12 Steve Jobs Book Recommendations that Will Teach You to Think Like Him
Even if black turtlenecks aren’t quite your style, we wouldn’t blame you for wanting to capture some of the Steve Jobs magic for yourself. It wasn’t just that he made some useful stuff and got rich doing it, he turned personal tech into a cultural touchstone: cutting-edge and user-friendly, with a brand identity that made Apple products the must-have accessory of the 21st century.
So it’s not at all surprising that people want to know how Jobs did it – and his unique lifestyle has become as much a part of his legend as the products he pioneered. Jobs is such an icon that four separate feature films and countless documentaries have been made about his life, including the popular Aaron Sorkin flick based on this celebrated biography in the Blinkist library.
But while we were all thinking about Steve Jobs, what was Steve Jobs thinking about? His personal reading list could offer some clues. Spanning everything from Zen Buddhism to CEO how-tos, to how to eat a mucus-free diet, below are 12 nonfiction books that made an impact on Jobs during his lifetime:
1. Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
Autobiography played such a huge role in Steve Jobs’ life that he arranged to gift a copy to everyone who attended his memorial service. Yogananda was responsible for introducing many westerners to Hindu spirituality, meditation, and yoga, famously including Beatle George Harrison. Jobs read Yoganda’s work for the first time as a teenager, and Autobiography was the only book he downloaded to his personal iPad.
2. Be Here Now, by Baba Ram Dass
Jobs’ enthusiasm for Eastern spirituality was a defining aspect of his worldview, and Be Here Now is another seminal text that helped to popularize yoga and meditation in the West. Ram Dass, an American-born academic who had a spiritual awakening after experimenting with LSD, inspired Jobs to visit India – and try LSD himself.
3. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki
For those interested in the basics of Zen and how to integrate Buddhist practice into daily life, Suzuki’s book is an ideal starting point. Both a deep investigation of Zen philosophy and a clear guide to the practical aspects of meditation, this book is frequently recommended as the first to read on the subject.
4. The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment by Thaddeus Golas
A bit lighter than some of the other spiritual guides on the list, this “underground classic” is built around everyday steps a person can take to live a more conscious and joyful life. The author, a noted philosopher and self-proclaimed “lazy man” who hung around San Francisco in the 1960s emphasizes that spiritual development doesn’t have to be the grueling process of discipline and self-denial that it’s sometimes made out to be.
5. The Way of the White Clouds by Lama Anagarika Govinda
Part spiritual guide and part travelogue, The Way of the White Clouds recount the author’s travels through Tibet before the Chinese invasion when pilgrimage to the country became largely impossible. Govinda was a German man who converted to Buddhism when few Westerners were making this journey, and the poetic writing and personal photographs that fill the book bring his experiences wonderfully to life.
6. Cosmic Consciousness by Richard Maurice Burke
‘Cosmic Consciousness’ was a term coined by Canadian psychologist Richard Burke to describe a mystical state he attributed to the likes of Buddha, Jesus, and the poet Walt Whitman. Though written before Eastern spirituality was popularized in the west, Burke’s ideas share many underlying themes with the Hindu and Buddhist practices that had a huge effect on Jobs’s life.
7. Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, by Chögyam Trungpa
Another installment in Jobs’s vast spiritual library, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism warns seekers against the pitfalls of ego in the search for enlightenment. Trungpa, a meditation master, advises that spirituality is not a process of “self-improvement” but rather of abandonment of the self.
8. Diet for a Small Planet, by Frances Moore Lappe
As Jobs’s spirituality was a large part of his personal legend, so too were his notoriously strict eating habits and his enthusiasm for extreme fasts. A lot of this started when he read Lappe’s work in college. One of the first widely successful books to advocate for vegetarianism, Jobs credits Diet for a Small Planet with inspiring him to fully swear off meat.
9. Mucusless Diet Healing System by Arnold Ehret
This is another early text on the plant-based lifestyle, but with a slightly more graphic premise: mucus-causing foods are the source of most illnesses, and by eliminating them, we can heal the body. Prof Ehret is sometimes referred to as the “father of naturopathy,’ and this book (which also advocates intermittent fasting) is seen as having paved the way for contemporary vegan diets.
10. Only the Paranoid Survive, by Andrew S. Grove
Though a lot of Jobs’s reading was focused on lifestyle, business strategy was of course essential to his thinking. Only the Paranoid Survive is former Intel CEO Grove’s guide to strategic decision making and, more broadly, the business of leading a tech company – making this a must-read for contemporary entrepreneurs and business people.
11. The Innovator’s Dilemma, by Clayton Christensen
The Innovator’s Dilemma argues that in the pursuit of profit, companies will hold tight to tried-and-true best practices, and by doing so, they undermine their ability to respond to disruptive technologies. Apple is sometimes praised for avoiding this very common trap – which may be because Jobs was such a devoted student of Christensen’s book.
12. Inside the Tornado, by Geoffrey A. Moore
Inside the Tornado is a marketing classic, part of the author’s three-book series on how to move a new product past its early adopters and into the mainstream. Moore’s “tornado” is a metaphor for that pivotal moment when a product will either sink or swim on the market, and his work is essential reading on how to make disruptive innovations a popular success.