I can’t express to you how much my life has been impacted by people recommending me books. The right book at the right time is transformative.
Now it is my turn to endow you my handpicked selection that have had a profound impact on the way I think, write, and live.
My goal here is to help you find the right book at the right time. That’s why I created this topic based list and wrote, “How to Read a Book”. Read here why I am not reading any books in 2019. My top 63 Books.
A window into the lives of extraordinary people spanning millennials and a testament to the fact that some things remain the same. Values espoused by Marcus Aurelius, a roman emperor, in 180 AD are more relevant than ever.
Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard P. Feynman (10/10)
Synopsis: Much like Da Vinci, Curiosity seemed to rule Richard Feynman’s Life. He never was a slave to anyone but his own interests. The curiosity permeated through the book. A great read for anyone to see a life well lived.
Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Issacson
Synopsis: A case study in virtues, character and the dissonance between the ideal self and the actual self. Franklin wrote an autobiography but I am a fan of Walter Isaacson’s writing style and pattern matching so I went with his edition. Franklins Thirteen Virtues are a perfect example of a consciously designed life, although its important to note that franklin himself did not abide by them always.
Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story by Arnold Schwarzenegger
Synopsis: Regardless of Arnolds politics, you have to a respect this Austrian immigrant for pioneering bodybuilding, turning actor, real estate investor and politician. This book is a first hand account of what it took. Hint: It wasn’t easy.
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
Synopsis: An inspiring story of a passion driven mission meeting opportunity and an inside look into the creation of one of the most iconic brands. From selling shoes out of the trunk of his lime green Plymouth Valiant, Phil does not skip a detail. I especially loved stories of his adventurous beginnings traveling the world and seeing that play huge serendipitous role in his success.
Start something that matters by Blake Mycoskie
Synopsis: Blake makes the simple argument that you have one life and you need to do what matters most to you. Whether that is earning a living, following your dream, or anything else you may desire. He breaks it down into six steps for transforming addressing all the obstacles you will have along the way.
Essentialism, Productivity, Consumption
Any dream worth having is going to take an increase in the activities that are advancing you and a decrease in those ones not. A simple statement, but much harder to implement. These are a few recommendations I have for anyone who feels distracted and/or they could do with less in their lives.
Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland (10/10)
Synopsis: scrum is a flexible framework for managing knowledge projects. I would say it also has implications for how we live our daily life. I have already started implementing the system for a few of my creative projects.
Getting Things Done by David Allen (9/10)
Synopsis: I would recommend this as the only book you will ever need to be productive. Although, it is easy to understand, it is more difficult to implement. But if you stick with the habits of maintaining it and adapt it to your needs, you will have a full proof system.
The One Thing by Garry Keller (8/10)
Synopsis: If Peter Druckers Classic, The Effective Executive, became a tad bit more esoteric, you would get this. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the lesson and refresher, but the substance wasn’t ground breaking. To be honest, perhaps it’s my own inability to focus on The One Thing that makes me second guess this book.
The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande (8/10)
Synopsis: Gawande is a medical professional and this book was his Interesting view point on the value of checklists. It doesn’t sound like a profound book, but I think anyone who is not implementing checklists in their lives for repetitive tasks could learn a thing or too. They allow for the automation of a series of tasks so they can be done correctly, timely, and as little energy as possible. They also allow for communication to your future self because you know that you check the checklist at certain intervals. For instance, I have a checklist for the gym. Sometimes I see a video containing exercises that I want to try at the gym. All I do now, is enter it at the top of the checklist and i know I will see it when I at the right time and the right place. I call them Scripts, but no matter the name, they have profound implications for time management, willpower, and self control.
The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker (10/10)
Synopsis: a timeless business book. Peter dives deep into what makes an effective executive, but his conclusions have implications for all of our lives. Most notably, "get the right things done". This book is worth this one phrase alone, and it’s so easy to glance over it without a second thought. From the cover: “Intelligence, imagination, and knowledge may all be wasted in an executive job without the acquired habits of mind that mold them into results”.
The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy
Synopsis: As far as personal development books go, this one was rooted in a solid truth that has profound implications for our daily lives: we are what we repeatedly do. Hardy provides some of the cold hard facts of what it takes to be successful with no shortcuts. He kicks your ass into overdrive by providing very actionable advice that makes you question your own life.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey
Synopsis: I was handed this book in High School. I think I read a chapter and put it down. I wasn’t an avid reader back then nor did I have any notion of ‘self development’. Picking it up a couple years later I was enthralled. The book contains extremely practical wisdom for getting your life on track. Just be prepared to stop every couple of pages so you can reflect.
Print | E-Book
Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rold Potts
Synopsis: a guide for those looking to incorporate long term travel into their life and reducing their consumption lifestyles. “Not just a plan of action, vagabonding is an outlook on life that emphasizes creativity, discovery, and the growth of the spirit.”
Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker
Synopsis: a high level book on career strategy. I especially love how this books wasn’t prescriptive, but rather guidelines for anybody in any career. “It's up to you to keep yourself engaged and productive during a career that may span some 50 years”.
Creativity, Fear, Purpose
Anything in life worth having requires you blasting through mental barriers. These are my selection of books to help you do exactly that.
The War of Art: Break Through Your Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield (10/10)
Synopsis: Steven is a monster of a Creative. I don’t know how I would fair with some of the blows he had to his career. Steven is exemplary in his valiant comebacks. I read this book pretty often. Whenever I feel like Im not producing what I should. It’s a good book to replenish the creative juices, and kick your ass into overdrive.
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott (10/10)
Synopsis: Anne is an english teacher by trade but a walking pep rally when it comes to aspiring writers. Even if Anne didn’t offer amazing advice on how to write better she offers beautiful advice about how to “navigate through the dark underbelly feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy, and jealous” that come with being a writer or creative. A great read for any aspiring writers. From her practical advice to her commentary on being a creative, Anne Lamott provides a down to earth perspective of what it’s like to be a writer. FYI: This is one of Time Ferris’s most gifted books. He gifts it to his writer friends when they have deadlines encroaching.
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey (7/10)
Synopsis: Insight into the lives and patterns of other creative people. An eye opening perspective that shows that we are different, but at the same time very similar. Our routines may differ, but we are all crazy. When to Read: This is a great book to keep lying around. Whenever you feel in a creative rut it will be reassuring to know that other creatives are just as crazy as you. but there is a method to this madness. Everyone great does seem to have a routine they like to stick to, as do I.
Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod (8/10)
Synopsis: Fast Read. Hugh brings up a lot of provocative opinions about what it means to be a creative. Whether you agree with all of them isn’t the point. You will learn either way. Some Highlights Include: If your plan depends on you suddenly being “discovered” by some big shot, your plan will probably fail. Filled with many opinions, some more true than others, Hugh does offer bits of wisdom that can be invaluable. Not groundbreaking by any means, but worth the short time it took to read. When to Read it: When wanting to find the truth of what it is like to be an artist and perhaps get some insights into that path.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life (8/10)
Synopsis: Short and to the point, Mark does not skip a beat in this book. From start to finish mark offers wisdom of a life time, often contrarian to what you may have been told: Give up, be wrong, eat shit for a while and stop being a baby while you do it! His humor and unique perspective make the book worth it. When looking for a new perspective on a the self help genre, or for a good laugh and a pep talk.
So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport
Synopsis: a good counter argument to a conventional opinion that you should do what you are passionate about, but totally irrelevant if you know what you are passionate about and it provides value to other people. I wasn’t totally convinced of his argument, but I’ll leave it in here because it provides a good counterbalance to a lot of non-sensical career advice thrown around nowadays.
Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J. K. Rowling (8/10)
Synopsis: A great short adaptation of a commencement speech given by J.K Rowling. She tackles tough issues with a perspective of a giant. A quote that stood out to me: “You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.” Words of wisdom for anyone at a turning point in life.
Business, Critical Thinking
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini (10/10 MUST READ)
Synopsis: A must read for anybody who thinks they will need people skills in their future (i.e everyone). Cialdini breaks down persuasion into six universal principals. This book has the highest time:reward ratio out of all of the books I have read.
The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen (8/10)
Synopsis: Deep insight into a trap many larger companies fall into and the disruptive technologies that replace them. Insight for anyone wanting a higher level view of organizational strategy, or a general principal to keep in mind throughout a career.
Print | E-Book
Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (9/10)
Synopsis: One of my favorite books. Nassim’s highly analytical mind breaks down what it means to be Antifragile, the concept he coined. It’s a favorite for two reasons. I love new words to describe things and the term Antifragile is awesome. There has never been a word to accurately describe something that grows stronger from resistance. Your muscles for instance are antifragile. Under tension, they grow. This term has profound implications for assessing risks in life.
Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (8/10)
Synopsis: another great book by Taleb on what randomness means in business and in life and why human beings are so prone to mistake dumb luck for consummate skill. A great book for anyone who wants to test their logical reasoning. Not an easy read though
Zero to One by Peter Thiel (10/10)
Synopsis: Peter Thiel knows is one smart guy. His high level thinking combined with his concrete examples provide a great starter for anyone who wants to create for the future. Peter believes that there is innovation in any field and he surmises that the key that separates those that innovate from the rest, is their ability to think independently. I deeply agree.
The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout (10/10)
Synopsis: This book should have replaced my college marketing class. Not extremely applicable to scaling a company but great for high level strategy and a necessity for corporations to understand. Very high time:reward ratio.
Actionable Business Books
Rework by Jason Fried (9/10)
Synopsis: a great first hand account of what it’s like to create a passionate, bootstrapped business. Lots of nuggets of wisdom, for business and life, in this read and highly entertaining read as well. “When you don’t know what you believe, everything becomes an argument. Everything is debatable. But when you stand for something, decisions are obvious.”
4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris (8/10)
Synopsis: Despite the cheesy title, Tim offers extremely practical advice for anyone looking to grow a lifestyle business. He practically pioneered it, or at least is the biggest proponent of it. From outsourcing employees to traveling the world, Tim talks about it all and brings you along for the journey.
$100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau (8/10)
Synopsis: A powerful read for anyone looking to create a side business, or some sort of passive income. No MBA or Business plan needed, just a a product or service that springs from what you love to do anyway, people willing to pay, and a way to get paid. I think this book is a good pair with Peter Thiel’s higher level thinking book, Zero to One.
Philosophy, Zen, Death
This category is focused on the most essential topic: living a good life. I think an introduction to philosophy works best when reading books that are applicable to our daily lives. If it is not applicable in your kitchen, it is not real philosophy. That’s why this list contains some of the most practical wisdom literature has to offer.
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (10/10)
Synopsis: In my top 5 most gifted. The fact that I have a first hand account of what was going through a roman emperors mind who lived from 120-180 AD is astounding. The fact that his sage wisdom still rings true today is unfathomable. It literally blows my mind every time I read it. There are tons of nuggets of wisdom throughout the book. When you want to learn about a king whose troubles’ are no different than yours or mine and actionable advice you can implement in your life.
Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman (9/10)
Synopsis: "compelling suggestions as to how to withstand the media onslaught” summarizes it pretty well. Great insight onto how media shapes our lives and how to survive in this gluttony of information. When you feel that information has taken over your life or out of pure interest of how it influences you.
The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts (8/10)
Synopsis: Insecurity is the cause of most of our problems. Watts makes a poignant argument that the cause for insecurity is our feeble attempt at securing it. Life is uncertain. Salvation is found in acceptance of those things we can not change. When you feel like you are chasing something and compromising your happiness along the way.
The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner (8/10)
Synopsis: A simple philosophy: Life itself is one long practice session. Everything in life worth achieving requires practice. Practice is not just for artistic or athletic skill, but practicing patience, practicing communication, practicing anything you do in life. The process/practice itself is the real goal, not the outcome.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (10/10)
Synopsis: Wow. That’s all I can say. A neurosurgeon faced with terminal cancer takes on the question, what makes a life worth living? He was 38. This book serves as a reminder to me that life is not infinite. I know a handful of people that have been taken too soon in this world, and it could be you or I next. Life is too short not to answer this question.
Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It by Kamal Ravikan (8/10)
Synopsis: Very short read with one simple message: if you don’t love yourself you won’t have any love to give and love is all there is. This is a great, short book I recommend for anyone who is feeling down or anyone who has forgotten that love is the most important
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo (6/10)
Synopsis: A good book on keeping spaces tidy. Since this something I have practiced for some time now, It wasn’t groundbreaking, but I am sure that if a messy person follows these steps their life could be revolutionized. I sometimes think that our spaces are a reflection of our internal state. I know that when I am stressed my room starts to get cluttered. A great book for anyone with a cluttered room or mind. When you feel like a mess. This book is not only for cleaning up your spaces, but also your mind.
A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle (9/10)
Synopsis: I think this book is worth the read just for Eckharts interpretations of various religious texts. It’s beautiful to see a lot of religious texts interpreted into the same. The illusory self is concept just starting to penetrate western society but has a profound meaning for finding long lasting happiness. While I don’t think a book is enough is shatter a persons ego, I do think this book could be a good start. I would recommend this book to anyone . I think it would pair really nicely with Bessel van der Kolks, The Body Keeps the Score. I think the idea of pain being stored in the body is an under-explored concept and these books go nicely when thinking about it.
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (8/10)
Synopsis: Simple in words, deep in meaning. This book brings the story of Siddhartha to the western world. True words were spoken in this book but they may sound esoteric to someone just starting out in eastern philosophy. A line that stands out: “One must find the source within one's own Self, one must possess it. Everything else was seeking -- a detour, an error.”
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values by Robert M. Pirsig (7/10)
Synopsis: In this book, Pirsig explores the Metaphysics of Quality. This book wasn’t an easy read but was worth the read. The fact that it got rejected from 126 publishers and then went on to be a national best seller for years is deserving enough of a read.
Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom (10/10 MUST READ)
Synopsis: One of my all time favorite books. An entertaining read and a window into the soul of a great man. Profound insights. A quote that stands out: “In the beginning of life, when we are infants, we need others to survive, right? And at the end of life, when you get like me, you need others to survive right?... But here's the secret: in between, we need others as well.” This book will have you stopping and reflecting constantly. Worth it for the analogy of “Push and Pull” alone.
The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker (9/10)
Synopsis: Everyone dies. It is a fact of life. You can not think about this until it happens and avoid facing the associated questions or you can use it as fuel for living a life well-lived. Who knows, perhaps you or I will face a premature death that forces us to deeply reflect like some of the people in this list.
Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl (10/10)
Synopsis: During his time in a Nazi death camp, Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl came to the profound realization we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. At the heart of his theory, known as logotherapy, is a conviction that the primary human drive is not pleasure but the pursuit of what we find meaningful.
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch (9/10)
Synopsis: The last lecture named, Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, was given by a Carnegie Mellon professor facing his own mortality. The lecture wasn't about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, enabling the dreams of others, and seizing every moment. Pausch leaves the reader thinking about the wisdom they would impart and what their legacy would be if faced with their own mortality
Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy by Sadhguru (8/10)
Synopsis: “Yoga is not about being superhuman; it's about realizing that being human is super”. Sadhguru’s take on the intellect, primarily cultivated in the west, that is obsessed with dissecting knowledge. This book contains fundamental insight into leading a joyful life.
Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know No by Gordon Livingston (9/10)
Synopsis: Livingston is an army veteran who became a psychiatrist who listened to countless people talk about their live—what works, what doesn't. He is also a parent twice bereaved. From his experience with trauma, he has distilled life lessons to live by. A couple favorites, “Any relationship is under the control of the person who cares the least”, “The perfect is the enemy of the good”, “The statute of limitations has expired on most of our childhood traumas”. Deeply moving book.
A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine (8/10)
Synopsis: William adapts the ancient philosophy of stoicism to our daily lives. He attempts to remedy one of the of our greatest fears: despite all our effort and striving, we will discover at the end that we have wasted our life. He does a pretty good job too.
Much like with Philosophy, I believe psychology is a foundation for any good life. Understanding how your brain operates is the first step for taking control of it. This is a list of my top books for understanding how your brain works, and learning how to use it in a world that doesn’t reflect its humble origins.
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (10/10)
Synopsis: Daniel Kahneman is a pioneer in behavioral economics. This book is a must read for anyone interested in building a better map of reality by learning about the faults in their brain. His primary argument is that there are two ways that your brain makes decisions.
How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan (10/10)
Synopsis: A ground breaking book exploring the revived field of psychedelics. This book is the meeting point of an amazing author and researcher and a fascinating topic. Pollan talks about everything in this book; from the history to his experience trying plant medicine himself for research. It’s unfortunate that politics had to get their dirty hands in something that has been practiced by countless cultures throughout the ages although I am sure with new evidence for their healing properties studies will start to be conducted again.
The Courage to Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi (10/10: MUST READ)
Synopsis: A socratic debate between a student and teacher on the make-up of Adler psychology. This book flipped me on my head. The primary argument in Adler psychology is in direct opposition of Freuds. Basically, Adler argued that we are all free to determine our own future free of the shackles of past experiences, doubts and the expectations of others. I now agree with him. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK
The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings of Authenticity, Connections and Courage by Brene Brown (10/10)
Synopsis: A great listen for anyone suffering from toxic masculinity and beliefs of how a ‘man’ is supposed to behave, aka show no vulnerability. “We associate vulnerability with emotions we want to avoid such as fear, shame, and uncertainty. Yet we too often lose sight of the fact that vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity, authenticity, and love.” One of the most profound and hard hitting audiobook I have listened to (Note: It’s available on audiobook only).
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk (9/10)
Synopsis: Everybody has hang ups in their life. This book is a must read for anyone looking to understand those emotional states, how to deal with them, and how to move beyond them. This book is also highly applicable for anyone dealing with severe traumas. It helps “us understand how life experiences play out in the function and the malfunction of our bodies, years later” This book is absolutely fascinating.
The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth by Scott Peck (10/10)
Synopsis: "Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult--once we truly understand and accept it--then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters."—These are the first 4 lines of this book. One of the most profound books on love, psychological and spiritual development.
Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt (8/10)
Synopsis: One of the first books on psychology I ever read and a great introduction to the science of Happiness. I still remember the analogy of the elephant and its rider to this day. The elephant is our emotional side, and the rider is our analytical, rational side. A great read to pair with Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahnemanin.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (8/10)
Synopsis: If I hear someone explain to me, one more time, why toothpaste tastes minty, I might snap (Joking, but not really). A great introduction to the psychology of habits, intermixed with helpful actionable information, and an entertaining read as well. But… If you are looking to change your life around with habits, I would recommend Atomic Habits by James Clear.
Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal (8/10)
Synopsis: A look into how big tech companies are A/B testing our lives away, using our own psychology for connection against us. From the little red notification button to variable rewards and instant play, these companies have MANUFACTURED features to catch us like a venus fly trap. This book has profound implications for users and designers of these apps.