The 17 Most Useful Books I Have Ever Read
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.)
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
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
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
This 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
This 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
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
This 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
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.
by Brian Tracy
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
Getting Things Done
by David Allen
If 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
This 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
This 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
This 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
This 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.