6 Books that Influenced Jay-Z — An Oprah Interview!

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In September’s O, the Oprah Magazine, Jay-Z drops some knowledge about the most influential literature in his life. You may be surprised by some of the books mentioned, but be sure to check them out anyway. No word on whether his classmates — The Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes — shared Jay’s affection for the written word.

The Seat of the Soul, by Gary Zukav

“There are two books that I absolutely live my life by. This is one of them. Growing up, I was always curious about religion. This book made the most sense to me; it’s about the way you live your life. I believe in karma and doing the right thing even if it may not advance you as far as you want. If every single person felt the same way about karma and intention, then the world gets fixed tomorrow. But temptation gets in the way. Zukav is right: It may take lifetimes to learn.”

The Celestine Prophecy, by James Redfield

“This is the other book I live by. It’s fiction—a guy travels to find a secret book that has a series of principles. The story is a metaphor for life: I could go left or right, I could be stuck, or I could keep advancing. Some people are happy where they are. I tried to hire a guy once, and I said, ‘Don’t you have ambition to be bigger?’ And he said, ‘No, I’m good.’ I had to respect that, but for me that was the wrong relationship.”

The Odyssey, by Homer

“This epic poem was kind of difficult for me to get through, but it has a beautiful rhythm. I got lost in reading about Odysseus’ struggle to get home and his longing for someone so strong, as his wife was, waiting for him. That’s like a dream—that kind of strength, love, loyalty.”

Outliers: The Study of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell

“This book is about the principles of timing and repetition—about preparing yourself for luck, really. He talks about a hockey team, and how the players born in January had a year up on the guys born in December. They were fortunate that their birthday was early, but they also practiced—they put the work in. The book resonated with me because I was born at a time when there was an influx of incredible music into the culture, and I was lucky that my mom and pop were huge record collectors. In my house, I had music by Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Prince, and the Commodores, and I’m listening to it every single day.”

Purple Cow, by Seth Godin

“This is straight marketing advice: Your product has to be a purple cow—it has to be distinct to have any success. You have to be clear on your product: What are you? What are you putting out there? For years I never did an ad for [my company] Rocawear, because I cared more about the quality than the face in front. I hadn’t read this book back then, but when someone puts words to feelings you have, it’s like, ‘Wow, that’s exactly what it is.'”

Nigger, by Dick Gregory

“I don’t know who turned me on to this autobiography, but his sense of humor and the hardships he went through stayed with me—especially the scene where he started running home from school. It led to his joining the track team, which led to a scholarship to college. Running opened up a whole world for him.”

More from the Oprah Jay-Z interview.

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