via Bookshelf Porn

The man who does not read good books has no advantage

over the man who cannot read them.”   – Mark Twain

The U.S. educational system is broken. Tuition is overpriced (and student debt has soared) while most teachers are underpaid. Their curriculum emphasizes rote memorization over critical thinking, experimentation and learning through failure.  In his famous TED Talk, Sir Ken Robinson talks about why schools kills creativity. Furthermore, most people still believe college is the key to happiness and success, even though there is substantial evidence to the contrary.

Enter self-study, the idea that the keys to our education are in our own hands. The best learning plan is the one you create. Start-ups like Skillshare and Coursera have stepped in to fill the gap, but I still think books should comprise the bulk of learning.

Here’s a list of the books that have made the biggest impact on my life. Feel free to add your favorites in the comment section (DISCLOSURE: These are Amazon Affiliate links).



The Four Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss. Reinforced a lot of things I already believed in regards to simplifying my life. Tim’s blog is also worth checking out. I also recommend his other books, “The Four Hour Body” and “The Four Hour Chef.”

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal” by Eric Schlosser. Skip the movie. Read the book. Learn the history of the fast food industry, its relationship with everything from agribusiness to the auto industry and the impact your purchases make at the drive-thru.

The Simplicity Survival Handbook: 32 Ways To Do Less and Accomplish More” by Bill Jensen. The biggest boost to my productivity in 2012 has also come from these printable daily planning sheets from David Seah.

Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time” by Keith Ferrazzi. My favorite book on networking. The general premise is that although WHAT you know is important, WHO you know can have an even greater impact on your future success.

Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. I read this book years ago and it has lots of advice, like having a mastermind group, that are critical to wealth and success.

How To Win Friends And Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. It’s a timeless classic – highly recommend it.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini.

I also like “The Ultimate Gift” by Jim Stovall.

Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-term Fulfillment” by George Leonard. The central premise is to focus on the journey, not the destination.

The 50th Law” by Robert Greene. This book was written in collaboration with 50 Cent. Unfortunately, most people will see his name on the title and dismiss it, but this book is excellent (it has an average rating of 4.5 stars on Amazon) and it’s a great guide for dealing with fear on the path to success.

“The Art of Worldly Wisdom” by Baltasar Gracián

The Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Alex Haley. This book covers X’s entire life from birth to assassination, although I think the most interesting and inspirational section was his transformation in prison.

“The Broken American Male” by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

The Moral Sayings of Publius Syrus

The Way of the Superior Man: A Spiritual Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Women, Work and Sexual Desire” by David Deida. I’m generally turned off by “spiritual” books (I didn’t like The Alchemist), but The Way of the Superior Man is awesome. His observations on how the masculine role in society has changed over the past 100 years are insightful and illuminating.



The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business” by Josh Kaufman. This book provides a great overview of a lot of business concepts and I’d suggest reading this before any of my other recommendations in this section.

Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping” – Great for understanding consumer behavior, especially in the retail environment.

Eating the Big Fish: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders” by Adam Morgan.

“Growth Hacker Marketing” by Ryan Holiday

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations” by Clay Shirky. There are a lot of books that have come out over the past several years that focus on social media. Unfortunately, they’re outdated by the time they’re in print and focus on tactics instead of providing any serious level of insight or analysis. Here Comes Everybody is excellent because it delivers a macro level view from a psychological, anthropological and media perspective of how social tools (Internet, instant message, mobile, social media) are removing the obstacles for behavioral change. Read my summary here.

Perfect Pitch: The Art of Selling Ideas and Winning New Business” – Most people assume that their PowerPoint or Keynote slides are their presentation – they’re wrong. This book is about all the necessary preparation you need to do before, during and after you present.

Truth, Lies and Advertising: The Art of Account Planning” – An Account Planning classic. It should be read by every current and aspiring Planner.

The Culting of Brands: Turn Your Customers Into True Believers” – Breaks down the similarities between religion and branding. It’s fascinating and important to the understanding of how brands become ingrained in people.

“The True Believer: Thoughts On The Nature Of Mass Movements” by Eric Hoffer

Malcolm Gladwell – I highly recommend “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference.” For a deeper understanding of how ideas spread, read it along with “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.”


First, Break All The Rules: What The World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently” by Marcus Buckingham. It’s great for understanding how to put together a team and a must read for managers.

Rework” by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson of 37signals. Full of intelligent thinking.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable” by Patrick Lencioni and “Death By Meeting


How to Master The Art of Selling” by Tom Hopkins and “Secrets of Closing the Sale” by Zig Ziglar.

How to Become a Rainmaker: The Rules for Getting and Keeping Customers and Clients” – Jeffrey Fox is another great author who writes short, punchy books in the style of Seth Godin and Jeffrey Gitomer (check out Gitomer’s “Little Red Book of Selling“).


Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur’s Odyssey to Educate the World’s Children” by John Wood, founder of


Now, Discover Your Strengths” – Also by Marcus Buckingham. This is a great book to help you identify your strengths at work.

What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers” – This was one of the books I read during my career change into Advertising. It should be required reading in every high school.

Guerrilla Marketing For Job Hunters” – Spending hours in front of your computer applying to job postings on and similar sites is a waste a time. This guide gives practical advice to finding the job your want.


I Will Teach You To Be Rich” by Ramit Sethi. Highly practical and easy to implement. If I was going to recommend ONE book on personal finance, this would be it.

The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy” – The next time you get depressed and jealous when you’re watching a 14 yr old on “MTV Cribs” in his 10,000 sq. ft. house, read this to understand how people truly become wealthy.

The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need” – The book covers basically everything you need to know, plus Andrew Tobias is a terrific writer.

The Millionaire Real Estate Investor” by Gary Keller, the co-founder of Keller Williams Realty.


Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government” by P.J. O’Rourke. He has a gift for writing that’s funny, informative and intelligent at the same time.


Sperm Wars: Infidelity, Sexual Conflict and Other Bedroom Battles” – This is a great introduction to Evolutionary Psychology.  This books discusses, among other things, why people are unfaithful and how they choose mates.

The Definitive Book of Body Language” – If you apply the information in this book it will literally change the way you see people.


Lord of the Flies” – On one level it’s an adventure. On another level it explores the psychology of a society that struggles with laws. If you like Lord of the Flies, you should also check out “The Hunger Games.”

Fight Club” – Essential reading, although it’s impossible to read this without thinking about the movie. Fight Club is the book that made many of us reevaluate our consumption habits and our values.


Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen” by Christopher McDougall. The book most credited with kicking off the barefoot running movement. It’s also the reason I started using Vibram Fivefingers for my workouts.

“Kitchen Confidential” by Anthony Bourdain



Tim Ferriss And Kevin Rose Discuss Their Top 5 Must-Read Books

The 18 Books That Changed My Life – Noah Kagan

Books for Startups – Steve Blank

How I Think About Books – Ben Casnocha

Reading List – Colin Post

The 6 Books That Actually Saved Our Start-up – Vinicius Vacanti

My Book Log – Rob Campbell

11 Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read – Jason Evanish


Fingerspitzengefuhl for Books: Developing a Fingertip Feel for Everything You’ve Ever Read by Ryan Holiday

Read to Lead: How To Digest Books Above Your “Level”
by Ryan Holiday

Fifteen Tactics for Maximizing Your Investment in Reading for Personal Growth via The Simple Dollar

How To Read
via Copyblogger

How to Read a Book
by Mortimer J. Adler

How to Read PDF
from University of Michigan

Twelve Ways to Mark Up A Book
by Open Loops

How Do I Teach Myself To Read a 300 Page Book In One Sitting? on Quora

  1. October 9, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    You’re the first person I’ve met who’s also read Culting of Brands! I liked it, too.

    • October 9, 2009 at 6:42 pm

      Nice. It was recommended when I went to Miami Ad School. Great book on Marketing/Branding. I still need to read Made To Stick, Long Tail, Wisdom of Crowds, etc. etc.

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