Billionaires have an outsized influence in the world. Despite frequently being private, this influence affords them the opportunity for book deals that are difficult to pass up. Through these autobiographies and memoirs, we learn more about what billionaires think of themselves, their wealth, their place in the world and what kind of world they think is a good one. Using this piece in Current Affairs magazine as a starting point to collect books written by billionaires and some critique of the worldviews they espouse in them, check out the below titles to hear directly from billionaires about who they think they are!
Finding My Virginity by Richard Branson
Richard Branson started the Virgin Group, now a conglomerate of entertainment, finance and travel (including space!) companies. This is his second book, taking a non-chronological look back at his business life so far. He also is sure to highlight his mid to late career shift to philanthropic ventures and how his work has affected his family life. A particularly well-connected billionaire, his memoir includes tales of his relationships with other business tycoons, celebrity entertainers and politicians.
I Love Capitalism: An American Story by Kenneth Langone
The founder of Home Depot, Kenneth Langone stays true to his memoir’s title as it is as much a passionate case for a capitalist basis for “The American Dream” as much as it is an autobiography. He uses his humble beginnings and his hustle working on Wall Street full-time while studying for an MBA as evidence of personal drive and talent trumping all in American free enterprise. Unlike other autobiographies in this list, Langone is willing to discuss in depth from his perspective the many legal issues he has faced as his business expanded, particularly with former New York Governor Elliot Spitzer.
The Harder You Work, the Luckier You Get: An Entrepreneur's Memoir by Joe Ricketts
Joe Ricketts is best known for founding Ameritrade and owning (almost exclusively) the Chicago Cubs baseball team. His memoir traces his youth in Nebraska, starting TD Ameritrade with loans from family and friends, and disrupting the finance industry, all the while sprinkling wisdom for would-be entrepreneurs. He also touches on the sacrifices and difficulties his family had to make during the rapid growth of his company.
Zero to One by Peter Thiel
Less a memoir and more a treatise into what makes a tremendously successful new company, Peter Theil, best known as the founder of Paypal, delineates the differences between building off of already existing companies and models (going from 1 - n) and building a company that does something tremendously original (going from 0 to 1). Through examining his successful startups and others, we learn more about Thiel's business persona and motivations. Thiel argues that the best businesses are ones that are built in ways that make other companies unable to compete. This has been criticized as monopolistic, and Thiel may not agree.
Am I Being Too Subtle by Sam Zell
Sam Zell made billions through his private investment firm, Equity Group Investments, with investments in real estate, sports, energy and media sectors. He describes his talent and boldness in finding “first mover advantage” opportunities, making deals to the left while everyone else is looking right. Known for being a contrarian with a big personality, he notes he started wearing jeans to work in the 60s and has a motorcycle club with friends called “Zell’s Angels.” Zell purports to offer some wisdom of years in entrepreneurship while sharing the most wild moments of his life and business.
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About the Author: Jeffrey G
Jeffrey G is a Library Associate at the Northeast Neighborhood Library. He likes to read about ancient history, contemporary ethnographies, and lots of speculative fiction. When not reading, he can be found visiting DC’s many museums, bowling, or seeing a new theatre productions. He also facilitates the “Page to Stage Book Club” where we read books that have inspired musicals, enriching our understanding and appreciation of both.