Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller Sr. by Ron Chernow (Vintage, $20). An epic biography that illustrates how Rockefeller, once deemed a rapacious monopolist, created a legacy late in life that continues to pay dividends today.
The Unfinished Presidency by Douglas G. Brinkley (out of print). Brinkley tells the story of how Jimmy Carter reinvented himself after a crushing electoral defeat. Carter proved that even after having the world's most powerful job, one can still achieve an inspiring second act, and his example helped catalyze my own decision to leave Microsoft and follow my dream.
Permission Marketing by Seth Godin (Simon & Schuster, $26). There's a reason Seth is one of the most widely read business bloggers. His books have pushed me to think creatively and with new audacity. I followed his advice while getting Room to Read off the ground in 1998, and to date we've raised more than $200 million.
Banksy: The Man Behind the Wall by Will Ellsworth-Jones (St. Martin's, $28). How do you write a biography of an artist who isn't there, or perhaps is hiding in plain sight? Ellsworth-Jones brings the chimera to life, and I've never again thought about street art in the same way.
Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris (Random House, $18). Morris's Theodore Roosevelt makes today's politicians seem tepid and paper-thin in comparison. Had Teddy told you he was out walking the Appalachian Trail, that would have been the truth, not subterfuge.
Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Harcourt, $14). Powerful meditations and remembrances of piloting airmail planes across vast, isolated, and dangerous stretches of Africa. In an era of instantaneous and never-ending communication, it's a pleasure to hark back to the days when a long-distance message required weeks of waiting and the risking of lives. I admire how Saint-Exupéry looked past the technology of aviation to embrace the simple love of flying. We could apply that same theory today: It's easy to get caught up in the technology of communicating rather than enjoy the actual experience.