If you have spent even one hour with me then you have probably heard me talk about the book I that am currently reading at that time and how it applies to something in our current conversation. I that realize this can be annoying at times and I am currently working on keeping my lips sealed in the future (a lifelong work in progress, I think). The problem that I have is that when I land on a really good book, one that grabs me, it not only invades my thoughts and feelings, but I also want so badly to share it with the world so that everyone else can benefit from the ideas as well. Picture me as Will Ferrill in the movie Elf screaming “I’m in love I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it!” (watch the 19 second clip here)
Since the day I fell in love with reading at age 20, books have been shaping my thinking and adding immense value to my life. When it comes to buying books, I have become a collector, hoarder, and an addicted shopper all in one. I have no problem spending money on books because I believe that books are still the cheapest and best-valued investment available today. The same way a person might invest in a 401(k) or in real estate, that same type of personal investment should also be done in learning through books. I’m speaking literally here: a book is $5, $10, or $15 and could truly earn (or save) you $1,000 or $10,000 easily. In my own life, every promotion, every sale, and every bonus I have ever received can or may be somehow credited to the knowledge I gained through reading. Some examples follow…
At a time when I needed an extra push as a sales person, Seth Godin’s Linchpin re-energized me, helping me become a better service provider to my customers. As a new and young manager, Richard Branson’s The Virgin Way helped me to lighten up a bit and then Good to Great by Jim Collins balanced me out by showing me the essentials of great structural leadership. As a new professional out on my own, The Millionaire Next Door showed me the fundamentals of personal finance and growing wealth. As challenges became harder and difficulties stood in my way of success it was The Obstacle is the Way, Unbroken, and Seven Habits of Highly Effective People that helped me focus, prioritize, and endure. The list goes on, even outside of the office.
Furthermore, at a time when I needed to make decisions regarding family and friends other books helped me through, such as Henry Clout’s Boundaries, which taught me how to take control of my life. When I needed to understand the importance of staying true to myself, it was Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. When I was feeling lost and needed to get excited about my faith again, it was Francis Chan’s Crazy Love. When I needed to understand just how great I had it compared to others who aren’t so well off, it was Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. And finally, when I just needed some good old distraction from life, it was The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, or The Old Man and the Sea.
The point is, books do have the ability to change our minds, our bank accounts, our relationships, and our lives. Back to my practical example: it is possible that a $10 book could give you an idea that later earns you an extra $1,000 or even $10,000. Then again, maybe it won’t, maybe it will just be another feather in your cap, or an escape from stress, or a new perspective. My point isn’t to sell a get rich quick scheme here, but to highlight the underrated investment value of books.
So instead of boring you all with the blah, blah, blah of books during our next conversation, I figured I would get this off of my chest and into a list for you instead.
Without further ado, the best books I have read so far this year, 2017:
Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
What’s it all about: Ryan Holiday watched the rise and fall of retail giant American Apparel from the inside. Holiday eloquently convinces that ego is what stands in the way between us and all of our successes.
What I learned: Stoic philosophy presents strong guiding principles for keeping ego in its place. In addition to philosophy, Holiday gives a bunch of practical ways to succeed and grow without focusing on the wrong motivators.
Who should read it: Employees and bosses, husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, entrepreneurs and athletes.
Zero to One by Peter Theil
What’s it all about: Peter Theil is co-founder of PayPal and since then serial entrepreneur, investor, and advisor to some of the best technology start-up companies in the world. This book is Peter’s manifesto on all things business, focusing on the start from the ground up.
What I learned: A ton, such as what do monopolies mean for economics, what are the impacts of artificial intelligence, the importance of sales vs. product creation, and more.
Who should read it: Those who want their previous biases and beliefs challenged. Anyone interested in technology, Silicon Valley culture, business, politics, economics, and more.
Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman
What’s it all about: Dick Feynman was the youngest physicist on the Manhattan Project where he, along with Einstein, Oppenheimer, and others, invented the atom bomb. Dick recounts his experiences of life, mostly his ability to make light of any situation by being a prankster.
What I learned: No matter how smart or important you are, life should be made fun and light. Never take yourself too seriously and always look for ways to learn.
Who should read it: Anyone with a sense of humor. Even if you don’t have a funny bone, however, if you are even a little bit interested in science, history, or inventions, this book is worth it.
OPEN by Andre Agassi
What’s it all about: The life of Andre Agassi isn’t as glamorous as it appears on the outside. He is one of the world’s greatest known athletes who actually hated his sport and resented his family upbringing which led to a lifelong battle with depression and severe injury.
What I learned: I don’t know much about tennis, so I certainly learned to appreciate the sport more. Also, how emotionally challenging the young celebrity lifestyle can be and how behind the TV commercials and money there are real people with real problems.
Who should read it: Sports enthusiasts and anyone looking for a great story of perseverance.
The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin
What’s it all about: Waitzkin was the youngest International Chess Master ever, and probably the best chess player since Bobby Fisher. His life was even made into a movie comparing their two lives. This book isn’t about any of it, however, it’s about how to become a grand master at anything and everything you put your mind to.
What I learned: Tactics, tricks, and strategies for learning a skill faster. Also, how to better enjoy the learning process even when it may replete with struggle and angst.
Who should read it: People with interest in competitive sports, martial arts, or chess. Anyone wanting to continue their personal growth and improve faster.
Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson
What’s it all about: This is a wonderful historical recounting of Benjamin Franklin’s life, not only as a Founding Father of America but also as an innovator, party-thrower, and literary genius.
What I learned: A little of everything. Franklin’s writing possesses life lessons for relationships, business, and political policy, but his life and actions speak even louder, showing how to add value to others, succeed professionally, and make a difference in the world. Lots of life lessons in this one.
Who should read it: History buffs, business people, self-improvement junkies, aspiring writers, and people with a sense of humor.
The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
What’s it all about: McCullough tells the story of Orville and Wilbur Wright and their quest from owning a small bike shop to inventing the enterprise of air travel.
What I learned: Orville and Wilbur were fearless in their quest for flight. Their greatness is only preceded by a burning desire to do something special at whatever cost. They were ridiculed in the beginning but then upheld as heroes and icons in the end.
Who should read it: Those who are interested in history, business, entrepreneurship, science, or travel. If those topics don’t intrigue you, then anyone who likes to hear a great story will enjoy McCullough’s writing style. This one might be best on audiobook.
Don’t have time to read? Use Audible and stop making excuses. Reading is too great to avoid and too beneficial to miss out on.