When Warren Buffet was asked about the key to success, he said “Read 500 pages every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.” At the beginning of his career in investing, he read about 800 pages a day. He says that he spends about 80 percent of his day reading and this explains his best investment decisions.

Buffet is not alone in his thinking. When Elon Musk was asked how he learned to build rockets, he stated, “I read books.” Bill Gates reports reading approximately one book a week. In a 2017 interview, Gates said that reading is essential to success. “It fuels a sense of curiosity about the world, which I think helped drive me forward in my career and in the work that I do now with my foundation.”

Below are a few best-selling books that have inspired thousands of people and helped them grow professionally.

“Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown

In his book, McKeown argues that if you’re trying to do it all, it’s unlikely you’re doing anything particularly well. Instead of spending our time doing what matters most, we get caught up doing a lot of things that just keep us busy.

“Sometimes what you don’t do is just as important as what you do.”

The author explains how to focus on what’s essential by showing readers how to: establish criteria to determine what’s important, courteously say “no” to people who drain your time and energy, and remove obstacles toward achieving your goals.

McKeown reminds us that nonessentialism is everywhere. We have so many choices that we have lost sight of the most important ones. He states, “Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life someone else will.” It’s not about getting more things done, but getting the right things done.

“Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It” by Chris Voss and Tahl Razw

Chris Voss is a former international hostage negotiator for the FBI. In his book he discusses the lessons he learned, sometimes the hard way, about how to effectively communicate and negotiate.

More often than you’d imagine, people make decisions based purely on emotions, versus rational thinking. When you understand what makes people tick, you can then open up lines of communication, rather than having doors shut in your face.

He introduces most chapters with how he worked his way through a dramatic kidnapping or hostage situation. Then he shows how the same strategies can be used in everyday circumstances like buying a car, negotiating for a higher salary or getting your kids to agree to their bedtime.

He argues why quid pro quo bargaining, compromise, and creating adversarial relationships rarely get you what you want.

He worked with professors at Harvard and found that many academic solutions to negotiating weren’t, in practice, very effective.

Voss discusses how to: listen empathetically to understand your opponent’s emotions, confront without being confrontational, calm your opponent down without them realizing it, become good at saying no, and get what you need by understanding the other person’s needs.

“Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight

In his memoir, the founder of Nike tells how he created the company. I thought this book would be another tale of an entrepreneur whose determination and courage never wavered in the pursuit of his vision.

It starts off as you might expect, with Knight talking about the importance of sticking with what you believe, no matter what. He writes, “I told myself: Let everyone else call your idea crazy… just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where “there” is. Whatever comes, just don’t stop.” To his credit, Knight never quit. But there were many, many times he seriously considered it.

Knight tells his story in an honest and gutsy way. He writes about all the times he thought he would fail and wondered if holding onto a steady accountant job was the better move. He dreaded having to go to his dad to borrow money, who occasionally chided him for “jackassing around” with selling shoes. When his dad cuts him off, he resorts to begging at his local bank, countless times, for loans.

Many pages focus on all the things Knight thought he did wrong, all the ways he didn’t measure up and the regrets he had about how he treated many of the people in his life. He even talks about his nervous ticks, like snapping rubber bands on his wrist and hugging himself in meetings when he was stressed.

You get a true feel for how chaotic and stressful it is to start a business and the struggle and sacrifice it requires. The point of his book is not to offer a 10-step manual on how to start your own business. Instead, he writes a credible account of what it really took to make Nike what it is today.

All three authors offer insight and personal accounts that make their books well worth your time.

Melissa Brown is a web developer at SimpleDzn.com and former business professor at the University of Alaska. She can be reached at melissa@simpledzn.com. This column is brought to you as a public service by the UAF Department of Applied Business.