I have read well over a thousand books in my lifetime. I read (or listened to, or outlined) 650 books just between the ages of 17 and 25. Since then I’ve read many more. I attribute at least 60% of my success in all areas of life to the books I have read.

I more than read them, since just reading a book and tossing it aside doesn’t help much. When I read a nonfiction book, I extract key pieces of information from it and integrate them into my action plans. I describe my process here.

I went back through my gigantic list of books, and pulled out the ones that I think would be the most useful to most men. I came up with a long list of titles. I whittled that down, then whittled it down again. I ended up with a final list of 17.

Here are those 17. The most useful books I have ever read, and ones I think will be most useful to you, all of which I strongly recommend to any man wanting to become more successful in life. (Consider this an update to the old recommending reading list I used to have on this blog.)

 

Maximum Achievement
by Brian Tracy

Maximum Achievement by Brian Tracy

This book is the first on the list for a reason. I consider this book required reading for any man in the Western world. If there is any one book that was most responsible for my fast financial success in my 20s, this would be it. Since then I’ve had the honor of working with its author several times, and Brian Tracy has become one of my all-time favorite mentors. The man is a god.

If you’ve never read this book, you must get it immediately and devote some time to doing what it recommends. When they say “this book will change your life”, this is actually true when it comes to this manual. I cannot imagine what my life would have looked like had I never read it. It’s that critical.

 

How I Found Freedom In An Unfree World
by Harry Browne

How I Found Freedom In An Unfree World by Harry Browne

This is a very, very close second to Maximum Achievement. That book defined my 20s, but How I Found Freedom defined my 30s. On my first read through, I almost felt like crying. This was exactly the book I was meant to read. If only I had read it when I was 18 and not 30!

Most of my core concepts of life have been formulated around what Harry describes in this book (even before I read the book or even knew anything about it!). I had the honor of carrying on a fruitful email correspondence with Harry Browne before he passed away. He was one of the most amazing men in the modern era, at least in my opinion.

While I don’t agree with every word of it, I consider this book my personal Bible. Some of my concepts surrounding what it is to be an Alpha Male 2.0 come directly from this book. If an Alpha 2.0 lifestyle is what you’re after, consider this required reading, and one of the most important books you’ll ever read.

It’s currently out of paper print, but Amazon has it available on Kindle (click the book image above), or if you’re not a Kindle user you can purchase the PDF version here.

 

Winning Through Intimidation
by Robert Ringer

Winning Through Intimidation by Robert Ringer

This book made such a huge impact on me that I’ve probably re-read it more than any other nonfiction book. Robert Ringer is my favorite living nonfiction author. His advice is so rational and effective, I’m shocked that more people don’t think like he does. (Or should I say, did, since as he’s aged he’s changed his views somewhat.)

This book shows exactly, step-by-step, how he went from earning about $23,000 a year to $850,000 a year (gross), in one year, in 1960s dollars. Yeah. You might want to read this book.

The image link is to the new revised edition, which I understand to not be quite as good as his original 1970s version, though the older version is available used on Amazon if you don’t mind paying more.

 

With Winning In Mind
by Lanny Bassham

With Winning In Mind by Lanny BasshamThis short, simple, little-known book is one of the most powerful ones on this list. It’s written by a guy who went from a chubby loser who was terrible at sports to winning eight gold medals in less than five years.

In this book, he explains the exact mental exercises he used to to accomplish that. I’ve used them as well to accomplish some of my own goals, and while they’re not easy, they work.

If you have a big goal that you want to accomplish by a certain time frame, you need this book.

 

What To Say When You Talk To Yourself
by Shad Helmstetter

What To Say When You Talk To Yourself by Shad HelmstetterThis book, more than any other you could read, shows you just how important your subconscious mind is to your long term success. Even if you never follow any of the exercises it talks about, just reading the book will internalize in you how critical it is to take care of your subconscious, which is far, far more powerful than the conscious mind you’re currently aware of. It’s another must-read.

 

 

The E-Myth Revisited
by Michael Gerber

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber

If you were only allowed to read one book on running your own business, this would be the book to read. If you own your own business or ever plan on doing so, you must read, devour, and follow this book. Michael Gerber was talking about freedom decades before Tim Ferriss came along (and I strongly suspect Ferriss took a lot of his concepts right from this book).

It will change the entire way you think about, and manage, a business you own. It’s absolutely critical.

 

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
by Steven Covey

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven CoveyThis is a classic now. I read it when it first came out in the early 90s, and it had a profound effect on me and my life, to the point where I was actually giving speeches about Covey’s concepts as a fledgling public speaker many years ago.

It’s a tougher book to get through, but it’s more than worth it. It’s one of those few books that will enhance every area of your life.

 

 

How To Win Friends and Influence People
by Dale Carnegie

How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale CarnegieI consider this book required reading unless you are very naturally extroverted (and even then it’s probably a good idea to read it).

Every man who is at least least a little introverted must read this book at least twice. It’s worth an entire college degree on human relations.

 

 

 

Turbo Strategy
by Brian Tracy

Turbo Strategy by Brian TracyI have an easy-to-access shelf in my office of all the books I have not read yet. This is the one book I allow to remain on that shelf even though I’ve already read it (several times).

This is the single best business turnaround book I have ever read, and I’ve read many. If the techniques in this book do not increase your income substantially (assuming you have your own business), you’re insane. Or you don’t know how to read. This book is my go-to action manual for business success.

 

Why You’re Dumb, Sick, and Broke
by Randy Gage

Why You're Dumb, Sick, and Broke by Randy GageRandy Gage is a crazy bastard, and his casual writing style isn’t for everyone, but in my opinion this is the best book you can possibly read about changing your mindset regarding success in life.

 

 

 

 

Getting Things Done
by David Allen

Getting Things Done by David AllenIf you’re an internet geek you’ve likely already read this book, since it spawned a mini-time management revolution. If you haven’t, you need to do so. While I don’t 100% agree with everything David Allen says, this book is the best time management book ever written (and I’ve read tons of very good ones).

 

 

 

The Power Of Less
by Leo Babauta

The Power Of Less by Leo BabutuaThis is another of those eye-opening books. It’s one of those books I wish I could have read when I was 18. As men, we try to accomplish so much all at once, but that’s not how the human brain is designed.

If you match this book with Maximum Achievement and Getting Things Done, those three books will help you accomplish any goals you could possibly set for yourself.

 

The Magic of Thinking Big
by David Schwartz

The Magic of Thinking Big by David SchwartzThis is probably the first, or one of the first, self-improvement books I ever read. Even after the thousands of books I’ve read since then, it’s hard to find a book better. For getting your attitude right, this is the ultimate book.

 

 

 

 

The Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding
by Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding by Arnold SchwarzeneggerThis is not really a book you read cover-to-cover. It’s more of a reference book. Moreover, it’s a little dated. Regardless, this is the single best book I have ever read on physical fitness, and I’ve read quite a few. It’s shocking how comprehensive it is while being very easy to read. Arnold and his co-writer really did an impressive job with this. I don’t think I’ve ever had a male fitness question I could not find answered in this book.

 

 

The Millionaire Next Door
by Thomas Stanley and William Danko

This book is much more relevant now than when it was first published in the 90s. With all the hatred against rich people, the “one percent”, and capitalism these days, reading this book will smack you upside the head with the realities that the vast, vast majority of so called “rich” people are not evil mustache-twirling bankers and CEOs, but instead are normal, hardworking Joes who wear jeans, live in normal houses, and drive shitty cars. If I was emperor of the universe I would force all left-wing protesters to read this book.

The value of this book is by the time you finish it, you’ll realize that “getting rich” is not as difficult as you thought, and not nearly as big of a deal as you think it is.

 

The Richest Man In Babylon
by George Clason

I have read many very good books on financial management, but this one is the best, and a good “first” financial book. It teaches core truths that will never change. I re-read it whenever my financial focus starts to wander.

 

 

 

 

Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You’ve Got
by Jay Abraham

Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You've Got by Jay AbrahamThis is the best book for increasing your income very quickly. Jay Abraham is a genius, and I don’t say that lightly. The applicable concepts in this book will blow you away. This is a good companion book to Millionaire Next Door, to show you how easy making money (and accomplishing other goals) can really be.

63 Comments on “The 17 Most Useful Books I Have Ever Read

  1. Wow..great list….this is awesome. most dating coaches talk inner game when its mostly about self depwndecy and confidence in yourself…financial also great list! Puts Maslow’s into one force of nature this book is balanced on how to be a man in modern society.great list man.thanks for sharing.i will post my own list..

  2. Thanks a lot for sharing this list! I had read Winning through Intimidation, as suggested by your previous list, and was blown away by the sheer difference in actions and thought process that ‘actually’ leads to success. I have re-read it many times now, and have adopted the key pronciples to guide my course.

    This revised list looks very appealing to an avid reader like me.
    Needless to say, I’m making this list as my to-read for 2014.
    Looks like I’m in for some more eye openers to consistent happiness
    as I go through this.

    Thanks again BD!

  3. Maslow’s into one force of nature

    That reminds me…Man’s Search for Meaning was on my original (larger) list. 🙂

  4. Great list, thanks! Ordering these used from Amazon, the most expensive thing is the $3 shipping fees.
    If you’ve never read ‘Starting Strength, Basic Barbell Training,’ you should check it out. Probably fits more with your goals of maximum benefit for time/effort invested than Arnold’s bodybuilding book. Unless of course you really want to be an actual bodybuilder and not just a strong, fit individual.

  5. Starting Strength, Basic Barbell Training

    You know, I’ve heard a lot about that book and it’s on my list to read, but the problem is most of its exercises require a spotter. Any weightlifting that requires a spotter murders time management. From a time management standpoint, you should be able to lift weights wherever and whenever you want, even if no friends/spotters are available. That’s why I haven’t dived into that book.

  6. Wrongo. I do all five (sometimes 6) basic barbell lifts no spotter required. All you need is access to a power rack and you can set the pins at the right level for bench press and squat (even overhead press if you wanted I guess) and if you need, dump to the pins if you’re failing. Been training this way for two years now and I’ve never had a problem. Spotters are really only needed for max attempts and at our age ( I’m in my 40s too) there’s no reason to fool around much with max attempts unless you’re in competition.
    Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find that having other people hovering around your lift is too much damn distraction and you’ll be shooing away spotters.

  7. Interesting. I was thinking that sets to failure were the only way to go if you wanted to build muscle mass. Alright, you’ve convinced me.

  8. I promise at the very least you won’t feel that you’ve wasted $30. Yeah get the print version do not get the kindle–not big enough for all the illustrations.
    Read the whole thing cover to cover at least once or twice. After that you’ll know what you need to do and how to get it done

  9. Brian Tracy is awesome. I was invited to speak to a group of aspiring entrepreneurs during a period when I was constantly either reading his books or listening to his audio programs, and I knocked it out of the park. One person even asked if I was a professional speaker afterward!

    I wish I could take credit for the performance, but all I did was channel Brian Tracy. 🙂

    Thanks for posting the list. It helped me realize that I’ve gotten out of balance lately and am spending too much time working and not enough time developing myself.

  10. Think and Grow Rich is a good starter book, and everyone should read it, but it’s a little antiqued. Remember, this is not a “Best of” list. These were the 17 most useful books. If I made a “Best Books” list, or a list of the top 50 books, Think and Grow Rich would certainly be on it.

    Once you read a book like Maximum Achievement or Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You’ve Got, you’ll be shocked at much more useful those books are than Think and Grow Rich.

  11. BD, thank you for all this valuable info.
    I have put in requests for these books at my public library.
    Looking forward to getting them!

  12. BD, you might be interested in the Silva Mind Control method

    I’ve heard much about it but I’ve never read it. I’ll add to my to-read list.

    Rule By Secrecy

    Ah, way ahead of you there. I read Rule By Secrecy many years ago, took many notes from it, and it sits proudly on my bookshelf, even after donating most of my book collection to charity. He goes a little crazy in the final chapters, but most of the book is pure gold. One of the most educational and entertaining books I’ve ever read, by far.

  13. As you know Rule By Secrecy was published in ’99 but a lot of Marrs’ wilder claims can be corroborated (in terms of evidence, if not proof)on the internet. One needs only to make a brief image search for “crop circles” to see that there is advanced technology being used in our midst. You have symbolism in the forms of DNA patterns and what not and the actual crops involved are typically superheated and bent at 90 degree angles at the plant nodes and have to be replanted in order to regrow. One can reasonably deduce, IMO, that this phenomenon likely represents a hidden and large source of cost – if this isn’t the military’s tech, it’s someone else’s that we’re trying to catch up to.

  14. pretty good list..I remember you used to have a fiction list also. Back then I read Taipan, Noble House and Freedom in an unfree world. As an 18 year old reading those books in that order completely blew my fucking mind. That is the point when I think MY life started. SO, I’m pretty grateful to you for that.

    I use a mixer of simplified GTD and the power of less which gives me about 75 – 80% success rate for goals/projects. What do you use?

  15. pretty good list..I remember you used to have a fiction list also. Back then I read Taipan, Noble House and Freedom in an unfree world. As an 18 year old reading those books in that order completely blew my fucking mind. That is the point when I think MY life started. SO, I’m pretty grateful to you for that.

    I wish I was you. 🙂

    I use a mixer of simplified GTD and the power of less which gives me about 75 – 80% success rate for goals/projects. What do you use?

    I use several different systems I’ve developed myself that I teach to my time management clients, based on their personality types. They integrate GTD, Power of Less, 7 Habits, a few other less known books, and my own stuff. I discuss bits and pieces of them over that the Sublime Your Time blog.

    The Alpha Male book will go into greater detail.

  16. Interesting take on “Think & GR”.

    I have already read alot of good self-help books. What core concept(s) of “Maximum Achievement” are truly unique that one should read through?

  17. It’s sensible Think and Grow Rich was omitted, as it’s now an extremely dated book, that was written before the computer age, so that much of the stuff said in it is hard to apply to present day, as is Napol Hill’s dated idea of conserving your sex drive, since most guys will want to have sex and get laid, rather than put it off and focus on working.

    Like I doubt if Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates were conserving their sex drive, let alone have any luck getting laid, as they were getting wealthy. An attempt was made to update it via TAGR : The 21st-Century Edition Workbook, but I haven’t used it.

  18. Hi BD – in response to your statement “sets to failure”:

    I advice stronglifts5x5 (google it),
    more weight = more strength and 5 sets a 5 reps, 3 times a week. It works well with time management.

  19. What core concept(s) of “Maximum Achievement” are truly unique that one should read through?

    It’s the step-by-step way he lays out everything, in all areas. He takes very macro concepts and drills them down into very specific, yet very comprehensive steps. If you’ve already read 50 books on goal setting and things like that, there is nothing earth-shatteringly new (no book on goal setting is new), but it’s the best one out there in my opinion.

    It’s sensible Think and Grow Rich was omitted, as it’s now an extremely dated book, that was written before the computer age, so that much of the stuff said in it is hard to apply to present day,

    It’s still a valuable book and a worthwhile read, but I think it’s a good starter success book. If you really want to get into real-life application, there are better books.

    I advice stronglifts5x5 (google it), more weight = more strength and 5 sets a 5 reps, 3 times a week. It works well with time management.

    Yep, I know about Stronglifts as well. I won’t be doing that because when I start my heavier weight training a in a few months, I’m going to be doing it once every 4 days (which is twice per week), not three times per week. I may be able to modify the Stronglifts stuff to accommodate that kind of schedule though.

  20. I am ripping through ‘Max Achievement’ right now. This is an amazing step by step way to change, as you said. I always applied self-help material, but this is a blueprint for working hard to make changes for myself, going to the next level. Very hard, but worthwhile, as stated by Tracy.

    Great list!

  21. Yes, Maximum Achievement, like a lot of books on the list, are actually quite a bit of work. But the best books usually are.

  22. Think and Grow Rich is the first book I ever read in such a capacity, followed by the Art of the War, two of the historically classic novels in such a genre. Another good one is “48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene. 48 Laws of power was infinitely more influential for me, personally.

  23. Hi there BD. You said a few times that one of the best skills is sales and marketing skills. What book would you recommend for working on that area. To be more specific, it is for a music blog i do with stuff that i promote on it and would like to do the best job with it and get the most sales.

    Thank you.

  24. Start with Jay Abraham’s book in the above list. Anything written by Dan Kennedy is also fantastic.

  25. Hey BD. Following your list, I have read Maximum Achievment and Win Friends And Influence People. Both are amazing books that completely upgraded my life and I thank you for that sincerely.

    However, both if them strongly suggest to SMILE. What is your take on that? According to John Alexander, (author of How To Be An Alpha Male) another dude I highly respect, smiling to everyone is something that beta males do to show they aren’t a threat. In everyday life? In dating context, when approaching a new girl or when on first dates?

  26. However, both if them strongly suggest to SMILE.

    I’ve read some studies (none of which I have handy) that show that women are more comfortable during cold approach with a man if he’s smiling rather than if he isn’t.

    I smile A LOT on first dates, and I don’t seem to have problem. But again, I’m doing everything else right.

  27. Thanks for this list BD!

    I wonder if you have any recommendation for the best book about learning speed reading techniques.

  28. Hi Blackdragon,

    Have you ever gone through Shad Helmstetter’s Self-Talk audio recordings?

    What are your thoughts on those?

    Thanks!
    – Han

  29. Have you ever gone through Shad Helmstetter’s Self-Talk audio recordings?

    No, but I listen my own recordings instead (every morning), since they’re more applicable to my specific goals and situation.

  30. Hey BD,

    Are the books listed in the order in which they should be read? Just wondering, because it’s hard to choose one to start with, having so many options.

    Awesome book you wrote, by the way. I haven’t read as much as you, but so far, yours is the most useful on my list.

    Thanks!

  31. Are the books listed in the order in which they should be read?

    No. The order should be based on whatever you’re currently working on in your life at the moment. You should only be working on one or two areas at at time.

    Awesome book you wrote, by the way. I haven’t read as much as you, but so far, yours is the most useful on my list.

    Thank you!

     

  32. What about Tony Robbins Unlimited Power , Awaken the Giant within and Maxwell Maltz Psycho Cybernetics ?

  33. What about Tony Robbins Unlimited Power , Awaken the Giant within and Maxwell Maltz Psycho Cybernetics ? awaiting your reply Blackdragon

  34. Hey BD,

    I’ve read your book and love it, but I’m still having trouble clarifying my mission.  Which of the books listed (or another book not listed) do you think would be most helpful in this regard?

  35. Thanks BD, it’s next on my list then.  I liked that The Unchained Man deals with both relationships and personal development.  Have you written any other books that don’t have to do with women/relationships?

  36. No, just business white papers and articles. More books coming very soon. (And I mean very soon.)

  37. where do you attribute the remaining 40% of your success to? and do you think it is important to read the entire book or do you usually just use sparknotes, or skim.

  38. where do you attribute the remaining 40% of your success to?

    Hard work, persistence, very clear goals, and positive attitude.

    do you think it is important to read the entire book or do you usually just use sparknotes, or skim.

    You should never skim a book, but it’s perfectly fine to skip over sections that don’t apply to you and never will.

  39. What kind books should i read( fiction, non ficition, etc) to broaden my vocabulary, imagination , writing skills… I want to be a good story teller/ poet. Be able to articulate mt thoughts as well as you can.

  40. What kind books should i read( fiction, non ficition, etc) to broaden my vocabulary, imagination , writing skills… I want to be a good story teller/ poet.

    Well written fiction.

  41. You originally had 18 books on this list (from the url). What’s the 18th book?

    I dont have time to read the book so I’m just going the audiobook method during my work commute. But then I found a YT channel that gives a summary of the books you’ve listed. What do you think of his summary?

    7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

    How to Win Friends and Influence People:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LB5UyFZsyhk

    Richest Man in Babylon:

    Magic of Thinking Big:

    EDIT: How do I remove the YT thumbnail?….
    EDIT EDIT: Figured it out. Just post text afterwards. Haha.

  42. You originally had 18 books on this list (from the url).

    It was a typo.

    What do you think of his summary?

    I’ve seen some of those before. Not bad.

  43. I was searching for recommended books to read and this is a godsend. Thank you.

    I’m curious about your reading habit. I wonder how do you find time to read that much? 1 hour before bedtime every day then do the summary the day after?

    Also, do you think learning to speed read is mandatory for reading more and better retention? I haven’t read ”Breakthrough Rapid Reading” but I tried some speed reading technique in the past and all of them seem boring and don’t worth the effort.

  44. @Leon: I’m not an expert at all but speed reading seems pretty worthless to me; on the contrary, I get max benefits from the books I read by doing so slowly with tons of rereads and writing down the bullet points I find interesting. As a result, and even though everyone who knows me perceives me as “bookish”, my total number of reads is actually unimpressive (and climbing by barely 3-6 new books per year, though I intend to increase this when I free up my schedule a bit), but I know them very deeply and understand them much more than most people who have also read them.

    Then again, if you develop the ability to absorb a lot even as you read fast, then more power to you.

Leave a Reply

To leave a comment, enter your comment below. PLEASE make sure to read the commenting rules before commenting, since failure to follow these rules means your comment may be deleted. Also please do not use the username “Anonymous” or “Anon” or any variation thereof (makes things too confusing).

Off-topic comments are allowed, but Caleb will ignore those.

Caleb responds to comments in person, but he only does so on the two most current blog articles.

Related Posts

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search.