Reading List: Books That Help You To Build A Better Life And Business

knowledge is freedom

I strongly believe that reading, and educating yourself, is the answer to a better life. And ultimately, freedom. Nelson Mandela said it best:

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Out of the hundreds of books I’ve read in my lifetime, I have a small number of favorite books. 

On this page you will find the BEST books that I’ve read. What is a good book? To me, a good book is a useful book. Because knowledge without purpose is useless.

I’ve arranged the books in 9 different categories.

  1. Personal Development
  2. Health
  3. Entrepreneurship & Business
  4. Writing
  5. Philosophy
  6. Finance
  7. Creativity
  8. Biographies
  9. Fiction

1. Personal Development

  • Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker — The best self-help piece that is ever written. It’s actually an article that appeared in the Harvard Business Review in 1999. And in 2008, it was published as a paperback. A must-read for everyone.
  • How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie — An all time classic when it comes to personal development. This book is an essential read for everyone—particularly for people getting out of college. Carnegie writes about how you can increase your popularity, persuade people, make friends, enable you to win new clients and customers, become a better speaker and boost enthusiasm among your colleagues.
  • The Greatest Salesman In The World by Og Mandino — While the title sounds like a sales book, The Greatest Salesman In The World is more a philosophy book. It is a book that also shows you how to create a habit. Og Mandino writes that you have to reread every scroll, three times a day, for a month. That will take you ten months to complete this book.
  • Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers — Fear is something that holds us back on a daily basis. And Susan Jeffer’s book gives you practical tips on how you can manage fear. I say ‘manage’ because fear is something that will never go away. And that’s why I like to read this book every year.


2. Health

  • Bigger, Leaner, Stronger by Michael Matthews — The only book you need for improving your fitness. Matthews has written a complete book that focusses on simplicity. We all hate complicated fitness and eating regiments. Bigger, Leaner, Stronger is based on a few simple methods and destroys many popular fitness myths.
  • Spark by John Ratey — Everyone knows that exercise is good for our health. However, it can also transform your mind. This book is based on scientific research and teaches us how to boost brain cells, protect ourselves against mental illness and dementia, and ensure success in exams and the workplace. A great read that inspires us to live an active lifestyle.


3. Entrepreneurship & Business

  • The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss — The modern entrepreneur’s bible. This book changed my perspective on doing business. Tim Ferriss has influenced thousands of people over the world who have gone to start companies themselves. Ferriss is also an angel investor or an advisor to Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, and Uber, and other tech companies. This is a must read for anyone who desires financial freedom.
  • Zero To One by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters — Peter Thiel is mostly known as the co-founder of PayPal and the first outside investor to Facebook. Zero To One is a book that discusses the motives behind entrepreneurship. It covers essential topics such as history, human behavior, competition, creativity, and how new tech companies change the world. Zero To One is a necessary read for every entrepreneur or anyone who is interested in learning about the rise of startups.
  • Purple Cow by Seth Godin — This is one of the best books on marketing and Seth Godin is considered as one of the best marketing minds in the world. The book’s message is simple: if you want to stand out from the crowd, you have to be remarkable. Purple Cow is a must-read for every business owner and marketer. I also encourage you to read Godin’s personal blog. He posts a thought-provoking article every single day. Now, that is remarkable.
  • Contagious by Jonah Berger — When you want to have massive marketing success with a limited budget, read Contagious by Jonah Berger. It is an excellent book with a thorough analysis of viral campaigns, and why they catch on. Jonah Berger is a Marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and uses scientific research to back up his findings. His writing style, however, is far from academic and very enjoyable.


4. Writing

  • The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White — And every job has some form of written communication. So you don’t want to write in a way that people don’t understand. That’s why The Elements of Style is such an important book. Especially now when most communication is written. And this book teaches you how to think and write clearly—so that people understand you. A valuable skill. The Elements of Style is a must-read for everyone, not only journalists or writers.
  • On Writing by Stephen King — Stephen King is one hell of a thinker and writer. And the man churns out books like it’s nothing. Only that fact makes you want to read more about how his mind works. If you write, and you haven’t read On Writing, it’s time to stop everything you do and get that book.
  • The Writers Journey by Christopher Vogler — The Writers Journey is the most in-depth book on this list. It’s also the most comprehensive book I’ve read on storytelling. It’s also a very practical book. It’s more like a textbook that you want to take notes on. Vogler, a story consultant for major Hollywood film companies, talks about the relationship between mythology and storytelling in this book.
  • Ernest Hemingway on Writing by Larry W. Phillips — There’s no point in denying it; Hemingway is one of the best writers in modern history. And this little book is a collection of letters he sent to his editor, friends, and other authors. This book is not only packed with writing advice. It also shows Hemingway’s character. He was a funny guy who took satisfaction in what he did.


5. Philosophy

  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius — Marcus Aurelius (emperor of Rome A.D. 161-180) is one of the three famous modern Stoics, the two others are Seneca and Epictetus. As the ruler of the largest empire of the world, Aurelius had great responsibility and power. He wrote Meditations for his personal use. It consists of lessons he learned and notes he made to himself about living and dealing with people. 
  • Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking by William James — I love the title of this collection of lectures that James gave at Lowell Institute and Columbia University in the early 1900s. The man says it how he sees it. Pragmatism is not really a philosophy in the traditional sense. It’s merely a way of thinking. Pragmatists are completely neutral. They never believe in something just because other people believe it. No, a pragmatist only believes in what is practical. In other words: What works.
  • A Manual For Living by Epictetus — A short book. A Manual For Living is exactly what the title says it is. This book also gives you a larger perspective on humanity. People have always had problems with self-confidence, family, work, other people, etc. In a way, nothing has changed. And that’s pretty comforting.
  • On The Shortness Of Life by Seneca — In the Shortness Of Life, Seneca writes about the art of living. This short book is highly recommended for everyone. Seneca teaches us that life is short and that we have to live our life to the fullest.
  • The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday — Inspired by Marcus Aurelius’ Mediations, Ryan Holiday wrote an excellent book about how we can turn our adversity into advantage. The book is full of stories about how icons of history dealt with their obstacles.


6. Finance

  • Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki — Unfortunately, we do not learn how to deal with money at school. Rich Dad, Poor Dad is required reading for anyone who starts making money. Making money is one thing, keeping it and growing it something else. This book teaches us financial literacy.
  • The Richest Man In Babylon by George S. Clason — This book is full of cliches. But it’s still good to read it. Why? We’re often so stupid when it comes to personal finance, that we have to remind ourselves how easy it actually is.


7. Creativity

  • The War Of Art by Steven Pressfield — Being creative requires discipline. Steven Pressfield argues that ‘resistance’ stands in the way of people who want to create something in life. The War Of Art is excellent reading for writers, entrepreneurs, actors, dancers, painters, photographers, filmmakers, and other creative people.
  • The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin — The world has changed, and conformity no longer leads to security. By adopting an artistic attitude, we can add value to other people’s life. We have to be problem solvers, and conformity does not solve problems. Creative thinking does.


8. Biographies

  • The Story of My Life by Helen Keller — What was that? Are you complaining about your job? Or how hard it is to take care of your family? I find it fascinating how soft we all are, especially if you compare our struggles to what Helen Keller experienced. She is one of my biggest heroes. A remarkable person who made the most out of life despite being deaf and blind since she was 19 months old. Her autobiography is well worth a read.
  • Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl — Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist before the war. His ability to observe the behavior of his fellow prisoners in Auschwitz resulted in Man’s Search For Meaning. This unique book describes how we choose our attitude in any given set of circumstances. Even during the horrible conditions of a concentration camp, humans can endure the suffering and find meaning in living because of inner decisions.
  • Total Recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger — Arnold Schwarzenegger’s story is remarkable. A boy from a small town in Austria turned into a bodybuilding champion. A bodybuilder turned into one of the biggest Hollywood stars in history. An actor turned into Governor. This unique story is worth reading.


9. Fiction

  •  Post Office by Charles Bukowski — Bukowski is one of my main influences. Intellectualists (who take themselves way too seriously), hate Bukowski. They say he was a bad writer. I don’t care.His books are the funniest and most entertaining things that have ever been written. And Post Office is my favorite. I crack up every time I read it. If you haven’t read Bukowski, read his books in chronological order.
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway — His first novel. And it’s my favorite Hemingway book. It’s set in post-WWI Paris and Pamplona. Hemingway’s style is simple and easy to read. That’s the way I like it. It makes the characters and story stand out. Not the writing.
  • Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk — I’ve read this book more than once. It’s well written. The story is great. And it makes you think. To me, the perfect ingredients of a good book.


Win Your Inner Battles

It’s a little weird to mention yourself on a book list. But it’s also weird to leave your book off your list because I think it’s a good book. In my first book, Win Your Inner Battles, I write about how I conquered fear and self-doubt and started living with a purpose. One of the main things I’ve learned about life is that before you conquer the external world, you have to master the inner world of your mind.


      1. I read Fight Club and then watched the movie this weekend. What is the takeaway here? You said in your Article on Medium that it would change my life. Not getting it, although glad I read the book, just for the interesting experience of it.

  1. Great suggestion for efficient reading — many thanks! It’s also a super starter list for individual growth. You probably have also gone through some of these worthies: Dyer, The Power of Intention; Tolle, A New Earth; Moorjani, Dying to Be Me; Hawkins, Power vs Force; Johnson, Who Moved My Cheese; Jim Rohn, several books; Singer, The Untethered Soul; Grout, E-Squared;

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