Many of you frequently ask what I’m reading and what books were the most important in my personal growth and self-development. So I thought it was time to update the list of the top ten most influential books in my life. (So far…)
This isn’t meant to be the greatest books of all time, because I think that will be different for everyone, and that’s not the criteria here. These books are the ones that have shaped my life the most.
1) Atlas Shrugged Ayn Rand
The book that impacted my life more than any other. No other book is even close. This choice shocks many people, because it’s actually a novel. The reason it leads my list is because it was the catalyst for me discovering the importance of living with a congruent philosophy.
In it, Rand introduces the concept of Objectivism. The writing is brilliant, the characters are fascinating, and the work is sheer genius. Every time I re-read it (which I do every year or two), I still get goose bumps when I get to the section beginning with the words, “This is John Galt speaking…” This book should be in the library of every serious student of philosophy, politics, self-development, and psychology.
2) Fit for Life Harvey & Marilyn Diamond
Here’s a book that didn’t show on my original top ten, but now comes in at number two. Two reasons for the steep increase: First, my appreciation and recognition of the role of health in manifesting prosperity has increased immensely over the years.
And secondly, I realize how much of my eating and nutritional habits are still influenced every single day – from a book I first read almost 40 years ago! All health begins in the colon. So what you eat, when you eat, and how you eat it is a big deal. And this timeless book still outshines all the fad diet books, to show you common sense insights on how to create energy and live a vibrant life. (This link is the revised edition that Harvey did in 2011.)
3) The Science of Mind Ernest Holmes
Holmes is my hero, because he blazed the trail for me. He also was a self-educated, passionate student of the world's spiritual systems, and then developed his knowledge into a practical philosophy for living a life of prosperity. This book is a meta-physical masterpiece. The “how-to” manual for everything you want to do in life.
4) The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
If it seems strange that a book by a church founder is directly followed by one from an outspoken atheist – then you haven’t been paying attention. Dawkins might just be the smartest guy on the planet right now, and this book is breathtakingly brilliant. I first read it on my sabbatical and it helped crystalize my belief that no rational human could believe in god. (That doesn’t mean there isn’t a god, or you shouldn’t believe in god. Simply that you can’t believe in a god and be rational.)
5) As a Man Thinketh by James Allen
It’s a little book that sells for almost nothing, so people don’t take it as seriously as they should. I almost wish it sold for $50,000, so people would read it with the reverence it deserves. This should be on your bed stand to read a little every night before you go to sleep.
6) Shibumi Trevanian
Sometimes a book enters your life at the exact moment to nurture a desire you have. This is the book that made me want to become a writer. Another work of fiction, and another one that got me thinking hard about a philosophy of living. Nicholaï Hel, the protagonist is an assassin, so you know it’s right up my alley. He’s best described by a character in the story who calls him half saintly ascetic, half vandal marauder – a medieval anti-hero. He is your vintage man-against-the-herd. When you read about the dangers of technology, terrorism, government corruption, and seeking spiritual perfection, you’ll have a hard time believing this was written in 1979. The true test of a timeless classic.
7) The War of Art Steven Pressfield
Shibumi made me become a writer. The War of Art is the toolbox I use to do that. Every time I write a new book (or take on a huge creative project like a website design or branding), I go back and reread this book first.
It is the greatest book on writing ever written, by the greatest living American writer. And even if you’re not a writer, this book will impact your life immeasurably, because it isn’t just for writers, but any artist or entrepreneur.
8)The Fountainhead Ayn Rand
Another novel, this one makes the list because it is the first Rand book I ever read, and the one that addicted me to her brilliant, beautiful, and bitter writing. I like books that rattle my molars and challenge my beliefs. A superb story, and one that will cause you to think long and hard on strength of the individual and what society does to try and create conformity.
9) Principles Ray Dalio
If you follow me on Facebook, you know my frustration at trying to find powerful self-help books from people who aren’t dead yet. (You can only re-read certain books so many times.) So Dalio brought a desperately needed breath of fresh air to the genre, when he dropped this massive tome in 2017.
You may find it egocentric. But a great author is the one who shares valuable lessons from their own life. And this book has hundreds of brilliant insights. It’s not billed as a leadership book, but it’s arguably the greatest book ever written on leadership.
10) Mad Genius Randy Gage
This book doesn’t make the list because I’m a narcissist. (Okay, maybe a little.) It makes the list because of the personal transformation that writing it required me to do. Doing the critical thinking of how we live in a world of cloning, genetic engineering, VR/AR, social media, and continuous disruption, took me down a path of curiosity, wonder, and adventure.
There's a reason Facebook was birthed in a dorm room, Amazon came from outside the bookstore business, and Uber was created by people who weren't from the taxi industry. Innovation, discovery, and creating disruption require blowing up conventional thinking and unleashing your entrepreneurial brilliance. And any book that helps you achieve that (whether by writing or reading it) is a gift.
If your spouse leaves you, a meteorite destroys your home, your business burns down, your dog runs away, and you’re afflicted with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis – get these ten books. Then go somewhere quiet for a week and read them all. Within six months you will find your perfect soul mate, become a multi-millionaire, be caller number nine in the radio station contest, develop radiantly beautiful skin, and be the happiest person you know.
The following books just missed this list at this moment, but I'm just beginning my fourth midlife crisis, so some of these might crack future countdowns!
The Essential Marcus Aurelius Jacob Needleman & John Piazza
The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck Mark Manson
Tribe of Mentors Timothy Ferris
The End of Faith Sam Harris
The Grand Design Stephen Hawing & Leonard Mlodinow
Ok I showed you mine – now show me yours!