"Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand's novel, about the triumph of the individual over the tyranny of the collective, has sparked heated conversations and thoughtful dialogue for decades. Some of the celebrities mentioned on Mother Jones praised the book for its achievements and compelling characters (such as Rob Lowe and Billie Jean King).
“Moby Dick” by Herman Melville
Melville is a talented author whose masterpiece remains the story about an elusive whale, and its mad pursuer, Captain Ahab.
The narrator is not the only character with an exotic Biblical name (Ishmael), and there are as many themes to be had as fish in the sea. Moby Dick is a strangely destructive whale, who seems to take delight in capsizing and destroying the life of whaling vessels.
Captain Ahab's thirst for avenging his lost leg and ship prove to be his undoing. He makes a strange figure, teetering about his own ship on a leg made from a whale's jawbone, and seeking the prophetic mutterings of a harpoon crew member for clues on Moby Dick's location. Reading between the lines of whale oil and prophecy lies a fascinating tale of the nature of good and evil – and madness.
“1984” by George Orwell
Winston and Julia are a young couple who meet under oppressive circumstances – he's an editor at the Ministry of Truth and she operates machines. Their habits of running away together, and thinking against the Party in the far-off land of Oceania, are noticed by the Thought Police. Throughout, history has no meaning except what the leaders give to it. This is one of the best books to read on the nature of totalitarian regimes, notbecause it's fiction, but because it has a ring of truth.
"The Innovator's Dilemma" by Clayton M. Christensen
Out of Harvard Business School Press has come a 'must' on the business book list - Christensen's explanation of why technology changes can derail established companies.
"Be here now" by Ram Dass
This illustrated guide to Yoga was made popular in the 1970's, and truly lives up to its name. From psychedelic experimentation, to the path of inner discipline, Ram Dass explains why living in the present moment is an all-powerful spiritual concept. Steve Jobs thought it a profound work.
"Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" by Shunryu Suzuki
Horse aficionados may be surprised that the Zen mind begins with types of horses (excellent, good, poor, and bad) and how they respond to the requests of the rider. The paradoxes of growth and appreciation, struggle and enlightenment, situation versus being, are scattered throughout this 1970's classic. Not surprisingly, Steve Jobs added Suzuki's work to his favorites list, along with Be Here Now.
"The Autobiography of Yogi" by Paramahansa Yogananda
According to Elvis Presley's former spiritual advisor, Larry Geller, it apparently even made an impact on the consciousness of the King of Swing. The author shows an appreciation for the Western mind's demand for verifiable detail, while offering insights from a long line of Hindu yogis practicing mindfulness for many centuries. One of the most impactfulchapters centers around a story of the author and his brother having a competition on the subject of God's providence – a long trip would have to be made without provision for food and without dependence on begging.
"Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism" by Chogyam Trungpa
Chogyam Trungpa's groundbreaking work on the dangers of spiritual materialism was presented originally in Colorado, as a series of short talks in the 1970's. Years later, the material was striking enough for Steve Jobs to add it to his extensive reading list. Calling the process of the spiritual walk a “subtle process”, Trungpa outlines Buddhist philosophy and explains how spiritual growth is related to suffering, confusion, and the discovery of enlightenment beyond the tyranny of the ego.
Readers looking to expand their book lists may also want to see Trungpa's other works, such as “The Myth of Freedom” and “The Sacred Path of the Warrior”.
"Only the Paranoid Survive" by Andrew S. Grove
According to the Wall Street Journal, this book is one of coach Jim Harbaugh's favorite manuals for his football team, the San Francisco 49ers. As CEO, Grove steered Intel toward its status as top creator of computer chips that control our digital world, qualifying him to speak about the necessity of adaptation to instant corporate change. The milestones of change contain an instructive pattern, and Grove uses some of Intel's challenges (such as the Pentium processor flaw) to show what worked in keeping slightly ahead of Internet expansion: debate, anticipation of change, and seeking answers beyond the job title.