Sunday, October 27, 2013

You Are What You Read: 14 Thought Leaders Share Their Bookshelves

by , The Blog of Tim Ferriss: Experiments in Lifestyle Design:

The following is a guest post by Shane Snow, a frequent contributor to Wired and Fast Company. It includes photographs of some fun bookshelves, including yours truly (Tim Ferriss).

Enter Shane

They say a person’s eyes are “the window to the soul.” I am not very good at pupil-based soul-reading, but I’ve found that I can learn a lot about a person by the books on his or her shelf. When I go to someone’s house or office for the first time, my favorite thing to do is check out the bookshelf. Here’s what’s on mine:

Storytelling is a powerful force, as I’m a fan of reminding people. Stories - fiction and non - make ideas stick; they change minds and shape us in often subconscious ways. I believe the mind of a well-read person is heavily influenced by the books of her past.

A few weeks ago, I decided to conduct a little experiment.

I emailed a few friends and people I admired and asked them if I could see photographs of their bookshelves (or book stacks or Kindle screens). Just about everybody said, “yes.”

The experiment soon metastasized, and I started pestering thought leaders in spaces I followed - tech, advertising, philanthropy - to see what books the innovators cared enough about to allot real estate. Soon, I had more photos than I knew what to do with. Here are some of my favorites:

Hilary Mason, Chief Scientist at and one of the smartest women in American tech

Fred Wilson, Partner at Union Square Ventures and the man responsible for investments in Tumblr, Etsy, CodeAcademy, KickStarter, Meetup, Soundcloud, Twitter, Behance, and StackExchange … He sent me this one:

But I actually found this closeup in his Flickr photostream, too:

Guy Kawasaki, Bestselling Author of Enchantment, A.P.E., and a dozen other terrific books

Mike Lazerow, Founder of Buddy Media (sold to Salesforce last year for $700 million)

Mitch Kanner, Owner of 2Degrees and one of Ad Age’s “hottest rolodexes” in advertising (this guy hooks people like Jay-Z up with deals like Samsung’s million-album download)

Jonah Berger, Bestselling Author of Contagious and “virality” guru

Claire Ortiz-Diaz, head of Social Innovation at Twitter and one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People In Business

Dharmesh Shah, CTO of Hubspot and founder of OnStartups, and one of the most humble leaders you’ll ever meet

Dave Kerpen, Bestselling Author of Likeable Business and founder of Likeable Media (also the highest-trafficked LinkedIn Influencer in the world)

Cindy Gallop, renowned advertising executive and founder of IfWeRanTheWorld and MakeLoveNotPorn

Adam Grant, Bestselling Author of Give And Take and purveyor of revolutionary ideas about work and success

Clara Shih, CEO of Hearsay Social and board member of Starbucks (elected at age 29)

Jeffrey Walker, philanthropist and Chairman of JPMorgan Chase Foundation and author of the forthcoming book The Generosity Network

And I certainly couldn’t leave out Tim Ferriss, whose penchant for anime happens to be his secret weapon for language-mastery:

Interestingly enough, the book I referenced in the beginning about stories making ideas stick (Made To Stick by Chip and Dan Heath) shows up several times in this gallery. There are a few other repeats if you look carefully!

Of course, there were a number of well-read people whose bookshelves I’d love to get a peek at (but unfortunately couldn’t get a hold of). In particular, I wish I could check out the shelves belonging to the following five:

Arianna Huffington
Elon Musk
Martha Stewart
Joss Whedon
Cory Booker (and not just because of the name!)

We’re all a product to some degree of the books we read, the programs we watch, and the people we meet. In the comments, I’d love to discuss: What books from this gallery jumped out at you? Whose bookshelves above do you identify with in particular?

And, perhaps most importantly, what are the most important 2-3 books on your bookshelf?

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