1. Rich Dad Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki
I’ve read this one five or six times. I put it at number one because it was the book that opened my mind to a whole new way of thinking. The book chronicles the two different ways of thinking Robert learned from his rich dad and his poor dad. His poor was his biological father who was a professor. His rich dad was the father of his childhood friend, a business owner who became a mentor to Robert and taught him about money. His poor dad’s motto was “Go to school. Get good grades. Find a safe and secure job.” This is the sort of dogmatic wisdom that permeates our culture today. His rich dad taught him that “The rich don’t work for money; the rich make money work for them.” This book deconstructs the conventional wisdom taught by our education system and gives a new mental framework on how to think about education, as well as a subject that is integral to many of our lives: money.
2. How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
This book is a how-to-guide on becoming a social butterfly. It talks about simple, yet profound, ways to influence the people around you and to ascend into the heights of the social stratosphere. This book is a must read for every person because regardless of what path each of us takes in life, we have to interact with others. This is one I reread at least once a year to remind me of the basic tenets of social skills and persuasion.
3. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
I don’t read many novels, but I enjoyed this one immensely. The story follows a boy seeking a treasure in a distant land. At one point he meets the alchemist, who guides him along in his journey to find what he seeks. It’s a fascinating story, but more important is the motivational message that lies between the words themselves. I am a big believer in following one’s own path to destiny, and I drew many metaphors from this book that applied to my own life. This is the type of book that you can’t put down once you crack open.
4. The One Thing – Gary Keller
This book helps to re wire your brain towards reaching your goals. Many of us live scattered lives, chasing after this and that. This book suggests a counterintuitive approach to a culture that places an importance of multi tasking. Pick one area of interest, and continually work on it until you make it. Do not deviate from the path and become a jack-of-all-trades. Place all of your eggs in one basket, and then watch the basket carefully. The idea is to always find the one thing you need to do this year, this month, this week, and this day, to get what you want out of life.
5. The Lessons Of History – Will Durant
This book is filled with lessons learned from different periods of time. It talks about everything from economics to religion, and the recurring patterns that are observed throughout the history of mankind. History repeats itself, and we are not as different as our ancestors than we’d like to believe. We must pay homage to this past and learn from the mistakes of those who came before us in order to proceed into the future. Instead of paying attention to what has happened in the last 24 hours, pay attention to the behavioral patterns that have repeated themselves through thousands of years.
6. Made in America – Sam Walton
Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, wrote this book on his deathbed. He takes you through his story of how he started with nothing, and created a company that is worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Many people like to read the fancy business books that are marketed to them at the front counters of Barnes & Nobles, yet haven’t read this book written by arguably the most successful businessman of all time. Regardless of whether or not you side with Wal-Mart’s practices from an ethical standpoint, it’s hard to argue against the success the company has had. It shows the methods and strategies he used to out last former retail giants like K-Mart who are now faltering or non-existent today. It also highlighted the thinking behind creating a successful business. Sam Walton was always curious, constantly studying his competition, and he was never afraid of being wrong or trying new strategies. The main point I gleaned from the book is that customers drive business. People like to say that Wal-Mart is a small business killer, but looking at things logically, one would have to conclude that the customers themselves are the ones who make businesses thrive or fail. Don’t hate the player; hate the game. The reason the Walton family is filthy stinking rich isn’t because they’re evil; it’s because EVERYBODY shops at their locations. Can’t beat them damn low prices.
7. The Theory of Everything – Stephen Hawking
It’s still hard for me to fully comprehend all of the concepts covered in this book, and it is definitely one that I need to re read a couple of times. This book takes an all-encompassing approach to scientific theory, and it reads fairly easily for the content it entails. From black holes to the theory of relativity to quantum mechanics and everything in between, this one will have you feeling a little bit dizzy after its all said and done. It’s a big universe out there, and there’s an endless amount to learn about it.
8. Awaken The Giant Within – Tony Robbins
This book is 500 plus pages long and is written in small print. It is no small feat to complete by any means. I’ve read it about 3 times now and each time I gain a ton of new information that’s relevant to my life and my journey towards finding the good life. Many consider Tony Robbins the pound-for-pound top contender in the self-help game, and this book is a staple for anyone who has interest in self-improvement.
9. Social – Matt Lieberman
This book describes the way our brains are wired, and the author argues that the primary if not sole reason our brains evolved to have such an extraordinary capacity is to interact socially with others. It reads in a way that makes neuroscience interesting in an almost novel type of way. I now know the functions of the medial pre frontal cortex (this is where our sense of “I” comes from), the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (our brains pain signaling and response center), the amygdala (emotional response center that creates the “fight or flight response”), as well as many other parts that I don’t have the time to go through. If you like to delve deeply into what makes us tick, this is the book for you.
10. The Happiness Hypothesis – Dr. Jonathan Haidt
This books tackles the ever-elusive question we all try to answer: what makes us happy? It suggests several different approaches including meditation (which I practice and find very helpful), cognitive therapy, and even taking Prozac. It also talks about various elements in our lives that cause either pleasure or discomfort. This book gives you a mental framework to use in the never ending tight-wire balancing act that is living a happy and fulfilling life.