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CFO Connect Summer Reading 2020
Finance Insights

CFO books: a reading list for modern finance leaders

Benjamin Romberg Spendesk

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” - Harry S. Truman

One thing we know to be true about our community of modern CFOs is that they are lifelong learners who invest in their professional and personal development. That's why we went straight to them to help us curate a list of the most interesting and empowering reads for finance professionals. And because modern finance leadership is about more than just numbers know-how, these recommendations run the gamut from business & leadership, to philosophy and fictional page-turners.

Grab your glasses and turn on that reading lamp! This list of CFO books has every title meant to take your leadership to the next level.

Evergreen books for CFOs

Every reading list with any claim to completeness needs to start with the timeless classics. Here are 3 clear winners:

"The Hard Thing About Hard Things" by Ben Horowitz

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Ben Horowitz, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz, is one of Silicon Valley's most respected entrepreneurs, not least because he shares some of the toughest and most humbling experiences of his career in Silicon Valley with brutal honesty.

"Principles" by Ray Dalio

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How does a practicing Zen Buddhist become one of the most successful investors in the world? With principles, Ray Dalio claims.

"Winning" by Jack Welch

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Unsurprisingly this book by former GE chairman Jack Welch is about winning. But what is surprising is the honesty and practical guidance he provides for anyone seeking success in business.

Management & leadership books

You’ve read all the essentials? No problem, here’s a lot more food for thought, starting with some inspiration for modern leaders:

"Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter" by Liz Wiseman & Greg McKeown

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Multiplying your team’s capability and skills instead of draining energy from it – this is what modern leadership is all about, and Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown explain you how to get there.

"The Connector Manager: Why Some Leaders Build Exceptional Talent — and Others Don’t" by Jaime Roca and Sari Wilde

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The Connector type of manager performs better than others because they not only coach employees but rather connect them to useful external resources. This book is so interesting because it’s based on extensive research and tons of data.

Mindset books

Taking a step backwards, these books can help you become a leader. But they’re also just genuinely interesting reads for anyone who’s open to get their mind blown:

"Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman

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No matter if you’re at work or planning your summer vacation, your thinking is always shaped by two different systems. Famous psychologist and Nobel Prize-winner Daniel Kahnemann explains in the most fascinating way how our mind works.

"How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed" by Ray Kurzweil

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You’re ready to shed some more light on the functioning of your mind? Popular futurist Ray Kurzweil presents you with a deep and provocative examination of what’s really going on in your head.

"Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience" by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi

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In case some of the reads above might be too daunting for a summer holiday, just get into the flow. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi can tell you how to experience joy, satisfaction and creativity in the best way.

"You can win" by Shiv Khera

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The title is a lifetime of success which we can not guarantee. But it’s definitely an easy-to-read, practical guide that might help you spark some new ideas and have more positive thinking. 

"The Art of Business Wars: Battle-Tested Lessons for Leaders and Entrepreneurs from History’s Greatest Rivalries" by David Brown

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David Brown, the host of the popular podcast Business Wars, examines why some companies triumph while others crumble – based on the assumption that business is a fight for survival. 

Day-to-day finance books

Looking for something more tangible? The following CFO Books are meant to help you in your day-to-day work.

"The Personal MBA" by Josh Kaufman

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Josh Kaufman wanted to provide an alternative to traditional business schools and started collecting the most powerful resources himself. In this book you’ll find all the essentials, from entrepreneurship and negotiation to marketing and sales.

"Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals" by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic

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Finance professionals work with data every day, and one of the biggest challenges is to present them in a compelling way to make everyone in the business understand. Cole Nussbaumer suggests it’s all about the story.

"Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High" by Kerry Patterson

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Professional talks can be at least as challenging as those in private life. Kerry Patterson provides you with the right tools to succeed in both worlds.

"The Chief Financial Officer: What CFOs Do, the Influence they Have, and Why it Matters" by Jason Karaian

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The rapid rise in importance of the role of the chief financial officer — from back-office accountant to front-line executive — is unrivaled by that of any other corporate position. With access to every facet of the business, CFOs now wield a level of influence matched only by chief executives.

Books on the wider business world

Looking for a holiday read? CFOs take breaks too. Maybe you want a page-turner that makes you smile, cry and think at the same time. How about these?

"Alpha Girls: The Women Upstarts Who Took on Silicon Valley’s Male Culture and Made the Deals of a Lifetime" by Julian Guthrie

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Award-winning journalist Julian Guthrie takes readers on a real journey following the lives and careers of four ingenious women who became stars in the male-dominated cutthroat world of venture capital in Silicon Valley.

"Super Pumped" by Mike Isaac

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New York Times journalist Mike Isaac presents the dramatic rise and fall of Uber. But this is also a story about ambition and deception in the shiny world of tech.

"Lights Out: Pride, Delusion and the Fall of General Electric" by Ted Mann and Thomas Gryta

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Speaking of rise and fall – not only tech companies can get in trouble. This well-written book by Wall Street Journal reporters tells the story of one of the most iconic corporations, and how Jack Welch’s successor, Jeff Immelt, tried to fix the flaws in the profit machine. 

"Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to build the Future" by Peter Thiel, Blake Masters

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In this book, legendary entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel tries to present an optimistic view of the future in America and, at the same time, a new way of thinking about innovation.

"The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness" by Eric Jorgenson

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Naval Ravikant is an entrepreneur, philosopher and investor who has become famous with his principles for creating wealth and long-term happiness. This book is a collection of his most insightful interviews and reflections.

"At The Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails" by Sarah Bakewell

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Having to face major questions of freedom, responsibility and technology these days, you might find just the right answers in this entertaining introduction into the world of existentialism.

"The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History" by Elizabeth Kolbert

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Heads up – this title is probably not the most optimistic summer read, and yet it might just be what you’re looking for during this time: a captivating story about how we got here and where the human species is heading.

"Renewable Energy Finance: Theory and Practice" by Santosh Raikar and Seabron Adamson

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Let’s close this list with a hidden gem. Renewable energy and finance, does that go together? It does, and it’s fascinating to learn about it in practical examples.

We hope our selection provides some inspiration, all year round. A huge thanks to our community for sharing their favorites!

Have a favorite CFO book you’d like to recommend to fellow finance leaders? Email us at or tag us on Twitter.

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