Peter Thiel Books: A Comprehensive List of Books By, About & Recommended by Peter Thiel

Peter Thiel Books Cover

Peter Thiel is a German-American entrepreneur and investor. You might know the billionaire with a net worth of over $7 billion as the co-founder of PayPal, co-founder of big data technology company Palantir, or the first outside investor into Facebook, buying a 10% stake of the company for $500,000 in 2004, which would eventually net him over $1 billion. If you’re looking for a comprehensive list of Peter Thiel books, be it the ones he wrote, recommended, or that were written about him, you’re in the right place!

Thiel was born in 1967 in Frankfurt, Germany. When he was just one year old, his parents emigrated to the United States, eventually settling in California, where Thiel went to a strict high school but excelled academically, specifically in math. Thiel was “a nerd,” reading lots of science fiction and playing Dungeons & Dragons in his spare time. He read The Lord of the Rings over ten times and would eventually name many of his companies after items or places from the series, most famously Palantir Technologies (a palantir is a magical orb in which one can see events happening elsewhere, in the past, or even the future).

Thiel later went to Stanford and got a doctorate in law, but he only briefly worked in law and finance before starting PayPal in 1999, which went public in 2002 and sold to eBay for $1.5 billion only eight months later. He used his $55 million proceeds to really kick off his venture capital investing career and has made early investments into many famous companies since. He also taught a class about startups at Stanford in 2012, the notes of which went on to become his now famous book Zero to One.

To give you an overview of all books by, about, and recommended by Thiel, we dug into our index of over 1,000 book summaries and the web. Since Thiel has only published two books, we’ve decided to list those by date of publication, then move on to books about him and the ones he recommends.

 

You can easily navigate this list by clicking on whichever section interests you the most in the below table of contents. For each book, we’ve included an image of the cover, a 1-sentence-summary, and our favorite quote. We will also share our most important takeaways and why you might want to read the book yourself.

If you want to dive deeper into any book, click the “Read on Four Minute Books” or “Learn More” button or use one of our Amazon affiliate links to buy a copy for yourself. Alright, let’s dive into the world of Peter Thiel books!


All Peter Thiel Books (in Chronological Order)

1. The Diversity Myth (1995)

Peter Thiel Books 1: The Diversity Myth

Favorite Quote

“How can one be certain that liberation from one particular form of oppression will not give way to another, more grotesque and hideous than the first?” – Peter Thiel

The Book in One Sentence

The Diversity Myth argues that a focus on political correctness and multiculturalism has had a detrimental impact on academic achievements in the United States, suppressing ideas instead of engendering them and using moral arguments to silence anyone who disagrees this approach.

Why should you read it?

This is a book Thiel co-authored with David O. Sacks, most likely after observing the evolution of diversity and multiculturalism at Stanford during his own time there as a student. The core argument, while presented to an extreme, is that inclusion and diversity, rather than the virtuous aspirations they should be, have become excuses to stop thinking, reduce expectations, and not ask any questions. Using Stanford as a specific example with global impact and consequences, the authors pull from many sources to show a lot of bad is done in the name of good, and what we can do to rectify these issues. If you’re skeptical about the long-term impacts of political correctness and “diversity at all costs,” this book is for you.

Key Takeaways

    1. Classics are classics for a reason and should not be removed light-heartedly from academic curricula.
    2. When you allow people so satisfy assignments any way they want, they’ll just choose the path of least effort.
    3. By making the silencing of disagreeing voices look like a legit academic activity, multiculturalism actually leads to less learning, not more.

If you want to learn more, you can click below or get a copy for yourself.

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2. Zero to One (2014)

Peter Thiel Books 2: Zero to One

Favorite Quote

“Brilliant thinking is rare, but courage is in even shorter supply than genius.” – Peter Thiel

The Book in One Sentence

Zero to One is an inside look at Peter Thiel’s philosophy and strategy for making your startup a success by looking at the lessons he learned from founding and selling PayPal, investing in Facebook and becoming a billionaire in the process.

Why should you read it?

If you want to make it in business, be it as a solo creator, small business owner, or the CEO of the next unicorn startup, read this book. It’s full of uncommon sense, thoughtful industry analysis, and calls to action to focus on what matters most. The basic idea is that, rather than slightly improving the status quo, you’ll disrupt the market altogether, be it by creating a new segment of it or making something that’s 100x better than what we’ve known before. This is a radical, eye-opening book, and if you have even the slightest inclination to be an entrepreneur, you need to learn how to go from zero to one.

Key Takeaways

  1. The biggest leaps in progress are vertical, not horizontal.
  2. Monopolies are good, for both business and society.
  3. Founders need a vision to take their business from zero to one.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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All Books About Peter Thiel (Written by Other Authors, by Date of Publication)

3. Conspiracy by Ryan Holiday (2018)

Peter Thiel Books 3: Conspiracy

Favorite Quote

“It always takes longer than expected, per Hofstadter’s Law, even when—and this is the critical part—one takes Hofstadter’s Law into account.” – Ryan Holiday

The Book in One Sentence

Conspiracy is an account of Peter Thiel’s quest to take down Gawker Media, a blog and journalistic organization many might have considered predatory, exploitative, and unethical, for outing him as gay, which he accomplished nearly a decade later by funding former wrestler Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against the company over an illegally obtained and published sex tape.

Why should you read it?

There’s that saying that “money is power,” but we rarely get a full, behind-the-scenes account of just how much or what that might look like in practice. In the TV show Billions, billionaire Bobby Axelrod provides many examples, but those are all fictional. If you want a real account of what’s possible when you’re mega-rich, this book might be for you. It’s about how to wield money and influence, why even for a billionaire, not all doors magically open, and what makes good and ethical journalism. If you work in the media or want to see how billionaires exert their power behind the scenes, this book is for you.

Key Takeaways

  1. Conspiracies come in 3 phases: the planning, the doing, and the aftermath.
  2. Sometimes, the worst thing you can do in the face of a media backlash is to try and contain it, thus only making it worse.
  3. Don’t wait to act on small threats, because once they grow into big ones, it might be too late to do anything about them.

If you want to learn more, you can click below or get a copy for yourself.

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4. The Contrarian by Max Chafkin (2021)

Peter Thiel Books 4: The Contrarian

Favorite Quote

“Girard’s big idea—which Thiel would internalize and adopt as a guiding principle, both in investing and in life—was that people are motivated, at their core, by a desire to imitate one another.” – Max Chafkin

The Book in One Sentence

The Contrarian is a biography of Peter Thiel as well as an account of the history of Silicon valley and how one of its most prominent and powerful players ended up shaping it.

Why should you read it?

This is the only biography of Thiel available at this stage. Chafkin had access to Thiel, albeit in limited capacity, and also did a lot of research to make up for it. While some praise Chafkin’s attempts to not just describe Thiel’s journey but interpret it, including what his true beliefs and motives are, others say the book paints Thiel in a bad light, revealing more about the author’s thoughts than the subject’s. There are some hidden gems and good anecdotes in this book, but take its more speculative assertions with a grain of salt. If you want a biography of Peter Thiel, this is the book for you.

Key Takeaways

  1. While advocating for radical technological progress, Thiel may have encouraged a culture in which said progress often comes at the expense of society.
  2. Thiel was good at school but unpopular, causing him to develop a disdain for people and, perhaps, society in general.
  3. When you’re rich, almost anything is possible, and you’ll get away with many things average people can’t do.

If you want to learn more, you can click below or get a copy for yourself.

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5. The Founders by Jimmy Soni (2022)

Peter Thiel Books 5: The Founders

Favorite Quote

“Both in the foreground and behind the scenes, PayPal’s alumni have built, funded, or counseled nearly every Silicon Valley company of consequence for the last two decades.” – Jimmy Soni

The Book in One Sentence

The Founders is a conclusive origin story of PayPal and the people behind it, often dubbed “the PayPal mafia,” many of which would later go on to become Silicon Valley’s most influential investors, power brokers, and multi-time entrepreneurs.

Why should you read it?

If you’re curious how some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, like Reid Hoffman, owner and CEO of LinkedIn, Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, and of course Peter Thiel found their beginnings and went on to shape the course of Silicon Valley and the world of technology, this book is the one to go for. Soni outlines the history of PayPal, the sale of which made most of its employees rich, in chess-style chapters, going into detail about each member of “the PayPal Mafia” and their journey. A fascinating read for anyone who’s trying to succeed in business!

Key Takeaways

  1. To succeed as a united business post a merger, you have to find more in common with one another than you can find differences.
  2. Not all of Silicon Valley’s cultural values are bad, but some have gone off track over the years.
  3. A small group who sticks together relentlessly can achieve a lot more than a large group of loose connections.

If you want to learn more, you can click below or get a copy for yourself.

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The 5 Most Important Books Recommended by Peter Thiel (in Order of Publication)

For this section, we took the top 5 most commonly mentioned books by websites listing Thiel’s most recommended books. For more books Peter suggests, you can check out Most Recommended Books, Kevin Rooke, or Goodbooks.io.

6. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien (1954)

Peter Thiel Books 6: The Lord of the Rings

Favorite Quote

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

The Book in One Sentence

The Lord of the Rings is the journey of Frodo, a Hobbit, who must take the One Ring, an evil device crafted by dark lord Sauron to enslave the world, into the depths of Mordor, Sauron’s dominion, in order to destroy it and liberate the many peoples of Middle Earth.

Why should you read it?

Do I really need to make a case for this? The Lord of the Rings is one of the most popular books (and movie trilogies) of all time, one of history’s greatest stories, and should be mandatory reading in all high schools, if you ask me — not for the genius of its insight or its prose, both of which are excellent, but for how well it conveys the importance of kindness, adventure, and friendship. This is a book anyone should at least try to read at least once in their lives.

Key Takeaways

  1. You never know what you can do until you go out into the world and try to do something.
  2. Friendship is the strongest bond in the world.
  3. Not all those who wander are lost.

If you want to learn more, you can click below or get a copy for yourself.

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7. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (1957)

Peter Thiel Books 7: Atlas Shrugged

Favorite Quote

“If you don’t know, the thing to do is not to get scared, but to learn.” – Ayn Rand

The Book in One Sentence

Atlas Shrugged is a literary classic of philosophy, disguised as an action-packed thriller in which railroad and steel magnates fight against increased regulation and “looters,” people trying to exploit the productivity of their businesses for their own gain, unsure whether or not they should follow the lead of a mysterious “John Galt,” rallying business owners to abandon their current, defunct society and form their own.

Why should you read it?

This is another classic of modern literature, and, thankfully, instead of presenting dry economic arguments, it wraps all of its lessons into a single, riveting story. Whether you want to build a big business, worry about where civilization is headed, or want to learn more about the complicated interrelations of politics, economics, and philosophy, this book is a must-read.

Key Takeaways

  1. Your only moral obligation in life is to be happy.
  2. The mind determines everything: Where it is, productivity and happiness can flourish, and where it is not, only darkness will grow.
  3. Never compromise on your principles.

If you want to learn more, you can click below or get a copy for yourself.

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8. The Sovereign Individual by James Dale Davidson & William Rees-Mogg (1997)

Peter Thiel Books 8: The Sovereign Individual

Favorite Quote

“To dare a thought is to risk being wrong.” – James Dale Davidson & William Rees-Mogg

The Book in One Sentence

The Sovereign Individual jumps into the future and presents a new world where life moves into the online environment, where the cyber-economy rules and governments are struggling to control people like they used to, all through a revolution more powerful than anything we’ve seen before.

Why should you read it?

If you are worried about the power of governments and wondering where and how much of our lives the nations we live in will or aim to control, this might be a good read for you. The book explains the world’s move into a global, ever-on, online economy and the consequences that has for our individuality, sovereignty, privacy, and more. If you find cryptocurrency fascinating, have concerns about privacy while browsing the web or using social media, or prefer to own things rather than just rent them, this book will be right up your alley.

Key Takeaways

  1. Technology is already shaping a new world where we communicate 24/7 and filter our information and news outlets.
  2. We will have to reorganize ourselves in the new technology era, as our dependence on governments decreases significantly.
  3. People are already expressing their wishes to be ruled by morality, sustainability, and a no-violence, free state.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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9. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz (2014)

Peter Thiel Books 9: The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Favorite Quote

“The only thing that prepares you to run a company is running a company.” – Ben Horowitz

The Book in One Sentence

The Hard Thing About Hard Things is an inside look at the tough decisions and lonely times all CEOs face, before showing you what it takes to build a great organization and become a world-class leader.

Why should you read it?

This is one of the most recommended books by CEOs and entrepreneurs of all kinds, and it is for good reason: The book somewhat prepares you for the thing no one can prepare for: Running a company. Talking about the struggles of leadership, what it takes to be a good CEO, and how to build a company that not just survives its first few years but lasts for decades and centuries, this book is a good “get your head on straight” read for any aspiring entrepreneur but also for managers and leaders in any capacity.

Key Takeaways

  1. The CEO should be the first one to shout when shit hits the fan.
  2. There are 2 types of CEOs, strategic and practical.
  3. Great CEOs must learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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10. Originals by Adam Grant (2016)

Peter Thiel Books 10: Originals

Favorite Quote

“Being original doesn’t require being first. It just means being different and better.” – Adam Grant

The Book in One Sentence

Originals re-defines what being creative means by using many specific examples of how persistence, procrastination, transparency, critical thinking and perspective can be brought together to change the world.

Why should you read it?

This book is just chock full of creative inspiration. The sheer number of examples is ridiculous, and you’ll find yourself feeling uplifted and positive by the time you’re done reading a few pages. If you want to do better work or succeed as a creative, give this one a chance. A good place to start is Adam’s Originals quiz, which will tell you something new about your creative capacities in just a few minutes.

Key Takeaways

  1. Producing great ideas is a matter of quantity.
  2. Procrastinate on purpose to trigger the Zeigarnik effect.
  3. Repeat yourself and find common reference points to make your crazy ideas more familiar.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

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Peter Thiel Books by Popularity

Since Thiel has only written two books and we don’t want to compare apples to oranges by including books from other authors here, we’ll keep it simple:

The most popular book by Peter Thiel is Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future. The book has over 15,000 ratings on Amazon (4.5 ⭐️) and has sold more than 1.25 million copies.

If you want to start with Thiel’s most popular book, look no further! Zero to One is the way to go.


In What Order Should You Read Peter Thiel’s Books?

The only and #1 must-read book by Peter Thiel is Zero to One. Thiel himself has claimed that he regrets some of the things he wrote in The Diversity Myth, and all the other books are just about him or titles he recommends. For those, you can start with whichever book seems most interesting to you, but they’re all optional, really.

The one read you shouldn’t miss is Zero to One. It’s a phenomenal book about business, startups, technology, the future, and, frankly, being a good person. Read that first, then decide what’s next!

Conclusion

Peter Thiel has greatly shaped the world we live in today. His work as a 17-year board member of Facebook alone has impacted billions of social media users, and his funds, charities, and other businesses all continue to grow and direct resources to some of our world’s most pressing problems. Thiel has also become more politically active and vocal in recent years, but while many criticize his political views, I think the most interesting things we can learn from him are about business, technology, and innovation.

If you want to build a business, change the world, or simply think like no one else around you can, I highly recommend you read Zero to One and try to understand how Thiel’s mind works. I hope our unconventional list of Peter Thiel books will help you in that regard. What are you waiting for? The future is yours to build!


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Last Updated on November 18, 2022