The books that Australia's top CEOs are reading

As busy as they are, many of Australia's top CEOs aren't averse to a little bedtime reading, or pulling out the Kindle while jetting off to the next meeting. But what are the books that inspire our inspiring business leaders?

A selection of finalists from The CEO Magazine's fourth annual Executive of the Year Awards have named an impressive array, ranging from biographies, to travel, and even kids' favourite Hairy Maclary.

Christine Holgate, the CEO of supplement giant Blackmores (nominated for CEO of the Year and Health and Pharmaceutical Executive of the Year), has A Portrait in Words and Pictures by Aung San Suu Kyi on her bedside table. She says she devours newspapers (she loves the Sydney Morning Herald's Saturday edition) "endless magazines" and books.

"I'm slightly an insomniac and so I do read in bed," she says. "I'm getting married on January 3 and Mike (Michael Harding, her fiancé) has just been allowed to move slightly into the house … try before you buy! I told the vicar, 'who else is gonna let me go on my iPad at two o'clock in the morning?'"

Brain food

And although she doesn't actually cook, Holgate professes a love for cookbooks. "I love the story of food. I love Yottam Ottolenghi, he's an Israeli vegetarian chef. I'm so into his book Jerusalem at the moment. I've got four of his cookbooks by the side of my bed at the moment. I find people like him inspirational. Thank God we've got people like him in the world who are not only creating things, but they're actually using what they're really great at to create a better world. He's been pairing up with different Muslim chefs to try to break down cultural barriers."

Reading for business or pleasure? "Aren't they both the same?" she says. "I love my job; it's kind of who I am as a person. I used to read a lot of novels but I find myself more drawn to real stories, real people. I've actually had a book in my bag for three weeks that I haven't started reading yet; the one by David Gonski (I Gave a Gonski: Selected Speeches, Penguin 2015). Someone recommend it, and he's a bit of a cult guru for me. The other book I want to read at the moment is Stephen Loosley's book (Machine Rules: A Political Primer, MUP, 2015). He's a very intelligent and interesting man."

Tag team

Julie Stevanja, the CEO of Stylerunner (nominated for Young Executive of the Year and Start Up Executive of the Year) is reading Leaders Eat Last, by Simon Sinek. "This book really resonates with me," she says. "It talks about the importance of a team that works together and the powerful effect that can have on workplace productivity and job satisfaction. I'd already read Sinek's Start with Why and I enjoyed it immensely."

Stevanja usually devotes about 80 per cent of her reading time to professional development books, such as those by Sinek. "One of my favourite quotes is 'when you're not working, you should be learning'."

The Harvard Business School's popular Review is another favourite of Stevanja's and she says she's fascinated by articles about the psychology of leadership and workplace culture. "A workplace that has a great culture, where people who are engaged and committed, and will go above and beyond to help the business achieve its goals, can be a lot more powerful than a larger competitor with a less engaged team," she says.

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This year's Executive of the Year Awards identify the achievements of aspiring and established leaders in 22 categories, with key categories including Managing Director of the Year, Chairperson of the Year, CFO of the Year, CIO of the Year, and the major award, CEO of the Year.

This year, the brand new Start-up Executive of the Year category was introduced to the program, to showcase the entrepreneur whose achievements have shaped the business landscape within the financial year 2014/15.