The Inspirational Reading List of Steve Jobs

October 5 marks the seventh anniversary of the death of Steve Jobs. Here are some of the books that inspired one of the great minds of the 21st century.
Susan Fourtané

Steve Jobs was a self-confessed avid reader. The co-founder and former CEO of Apple Inc. read some of the most interesting books he could find. Sometimes looking for inspiration, sometimes looking for answers or spiritual guidance some books in his personal library had the power to inspire one of the great entrepreneurs and inspirational figures of the 21st century. 

October 5 marks the seventh anniversary of the death of Steve Jobs. Steve died in Palo Alto, California after battling pancreatic cancer for nearly a decade. Steve was only 56 years old. 

Steve Jobs was the kind of man who continues to captivate the business and creative worlds, even after his death. His lifelong interest in the humanities and spirituality gave Apple a human touch. His interest in Zen is evident in Apple's product design characterized by simplicity and beauty. 

By combining technology and the arts, Steve Jobs said that Apple was able to "to make extremely advanced products from a technology point of view, but also have them be intuitive, easy-to-use, fun-to-use, so that they really fit the users." 

His unique perspective was the result of the combination of his lifetime reading habits with his own personal thinking. 

Having a look at some of the books that inspired Steve Jobs is a way to learn to know the man who changed the way we use computers. Interestingly, all the books are about a single individual overcoming enormous odds and obstacles in order to transform either the world, himself, or both.

1. King Lear by William Shakespeare

The Inspirational Reading List of Steve Jobs
Source: William Shakespeare/Amazon

A classic is always a classic and Steve Jobs knew this well. King Lear is the story of an aged monarch going crazy trying to divide up his kingdom. It's perhaps the depiction of what can go wrong if a leader loses the grip on his empire what attracted the young Steve Jobs from this story.

He read King Lear when in his high-school years. Shakespeare's classic remained a favorite book during all his life. 

2. The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton M. Christensen

The Inspirational Reading List of Steve Jobs
Source: Clayton M. Christensen/Amazon

The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail was first published in 1997. This is the most well-known work of the Harvard professor and businessman Clayton Christensen. 

3. Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa

The Inspirational Reading List of Steve Jobs
Source: Chogyam Trungpa/Amazon

Read below part of the Foreword of this inspiring book to draw your own conclusions about why this was one of the books Steve Jobs kept in his personal library.   

"The inspiration to find the truth, to see what is real, and to lead a genuine life — the culmination of which can be enlightenment — is what underlies every spiritual journey. However, embarking on this journey is rarely as straightforward as we may wish. The journey toward enlightenment ultimately may be both profound and simple, yet the process of understanding that simplicity tends to be multidimensional, if not downright complicated. For in order to understand a spiritual path, we must acknowledge and understand our own mind, now, as it pertains to the journey. What misunderstandings and concepts we may have about a spiritual practice, we must overcome so that we're not merely practicing according to our own conceptualized idea. Ego, and the myriad games it plays to unravel our inspiration for enlightenment, must always be monitored." 

4. The Way of the White Clouds by Lama Anagarika Govinda

The Inspirational Reading List of Steve Jobs
Source: Lama Anagarika Govinda/Amazon 

In this inspiring book, Lama Anagarika Govinda, a German-born artist who founded a Buddhist order, recounts his life and experiences traveling in Tibet. Many say that Zen philosophy helped Steve Jobs get inspiration for the beautifully simplistic design of Apple products. 

5. Moby Dick by Herman Melville

The Inspirational Reading List of Steve Jobs
 Source: Herman Melville/Amazon

Another classic in literature that made an impact on Steve Jobs. Moby-Dick is the story of Captain Ahab's quest to avenge the whale that reaped his leg.

The story is a quest about how obsession can diabolically make a man become a fanatic. The book is also a hymn to democracy.

The novel speaks about a co-operative community at work where each individual is responsible for the security of each other.

Among the crew is Ishmael, who serves as the novel's narrator. Ishmael is an ordinary sailor, and an extraordinary reader. The story Ishmael tells is above all an education in the practice of whaling and in the art of writing.

6. Be Here Now by Ram Dass

The Inspirational Reading List of Steve Jobs
Source: Ram Dass/Amazon

Another book that Steve Jobs read during his long-life spiritual journey was Be Here Now by Ram Dass.

In the 1960s, Ram Dass was known as Professor Richard Alpert, a Harvard Universty professor who held appointments in four departments. Professor Alpert published books, drove a Mercedes, and regularly vacationed in the Caribbean.

However, he felt there was something missing. During a period of experimentation with Psilocybin and LSD, Richard Alpert peeled away each layer of his identity, disassociating from himself as a professor, a social cosmopolite, and as a physical being.

He came to the realization that at his truest, he was just his inner-self, a simple luminous being, someone he could trust indefinitely and love infinitely. It was then when his spiritual journey began. In India, his guru renamed him Baba Ram Dass which means servant of God.

Whenever he found himself reminiscing or planning, he was reminded to Be Here Now. Be Here Now is a guide to self-determination. It's a book that enriches the emotional, physical, and spiritual life. 

7. Autobiography Of A Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda

The Inspirational Reading List of Steve Jobs
Source: Paramahansa Yogananda/Amazon

Autobiography of a Yogi is a book that truly made an impression on the young Steve Jobs. He read it for the first time when he was in high-school. Later in his life, when he traveled to India and stayed in the foothills of the Himalayas he read it again.

The book really spoke to him in such a way that he re-read this book every year for the rest of his life. 

Paramahansa Yogananda's book is regarded as one of the most spiritual books of all times. Autobiography of a Yogi is a story told in his own words. This is one of the few books in English about the wise men of India which has ever been written. It is a book about yogis by a yogi.

Autobiography of a Yogi has been influential in disseminating the spiritual ideas of yoga and meditation in the Western world. The book not only influenced Steve Jobs but also George Harrison who shared the interest in mysticism with the former CEO of Apple. 

8. The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas by Dylan Thomas 

the collection of poems of Dylan Thomas
Source: Dylan Thomas/Amazon

The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas is a compilation of poems that Thomas personally chose as the ones that best represented his work. In 1952, a year before the book was published, Dylan Thomas died from swelling of the brain triggered by excessive drinking.

One of the poems Dylan Thomas selected was And Death Shall Have No Dominion. The book influenced great personalities from Steve Jobs to artists such as Bob Dylan, who changed his last name from Zimmerman to Dylan in honor of the poet. The Beatles included Thomas’ portrait on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album by The Beatles. 

One can only imagine the impact that this poem had on Steve Jobs own thinking process as he was battling pancreatic cancer: 

     And death shall have no dominion.
     Dead men naked they shall be one
     With the man in the wind and the west moon;
     When their bones are picked clean and their clean bones gone,
     They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
     Though they go mad they shall be sane,
     Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again,
     Though lovers be lost love shall not:
     And death shall have no dominion.

             (From And Death Shall Have No Dominion)

9. Diet For A Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe 

The Inspirational Reading List of Steve Jobs
Source: Frances Moore Lappe/Amazon

Steve Jobs was interested in healthy eating as well as in learning about how certain foods can be natural healers. Diet for a Small Planet presents a significant new way of eating. This Steve Jobs' favorite is a complete guide for eating well in the twenty-first century.

Author Frances Moore Lappé shares her personal evolution and how her own life was changed. She is a world-renowned food expert who offers a fascinating philosophy on changing yourself by changing the way you eat.


10. Mucusless Diet Healing System by Arnold Ehret 

The Inspirational Reading List of Steve Jobs
Source: Arnold Ehret/Amazon

In an attempt to help himself through his illness, Steve Jobs turned his attention into Professor Arnold Ehret’s Mucusless diet healing system.

The book contains one of the most profound revelations about health in the 21st century: that mucus-forming foods are unnatural for humans to eat and that they represent the fundamental cause of many human illnesses. 

This is a guide on how to eliminate these foods from the daily diet and cleanse the body from their waste. 

11. 1984 by George Orwell

The Inspirational Reading List of Steve Jobs
Source: George Orwell/Amazon

This is a book that George Orwell wrote in 1948. 1984 is, or was, a chilling prophecy about the future. Even now, Orwell's dystopian vision of a government that will do anything to control the narrative can be thought as timely. 

12. Inside the Tornado by Geoffrey A. Moore

The Inspirational Reading List of Steve Jobs
Source: Geoffrey A. Moore/Amazon

This is the second of Geoff Moore's classic three-part marketing series. A topic that Steve Jobs regarded as important for Apple.


The book provides highly useful guidelines for moving products beyond early adopters into the lucrative mainstream market. 

Inside the Tornado is a guide on various marketing strategies. It teaches how to reach customers and how to take advantage of living inside the tornado in order to reap the benefits of mainstream adoption.

Seven years after Steve Jobs died, Apple users around the world remember him warmly, thanking him for the inspiration he brought to make us dare to be and think different. Thank you, Steve! 

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