“There are a lot of books that have inspired me, but I’m also reading a lot for escapism nowadays,” said designer Rebecca Minkoff, who just finished the novel “History of Love” by Nicole Krauss.
While some people like to use books as a chance to relax, others turn to them for fresh ideas.
“[Reading] is a source of strategy, thought processing, vocabulary, inspiration and freshness,” said FitFlop founder and creative director Marcia Kilgore, who has been reading George Lois’ “Damn Good Advice for People with Talent.”
Here, industry leaders weigh in on hot type and reading between the lines.
Book: “Il Gattopardo” by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
Synopsis: Originally published in 1958, “The Leopard” is a novel that chronicles the life of a Sicilian nobleman during the Risorgimento, an Italian political and social movement that took place in the 19th century.
Why he’s reading it: “It is one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. It is beautifully written with great narrative and is full of wonderful ideas and history. It made me understand a great part of Italian society and people. I am a huge fan of Sicily, so it brought me closer and gave me more insight into their world and history. It is full of everything I love.”
Biggest takeaway: “I love Sicily and everything that comes from there. This book contains descriptions of scenes, conversations, situations and things that inspire me every day and will remain in my memory forever.”
Book: “Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Healthier and Happier” by Ed Glaeser
Synopsis: Economist Glaeser examines the history of cities and how they relate to humankind.
Why he’s reading it: “It’s a research-based approach to understanding how and why cities thrive. Much of my write-up for the Amazon management committee meeting last December was inspired by Ed’s book. It’s guiding our strategy for the Downtown Project, our $350 million effort to help revitalize downtown Las Vegas.”
Biggest takeaway: “Research has shown that, on average, when the population of a city doubles, productivity per resident increases by 15 percent. However, as companies grow in size, productivity per employee generally decreases, as does the strength of company culture.”
Chairman & CEO, Finish Line Inc.
Book: “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson
Synopsis: The authorized biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
Why he’s reading it: “While Jobs certainly expressed regrets about certain areas of his life, there is one thing that is undeniable — Jobs was true to himself.”
Biggest takeaway: “There is a lesson in there for all leaders: Knowing who you are and who you are not and being able to let your true talents and weaknesses emerge is the only way to operate. Everything else is posturing and ultimately will not lead to success or happiness.”
Book: “Chanel and Her World” by Edmonde Charles-Roux
Synopsis: Written by Coco Chanel’s close friend and biographer, the book takes a pictorial look at the designer’s ground-breaking career.
Why she’s reading it: “What was most interesting about the book was how Chanel launched her perfume and started her business in a market that was run mostly by men. As far as business practices go, she’s someone I look up to.”
Biggest takeaway: “[Chanel] was doing innovative things for her time, like making pants and creating faux jewelry. She launched the perfume by spraying it in the dressing rooms at the stores. She didn’t take the normal road to [building her business].”
Founder, Toms Shoes
Book: “Let My People Go Surfing” by Yvon Chouinard
Synopsis: The founder of Patagonia, Chouinard writes about his experience being a businessman, environmentalist and rock climber.
Why he’s reading it: “Yvon does an incredible job stressing the importance of balancing life and play. Patagonia puts a premium on company and employee happiness, which is very important to me and something I work hard to cultivate and grow at Toms. Like Yvon, I also continue to be inspired by adventures [and] experiences through my travel from one place to the other.”
Biggest takeaway: “Yvon has a section on the idea ‘Measure Twice, Cut Once.’ This is something we think about a lot at Toms and we challenge ourselves to get things done right the first time.”
President & CEO, Donald J Pliner
Book: “You’ll See It When You Believe It” by Wayne W. Dyer
Synopsis: Psychotherapist Dyer outlines tactics for setting and reaching life goals in this self-help book.
Why he’s reading it: “This book has taught and reinforced the idea that, in order to truly triumph, one must believe passionately [to] create their belief and finally let the world in to observe. In a world where copying is the agenda of the day, believing in newness and uniqueness really sets you apart in the marketplace.”
Biggest takeaway: “There are two ways to look at life’s obstacles and successes: Seeing before believing and believing and therefore creating. The Wright Brothers did not see a plane flying before creating the plane; therefore, they had to believe in flying before actually [being able to].”
Founder & Creative Director, FitFlop
Book: “The Road Less Traveled” by M. Scott Peck
Synopsis: Theories on topics such as relationships, love and parenting are covered by psychiatrist Peck in this New York Times best-seller.
Why she’s reading it: “[Peck] explains something very simple: You make all the choices in your life, and everything you don’t choose is a sacrifice. [After reading this book eight years ago], I no longer think I’ve been unlucky. I’ve either been unprepared, naïve, stupid or stubborn. If I make a mistake, I own it, apply the knowledge and do everything I can to not make that mistake again.”
Biggest takeaway: “You have complete control over where you’re going. It’s tough for some people who have that bad habit of blaming everything and everybody else, but it’s completely empowering and lets you get yourself anywhere you want.”