“Reading books is the real-life version of collecting mushrooms in Super Mario.” — Random guy on Twitter
Ever walk down the aisles of a bookstore and feel an intense FOMO on all the books you want to read? You realize that time on Earth is finite, and when you combine the fact that you need to sleep, travel, work, and socialize, there is just no possible way to read everything you want.
To save time and stress, it helps to implement filters on what you read. Some effective filters include:
- Taking recommendations from friends and trusted sources.
- Seeing what’s popular and gravitating towards those books.
- Seeing what’s popular and gravitating away from those books.
- Research your heroes and mentors to see which books influenced them the most.
- Choose only books that you, in 30 years, will be glad you have read.
- Prioritize the Lindy Effect–books that have been around for a long time, and are likely to stick around long into the future.
I have prioritized the Lindy Effect more in my selection process over recent years. Older books have survived the test of time for a reason. But with modern reading trends seemingly headed towards older books, it can be easy to overlook the many gems that have been published in the 21st century.
Modern Books That Revolutionized My Life
I’ve decided to put together a list of modern books (which you can find more of here) that have revolutionized my life. Books that have drastically changed my views, influenced my thinking, and formed my philosophy over the last 10-15 years.
I’ve broken down this list into sections you might find in your typical bookstore. For each section, I’ve chosen the book that has defined that particular topic in my own life. These books will certainly give you an idea of why I do what I do, and why I write what I write.
From influence to leadership, from travel to psychedelics, this list is bound to have something for you:
Biography: Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson
Quite possibly my favorite historical figure ever. There is so much to learn from this book, not just about the usual textbook stuff you’ve learned in school, but about his struggles, his humorous personality and everything in between. Ben Franklin is someone we should all strive to emulate. And if you’ve never read a Walter Isaacson book, you are sorely missing out on greatness!
Entrepreneurship: The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
This is what Tyler Cowen would call a “quake book.” One that just changes everything about how you think about and approach life. This book is all about taking your destiny into your own hands, and is one that has had a huge influence on me. The version I read had many outdated (circa 2007) resources, but the message still resonates to this day. Of course, here is the updated version.
Fiction: How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid
What a fun book this was. “You” are the main character and the story takes you through different phases of your life, from a poor kid from an unnamed south Asian country (resembles Pakistan) to pursuing the successes and navigating the pitfalls of love and business. I don’t read much fiction, but this was an excellent book!
Leadership: Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink
This was the key book that helped me become a restaurant manager, and lead an organization of 100+ employees. The lesson: if you are to achieve anything of significance in life, if you are to gain trust of subordinates, higher-ups, strangers, friends, or loved ones, you MUST hold yourself accountable for everything that happens. You must take ownership in everything you do. It is the only way.
Mind/Psychology: How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan
This one has a special place in my life. Having experienced the effects that various mental illnesses have on some of my closest family and friends, I had always thought that these were things we just had to live with. But Pollan’s book sheds light on the world of psychedelics and their use as a possible treatment and maybe even cure for some illnesses. It has since lit a fire under me to learn everything I can about this largely unknown realm.
Travel: Vagabonding by Rolf Potts
Speaking of lighting fires, this book set off a personal obsession for me over the last nine years. Traveling was never really a part of my life until I was 21. It was this book that opened my mind to travel as a lifestyle, not just something someone does once a year on vacation.
Philosophical/Spiritual: Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It by Kamal Ravikant
Although there are many more qualified book candidates in this category, Love Yourself was a recent revelation of mine in a time of personal crisis. We all have moments when we don’t quite love ourselves. No matter what situation you find yourself in, this book will help. It is a short read. I read it over a three day trip and it changed my appreciation for myself in a non-trivial way. Kamal also wrote Rebirth, another amazing book of his that I discuss further in this blog post.
Physical: The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss
The only author who takes up two spots on my list, Tim Ferriss is a beast. This book shaped the approach I take to physical health forever. Using tools, tips, and tactics in the realms of diet, exercise, and supplementation, this is a great book if you’re looking to kick-start a physical change in your life. I’ve lost 50+ lbs of fat combined using the methods in this book. It simply works.
Productivity: Deep Work by Cal Newport
Deep work is an underrated concept. We humans now have attention span of a squirrel. Combine that with the up-to-the-minute need for new information, incessant infiltration of our digital lives by email, and the screaming kid or the barking dog, and we have little ability to get anything of consequence done in an efficient manner. The concepts in this book have allowed me to focus more for longer stretches of time, and I believe this blog and other projects I am currently working on are a direct result.
Social: Influence by Robert Cialdini
I’m gonna cheat a little here, because this book was originally published in the last century. However, this is by far the best book out there on the topic of persuasion. Influence is everywhere we look. It is how things get done. Even if you are not aware of its presence, it’s power is affecting you at this very moment. Which is why this book has had a massive influence on me. Learn how to influence, and learn how you are influenced, and you’ll never see life (or commercials on Nickelodeon) the same way.
Wealth & Money: Money: Master the Game by Tony Robbins
Most of the basic concepts of money and how to use it, save it, and invest it, I learned from this book. Tony talks to a plethora of experts and hedge fund managers to discuss all the things we should know (and all the things they don’t teach us in school) about money. Tony Robbins is a master with words, and truly does an amazing job in this book through his synthesis of ideas from the worlds best financial minds.
I hope you enjoyed this list, and I hope you decide to pick up a few of these for your own personal growth journey! These books were, in no small part, responsible for shaping who I am today and the success I’ve had so far in my life. I have no doubt that they will do the same for you.
To get the most out of reading, you don’t have to read every book that piques your interest. You don’t even have to love the process of reading! Look for books, authors, and topics you love.
Reading the right books will change your life for the better. But don’t make it a chore. Read what you love until you love to read. And have fun with it!