I can remember my mom reading to me since I was a very small child — and because of that, I’ve always been an avid reader. But I think many of us fail to recognize the impact that the written word can have on our lives.
Think about it for a minute. You can pick up a 200 page book for $18, and in the 4 hours it takes you to read it, you can learn someone’s entire life story.
You can gain insight that took others an entire lifetime to compile.
You can learn secrets that haven’t been spoken about in millennia.
I don’t want to get too eHarmony on you here, but reading can be pretty damn powerful — and I think we’re all guilty of taking its transformative power for granted from time to time.
Physicist-philosopher Carl Sagan (love him) said it best:
There we were, for 20 years in school, complaining about all the reading we had to do. And in 1:02, Sagan makes us feel like complete idiots. Carl, I am your eternal servant!!
And he has a point, doesn’t he? What an incredible feeling it is to pick up a book and get that magical “aha!” moment; That familiar spark of insight when, almost as if out of nowhere, you instantly understand something that was previously shrouded in mystery.
The puzzle pieces snap into place.
The fog dissipates and the sun shines through.
“Now, I get it!”
I used to love evoking this feeling of newfound understanding in students when I ran my test prep business. I would make them do the same math problem over, and over, and over x 10. They would glare at me, thinking of particularly creative and cruel ways to kill me, I’m sure. But then, the magic moment. The “aha!”
Suddenly, it was all worth it.
There’s nothing quite like connecting directly with another human, getting inside their brain, and transmitting your knowledge directly to them so that they can see what you see — and feel what you feel.
Books are capable of doing that. So are blogs (can’t you hear my voice in your head right now?).
I want you to have the “aha” experience as much as possible. Every day, if possible! It’s one of the few things in life that truly does not get old — like when I finally learned how to solve a Rubick’s cube.
So I’ve decided to share some of the most powerful books I’ve read over the past few years with you.
These books have helped me to get all the way from the restaurant to six-figures and location-independent. But most of all, they’ve greatly enhanced the quality of my life and made me a happier person. They’ve truly given me the “aha!”
A note here: I call this collection weird because it’s kinda all-over-the-place. You’ll see that I read books from all different genres! Both fiction and non-fiction. From psychology, to technical, to romance/adventure, to philosophy, to history. It’s all important, it’s all useful, it’s all helpful.
These are affiliate links because I’ve read and truly love these books. I’ll make something like $0.12 if you buy one.
Enjoy this list, and give me some feedback at the bottom. Which of these have you read, and what others would you recommend?
1.) The Way Of The Superior Man
By David Deida
I had to put this book first because it’s one of the few that I read every year, over and over again. Every time I read it, I get a slightly different, more meaningful experience and it helps center me.
Deida can be a little “woo-woo” at times, but not so far left that you’re praying to the sun god. He puts things like masculinity and femininity into perspective and gives deep insight on what it means to find and follow your true purpose — a topic which I feel is something we’re all looking to re-focus and refine every year of our lives.
He talks in detail about how to treat women, how to be more powerful and self-confident, and how to make better decisions. I’d also recommend this book for women, as it gives them insight on men that is almost impossible to get anywhere else (what are you women reading to learn about us…Cosmo??)
Definitely a great read.
Check it out on Amazon: The Way Of The Superior Man
2.) The Pilgrimage
By Paulo Coelho
This is the second book that I read every year, without fail. And it’s also the book that I give away the most. Along with The Way Of The Superior Man, I find myself giving away my copy of The Pilgrimage to my friends all the time. I love giving away books because it’s like sharing an experience with someone — and it’s great food for conversation later.
The Pilgrimage is awesome. It’s Paulo’s first book, and it’s not as popular as his world-wide bestseller The Alchemist…but I actually like it better. The book follows Coelho on a semi-autobiographical journey as he travels the strange Road To Santiago through the mountains in Spain. On this allegorical quest, he encounters challenges and has to overcome both inner demons and worldly obstacles to reach his destination — much like we do every day.
In one of the most memorable passages from the book, Paulo talks about the process of killing our dreams — and what it feels like to give up on things that we care about because we’re scared and lost. It’s stuck with me for many years — I know this is a long reprint, but it’s SO worth it. Read this and tell me if it doesn’t make the hair on the back of your neck stand up:
The first symptom of the process of our killing our dreams is the lack of time. The busiest people I have known in my life always have time enough to do everything. Those who do nothing are always tired and pay no attention to the little amount of work they are required to do. They complain constantly that the day is too short. The truth is, they are afraid to fight the Good Fight.
The second symptom of the death of our dreams lies in our certainties. Because we don’t want to see life as a grand adventure, we begin to think of ourselves as wise and fair and correct in asking so little of life. We look beyond the walls of our day-to-day existence, and we hear the sound of lances breaking, we smell the dust and the sweat, and we see the great defeats and the fire in the eyes of the warriors. But we never see the delight, the immense delight in the hearts of those who are engaged in the battle. For them, neither victory nor defeat is important; what’s important is only that they are fighting the Good Fight.
And, finally, the third symptom of the passing of our dreams is peace. Life becomes a Sunday afternoon; we ask for nothing grand, and we cease to demand anything more than we are willing to give. In that state, we think of ourselves as being mature; we put aside the fantasies of our youth, and we seek personal and professional achievement. We are surprised when people our age say that they still want this or that out of life. But really, deep in our hearts, we know that what has happened is that we have renounced the battle for our dreams – we have refused to fight the Good Fight.
When we renounce our dreams and find peace, we go through a short period of tranquility. But the dead dreams begin to rot within us and to infect our entire being.
We become cruel to those around us, and then we begin to direct this cruelty against ourselves. That’s when illnesses and psychoses arise. What we sought to avoid in combat – disappointment and defeat – come upon us because of our cowardice.
And one day, the dead, spoiled dreams make it difficult to breathe, and we actually seek death. It’s death that frees us from our certainties, from our work, and from that terrible peace of our Sunday afternoons.
See what I mean?
Check it out on Amazon: The Pilgrimage
3.) Voice Power
By Renee Grant-Williams
I learned at an early age that it wasn’t just the content of my speech, but also the delivery that made it truly powerful.
When you learn how to correctly control your voice and communicate with your message, it’s much easier to persuade and influence people. We want people to react to us positively, but there are SO many elements most of us don’t even consider when we speak.
The world’s best speakers know how to control their tonality, cadence, pitch, and volume to create an smooth sound that lulls their listener into an agreeable mental state. These skills are REALLY useful in the business world, and I find myself brushing up on my delivery often.
I’ve broken down some of these vocal techniques before (here’s the video) — but you really should read the book to learn the entire process.
Check it out on Amazon: Voice Power
4.) Steve Jobs
By Walter Isaacson
God, this book is so long. And so good.
Biographies are so great because, if they’re well-written, you can learn a lot about the person AND get a ton of actionable insights.
I can say, without a doubt, this is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s almost a hybrid of history, biography and how-to. Even if you’re not a Jobs/Apple fan, the payoff is huge.
For instance, have you ever wondered how iTunes came to dominate digital media and lock up all those book rights, newspaper subscriptions and music licenses? This book tells you exactly how something like that occurs.
Isaacson goes into extreme detail about Steve’s life, and in particular, his mindset. This window into one of the world’s most creative people is really valuable.
I’m a fanboy for life.
Check it out on Amazon: Steve Jobs
5.) Love In The Time Of Cholera
By Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I read this book for this first time in high school, and I loved it because it introduced me to the world of magical realism — a common storytelling device in Latin American literature. You also see hints of this in authors like Isabel Allende and Paulo Coelho.
This story is so cool. Essentially is follows the same man, Florentino Ariza, as he pines after (and pursues) the same woman, Fermina Daza for 60+ years.
The dude just won’t let go. Finally, he waits it out until they’re both geezers and her husband dies. Then, he makes his move. I won’t spoil the ending.
I like this story because, damn, that’s commitment, homie. Talk about not giving up on a dream. Paulo would be proud.
Very impressive, if not a little neurotic. But still, very impressive.
I also love Garcia Marquez’s writing —and it’s descriptive, rich nature has influenced my own writing, and reminded me why I love this craft. His most famous work, 100 Years Of Solitude, is very good too.
Check it out on Amazon: Love In The Time Of Cholera
6.) Think And Grow Rich
By Napoleon Hill
Think And Grow Rich is the classic work based on over two decades of research by author Napoleon Hill.
Hill himself was never rich, but over the course of his life, he developed close relationships with some of the wealthiest men in American history — including Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockafeller and J.P. Morgan.
The purpose of the book was to determine exactly what similarities these wealth barons had — and how the average person could apply their mindsets and psychologies to achieve similar results. He used his research to identify 13 “steps” on the road to wealth/personal achievement that highly successful people shared.
- Specialized Knowledge
- Organized Planning
- Power of the Master Mind
- The Mystery of Sex Transmutation
- The Subconscious Mind
- The Brain
- The Sixth Sense
In the most fundamental sense, this book is a classic because even though it’s almost 100 years old, 90% of the principles still apply. Really, most of our challenges come down to our mindset — and this book shows you how to correct/optimize that.
The Sex Transmutation part (chapter 11) is a little…mmm…..weird, though.
NOBODY HAVE SEX. HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO BE CREATIVE IF WE KEEP WASTING OUR ENEGY ON SEX?
Either way, this book is a STAPLE in every entrepreneur’s library. It’s required reading, and super valuable.
Check it out on Amazon: Think And Grow Rich
7.) Hey Whipple, Squeeze This!
By Luke Sullivan
I love this book because it keeps getting better and better every time a new edition is released — and unlike some books on writing/advertising, which can be an extremely dry subject — this book is very fun to read.
Specifically, it’s taught me how to organize my thinking to create words that aren’t just elegant — but to SELL something. It’s a deep dive into psychology about why people buy, what works, what doesn’t work and how to create work that makes peoples’ lives better…AND makes you an assload of money.
I also really appreciated all the illustrations — literally hundreds — that show what’s going on in an ad, why it’s happening and what could be improved. Also, the section on social media is surprisingly up-to-date and relevant, even though it was written in 2012, which tells me that Sullivan is actually ahead of the curve.
This book is a weapon. Straight up.
Check it out on Amazon: Hey Whipple, Squeeze This!
8.) This Book Will Teach You How To Write Better
By Neville Medhora
Ha! Neville completely encapsulates everything the book teaches by spelling out precisely what you’ll get in the title. The benefit is so obvious. Did that slip past you?
And actually, I lied before. THIS is the book that I’ve given out the most copies of. I think I’ve given away 11 at this point. It’s 54 freaking pages, less than $5, and packs enough insight for an entire semester of college because it’s SO tightly focused on helping you write better.
Every page is a powerful lesson in writing so that people understand you and take action.
One thing I like about Neville is that he’s not afraid to make mistakes or get personal about his life and business.
He has a great blog that showcases some of his cool products, but also his personality. Seeing this type of approach is really valuable because it reminds us that our customers (the people we’re writing for/to) are PEOPLE, not just little blips in cyberspace.
Best $4.50 I’ve ever spent.
Check it out on Amazon: This Book Will Teach You How To Write Better
By Leonard Mlodinow
This book is a TRIP.
I’ve been trying to take a step away from pop psychology that’s more rooted in hype than research, but if this book falls into “pop,” then I just don’t care. It’s so good.
Mlodinow dives into cutting edge neuroscience to explain some of our biggest questions about how the subconscious mind works — and in the process, raises a ton of new ones that makes me want to learn more.
Biggest strengths of this book:
- The topic itself (the science of the subconscious) is extremely interesting — and Mlodinow is a master.
- Conversational tone that makes complex ideas easy to read and understand
- Great use of research and examples — and great illustrations
- Gives a fantastic insight into how our brains work
- Debunks common myths about memory, stereotypes and perception
Really, really cool read.
Check it out on Amazon: Subliminal
10.) A People’s History Of The United States
By Howard Zinn
The #1 thing to remember is that there are always 3 sides to a story — your side, my side, and the truth.
This book looks at American history over the last 300 years from the perspective of the underdog — the parties that lost the wars. The cultures and civilizations that were ripped apart or permanently disbanded.
Extremely fascinating, and reminds us that while teachers feed us the “facts” in history class, there’s an entire alternate history that most of us will never be exposed to. It’s a great, real-world example of how sometimes we should’t believe what “authorities” tell us.
We should investigate for ourselves.
Check it out on Amazon: A People’s History Of The United States
Well, there you have it.
Those are my favorites, and every single one of them has helped me to overcome an obstacle and improve both the quality and abundance in my life.
One last word on the power of reading by my favorite actor:
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