Books That Will Change You Life
If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads. –Ralph Waldo Emerson
Reading is the staple of self-education. Seldom has one achieved massive success without an unquenchable desire to read. Reading must be more than a hobby; instead, treat it as a passion. Reading is a quick way to immerse yourself deeply in a topic, creating residual learning opportunities in a very short period. No other action offers you more *bang for your buck.*
Books also help guide me through life. When I have setbacks or difficulties, I think about previous leaders I have read about:
What would Lincoln do?
What would Roosevelt do?
How would Churchill handle this?
Human history is rife with trials, tribulations, failures, and successes. It’s our responsibility to learn from the past so we can avoid common pitfalls in our own lives. Reading is what gets us there. Time is our most precious asset. Why waste it doing things we can avoid? One of my favorite quotes is “anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book.” Simply put – reading saves time. Combine that with the ability to rapidly increase your intelligence, and it’s the best way for you to synthesize useful knowledge that will shape your behavior.
The books that follow are one’s I consider books of greatness. These are timeless, disruptive works of art that are mandatory reading for anyone looking to get ahead in life.
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
Dweck examines the Fixed vs. Growth mindset in this compelling, quick read. Do you believe intelligence and talent is fixed and cannot be improved? Or can the mind be molded and talent increased through hard work and effort?
This book looks at how these two very different mindsets influence decisions and work habits, using real life examples and case studies, examining sports, business, education, relationships and much more.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
Frankl reflects on the horror’s he witnessed as an inmate at the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. Surrounded by death and misery, Frankl developed his view on the meaning of life. He found that those who had nothing to live for quickly succumbed to death, while those (like himself) who found meaning in every action ended up making it through. His theory became “logotherapy,” the belief that our primary drive in life is not pleasure (as Freud believed), but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.
I wrote extensively about this book here: Why You Give Up (and What to Do About It)
Letters from a Stoic by Seneca
(Click HERE for my post dissecting Seneca’s writings on death.)
Written in roughly 65 A.D., Letters from a Stoic is a series of letters written by the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca in the latter years of his life. Within the letters, Seneca touches on an abundance of topics, including death, aging, ethics, discipline, and many more topics related to the human condition. Most of the letters within this book transcend time, and are still as relevant today as they were 2000 years ago.
This book is an easy read and I highly recommended it to anyone looking to learn more about stoicism or for those looking to avoid self-indulgence and moral blueprint on how to structure a fulfilling, abundance lifestyle.
On the Shortness of Life by Seneca
Another classic by the Roman Stoic, Seneca. This short book is packed with “art of living” suggestions and observations, much like Letters from a Stoic. Seneca tackles the hard subject of death, and how it is up to us to create a meaningful life that doesn’t go to waste. You’ll be moved to action by the end of this book, and it shouldn’t take much longer than an hour to read. However, you will find yourself coming back to it time and again as a reference.
48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
This masterpiece details 48 Laws around control, power, and deception. Greene uses famous thinkers and figures of human history to illustrate each point, offering multiple, vivid stories for each of the powers. Not only will you learn persuasive and deceptive practices, but you’ll be able to apply the various powers to the situations you deal with on an everyday basis in your own life.
Mastery by Robert Greene
Another classic by Greene, Mastery coined the “10,000 hour” rule; the amount of time needed to become an expert at something. Greene debunks a widespread myth – that some humans are born special and different from the rest. While intelligence does vary, Greene insists that everyone has a certain passion that resonates with them. With practice (beginning with an apprenticeship), you can become a master in that field, but only if you apply yourself completely. Similar to 48 Laws of Power, Greene cites examples throughout history of great masters in various disciplines (names like Ben Franklin and Leonardo da Vinci).
The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene
Struggling with women? This is the first book you need to read. Greene explores the topic of seduction using historical references and behavioral science, much as he did in 48 Laws of Power and Mastery. Here he describes many types of personas that can be used to seduce. This book will immediately boost your success with women, but also helps with negotiating and the art of getting people to do what you want. You’ll find Art of Seduction to be a more playful (and less serious) read, but a classic nonetheless.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
This is a fascinating read that explores the rise of homo sapiens; from the early days of multiple human species, to the end result of one master species: the homosapien. This book poses a deep question – Are we really better off today compared to earlier civilizations? Say, 1,000 years ago? Has human advancement changed us for the better? For the worse? Much more than a history lesson (but a brilliant one at that), Sapiens explores the depths of how we behave and act.
How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Dale Carnegie is the Godfather of people skills. 80+ years later, and his message is still being heard. This book is simply written and easy to understand, and allows you to easily incorporate some of Carnegie’s key points in your day to day life. My favorite part is how he uses anecdotes and examples of famous leaders from the early 1900’s. The stories are interesting and serve as an effective way to communicate how to get ahead in life by being great with other people. How do you get others to like you? By making them feel valued. How do you get others to agree with you? Read this book to find out.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
Published in 1989, this well-known book has sold millions of copies and still remains at the top of reading lists today, with good reason. Less about memorizing 7 habits, Covey’s high level message was two fold: First, take action. Second, have a plan when taking action. Everything comes back to this message. Successful people don’t fall into success, their preparation leads them to it.
Meditations (Gregory Hays edition) by Marcus Aurelius
This book contains a series of personal writings by Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD, recording his private notes to himself and ideas on Stoic philosophy. Every other line will be a maxim you’d want to print out and hang up in your house. Because this was never intended to be publicized, we have an unprecedented glimpse into one of the most fascinating minds of antiquity.
Self-Reliance and Other Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson
The gem here is Self-Reliance, published by the brilliant Emerson in 1841. He was a strong proponent of self-reliance and responsibility, believing that strong thoughts and a unique (nonconformist) attitude were keys to fulfillment. This is a short read packed with an abundance of timeless wisdom.
The Enchiridion by Epictetus
A short manual of Stoic wisdom compiled by Arrian, a 2nd-century disciple of the Greek philosopher Epictetus, who was born a slave and was freed and went on to teach Stoic philosophy as a way of life. Much like Emerson, Epictetus preached self-discipline and strong resolve. Marcus Aurelius was influenced by Epictetus, and his teaching are still studied and applied to this day.
The Art of Worldly Wisdom by Baltasar Gracián
More wisdom on self-reliance and sufficiency, this is a book of 300 maxims and commentary written by a 17th century Jesuit priest named Baltasar Gracián. I personally created near 100 notecards of these maxims. Clearly written, they are as applicable today as they were in 17th century Spanish court life. A “how-to” succeed with cunning and grace.
The Moral Sayings of Publius Syrus: A Roman Slave by Publilius Syrus
Publilius Syrus was born a slave like Epictetus, who was also freed at some point later in his life. He put together this list of life maxims (92 pages) that are worth taking a look at. “From the errors of others, a wise man corrects his own.”
Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentlemen by Lord Chesterfield
This book is a series of 400 letters (over a 30 year time period) from Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, to his illegitimate son, Philip Stanhope. Filled with wit, wisdom, and fatherly advice; the letters combine to define the conduct of a gentlemen in 18th century Europe. A much acclaimed writer and stateman, the letters are wonderfully written.
A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine
A modern day synopsis and examination of Stoic philosophy. Irvine presents Stoicism as a way to improve our thoughts and experiences. If you’ve already read original Stoics such as Marcus Aurelius and Seneca, then Irvine should be next up on your list. His presentation is clear and concise for readers of all background.
Ariely refutes the common assumption that we behave in fundamentally rational ways, presenting several studies and examples where human behavior makes no fundamental sense. Our mental models and human biases play a massive role in determining the decisions we make and the life we live.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
Manson is one of my favorite writers (his blog is incredible), and he hits a home run with this book. Written to the point in layman’s terms, this book doesn’t care about your feelings, and instead refutes the notion that positivity and constant happiness are the keys to a good life. When you finish reading, you will have a fresh perspective on your own life, and what truly matters (and the garbage that doesn’t).
Bigger, Leaner, Stronger by Mike Matthews (Click HERE for more)
This is the most comprehensive fitness book I have read. With over 1900 reviews on Amazon (and a 4.5 star rating), Mike Matthews presents a plethora of reached-backed techniques and data. Supplements, cardio, food, macros, lifting weights – everything is covered with BLS. This book is incredibly detailed and can be used over and over as a reference. Mike even provides free eating plans and workout routines.
If you’re looking to lose weight or gain quality muscle, this is the book you need.
Beyond Bigger, Leaner, Stronger by Mike Matthews
When you feel like you have hit a plateau in the gym, it’s time to transition from an amateur to an advanced weightlifting approach. This is the book for that. Matthews answers all your questions – how many reps, sets, workout splits, in addition to how to get shredded or how to bulk. If you only buy two fitness books – these are the ones to buy.