Dive into the literary world of Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI.

Sam Altman is an influential entrepreneur and investor, known particularly for his role as the former president of Y Combinator, one of the most successful startup accelerators that has helped launch companies like Airbnb, Dropbox, and Stripe. Born in 1985 in Chicago, Altman started his first company, Loopt, at the age of 19 while attending Stanford University. Although he eventually dropped out to pursue his entrepreneurial ventures, his leadership at Y Combinator and his investments across various technology sectors have made him a key figure in Silicon Valley. Currently, he is the CEO of OpenAI, an artificial intelligence research lab that aims to promote and develop friendly AI in a way that benefits humanity as a whole.

If you are not learning, you are regressing; such is the nature of the world we live in.❞ — Sam Altman

Sam Altman has expressed his appreciation for reading, particularly non-fiction and scientific materials, which he integrates into his work in technology and AI. Reading plays a significant role in his ongoing education and in staying abreast of the latest developments and ethical considerations in technology. Although not frequently public about his personal life, Altman's professional advice often includes the importance of continual learning and adapting, which reading undoubtedly supports. His leadership style involves a deep understanding of technological trends and societal needs, where reading and education are fundamental to navigating the complexities of innovation.

Sam Altman's Favorite Books

Last Updated: June 2024

Guns, Sails and Empires: Technological Innovation and European Expansion 1400-1700

Cipolla explores how advancements in military and naval technology enabled European powers to establish overseas empires and dominate global trade during the early modern period.

Fundamentals of Plasma Physics

This textbook offers a thorough introduction to the principles and applications of plasma physics, with discussions on kinetic theory, magnetohydrodynamics, wave mechanics, and diagnostic techniques.

A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction

This influential book proposes a functional approach to architectural and urban design, presenting 253 design problems typical of urban environments, and offering corresponding solutions based on natural and human-centered principles.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jacobs’ influential book critiques 1950s urban planning policy, which she saw as detrimental to the social fabric of cities, and proposes new principles for building vibrant urban communities.

Plentiful Energy: The Story of the Integral Fast Reactor

The book details the development and promise of the Integral Fast Reactor, a type of nuclear reactor that offers improvements in safety, efficiency, and waste management over traditional reactors.

Man's Search for Meaning

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl's memoir has transcended its own genre by describing his experiences in Nazi death camps, all the while explaining his psychotherapeutic method, which involved identifying a purpose in life to feel positive about, and then immersively imagining that outcome.

The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914

This detailed historical analysis explores the complex web of political, diplomatic, and military events that led to the outbreak of World War I, arguing that the leaders of the time were like sleepwalkers, unaware of the consequences of their actions.

Second Foundation

This installment of Asimov's Foundation series focuses on the mysterious Second Foundation, tasked with preserving the edges of science and ensuring the original Foundation's prophecies come to fruition.
Also recommended by:
Lex Fridman  Elon Musk 

The Principia

Newton's groundbreaking work lays out the three laws of motion and the law of universal gravitation, which have formed the foundation for classical mechanics and drastically changed our understanding of the universe.
Also recommended by:
Neil deGrasse Tyson 

Einstein: His Life and Universe

Walter Isaacson delves into the life of Albert Einstein, illuminating how his revolutionary ideas reshaped modern physics while exploring his personal and professional journeys.
Also recommended by:
Elon Musk 

Foundation and Earth

The continuation of the Foundation series where Golan Trevize continues his quest to understand the choice he made regarding the galaxy's future, leading to a search for Earth with profound implications.
Also recommended by:
Lex Fridman  Elon Musk 


Written by a Roman Emperor and philosopher, these personal writings and aphorisms reflect his Stoic philosophy, providing guidance on how to handle adversity and exercise self-control, and offering insights into ethical living.
Also recommended by:
Lex Fridman 

The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time

Weiner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book documents the work of biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant in the Galápagos Islands, providing compelling real-time observations of evolution in action among finch populations.

The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You

Zhuo, a seasoned tech executive, shares her insights and personal experiences in transitioning from an individual contributor to a highly effective manager, offering practical advice on leadership, decision-making, and team building.
Also recommended by:
Adam Savage  Bill Nye 


Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, shares his insights and strategies for success in business management, covering everything from leadership and hiring to competitive strategy and corporate growth.

Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Year at Lockheed

Rich, the second director of Lockheed’s Skunk Works, offers a behind-the-scenes look at the top-secret aerospace development division, sharing stories of innovations that produced some of the most famous aircraft in history, including the U-2 and the Stealth fighter.

Man's Search For Meaning

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl's memoir has transcended its own genre by describing his experiences in Nazi death camps, all the while explaining his psychotherapeutic method, which involved identifying a purpose in life to feel positive about, and then immersively imagining that outcome.
Also recommended by:
Jordan Peterson 

Solution Selling: Creating Buyers in Difficult Selling Markets

This book presents a sales methodology that focuses on addressing clients' critical issues and providing solutions to their problems, rather than traditional product-focused selling.

Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez

This autobiographical work explores Rodriguez's experiences navigating the educational system as a child of Mexican immigrant parents, discussing the personal and societal impacts of assimilation and the loss of his cultural identity.

The Transit of Venus

Hazzard's novel follows the lives and loves of two orphaned sisters, who migrate from Australia to post-war England, where their paths diverge as they navigate love, ambition, and the complexities of womanhood.

The Crime of Reason: And the Closing of the Scientific Mind

Nobel laureate Laughlin examines how laws and regulations intended to protect intellectual property and national security are increasingly restricting scientific inquiry and knowledge dissemination, thus stifling innovation and progress.

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

Julian Jaynes presents a controversial theory that human consciousness arose as a recent development in history, linked to the breakdown of a previous mind-state where decisions were made through auditory hallucinations believed to be the voices of gods.
Also recommended by:
David Bowie  Neil deGrasse Tyson 

A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius

This memoir, characterized by its postmodern style and humorous self-awareness, recounts Eggers' experiences raising his younger brother in San Francisco following the tragic deaths of their parents.


Lansing's gripping account details the incredible survival story of explorer Ernest Shackleton and his crew, who struggled to survive in Antarctica for over a year after their ship was crushed by ice in 1915.


Isaac Asimov's groundbreaking novel introduces his grand narrative of the decline and fall of a Galactic Empire and the scientific effort to shorten the ensuing dark age.
Also recommended by:
Lex Fridman  Elon Musk 

Pandaemonium: The Coming of the Machine As Seen by Contemporary Observers

Compiled by British filmmaker Jennings, this unique book presents a selection of firsthand accounts from 1660 to 1886, chronicling the industrial revolution and its impact on society through the eyes of its contemporaries.

The Fall

In this philosophical novel, Camus presents a monologue by Jean-Baptiste Clamence, a former Parisian attorney who recounts his life and moral failures, exploring themes of existentialism, guilt, and human hypocrisy.

The Kite Runner: A Novel

This bestselling novel explores the unlikely and profound friendship between Amir, a wealthy boy from Kabul, and Hassan, the son of his father's servant, as their lives take dramatically different courses in the backdrop of Afghanistan’s turbulent history.

Brave New World

Set in a dystopian future where individuals are systematically controlled and conditioned for roles in a totalitarian society, Huxley’s novel critiques the dangers of sacrificing individuality for technological and governmental control.

Mind of Napoleon: A Selection of His Written and Spoken Words

This collection offers insight into Napoleon Bonaparte’s thoughts on war, politics, and governance, providing a glimpse into the strategic mind and ambitious spirit of one of history’s most influential leaders.

Foundation and Empire

The second book in Asimov's Foundation series, exploring the inevitable decay of a sprawling empire and the efforts by the Foundation to manage and mitigate the catastrophic loss of knowledge.
Also recommended by:
Elon Musk  Lex Fridman 
Do you have a suggestion for someone who should be featured on our site? Reach out to us today, and we'll make every effort to include them soon!