Editor's Choice

Beyond the boardroom – What do CEOs read?

By Business & Finance
01 May 2024

We picture CEOs glued to business books, strategising their next move. But what do they really read? Interviews with Irish CEOs reveal a fascinating mix – leadership guides, yes, but also personal passions and broader worldviews.

This article dips into the favourite non-business books of Irish CEOs. These choices go beyond personal taste, reflecting leadership styles, philosophies, and even emotional connections. From heartwarming children’s stories to thought-provoking history and mind-bending sci-fi, these picks offer a unique window into the minds of Ireland’s top leaders. Let’s explore what inspires them beyond the boardroom.

Killian Barry, Managing Director
Danone Ireland

Killian Barry, CEO of Danone Ireland, finds his solace in the whimsical world of children’s literature, particularly in Julia Donaldson’s creations.

He said, “As a father of three children under the age of seven, I don’t get much time for reading these days! The Gruffalo is our family favourite at bedtime, and Julia Donaldson’s books are always a hit – even with Mum and Dad!”. Donaldson’s choice is simultaneously a personal retreat into the joy of children’s stories, and also a celebration of the importance of family time and the foundational experiences of reading with children.

In The Gruffalo, a clever mouse invents a monster to avoid predators, only to encounter the real Gruffalo. With quick thinking, the mouse outsmarts this fearsome creature, turning the tables on the forest’s predators in this witty, charming tale.

Click here to read the full interview with Killian Barry

Dervla McKay, Managing Director
Go-Ahead Ireland

Dervla McKay brings something different to the table with her choice: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

In the recent interview with McKay, she said: “I found it very moving”.
The book is about nine-year-old Bruno from Berlin who moves to a desolate new home where he meets Shmuel, a boy in striped pyjamas on the other side of a fence. Unaware of the Holocaust, Bruno’s naive explorations lead to a devastating revelation.

Click here to read the full interview with Dervla McKay

Matteo Penzo, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder
Zick Learn

Science fiction fuels the imagination of Matteo Penzo, with Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series being a source of inspiration.

He said, “I read a lot of sci-fi as a kid, and the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov keeps inspiring me. It’s about a scientist who changes an entire universe – the way people live, business, politics – and he does it all with the power of his ideas.”

The science fiction book explores the collapse of a Galactic Empire through the visionary work of psychohistorian Hari Seldon. Seldon uses his innovative science to foresee and alter the galaxy’s dire future by establishing a colony of the Empire’s brightest minds on Terminus. The narrative delves into preservation and strategic foresight, challenging the fate of a crumbling empire and the emergence of new adversaries.

Click here to read Matteo Penzo`s full interview.

Conor McGarry, Chief Executive Officer and Founder

Conor McGarry finds insights into humanity’s past and its implications for the future through Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, & Steel and Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens.

He said:  “Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs & Steel and Yuval Harari’s Sapiens. Both books provide fascinating insights into human evolutionary history from multiple perspectives.”

In Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond, the author argues that geography and biogeography, rather than race, have shaped the diverse fates of people across the globe. This groundbreaking book synthesises history, biology, ecology, and linguistics to explore why human societies have developed so differently.

In Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, a captivating narrative examines the evolution and dominance of homosapiens, exploring how biology and history have shaped our species. The book delves into the significant role humans have played in the global ecosystem and the evolution of empires, while also considering future implications as humans begin to transcend the laws of natural selection.

Click here to read Conor McGarry’s full interview.

These CEOs, from various industries, reveal that their reading habits are as diverse as their business ventures. Their favourite books offer a window into their personal values, inspirations, and the broader perspectives that guide their decision-making. 

Read More:

Beyond the Boardroom – What are CEOs reading? (Part 1)