I reached my goal of reading 54 books last year. What a journey it was. I’ve read some great books last year — and some not so great books as well.
I decided to pick out the books that I learned the most from so that you can do the same. These books are the ones that I would gladly reread in 2020; which I most likely will.
I can, without a doubt, say that had I not read these books, I wouldn’t be where I am — nor would I be on the trajectory that I am. Reading these books changed my life. And I hope that they do the same for you.
Atomic Habits — James Clear
“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” — James Clear
This is, without a doubt, the best book on habits that I’ve read. I looked forward to reading this book every day.
The approach that Clear has to build and break habits has truly laid the groundwork for me building the systems that I have in life.
This book teaches you about more than habits alone. It teaches you how to achieve your goals.
It is THE BOOK to read if you want to change something in your life.
Can’t Hurt Me — David Goggins
I read this book in a day. I didn’t skip a single part. It’s that good.
The work ethic and discipline that this man has, the life that he has lived, and the message that he sends is truly life-changing-ly inspiring.
Outliers — Malcolm Gladwell
What exactly makes high-achievers different from the rest?
This is the exact question that this book searches to answer. The answer will very likely surprise you.
“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.” — Malcolm Gladwell
So often we believe that the successful people and the high-performance people come out of nowhere; born that way. This is not true. We do not see the hours that they have put in to get where they are when we see them in their moments of brilliance.
Extreme Ownership — Jocko Willink
“Extreme Ownership. Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.” — Jocko Willink
Extreme Ownership inspired me to write my One Man Army article. The notion of taking extreme ownership, owning every part of your life, has become one of my core principles after having read the book.
The layout of the chapters makes the principles easy to understand and learn from, and also makes the book an enjoyment to read from cover to cover.
Taking ownership frees you. Because when you realize that you are in control, that you are responsible, you realize that it is also up to you to change your situation. You realize that you CAN change your situation.
Meditations — Marcus Aurelius
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” — Marcus Aurelius
The Meditations is so good that a book about the great man, Marcus Aurelius himself, made this list as well.
It’s a book to base your life upon, as Ryan Holiday says.
This book served as my ‘proper’ introduction to stoicism — if we are only counting the books written before 200 AD.
Be indifferent to the external event over which you have no control, for there is no reason for you to obsess over them.
Make sure that you get the Gregory Hays translation; it makes all the difference.
How To Think Like A Roman Emperor — Donald Robertson
My praise for Meditations should take nothing from this book, only add to its merits. There are many great books written about living a stoic life, and this is one of the better ones.
Not only is the book very well told — telling the story of Marcus as he grew up — but it is an incredible introduction to putting the stoic principles to action in your own life. Robertson guides one in applying the methods that Marcus used to overcome adversity and live a stoic life.
If the Meditations is the theory book, then this book is the practical field-guide (and the same goes for The Obstacle is the Way, another amazing book).
Shoe Dog — Phil Knight
Both incredibly intriguing and well told. What a joy it was to read this wonderful book by Phil Knight. I’ve always been an Adidas-type-of-guy, but after reading it, I almost wanted to go out and buy some Nikes just because I now knew what was behind it all. Like Warren Buffett says, Phil Knight is a gifted storyteller.
Total Recall — Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold’s work ethic and drive is out of this world. It’s probably the greatest immigrant story ever to have taken place; one of the greatest rise-to-greatness stories as well.
I must admit that my interest lies in the first half of the book — Arnold’s youth and early career. Everything before he became a politician. That’s simply because it’s what I can relate to most of all.
You cannot avoid being inspired and learning from Arnold’s approach to life. I use Arnold’s rules, as well as his ten principles, very often to guide myself in life.
Mindset — Carol S. Dweck
“We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.” — Carol S. Dweck
I had very low expectations for this book. I did not think that it would be any good. I’m not even sure why, but I thought that it would be like any run of the mill self-help book that doesn’t tell you anything useful.
I was very positively surprised.
Now, having discussed books, I see it fitting to end this post with the following quote.
“Don’t just say you have read books. Show that through them you have learned to think better, to be a more discriminating and reflective person. Books are the training weights of the mind. They are very helpful, but it would be a bad mistake to suppose that one has made progress simply by having internalized their contents.*” ― Epictetus*
Books won’t change your life. Turning what you learn from them into actions will.