From leadership to life rules: the books you need on World Book Day

April 20, 2023 Share this article:

World Book Day 2023

April 23 is World Book Day – and that means different things to different people.

To the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, World Book and Copyright Day means a focus on indigenous languages, based on the World Book Capital Network Charter, which acknowledges all forms of literature, including oral traditions.

In Accra, Ghana, it means that the city has been declared 2023’s World Book Capital, an initiative that uses the power of books to engage young people and prepare the next generation for the future. To most of us, though, it means pausing to celebrate the difference that books and reading have made in our lives.

We asked leadership experts in the AltoPartners network to give us their recommendations for books that have shaped their views on leadership / business – and to tell us what they are reading right now.


Listed alphabetically by author:

  • Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace by Jessica Bennett – a super smart book with ideas on how to resolve everyday situations that women are faced with. (Sandra Olive, Bäcker & Partners / AltoPartners Argentina)

  • Magic Words; What to Say to Get Your Way by Jonah Berger. I have always loved words and consider my vocabulary to be one of my most valuable assets. But are some words demonstrably worth more than others? According to Jonah, the answer is “Yes”. This book is a quick and easy-to-digest run-through of some of the more useful words that help to build persuasion and rapport. There is a comprehensive index and some good references for those who wish to read more. Discussion and the building of shared meaning is key to doing our jobs as directors. This book might just make that job easier. Because we all need that. (Julie Garland-McLellan, AltoPartners Australia)

  • I don’t have a book that has shaped my view on leadership or business, but I am currently enjoying reading Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman and am very inspired to revisit how I manage time and life. (Anuradha Menon, Accord Group India / AltoPartners India)

  • Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility by James P. Carse. I also recommend the later publication, The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek. (Jose Luis Marcó, Seeliger y Conde / AltoPartners Spain)

  • Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins. The book highlights the importance of effective leadership (humble but ambitious), a clear strategy and discipline for a company to achieve greatness. All this, based on an exhaustive study of successful companies over a period of fifteen years. (Christian Andrews, Equation Partners / AltoPartners Chile)

  • Leadership Is An Art by Max De Pree. He writes: “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor.” (Patrycja Lachowska, Accord Group Polska / AltoPartners Poland)

  • Women & Leadership by Julia Gillard and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. A very interesting recap on how iconic women have to go the extra mile when competing with men in politics. For some reason, the press is still more interested in what they are wearing rather than real down-to-earth matters. (Sandra Olive, Bäcker & Partners / AltoPartners Argentina)

  • What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter. Sometimes you have to drop old habits to get to new frontiers. (Hansjörg Meine, Alto Consultants / AltoPartners Darmstadt)

  • I stopped reading business books a while ago. Not a lot of fresh ideas, more “old wine in new bottles”. I still like to read the stories of successful entrepreneurs, though. One of the best and my recommendation: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. (Dr Thomas Heyn, Jack Russel Consulting GmbH / AltoPartners Munich)

  • The Culture Map by Erin Meyer helps you understand and navigate cultural differences; an insightful and practical guide, perfect for both your work and personal life. (Michał Jakubowski, Accord Group Polska / AltoPartners Poland)

  • Decoding Leadership Bullshit: How Leaders Move Up the Corporate Ladder and Stay There. The book is written by a seasoned international executive using the pseudonym Hal O’Ween. I would love to know who he or she really is and would like to read more by them. “Hal” has held senior leadership positions with blue-chip companies and business consultancies all over the globe and writes in a very satirical way about what it takes to get ahead. (Julia Zdrahal-Urbanek, ALTO Search Consultants GmbH / AltoPartners Austria)

  • 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson – I’m only on rule 3 now, but having a wonderful time with it. (Sandra Olive, Bäcker & Partners / AltoPartners Argentina)

  • Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg. (Patrycja Lachowska, Accord Group Polska / AltoPartners Poland)

  • Full Stack Recruiter: The Ultimate Edition by Jan Tegze. This is 762 pages long, and packed with information, methods, hacks, etc. about recruiting. For researchers, it has a lot of practical knowledge and helps with learning to search “out of the box”. (Tobias Alarcon, Alto Consultants / AltoPartners Darmstadt)


Listed alphabetically by author:

  • Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. As the Sunday Times puts it: Smart, funny, big-hearted. (Dr Thomas Heyn)

  • The Shortest History of Germany by James Hawes. It’s a trip through 2000 years of German history with eyes on geography, culture, politics, and society. Haven’t finished yet, but it’s promising. (Tobias Alarcon, Alto Consultants / AltoPartners Darmstadt)

  • The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Snehan Karunatilaka. A dark book that is humorous and searing, and true to the realities of its time. (Anuradha Menon, Accord Group India / AltoPartners India)

  • The Power of Geography: Ten Maps That Reveal the Future of Our World by Tim Marshall. Extremely interesting and well researched look at what drives the behaviour of various countries and their leaders. (Hansjörg Meine, Alto Consultants / AltoPartners Darmstadt)

  • The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy by Seth Mnookin. (Patrycja Lachowska, Accord Group Polska / AltoPartners Poland)

  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand is an all-time classic I have wanted to read for ages. I’m halfway through – it’s very well written, and as relevant now as it was then when it comes to gender politics. (Sandra Olive, Bäcker & Partners / AltoPartners Argentina)

  • Normal People by Sally Rooney, which has themes of love in a capitalist society and across class divisions. In 2019 it was ranked 25th on The Guardian’s list of the 100 best books of the 21st century. (Patrycja Lachowska, Accord Group Polska / AltoPartners Poland)

  • The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, from The Kingkiller Chronicle series by Patrick Rothfuss, are two epic fantasy novels told through a story within a story, from varied perspectives, with beautiful and poetic prose, intriguing plots, and complex and deep characters. (Christian Andrews, Equation Partners / AltoPartners Chile)

  • The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles, for the imagery and the lovely story. (Anuradha Menon)

  • Co chcesz powiedzieć światu (What do you want to tell the world) by Martyna Wojciechowska. It’s available only in Polish. One of the chapters is about our managing partner Corinne Klajda and the Corinne Runs for Good project. (Patrycja Lachowska, Accord Group Polska / AltoPartners Poland)

Happy reading!