Reading is an incredible superpower you can practice daily. If you are really serious about improving how you think, upgrading your perception of the world, improving your blindspots, making better judgements and succeeding in life and career, invest in great books. Historian Barbara Tuchman once said this about the power of books: “Books are the carriers of civilization.
Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are engines of change (as the poet said), windows on the world and lighthouses erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.”
Books are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors. But not every book should be devoured. Some are to be tasted and others digested thoroughly. If you are intellectually curious, you will find some of these books very useful.
Working in the Gig Economy: How to Thrive and Succeed When You Choose to Work for Yourself by Thomas Oppong
This is my ultimate guide to successfully navigating the new flexible world of work. This is a book that will allow you to really examine the possibilities of flexible working.
The Origins of Happiness: The Science of Well-Being over the Life Course by Andrew E. Clark, Sarah Flèche, Richard Layard, Nattavudh Powdthavee, and George Ward
“The Origins of Happiness is a wonderful book. It presents a new look at what causes human well-being, and carefully analyzes the policies and programs that can enhance it.” — Ed Diener, coauthor of Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth
“The most significant contribution of The Origins of Happiness lies in its integrated approach to life satisfaction over the life cycle. The authors combine cohort studies, longitudinal panels, and cross-section surveys to provide fuller perspectives. No one else has done this in such a systematic way.” — John F. Helliwell, University of British Columbia
Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind by Andy Clark
“We are not cognitive couch potatoes idly awaiting the next ‘input’, so much as proactive predictavores — nature’s own guessing machines forever trying to stay one step ahead by surfing the incoming waves of sensory stimulation”.
“The idea that the brain is (at least in part, and at least sometimes) acting as some form of prediction engine has a long history, stretching from early work on perception all the way to recent work in ‘deep learning’.
Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts by Annie Duke
Poker champion turned business consultant Annie Duke teaches you how to get comfortable with uncertainty and make better decisions as a result.
By shifting your thinking from a need for certainty to a goal of accurately assessing what you know and what you don’t, you’ll be less vulnerable to reactive emotions, knee-jerk biases, and destructive habits in your decision making. You’ll become more confident, calm, compassionate and successful in the long run.
Firestarters: How Innovators, Instigators, and Initiators Can Inspire You to Ignite Your Own Life by Raoul Davis Jr, Kathy Palokoff (Author), and Paul Eder
The heart of the book features stories about successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, organizational leaders, and forward-looking thinkers from a variety of professions. They describe the factors and conditions that ignited their lives and helped them become achievers.
“Add this book to your library! Firestarters gives you a smart new way to achieve positive behavioral change that will improve your life and the world around you.” — Marshall Goldsmith, New York Times–bestselling author of Triggers and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There
Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals by Michael Hyatt
“Your Best Year Ever is full of compelling, real-life stories of average people who have achieved extraordinary results. Please take my advice and only buy this book if you want to be able to look back in twelve months and say, ‘Now that was my best year ever!’” — John C. Maxwell, author, speaker, and leadership expert
“Generous goals work (if you write them down) and powerful books work (if you read them). Michael Hyatt has created a fun, fast way to find your dreams and then turn them into reality.” — Seth Godin, author, Linchpin
When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink
Timing, it’s often assumed, is an art. In When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Pink shows that timing is really a science.
“Pink should change many people’s understanding of timing with this book, which provides insights from little-known scientific studies in an accessible way… By the book’s end, readers will be thinking much more carefully about how they divide up theirs days and organize their routines.” — Publishers Weekly
Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
In his most provocative and practical book yet, one of the foremost thinkers of our time redefines what it means to understand the world, succeed in a profession, contribute to a fair and just society, detect nonsense, and influence others.
“The most prophetic voice of all . . . [Taleb is] a genuinely significant philosopher . . . someone who is able to change the way we view the structure of the world through the strength, originality and veracity of his ideas alone.” — John Gray, GQ
7. Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion by Michelle Dean
“I have to recommend Michelle Dean’s Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion, a delicious cultural history that comes out in April. It brings together some of the most influential social critics of the 20th century, including Dorothy Parker, Mary McCarthy, Hannah Arendt, Susan Sontag and Joan Didion, and shows how these glamorous iconoclasts forged their singular careers. Dean makes the convincing argument that women’s voices―if not necessarily feminist ones―did far more to define the last century’s intellectual life than we realize.”―Michelle Goldberg, New York Times
Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More by Morten Hansen
“In this groundbreaking book, Morten Hansen delivers on the genius of “and:” rigorous and relevant, research-driven and well-written, empirical and empowering, timeless and practical, full of big concepts and useful tips. Hansen’s work is truly distinctive in the genre of professional effectiveness, and a tremendous contribution. This is a book I will read more than once, and reference forever.” — Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, co-author of Built to Last and Great by Choice
The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win by Jeff Haden
Haden shows us how to reframe our thinking about the relationship of motivation to success. He meets us at our level — at the beginning of any big goal we have for our lives, a little anxious and unsure about our way forward, a little burned by self help books and strategies that have failed us in the past — and offers practical advice that anyone can use to stop stalling and start working on those dreams.
The Truth Machine: The Blockchain and the Future of Everything by Paul Vigna, and Michael J. Casey
Casey and Vigna expose the challenge of replacing trusted (and not-so-trusted) institutions on which we’ve relied for centuries with a radical model that bypasses them. The Truth Machine reveals the empowerment possible when self-interested middlemen give way to the transparency of the blockchain, while highlighting the job losses, assertion of special interests, and threat to social cohesion that will accompany this shift.
The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Our Destiny Beyond Earth by Michio Kaku
The #1 bestselling author of The Future of the Mind traverses the frontiers of astrophysics, artificial intelligence, and technology to offer a stunning vision of man’s future in space, from settling Mars to traveling to distant galaxies.
Formerly the domain of fiction, moving human civilization to the stars is increasingly becoming a scientific possibility — and a necessity. Whether in the near future due to climate change and the depletion of finite resources, or in the distant future due to catastrophic cosmological events, we must face the reality that humans will one day need to leave planet Earth to survive as a species.
Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI by Paul R. Daugherty, and H. James Wilson
Based on the authors’ experience and new research with 1,500 organizations, the book reveals how companies are using the new rules of AI to leap ahead on innovation and profitability, as well as what you can do to achieve similar results.
It describes six entirely new types of hybrid human + machine roles that every company must develop, and it includes a “leader’s guide” with the five crucial principles required to become an AI-fueled business. Human + Machine provides the missing and much-needed management playbook for success in our new age of AI.
Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley by Emily Chang
In this powerful exposé, Bloomberg TV journalist Emily Chang reveals how Silicon Valley got so sexist despite its utopian ideals, why bro culture endures despite decades of companies claiming the moral high ground (Don’t Be Evil! Connect the World!) — and how women are finally starting to speak out and fight back.
Drawing on her deep network of Silicon Valley insiders, Chang opens the boardroom doors of male-dominated venture capital firms like Kleiner Perkins, the subject of Ellen Pao’s high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit, and Sequoia, where a partner once famously said they “won’t lower their standards” just to hire women.
Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success by Benjamin Hardy
“If you want to get more done, don’t worry about willpower — focus on motivation. Challenging the dominant view of self-control as a muscle, Benjamin Hardy reveals that productivity is really about clarity and commitment.”―Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Originals and Give and Take
“In an age when few people think deeply about life, Benjamin Hardy is the exception. Read this book if you want to be better.”―Jeff Goins, bestselling author of The Art of Work
Strength in Stillness: The Power of Transcendental Meditation by Bob Roth
“Transcendental Meditation is the single most important reason for any success I have had in my life. Bob Roth’s Strength in Stillness masterfully distills the essence of this technique so that anyone can understand how it works — and why they should learn it.” — Ray Dalio
“My wife and I love Bob. He’s really helped us and our son, Oscar, who was a stressed, anxious kid. Now I see him blossoming and owning the things that make him unique. In many ways, Bob saved him during a difficult time.” — Hugh Jackman
The Career Manifesto: Discover Your Calling and Create an Extraordinary Life by Mike Steib
“Mike has long been a sought after mentor and revered manager, and for obvious reason: his practical, inspirational, no-nonsense advice works. This is the book that I will give to all of the motivated professionals that come through my door with questions about how to achieve their career, and life, aspirations.” — Jesse Haines, Director of Marketing, Google
Big Potential: How Transforming the Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being by Shawn Achor
In his highly anticipated follow-up to The Happiness Advantage, Achor reveals a better approach. Drawing on his work in 50 countries, he shows that success and happiness are not competitive sports. Rather, they depend almost entirely on how well we connect with, relate to, and learn from each other.
Just as happiness is contagious, every dimension of human potential — performance, intelligence, creativity, leadership ability and health — is influenced by those around us.
The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business: Make Great Money. Work the Way You Like. Have the Life You Want by Elaine Pofeldt
“Read The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business to learn strategies you can start using now to build a high-revenue business that gives you the freedom to lead the life you want. Pofeldt will convince you that you have more power to do so than you think!” — Stew Friedman, author of Total Leadership and Leading the Life You Want, practice professor of management at Wharton, and director of Wharton Work/Life Integration Project
“In an era when freelancing, small office/home office, and one-person businesses are exploding, Elaine Pofeldt has written a definitive guidebook for any would-be entrepreneur who is looking to brainstorm, grow, sell, and succeed.” — Gene Marks, CPA at the Marks Group PC
The Future Is Faster Than You Think: How Converging Technologies Are Transforming Business, Industries, and Our Lives by Peter H. Diamandis, and Steven Kotler
“The point is this: Being able to see around the corner of tomorrow and being agile enough to adapt to what’s coming have never been more important. And, in three parts, that’s exactly what this book will do.”
“The Law of Accelerating Returns,” Ray Kurzweil did the math and found that we’re going to experience twenty thousand years of technological change over the next one hundred years. Essentially, we’re going from the birth of agriculture to the birth of the internet twice in the next century. This means paradigm-shifting, game-changing, nothing-is-ever-the-same-again breakthroughs — such as affordable aerial ridesharing — will not be an occasional affair. They’ll be happening all the time.”
Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking by William James
“I know that you, ladies and gentlemen, have a philosophy, each and all of you, and that the most interesting and important thing about you is the way in which it determines the perspective in your several worlds.”
“You must bring out of each word its practical cash-value, set it at work within the stream of your experience. It appears less a solution, then, than as a program for more work and more particularly as an indication of the ways in which existing realities may be changed. Theories thus become instruments, not answers to enigmas, in which we can rest. We don’t lie back upon them, we move forward, and, on occasion, make nature over again by their aid.”
Great Thinkers: Simple Tools from 60 Great Thinkers to Improve Your Life by The School of Life
“The great works of culture have it in their power to clear mental confusion, they give us words for things we had felt but had not previously grasped; they replace cliché with insight.”
“Aristotle also observed that every virtue seems to be bang in the middle of two vices. It occupies what he termed ‘the golden mean’ between two extremes of character.”
“The primary thing we need to learn is not just maths or spelling, but how to be good: we need to learn about courage, self-control, reasonableness, independence and calm.”
Figuring by Maria Popova
“The richest relationships are often those that don’t fit neatly into the preconceived slots we have made for the archetypes we imagine would populate our lives — the friend, the lover, the parent, the sibling, the mentor, the muse. We meet people who belong to no single slot, who figure into multiple categories at different times and in different magnitudes. We then must either stretch ourselves to create new slots shaped after these singular relationships, enduring the growing pains of self-expansion or petrify.”
“Lives interweave with other lives, and out of the tapestry arise hints at answers to questions that raze to the bone of life: What are the building blocks of character, of contentment, of lasting achievement? How does a person come into self-possession and sovereignty of mind against the tide of convention and unreasoning collectivism? Does genius suffice for happiness, does distinction, does love?”
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke
“The great question which, in all ages, has disturbed mankind, and brought on them the greatest part of their mischiefs … has been, not whether be power in the world, nor whence it came, but who should have it.”
“The acts of the mind, wherein it exerts its power over simple ideas, are chiefly these three: 1. Combining several simple ideas into one compound one, and thus all complex ideas are made. 2. The second is bringing two ideas, whether simple or complex, together, and setting them by one another so as to take a view of them at once, without uniting them into one, by which it gets all its ideas of relations. 3. The third is separating them from all other ideas that accompany them in their real existence: this is called abstraction, and thus all its general ideas are made.”
The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman by Richard P. Feynman
“We absolutely must leave room for doubt or there is no progress and there is no learning. There is no learning without having to pose a question. And a question requires doubt. People search for certainty. But there is no certainty. People are terrified — how can you live and not know? It is not odd at all. You only think you know, as a matter of fact. And most of your actions are based on incomplete knowledge and you really don’t know what it is all about, or what the purpose of the world is, or know a great deal of other things. It is possible to live and not know.”
“I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong.
Man’s Search for Himself by Rollo May
“The human being cannot live in a condition of emptiness for very long: if he is not growing toward something, he does not merely stagnate; the pent-up potentialities turn into morbidity and despair, and eventually into destructive activities.”
“Finding the center of strength within ourselves is in the long run the best contribution we can make to our fellow men. … One person with indigenous inner strength exercises a great calming effect on panic among people around him. This is what our society needs — not new ideas and inventions; important as these are, and not geniuses and supermen, but persons who can “be”, that is, persons who have a center of strength within themselves.”
Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity by Carlo Rovelli
“Things change only in relation to one another. At a fundamental level, there is no time.”
“We are all in the depths of a cave, chained by our ignorance, by our prejudices, and our weak senses reveal to us only shadows. If we try to see further, we are confused; we are unaccustomed. But we try. This is science. Scientific”
“The incompleteness and the uncertainty of our knowledge, our precariousness, suspended over the abyss of the immensity of what we don’t know, does not render life meaningless: it makes it interesting and precious.”
Successful Aging: A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives by Daniel J. Levitin
Don’t retire. Don’t stop being engaged with meaningful work. Look forward. Don’t look back. (Reminiscing doesn’t promote health.) Exercise. Get your heart rate going. Preferably in nature. Embrace a moderated lifestyle with healthy practices. Keep your social circle exciting and new. Spend time with people younger than you. See your doctor regularly, but not obsessively.
Don’t think of yourself as old (other than taking prudent precautions). Appreciate your cognitive strengths — pattern recognition, crystallized intelligence, wisdom, accumulated knowledge. Promote cognitive health through experiential learning: traveling, spending time with grandchildren, and immersing yourself in new activities and situations. Do new things.”
Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
“It doesn’t matter where you come from, where you think you are going, what job or career you have had or think you should have. You are not too late, and you’re not too early.”
“A well-designed life is a life that is generative — it is constantly creative, productive, changing, evolving, and there is always the possibility of surprise. You get out of it more than you put in. There is a lot more than “lather, rinse, repeat” in a well-designed life.”
Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, by K. Anders Ericsson
“The reason that most people don’t possess these extraordinary physical capabilities isn’t because they don’t have the capacity for them, but rather because they’re satisfied to live in the comfortable rut of homeostasis and never do the work that is required to get out of it. They live in the world of “good enough.” The same thing is true for all the mental activities we engage in,”
Toward a Psychology of Being, by Abraham H. Maslow
“Every human being has both sets of forces within him. One set clings to safety and defensiveness out of fear, tending to regress backward, hanging on to the past, afraid to grow away from the primitive communication with the mother’s uterus and breast, afraid to take chances, afraid to jeopardize what he already has, afraid of independence, freedom and separateness.
The other set of forces impels him forward toward wholeness of Self and uniqueness of Self, toward full functioning of all his capacities, toward confidence in the face of the external world at the same time that he can accept his deepest, real, unconscious Self.”
The Unlimited Self: Destroy Limiting Beliefs, Uncover Inner Greatness, and Live the Good Life, by Jonathan Heston
“Do you ever notice your limiting beliefs? They’re what prevent you from stepping up to your Edge. They’re what keep you dreaming, but never doing. They’re what keep you doubting, worrying, stressing, feeling small and weak, stuck, procrastinating, unfulfilled, and unhappy. And slowly…as life speeds by…they’re that claustrophobic grip that keeps tightening around your heart.”
Get Out of Your Own Way: Overcoming Self-Defeating Behavior, by Mark Goulston and Philip Goldberg
“Those who are comfortable taking chances know that the best way to grow is to reach beyond their grasp. Their sense of direction comes from the heart. They don’t shy away from surprise; they might even seek it out. And they seldom die with regrets. In the end we regret not what we have done but what we have not done.”
Emergence: Seven Steps for Radical Life Change, by Derek Rydall
“Don’t let past failures determine what your future success will be. Walt Disney went bankrupt — twice — before finally gaining lasting momentum. The Beatles were rejected from numerous record labels, as was Tom Petty. Thomas Edison failed at creating the light bulb ten thousand times before getting it right! If he used failure as an indicator of his true path, you might be reading this by candlelight.”
Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz
“A whole lot of us go through life assuming that we are basically right, basically all the time, about basically everything: about our political and intellectual convictions, our religious and moral beliefs, our assessment of other people, our memories, our grasp of facts. As absurd as it sounds when we stop to think about it, our steady state seems to be one of unconsciously assuming that we are very close to omniscient.”
How Not to Be Wrong: The Hidden Maths of Everyday Life by Jordan Ellenberg
“A basic rule of mathematical life: if the universe hands you a hard problem, try to solve an easier one instead, and hope the simple version is close enough to the original problem that the universe doesn’t object.”
“In the Bayesian framework, how much you believe something after you see the evidence depends not just on what the evidence shows, but on how much you believed it to begin with.”
The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene
“You like to imagine yourself in control of your fate, consciously planning the course of your life as best you can. But you are largely unaware of how deeply your emotions dominate you. They make you veer toward ideas that soothe your ego.”
“Learn to question yourself: Why this anger or resentment? Where does this incessant need for attention come from? Under such scrutiny, your emotions will lose their hold on you. You will begin to think for yourself instead of reacting to what others give you.”
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century
“This is the best reason to learn history: not in order to predict the future, but to free yourself of the past and imagine alternative destinies. Of course this is not total freedom — we cannot avoid being shaped by the past. But some freedom is better than none.”
“Questions you cannot answer are usually far better for you than answers you cannot question.”
“The most common reaction of the human mind to achievement is not satisfaction, but craving for more.”