Periodically (read: only twice before) I put together a list of books I think people should read. You’re a people, right? Whew. We can do this …
Some of these books have appeared on my other lists. This is more of a “Master List,” though it’s not very long. They’re listed in no particular order.
This is the best, and most engagingly written, book I’ve read about how our brains work. Which is important for anybody who likes to do stuff. You like to do stuff, right? Cool. This is a book written for the layman. Easy to understand, thought provoking, and backed by research.
A selection of key points:
- We learn better when active. Exercise boosts brain power. “A lifetime of exercise can result in a sometimes astonishing elevation in cognitive performance, compared with those who are sedentary.”
- “Multitasking, when it comes to paying attention, is a myth. The brain naturally focuses on concepts sequentially, one at a time.” It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman. Mythbusted!
- “The brain doesn’t pay attention to boring things.” If you’re teaching something make it interesting, and do something jarring/different approximately 10 minutes into any presentation. In other words, dull powerpoint presentations are not effective. If speaking publicly, your first 30 seconds is where you win or lose your audience.
- We forget things we learn very quickly. “90 percent within 30 days after learning.” Surprisingly, the majority of this forgetting happens “within the first few hours.”
- To remember something long term, we must be exposed to it regularly. Which is why the Anki flash card method is so popular with learning language vocabulary. It exposes you to words at increasing longer intervals as you learn them better.
- Our memories are much worse than we think and our brain fills in the gaps to make up for it. So stories from our past we think are true likely have parts we made up and don’t even know it.
I love this book. It was my favorite book I read in 2011 and I can’t think of anything that topped it in 2012.
Go Rin No Sho (The Book of Five Rings) by Miyamoto Musashi
This is the ultimate samurai sword fighting manual written by a legendary samurai. What? Don’t own a samurai sword? That’s OK, because Mr Musashi accidentally used sword fighting as a metaphor for life. Go Rin No Sho was written some time in 1600s and it’s as relevant for modern people as it was for the samurai warriors for which it was intended.
It’s available for free in various places around the web. Let me Google that for you.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
I haven’t read Influence for a couple years, but it’s one of the only books I have the audio version for as well. If you’re interested in how easily you’re influenced and how much power you have to influence this makes for a great read. Actually, I think whether you’re interested in psychology and sales or not this book is a must read for life.
Alternate: Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got by Jay Abraham. This one is not so much about psychology as how to sell in a way that’s beneficial to all parties, which does involve a bit of psychology. This was one of the founding ideas behind Only72. We created a win/win/win/win/win. (Contributors/buyers/us/affiliates/charity.)
Lying by Sam Harris
I’ve written about this one before. It’s a short read and I think it will do you well in all your relationships personal, professional, and otherwise.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
I’ve gifted this book quite possibly more than any other since I first read it in 2005. You’ve probably heard a lot about it over the past few years because it has become something of a phenomenon in entrepreneur/artist circles. The crux of the book is about something known as Resistance, which is what keeps us from doing the things in life we should be and want to be doing. It stops us from sitting down to create. Thankfully, it can be beat. One day at a time.
Alternate: Turning Pro, the sequel to The War of Art. Also very good. But I recommend The War of Art first and foremost.
A Guide To The Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine
This is my favorite book I read in 2012. If my 8,000+ words of notes/highlights are any indication, I was quite engrossed. If you’ve never been exposed to Stoicism this is a great introduction.
Stoicism is not only a great philosophy of life, it’s a fantastic introduction to/portrayal of minimalism. Mr Irvine’s writing is clear and engaging, which you don’t often find in philosophical texts.
Alternate: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. (I’ve linked to a free version, though I don’t know how good the translation is.) Written by the well-known Stoic, I first read this a few years ago and it went down much easier for me than Seneca’s work.
Transcend: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever by Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman
Yes, it’s a bold claim, but Ray Kurzweil has been right about so many innovations in the past it’s very easy to be convinced that yes, one day we’ll be able to live forever. But even if not, Transcend is a great read about living well now, which is arguably more important. The main takeaway from the book is learning how to prevent diseases that are preventable (like most heart disease) so that technology has a chance to catch up if/when we get a disease that is not preventable and was previously incurable.
This is the book that convinced me to start getting blood tests. A good one is the Comprehensive Wellness Profile from DirectLabs. (I don’t get paid for that.)
A note to all the men and women out there who stay away from fat: “Your brain is 60 percent fat, so consuming healthy fats is especially important for brain health. Both EPA and DHA, the principal components of omega-3 fats found in fish, are important constituents in brain tissue.” They recommend eating fish (not just any fish: wild, not farmed; low mercury) three times/week along with fish oil supplements. For veg*ns they recommend flaxseed oil, which is what I consume (about 1 ounce per day).
Wrapping It Up
It’s difficult to come up with lists like this that don’t go on for pages and pages. I read about a book a week (yet, no matter how hard I try my Kindle queue is always about 50 books long!) and I’d recommend most of those books to certain people. I tried to include books here that I think most people reading this could benefit from and enjoy.
If you’ve got something good for me to read link to it in the comments. I especially like books about how our brains work, autobiographies, and fiction books that feel like true life (Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut being a recent example).