Came across this fascinating article in the New York Times about the libraries of CEOs. A couple of quotes that are sticking with me this morning…
Serious leaders who are serious readers build personal libraries dedicated to how to think, not how to compete. Ken Lopez, a bookseller in Hadley, Mass., says it is impossible to put together a serious library on almost any subject for less than several hundred thousand dollars.
Forget finding the business best-seller list in these libraries. “I try to vary my reading diet and ensure that I read more fiction than nonfiction,” Mr. Moritz said. “I rarely read business books, except for Andy Grove’s ‘Swimming Across,’ which has nothing to do with business but describes the emotional foundation of a remarkable man. I re-read from time to time T. E. Lawrence’s ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom,’ an exquisite lyric of derring-do, the navigation of strange places and the imaginative ruses of a peculiar character. It has to be the best book ever written about leading people from atop a camel.”
C.E.O. libraries typically lack a Dewey Decimal or even org-chart order. “My books are organized by topic and interest but in a manner that would make a librarian weep,” Mr. Moritz said. Is there something “Da Vinci Code”-like about mixing books up in an otherwise ordered life?
Could it be possible to read Phil Knight’s books in the order in which Mr. Knight read them — like following a recipe — and gain the mojo to see a future global entertainment company in something as modest as a sneaker? The great gourmand of libraries, the writer Jorge Luis Borges, analyzed the quest for knowledge that causes people to accumulate books: “There must exist a book which is the formula and perfect compendium of all the rest.”
The article refers to Sidney Harman…
Mr. Harman reads books the way writers write books, methodically over time. For two years Mr. Harman would take down from the shelf “The City of God” by E. L. Doctorow read the novel slowly, return it to the shelves, and then take it down again for his next trip. “Almost everything I have read has been useful to me — science, poetry, politics, novels. I have a lifelong interest in epistemology and learning. My books have helped me develop a way of thinking critically in business and in golf — a fabulous metaphor for the most interesting stuff in life. My library is full of things I might go back to.”