20 Quotes about Books and Reading from Entrepreneurs and World Leaders

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For some reason, we often don’t think of reading as productive.

If most offices, if someone has a book open on their desk, the conventional wisdom is that the person isn’t really working. However, if they’re staring intently at their screen, they appear to be diligent, even if they’re just on Twitter. This is backwards.

The truth is that, if you do it right, your education never ends. Regardless of how many degrees and certifications you have, you can always learn more. As Ryan Holiday says, “understanding and mastery is a fluid, continual process.” Moreover, even if you are a master at your craft, there are countless other things from which you can learn and glean insight. And the best way to do that is through reading.

In addition to all of the other ways that reading helps you — it makes you a better thinker and a better writer and allows you to experience other points of view — it makes you a better leader.

Take Theodore Roosevelt. Though perhaps best known for his big game hunting and cavalry charges, he was a prolific writer and voracious reader. In fact, Roosevelt “was known to read upwards of 3 books every single day in a multitude of languages just because. Roosevelt himself claims to have read ‘tens of thousands’ of books throughout his lifetime.”

Here are twenty quotes about the importance of books and reading from some of the world’s best leaders and entrepreneurs, past and present:

1. Frederick Douglas:

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

2. Harry Truman:

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

3. Elon Musk (when asked how he learned to build rockets):

“I read books.”

4. John Adams:

“How can any man judge unless his mind has been opened and enlarged by reading?”

5. Oprah Winfrey:

“Books allowed me to see a world beyond the front porch of my grandmother’s shotgun house…[and] the power to see possibilities beyond what was allowed at the time.”

6. Mark Zuckerberg:

“Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today.”

7. Thomas Jefferson:

“I cannot live without books.”

8. Barack Obama:

“Reading is important. If you know how to read, then the whole world opens up to you.”

9. Sidney Harman:

“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.”

10. Bill Gates:

“Reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding.”

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Bill Gates reading what he and Warren Buffett agree is the best business book ever written.

11. Napoléon Bonaparte:

“Show me a family of readers, and I will show you the people who move the world.”

12. Shelly Lazarus:

“As head of a global company, everything attracts me as a reader, books about different cultures, countries, problems. I read for pleasure and to find other perspectives on how to think or solve a problem.”

13. Winston Churchill:

“If you cannot read all your books…fondle them — peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that you at least know where they are. Let them be your friends; let them, at any rate, be your acquaintances.”

14. Walt Disney:

“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.”

15. Abraham Lincoln:

“My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read.”

16. John Wooden:

“Drink deeply from good books.”

17. Warren Buffett (on the key to success):

“Read 500 pages…every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”

18. Mark Cuban:

“I would continuously search for new ideas. I read every book and magazine I could. Heck, 3 bucks for a magazine, 20 bucks for a book. One good idea that led to a customer or solution and it paid for itself many times over.”

Buffett and Cuban also agree that the same information was available to all.

19. Warren Buffett:

“Everybody can read what I read, it is a level playing field.”

20. Mark Cuban:

“Everything I read was public. Anyone could buy the same books and magazines. The same information was available to anyone who wanted it. Turns out most people didn’t want it. Most people won’t put in the time to get a knowledge advantage.”


Christopher Pierznik’s nine books are available in paperback and Kindle. Check out more of his writing at MediumHis work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business InsiderThe CauldronMedium, Fatherly, Hip Hop Golden Age, and many more. Subscribe to his monthly newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

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