prefers his reading non-fiction. Steven Pinker’s “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” is one of the books that impacted Gates’ life greatly. He highlighted, “[Pinker] argues that violence in human society is decreasing even faster. The idea at the centre of his book – that the world is getting better in lots of ways – part of the motivation for the work Melinda and I do with our foundation. We can be hopeful and inspired to keep making progress.”

As one of the founding fathers of tech, it may come as a surprise that Gates still prefers to read the old-fashioned way. Writing notes in the margins, is one habit that he simply cannot abandon.

3. Mark Zuckerberg

With a single mission to connect people around the world, Zuckerberg announced in January 2015 that his resolution for the year would be to read a new book every other week – and not just books about business or technology. This led to the launch of his book club, A Year of Books.

Interested to gain more knowledge regarding different cultures and belief systems, Zuckerberg’s first selection was Moises Naim’s “The End of Power” which explores the phenomenon of 21st century power shifts – be it political, corporate, or cultural – from larger, traditional forms of power to smaller entities and the individual.

Zuckerberg mentioned, “Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today.” And this is precisely why he looks forward to shifting more of his media diet towards reading books.


The world’s most successful leaders are selective about what they read. They look to satisfy their hunger for knowledge, often opting to be educated rather than to be entertained. Guided by a belief that the road to knowledge is paved with books, this is a habit we can pick up from the best of the best.

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