What do the World’s Top VCs and Entrepreneurs Read?

The Twenty Minute VC Books

Scroll through the above visualization to see favorite authors, fiction and nonfiction books.

The Twenty Minute VC and the Legend that is Harry Stebbings

I’ve been a huge fan of The Twenty Minute VC podcast and its host Harry Stebbings for about a year and a half now. Harry works incredibly hard (and sleeps too little for someone sponsored by a mattress firm!) and he has built a phenomenal portfolio of interviews with the world’s leading venture capitalists and tech entrepreneurs.

Harry Stebbings of the Twenty Minute VC
Harry, is it offensive to compare you to Harry Potter?

He’s also incredibly good at building relationships with his followers. I’ve never met him in person (he’s a Londoner) but I feel genuinely connected to him, and I greatly enjoy our occasional Snapchat and Twitter conversation.

In each of his episodes, he asks his guests for their favorite book. I’ve always wanted to see this data aggregated because Harry’s list of interviewees has become such a Who’s Who of the technology sector. I recently had a few hours alone in Las Vegas and instead of getting drunk and gambling alone I decided to take a shot at tabulating all this data. Little did I know how long it would take! A couple days later, I finally got through alllllll of the interviews Harry’s done and threw it into a spreadsheet. I visualized it in Tableau; you can check out the source on Tableau Public here.

The book links are affiliates, so if you buy a book through them Amazon will pay me 60 cents or a dollar; which I’d really appreciate as I’d love to recoup the cost of the 30 or so cups of coffee I drank making this!


P.S. If you’d like access to the raw data, shoot me an email at joe@ramenprofitable.co, happy to open source it, I’m sure there are lots of interesting datasets to join this with (fund size, geolocation etc.)

My thoughts on the results

Ben Horowitz the Hard Thing About Hard Things
Ben Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Before we begin, I can’t recommend Audible highly enough; I use it and it’s increased the number of books I consume by probably 4x. AND you can get a free trial and listen to a couple of these books for free if you follow this link and I will get a couple bucks from Amazon so it’ll be like you’re forcing Jeff Bezos to buy me a coffee! Win-Win.

Moving on…

No surprise that The Hard Thing About Hard Things crushes it. It’s a phenomenal book by a phenomenal VC, so you might expect that a lot of VCs and entrepreneurs like it a lot. Horowitz does an incredible job painting a picture of how life is as a venture-backed company CEO and after reading it I respect them a lot more and want to be one a lot less!

Zero to One did well also; though I personally wasn’t a huge fan I can understand why people like it and I think it is very much worth the read. Thiel is obviously brilliant, if pretty weird.

The Lean Startup has become such a Bible that it almost seems cliché, but it is really such an important book to read, especially for people who haven’t been around the startup hivemind for very long.

An old favorite of mine, Nassim Taleb, did very well too: lots of VCs liked Fooled by Randomness, a couple enjoyed AntiFragile and I think one person liked my favorite The Black Swan.

Brad Feld came through with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which I’m reading now and loving.

Ashlee Vance’s extraordinary biography of Elon Musk was the most popular biography, unsurprising and absolutely worth the read. I actually very much recommend listening to the audiobook through Audible, the voice is very soothing!

Bigger the VC, the more cerebral the book

The Alchemist by Paul Coelho
The Alchemist by Paul Coelho

It seems that the most successful interviewees cited more cerebral, less typically “business-y” books; this is rather unsurprising as they’re further removed from the beginning stages of learning and there’s a certain pressure to be a deep thinker as a successful businessperson.

On the fiction side, People loved The Alchemist, which I loved and will probably re-read at the behest of a nice guy I met in a brewery in Boston.

I was excited to see Hemingway do well with The Old Man and the Sea, and Salinger with A Catcher in the Rye, a book that is terribly painful to read in the very best way.

I really want to read the Master and Margarita, it looks great and I like that it has Margarita in the title (@hstebbings how do you feel that it isn’t Master and Mojito??)

I need to read some of the historical books; The Voyage to the Antarctic seems great. I also want to check out Man’s Search for Meaning.

What’s your favorite? What should I read? Lemme know! And buy a whittling kit :)


Seriously, get Audible, at least for the free trial, it’s a very well-designed app and it will make you smarter. And If you get it through this link I’ll be able to afford more coffee and thus make more data visualizations!

8 Comment

  1. […] created a series of infographics to summarize the results (click here for the interactive versions), starting with this […]

  2. Chetan Chothani says: Reply

    Nice job with this. Fascinating! Wondering if you’d share the underlying data in a list format. A handy-dandy reading list, if you would! Thx!

    1. jhovde2121@gmail.com says: Reply

      Hi Chetan,

      Thanks for the kind words! I appreciate it. And yes, my pleasure… reach out to joe@ramenprofitable.co with a good email address and I can share it with you!


  3. Jim Sanatar says: Reply

    WOW !!!!! Great job Joe

    1. jhovde2121@gmail.com says: Reply

      Thanks Jim!! Appreciate you checking it out.

  4. […] What do the World’s Top VCs and Entrepreneurs Read? […]

  5. […] one thing, they read. And quite a lot, as the Visual Capitalist reports. This is based on recent analysis by blogger Joe Hovde of the popular 20 Minute VC podcast, which features interviews with leading venture capitalists […]

  6. […] created a series of infographics to summarize the results (click here for the interactive versions), starting with this […]

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