The Favorite Books of Steve Jobs

According to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, the following were important texts in Jobs’ life: 

01. King Lear, W.Shakespeare

“King Lear offers a vivid depiction of what can go wrong if you lose your grip on your empire, a story surely fascinating to any aspiring CEO,” says Daniel Smith, author of How to Think Like Steve Jobs.

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02. Moby Dick, H. Melville

Walter Isaacson draws a connection between Captain Ahab, who’s one of the most driven and willful characters in literature, and Jobs.

Ahab, like Jobs, did lots of his learning from direct experience, rather than relying on institutions. And they both have a very strong focus on their goal.

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03. Road not Taken, Robert Frost

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

This is the final verse of The Road Not Taken. This verse perfectly encapsulates Steve Jobs’ philosophy of life. He always wanted to pursue not what seemed to be the right choice, but rather simply what felt right. His passion originated often in a dream.

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04. Writings, Plato

Jobs really began his literary bent in the last two years of high school.

“I started to listen to music a whole lot,” he tells Isaacson, “and I started to read more outside of just science and technology — Shakespeare, Plato.

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05. Poems, Dylan Thomas

Jobs discovered a love for verse, particularly Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.

How to Think Like Steve Jobs author Daniel Smith says that Thomas’ poems “drew him in with its striking new forms and unerringly popular touch.”

“Do not go gentle” became one of his favorite poems.

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06. Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, S. Suzuki

Like everything else, Jobs went hard into Zen. “He became really serious and self-important and just generally unbearable,” says Daniel Kottke, his best friend at the time.

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07. Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, Trungpa

This book argues against the tendency to see spirituality as a form of self-improvement and that instead that liberation comes from the letting go of the self.

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08. Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda

This book remained a major part of Jobs’ life. He reread it every year.

Jobs told that during his travel in India he get dysentery and found a copy of “Autobiography of a Yogi” in English that a previous traveler had left. He reads it several times, because there was not a lot to do, and he walked around the village to village and recovered from his dysentery.

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09. Be Here now, Ram Dass

In late 1972, Steve Jobs started doing lots of LSD and reading lots of books about spirituality.

“Be Here Now,” a guide to meditation by Ram Dass, affected Jobs greatly. “It was profound,” Jobs said. “It transformed me and many of my friends.”

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10. Diet for a Small Planet, F.M. Lappe

It was a breakthrough. “That’s when I pretty much swore off meat for good,” Jobs told Isaacson.

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