Once in a while you find a book that completely shakes your world.
These are the books that did that for me.
Hope you enjoy and let me know if you have any recommendations of your own.
PS – we’re working on a book too…but more on that later.
1. Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson
- What: Billionaire business magnate Richard Branson’s autobiography. From starting his first successful business, a student magazine, at 16, to creating the Virgin brand, the dude makes you want to LIVE.
- Why: This is the first full book I actually read willingly. I was 19 and wholly unsatisfied with my life. Reading it made me want to not only be an entrepreneur but live a fun and spontaneous life.
Favorite Passage: “I can honestly say that I have never gone into any business purely to make money. If that is the sole motive then I believe you are better off not doing it. A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.”
2. Born To Run by Chris McDougall
- What: After getting injured running, the author goes on a journey to find out why he keeps getting hurt. Along the way he meets the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico who run hundreds of miles without rest or injury and quickly learns that running is ingrained in our DNA.
- Why: Hands down the best storytelling in any book I’ve ever read. You don’t want to put it down. I didn’t used to run. But after reading this, I’ve run 2 marathons and am now training for an Ironman. It’s life changing.
Favorite Passage: “Distance running was revered because it was indispensable; it was the way we survived and thrived and spread across the planet. You ran to eat and to avoid being eaten; you ran to find a mate and impress her, and with her you ran off to start a new life together. You had to love running, or you wouldn’t live to love anything else. And like everything else we love—everything we sentimentally call our ‘passions’ and ‘desires’ it’s really an encoded ancestral necessity. We were born to run; we were born because we run. We’re all Running People, as the Tarahumara have always known.”
3. Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
- What: Ryan Holiday, former Director of Marketing at American Apparel and badass best-selling author, writes about how ego is the biggest obstacle to success.
- Why: With people like Kanye West and Steve Jobs, it’s easy to think you need to be annoyingly cocky & egotistical to win. But Holiday outlines how those are the outliers, not the rule.
Favorite Passage: “Those who have accomplished the greatest results are those who ‘keep under the body’; are those who never grow excited or lose self-control, but are always calm, self-possessed, patient and polite.”
4. Denial of Death by Ernest Becker
- What: Becker’s Pulitzer Prize winning book analyzes man’s fear of death and how it prevents him from truly living.
- Why: Reading this taught me that consistently reminding myself of my own mortality is the only way to truly live.
Favorite Passage: “The man with the clear head is the man who frees himself from those fantastic ‘ideas’ (the lie about reality) and looks life in the face, realizes that everything in it is problematic, and feels himself lost. And this is the simple truth—that to live is to feel oneself lost—he who accepts it has already begun to find himself, to be on firm ground. Instinctively, as do the shipwrecked, he will look round for something to which to cling, and that tragic, ruthless glance, absolutely sincere, because it is a question of his salvation, will cause him to bring order into the chaos of his life. These are the only genuine ideas the ideas of the shipwrecked. All the rest is rhetoric, posturing, farce. He who does not really feel himself lost, is without remission; that is to say, he never finds himself, never comes up against his own reality.’
5. Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon
- What: The greatest creators steal. Nothing is truly new; all the greatest ideas have been repeated, just in a different way.
- Why: You can read this book in 2 hours and it will be the best investment you ever make. It makes you realize that stealing ideas and making them into your own is a part of the creative process. And it shows you how to do it without feeling guilty—because, hint hint, everyone does it.
- Favorite Passage: “The manifesto is this: Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to buy from, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use.”
6. Antifragile by Nassim Taleb
- What: Best-selling author and former trader, Taleb, argues for intentionally allowing & creating randomness and volatility in order to build more robust lives, governments, businesses, etc…
- Why: This goes hand in hand with the mantra of seeking discomfort. It fueled the fire to what we’re doing with Yes Theory.
Favorite Passage: “Ancestral life had no homework, no boss, no civil servants, no academic grades, no conversation with the dean, no consultant with an MBA, no table of procedure, no application form, no trip to New Jersey, no grammatical stickler, no conversation with someone boring you: all life was random stimuli and nothing, good or bad, ever felt like work. Dangerous, yes, but boring, never.”
7. Willpower by Roy Baumeister
What: A best-selling book on how to build the muscle in your head that allows you to do great things. The stories pulled out of this one keep you captivated throughout.
Why: This book taught me that your brain is a muscle. You can strengthen it. And it shows you how.
Favorite Passage: “Nothing surely is so potent as a law that may not be disobeyed. It has the force of the water drop that hollows the stone. A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules” -Anthony Trollope (one of the most prominent Victorian writers who got up at 5:30 am every morning and wrote for 2 1/2 hours. He forced himself to produce one page of 250 words every quarter hour).
8. Sapiens by Yuval Harari
- What: The international best-selling hit, lays out who we are as humans, where we come from, and how we got here. It’ll give you goosebumps.
- Why: It’s easy to forget that we are hunter-gatherers at heart; that we didn’t evolve to live in modern society. Learning about our evolution instrumental to learning about what truly makes us happy.
- Favorite Passage: “The wholesome and varied diet, the relatively short working week, and the rarity of infectious diseases have led many experts to define pre-agricultural forager societies as ‘the original affluent societies’.”
9. Start With Why by Simon Sinek
- What: Sinek analyzes the most successful people & businesses and finds that at the core of their success is an overwhelmingly clear purpose.
- Why: It completely changed my focus from WHAT we were doing to WHY we were doing it and concomitantly drastically improved my life and business.
- Favorite Passage: “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.”
10. Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
- What: THE best book on habit building I have ever read. It makes you excited about building habits because it 1. Shows you how easy it is 2. Shows you the incredible benefits that come from it.
- Why: As Socrates said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” This book taught me how to implement new habits into my life.
Favorite Passage: “Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned.”
Bonus if you’re hungry for more:
- 11. Biographies
Any book by Walter Isaacson or Ron Chernow
12. Recommended books for Entrepreneurs
Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie (founder of TOMS)
The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun (founder of Pencils of Promise)
How To Get Rich by Felix Dennis (founder of Maxim Magazine) -> shitty title, but surprisingly one of the most insightful business books I’ve ever read.
4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
Rework by Jason Fried (founder of Basecamp)
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight (founder of Nike)
The One Thing by Gary Keller
13. Personal Finance
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
Letters From a Self-Made Merchant to His Son by George Horace Lorimer
14. Life and Happiness
Give and Take by Adam Grant
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
10% Happier by Dan Harris
The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor