With so many great books out there it’s tough to put together a recommended reading list. These are some of the books that have had the most impact on me and are intended to inspire you in some way.
This ancient Chinese text contains some of the most insightful messages I’ve ever come across. The basis for Taoism, the book is unbelievably relevant and practical even in today’s modern society. It’s short and to the point, something you can read in an afternoon, but continue to read through your life to gain new wisdom. This is one of only a couple books I take a hard copy of when I travel. There are multiple translations, many of which you can find for free digitally in the public domain. I read several and found this version, translated by Gia-fu Feng and Jane English, to be the easiest and straightforward.
After interviewing many successful entrepreneurs, this classic and practical book sheds some light on their patterns, practices, and philosophies. In addition to the anecdotes, stories, and analysis, there are also exercises to help get you thinking in the way these incredibly successful folks did to help you achieve whatever it is you are after. Effectively based on the law of attraction that we receive what we think about, I fundamentally believe this is true, but but not in the mystical way it may be perceived. I believe that our brains are more attuned to noticing things around us that are related to our thoughts. Realizing your dreams requires you to think about what you want and then put your attention and focus on them, for a path to attaining those dreams can then be paved. This book is foundational for discovering how to become “successful” in whatever way that means to you.
Probably one of the most influential books in my life. The 4HWW puts life into a completely new perspective. It’s about finding a way to maximize your time in both business and pleasure. Designing your lifestyle, determining how much it will cost, creating income streams to support it, and automating what you can to free up your time to focus on those things that are most important and enjoyable. There are tons of tools and tactics to help you build your own “muse” business if you’re an entrepreneur, or are otherwise useful to maximizing your time and productivity in all aspects of your life. For me, the biggest epiphany was just figuring out what I wanted my lifestyle to be and then realizing I don’t need to make tons of money in the traditional way to make it happen. I read this book 10 years ago, but I still regularly think back to some of the ideas. Tim is a true master life hacker and if you like this book, I would also highly recommend his other works: The 4-Hour Body, The 4-Hour Chef, Tools of Titans, The Tim Ferriss Show, The Tim Ferriss Experiment.
A short, concise read illustrating the powerful story of the Buddha’s path to enlightenment. A wealthy prince gives everything up to become a poor monk who seeks and eventually finds enlightenment. Great story with great teachings. One of my favorites for sure.
This book completely changed the way I look at behavior. You’ve most likely heard the saying, “we are creatures of habit.” Well it’s true and this book explains why that is, the science behind it, and how to use the knowledge to evoke everlasting change. Will is not enough, it’s the habits that you create and maintain that shape how you think, behave, and essentially interact with the world around you. Must read.
The story of the famous American writer and philosopher who decided to get back to basics. Living his philosophy of a simpler life on Walden Pond to become completely self sustaining. This is no doubt the book that influenced the Tiny House movement popular today and has so many great life lessons contained within his story. I ended up reading this while camping in the woods by a lake funny enough and it had a tremendous impact on me wanting to follow suit in a similar but different manner. Walden Pond is a real place just outside of Boston, MA. It’s beautiful and inspirational if you get the opportunity to visit.
This book is effectively a condensed collection all of the wisdom from the ancient Greeks and Romans along with the wisdom of the far East. This book is short, concise, and remarkably insightful with messages taken from the wisest men throughout history. The theme is to use the obstacles in your path to in fact find the path or to create a new one. The examples and quotes pulled are fantastic.
The story of a man who survived the Holocaust, during which time came up with his theory on what drives people. Frankl is up there with Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung regarding the foundations of psychology. The first part of the book is recounting his experience through a concentration camp which leads into the second part that details out his philosophy and framework of how our search for meaning is what drives us. Despite the horrible experience, Frankl’s insights from it are hugely inspiring and enlightening.
One of the most popular books on change. Easy to read in an afternoon, this parable shows how different personality types respond to change and some lessons on how to deal with change itself.
One of the most influential “self-help” gurus of our time before “self-help” was even a thing. I hate that term by the way. His most famous How To Win Friends And Influence People is one of the most popular business books ever written. This book, however, is more focused on how to live life worry free. While certainly not a magic bullet, things are put in a perspective you may not have considered. It’s really about how we look at the world and our circumstances that shape how we deal with stress. By simply looking at things in a different way we can take control of our worries and eliminate the power stress and fear hold over us. Wonderful book.
An incredible book on being productive and effective as the name suggests. There are many lessons that can be applied both professionally and personally. The biggest takeaway for me was realizing you can’t control what’s not in your “sphere of influence” and therefore it’s silly to spend time or energy on such things. If you can’t control it, why worry about it when you can’t do anything to change it. Focus on the things you can control. This is just one of the many lessons detailed in this book.
Although written a couple thousand years ago, this book is still directly applicable to modern day. Constructed from letters this brilliant, pragmatic stoic philosopher wrote to a friend as advice. We can all benefit from living your own philosophy rather than just thinking about it. It’s amazing to see that fundamentally human nature and behavior hasn’t really changed over a couple thousand years. The same problems still exist. You should train yourself to deal with them so you have control of yourself.
Written by another stoic philosopher and ancient Roman Emperor. Although this was written a couple thousand years ago, this book is still directly applicable to modern day. Again, you should train yourself to deal with problems that arise so you have control of yourself. Similar to Letters From A Stoic, but shorter and written from a slightly different point of view. The book is compiled from the journal entries of one of the most powerful men in history.
My favorite writer on Buddhist teachings, meditation, and mindfulness. He has written many books, but this little pocket sized book is a compilation of excerpts from across his work. Concise, clear, and insightful, this is a great intro into the world of Thich Nhat Hanh. If you want to learn how to become more attuned with yourself and the world around you, read this book. And then read his other books. This is one of only a couple books I take with me in hard copy form when I travel. I also enjoyed The Mindfulness Survival Kit and How To Walk.
The book that inspired The 4-Hour Workweek. Consider the inverse of how most people spend their time. Instead of working and taking small, periodic vacations, where you never really have the time to gain a deep experience in a place and it’s culture, what if we flipped it? What if we traveled long term and worked only when we needed money to continue our travels. The philosophy of long term travel is wonderfully inspiring. Even if you don’t want to vagabond around forever, perhaps you might be thinking about taking some time off, just want to take longer trips, or even maybe considering retirement. This book has philosophies, tools, and strategies for exploring the world.
Probably the best writer out there on budget travel, this book was the tipping point for me to make the decision to quit my job and travel the world. I always thought it would be too expensive to take a year off and travel, especially if I didn’t want to just stay in hostels. This book had a lot of practical tips on how to travel on the cheap, but also inspired thoughts on how I could customize my own travel experience without breaking the bank. After reading the book, I did the math and discovered that if I was going to take time off from work, it would actually be cheaper to travel! At least to certain parts of the world. If you’re thinking about quitting your job, or just want some advice on how to travel cheaper and longer, read this book.
A wonderful, short parable about life and finding what you’re truly looking for. The story is simple, as are the lessons, but it really gets you thinking. It’s about the journey to finding happiness and finding out that what you already possess is often all you need.
This essay shows how we are what we think and we attract what we think about. Every thought influences our behavior and how we interact with the world around us. Short read, very insightful.
Written by the real life prodigy who inspired the movie Searching For Bobby Fischer, Josh Waitzkin is just an overall wise and fascinating individual who has a remarkable aptitude and framework for learning anything. This book captures his methods and way of thinking. A must read if you love learning, desire to do so more quickly, and set out to reach the peak levels.
An incredibly inspiring and heartwarming story about fulfilling your childhood dreams. This book is created from the last lecture he gave at Carnegie Mellon before an untimely death from cancer. I recommend reading this short book and then watching the lecture.
Written by the monk who brought Japanese Zen to the United States (so they say), this book provides insight into Zen Buddhism with a practical and understandable perspective and philosophy. The basic underlying idea to always keep a beginner’s mind, an empty mind, similar to when you first learn something new. If you know too much, or think you know to much, you no longer have the capacity to learn or improve. In true Zen fashion, some of the concepts can be a bit contradictory, but great read. A real gem.
Another wonderful parable with great life lessons and wisdom. It’s a story about a successful businessman who has a life changing event that completely changes his view on his life. Kind of reminded me of a modern day story of the Buddha. Similar story and lessons. Great read if you’re contemplating your life and maybe looking to make some changes.
A look into how meditation and mindfulness can change how we perceive ourselves. Seemingly based off Japanese Zen teachings about how at any moment in any place we are always our true self. Practices to teach you how to be mindful of who you really are and to understand your true self.
Considered a children’s tale, this book has so many wonderful tidbits of life wisdom. I never read as a child, but as an adult, I love the imagination and lessons contained in this short book.
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