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The reading habits of successful people

Successful people are known as men and women of action. They’re skilled speakers, adept negotiators and confident decision-makers.

One less obvious trait is shared by many achievers: They’re avid readers. Bill Gates and Barack Obama are just two luminaries who read widely and eagerly share their reading recommendations.

Disappearing into a book might seem out of character for Type A personalities, but many titans of business and politics are also bookworms.

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Elon Musk

Consider billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk. The founder of Tesla and SpaceX, among other ventures, uses reading to hone his game as an “expert-generalist” who combines deep technical knowledge with creativity, according to How to Think Like Elon Musk in Fortune magazine.

Musk’s brother recalls him as a teenager, reading two books each day and having interests that only expanded as he grew older. Musk devours books on physics, product design and energy, as well as religion, science fiction and entrepreneur biographies. With this breadth of knowledge – combined with his real-life experiences – he has deconstructed the basic principles of several fields and is able to apply the principles in visionary ways.

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Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett, the world’s richest man, is another alpha male known to read voraciously, according to The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder. As a child, Buffett avidly read all the investment books and periodicals at his father’s office. His favorite library book was One Thousand Ways to Make $1,000, which he studied religiously.

When he was a student at Columbia University, Buffett memorized Security Analysis, the influential valuation guide written by professors Benjamin Graham and David Dodd.

Decades later, Buffett remains known as a voracious reader who uses his reading habits to inform his investment decisions and world view.

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John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy was another world leader known to read widely and voraciously. As a child, Kennedy often was sick in bed, and he spent hours reading – history, adventure stories and the classics, according to The Power of Citizenship: Why John F. Kennedy Matters to a New Generation by Scott D. Reich.

Kennedy developed an admiration for heroes who demonstrated “bravery, sacrifice, patriotism, activism and adventure.” He learned how heroes inspired people with oratory that emphasized their “interconnectivity.” Young Jack came to understand the nature of “a public or communal element to achieving heroism,” Reich writes.

Before he was elected president, Kennedy became a bestselling author. He believed that those who enjoy freedom and wealth have an obligation to give back to their communities – themes that appear in Profiles in Courage, his 1950s Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller about people who acted heroically in difficult situations.

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