While Steve Jobs famously once said that people don’t read anymore, he’s wasn’t one of them. The innovator, salesman and tech and marketing visionary was also a prolific reader with a penchant for poetry, LSD, Bauhaus and Zen Buddhism.
Walter Isaacson’s 2013 biography Steve Jobs takes an unprecedented look at the books that first made the man think different. Beginning with his intense interest in literature and the arts that was sparked after his first experience with acid in high school, Jobs began devouring books on spirituality, enlightenment, and the power of psychedelic drugs.
Many of the titles detailed in Isaacson’s book offer disruptive new ways of thinking on drugs, diet, mindfulness, Eastern philosophy, alternative medicine, culture, and politics. Jobs was known for embracing various extreme, even obsessive, dietary regimes and several of the books listed shaped his thoughts and practices around food. Like David Bowie, Steve Jobs was also heavily influenced by George Orwell’s dystopian 1984 and used it as inspiration in Apple’s famed 1984 Super Bowl ad that first introduced the Macintosh Computer. He found further sources for creative inspiration in the revolutionary works of Bob Dylan and the Beatles. In fact, unlike Bill Gates’ list, there are very few tech and business related titles among his favorite books.
Read on for a list of books the late, great Steve Jobs numbered as his favorites. For further reading, check out Daniel Kottke’s Steve Jobs Memorial Bookshelf. Kottke became a close friend of Jobs at Reed College during their freshman year, where the two bonded over mystical and alternative writings, starting with Ram Dass’s psychedelic guidebook, Be Here Now.
Cosmic Consciousness by Richard Maurice Burke
The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen
Mucusless Diet Healing System by Arnold Ehret
“I got into it in my typical nutso way.” -SJ
Be Here Now by Ram Dass
“Profound. It transformed me and many of my friends.” -SJ
The Way of the White Clouds by Lama Anagarika Govinda
“Zen has been a deep influence in my life ever since.” -SJ
Only the Paranoid Survive by Andrew S. Grove
Meetings with Remarkable Men by George Ivanovich Gurdjieff
Ramakrishna and His Disciples by Christopher Isherwood
The Tao of Programming by Geoffrey James
Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe
“Jobs told me that Moby Dick was among his favorite books and he reread it a lot when he was a teen.” -Walter Isaacson
Inside the Tornado by Geoffrey A. Moore
The book that inspired one of the greatest TV ads, 1984 was among Jobs’ favorites and he regularly recommended it to new hires.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
One of the final films Jobs saw was Part 1 of Atlas Shrugged at his local theater. “Steve was very fast thinking and wanted to do things, I wanted to build things. I think Atlas Shrugged was one of his guides in life” -Steve Wozniak
King Lear by William Shakespeare
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chögyam Trungpa
Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda