Reading List: Best Life-Changing Books I’ve Read

best books - reading list by Darius Foroux

Are you looking for good books to read? I’m sharing my reading list with the best books I’ve read. 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—selected from the 600+ I’ve read until now. These books have changed my life. And every week, I read two new books. I update this list regularly.

I’ve arranged the books in 11 different categories:

  1. General Personal Development
  2. Decision Making
  3. Health & Fitness
  4. Entrepreneurship & Business
  5. Writing
  6. Philosophy
  7. Personal Finance
  8. Creativity
  9. Biographies
  10. Productivity
  11. Fiction

1. Best General Personal Development Books

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.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck — Life is about solving problems and finding solutions. If you always look at the risks and consequences of everything, you might play it safe, but you’ll also never grow. Carol Dweck’s book is one of my favorite books about developing the mindset you need to succeed in life.

HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Managing Yourself — The book’s description starts with, “The path to your professional success starts with a critical look in the mirror.” I can’t agree more. This collection does not disappoint. Every piece will make you think more about your mission, vision, strengths, weaknesses, and how you can advance your career.

Laws Of Human Nature by Robert Greene — With his latest book, Robert Greene, shows that living a successful life is not only about power and status. How well we are at dealing with people is one of the most important predictors of career success. Since everything we do relies on others, we must get better at understanding others. And what’s the best way to do that? By understanding yourself. And that’s what Laws Of Human Nature helps you with. Great book for improving your self-knowledge.

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2. Best Decision Making Books

Seeking Wisdom by Peter Bevelin — This is probably the best summary I’ve read on practical and scientific thinking. Bevelin is an excellent writer and he captures the wisdom from Charlie Munger in a perfect way. The book respects the reader and doesn’t show off. It’s a book that I already referred to several times after reading it. And together with the Jordan Peterson and Pierre Hadot books, I plan to re-read these books going forward.

Just like the title of Bevelin’s book, to me, life is about seeking wisdom. It’s the only pursuit that we can perform as long as our brain works. You can get physically impaired, lose your money, friends, status, but you can never lose your thirst for knowledge.

Incerto by Nassim Nicholas Taleb — Technically, this is a series that consists of five books. Until 2018, I had never read Taleb. Several of my friends are big fans of his work. And when his latest book in the series, Skin In The Game, came out this year, I felt compelled to read it. In his latest book, he writes about how most decision makers have nothing to lose when things go wrong. Having skin in the game will change everything. After all, it’s easy to make a decision or give advice when you have nothing to lose.

I love his message and style. Taleb is someone who doesn’t care what certain people think of him. And he’s not afraid to make bold statements. He’s not only a good writer but the contents of his books are also excellent. After I read Skin In The Game, I decided to read all his books. That took me about a month and I’m glad I did. If you haven’t read any of his books, check out which one appeals to you the most. You can read them in any order you want.

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3. Best Health & Fitness Books

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.

The Story Of The Human Body by Daniel Lieberman — Books by academics are usually not my favorite. But this book is easy to read. And, it’s good to know more about that body of yours.

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4. Best Entrepreneurship & Business Books

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 across 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.

The Boron Letters by Gary Halbert — Gary Halbert was a successful copywriter. And today, he’s still a legend in the marketing world. But this collection of letters goes beyond marketing. Halbert uses his copywriting skills to teach his son about direct response marketing, life, health, and being successful. He wrote these letters while he was serving time in a federal prison.

Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath — The all-time classic book on persuasion is Influence by Robert Cialdini. I highly recommend reading that book. However, that book is very theoretic and broad. If you specifically want to read more about how you can persuade others of your ideas, Made to Stick is great. Telling persuasive stories is one of your key responsibilities as an entrepreneur.

Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne — I have to confess that I’ve been familiar with the concept of ‘blue oceans’ and ‘red oceans’ in the marketing world for a few years. However, I haven’t been applying it as much as I should. Too often, we try to compete with other businesses in red oceans. Why do we do it? Why do we always try to be better and not different? Blue Ocean Strategy provides valuable answers that help you create unique products that serve new markets.

Anything You Want by Derek Sivers — Almost all entrepreneurs I know are lazy. I’m the biggest example of that. Why do you think I’m so big on productivity? I don’t want to waste my time on unnecessary things. Even though reading is one of the most necessary things to me as an entrepreneur, I understand that you might not have time to read all the books on my reading list. Maybe you have a 9–5 job, run multiple businesses or have a house full of kids. These are all legitimate reasons for lack of time.

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5. Best Writing Books

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.

Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday — I recently interviewed Ryan about this book on my podcast. In the book, he gives you a framework for creating a product/service that sells for decades. To me, that’s the essence of marketing. In Perennial Seller, Ryan describes key marketing lessons he learned from successful authors and entrepreneurs. Also, he talks from experience. Ryan has written five best-selling books and helped market a bunch of other best sellers for other writers.

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6. Best Philosophy Books

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.

Become What You Are by Alan Watts — A collection of 20 essays by Alan Watts. His work was greatly inspired by Zen. And I think that Zen is a great source of internal knowledge. I’ve tried reading different things about Zen. Watt’s writing is clear, practical, and beautiful. That makes it easier to read and think about. When you apply all the advice in this book, you’ll learn more about yourself and others.

Notes To Myself by Hugh Prather — This book was recommended to me last year by a reader. Prather was a minister. When I first learned about that, I didn’t think I could relate to the book. But I gave it a try, and I really enjoyed it. Notes To Myself is a good example of the fact that people are all the same internally. You might be from Japan, Chile, Portugal, Canada, Vietnam — you name it. At the end of the day, we face the same internal struggles.

12 Rules For Life by Jordan B. Peterson — Like almost everyone who is interested in personal development, I have read Jordan Peterson’s popular book. I share many of his beliefs. And like he says, there’s nothing new about taking responsibility for your life. However, it is NEW to give people tough love — which is exactly what this book does. Read it — regardless of your views. It will make you a more stable and reliable person.

Philosophy As a Way of Life by Pierre Hadot — Hadot was one of the best historians of philosophy in recent history. I’ve been reading philosophy since I was 16 and somehow believed that writing ABOUT philosophy is not the same thing. But Hadot proves that writing about philosophy is just as, or even better, as the real thing. I read Philosophy As a Way of Life this year and it made me understand the concepts of Socrates, Plato, Stoicism, Epicureans, and Cynicism a lot better.

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7. Best Personal Finance Books

The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham — The book that inspired Warren Buffett to start investing. We all know how that turned out. This book is not only about the stock market. It provides an investing philosophy. You can apply the strategies of this book to life, business, money, and your career.

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.

Your Money Or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez—What I enjoyed most about this book is that it teaches you to transform your relationship with money. This will change your life. Money is something you trade your life energy for. Think about it. You work to earn money. Your Money Or Your Life starts out strategically and gets more practical towards the end.

The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by Jack Bogle — The reason I stopped investing in individual stocks is Jack Bogle. This man is a true hero. He founded Vanguard and created index funds. Unlike everyone else in finance, he’s not worth billions. Why? He created financial products for the people.

The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins — The proposed plan in this book comes close to my personal financial strategy. Collins is a practical man. And The Simple Path to Wealth is the most practical book I’ve read on personal finance. He recommends saving 50% of your income. And that’s what I believe in too. The more you save early in your career, the better.

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8. Best Creativity Books

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.

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi — Your ability to enjoy your work not only determines work satisfaction, but it also impacts how good you become at something. Flow is one of those books I think about every day. Getting in a flow state is something that actually changes the way you work and experience life.

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9. Best 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.

Grinding It Out by Ray Kroc — Do you feel bad that you haven’t caught your big break yet? If so, read this book. You’ll feel different about it. Ray Kroc, who turned McDonald’s into a billion-dollar business, had to wait until his fifties to find some form of success. It’s not only an inspirational story.

Becoming Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli — Steve Jobs doesn’t need an introduction. The man’s life was very fascinating. And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this biography that mostly focused on Steve’s career, vision, and the impact he made on the world.

Stay Hungry by Sebastian Maniscalco — I love stand-up comedy, but I had never heard of Sebastian until recently. When I saw his Netflix comedy special and read about his story, he instantly became one of my favorite comedians. He’s not only funny, but he’s also humble, down to earth, and a hard worker. In Stay Hungry, he shares his life story in a funny way. So if you want to quit your career after only a year, please read Sebastian’s story.

The Snowball by Alice Schroeder — Contrary to what you might think, this book is not only about investing. The Snowball goes deep on different topics like Buffett’s relationships with the most important people in his life, the way he views the world, and how he conducts business. Every professional can learn from his life story. And Alice Schroeder did a great job telling it.

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10. Best Productivity Books

The funny thing about my reading list is that I only mention four productivity books. That’s because productivity is something you do, not something you read. On my blog, I always focus on sharing techniques you can immediately apply to your life. Here are the most practical productivity books I’ve read:

The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker — It’s no secret I’m a fan of Drucker. This book provides a practical perspective on productivity that I think every knowledge worker should read. The most important lessons I’ve learned about work is this: It’s not about what you do, it’s about the results you get. That’s the difference between efficiency and effectiveness. Sending 100 emails per hour might be very efficient use of your time. But what results does it bring you? That’s what matters the most.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown — Productivity is about doing the right things. And this book helps you to focus better on what matters to you, personally. Once you know what you’re after, it’s easier to get there.

The Power Of Habit by Charles Duhigg — Forming new habits is a practical skill that immediately impacts the quality of your life. Want to lose weight? Be more productive? Exercise regularly? Build successful companies? One thing is sure: Without habits, those things will be extremely difficult to pull off.

Daily Rituals by Mason Currey — A unique insight into the habits and rituals of the world’s most renown figures. You’ll be surprised how simple their lives were.

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11. Best Fiction Books

My reading list wouldn’t be complete without my favorite fiction books. Contrary to what a lot of personal development authors believe, I think you can learn a lot from fiction. Here are my favorites:

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.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Simple — This book was recommended to me by a reader. It’s not something I would stumble upon myself. But I’m glad I read this book. Where’d You Go, Bernadette is an entertaining and creative novel about weirdoes in Seattle. Maria Semple wrote for Arrested Development (one of my favorite tv shows). And that’s something you can tell by her style. ‘Dudes’ probably call this chick lit. But grow up man, and read this shit.

Naïve. Super by Erlend Loe — Another funny and entertaining book. Loe is from Norway, and I like his minimal style. It’s a story about a young kid who’s searching for meaning in life. Way better than all the corny self-help parables like The Alchemist. This is book down to earth and fun to read.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky — Let’s get a little serious. This book is an examination of human suffering. If this book doesn’t change the way you think about people, nothing will. And if you think it’s a lengthy and hard to read novel, you’re wrong. It’s actually a very light read. Just don’t get stuck on all the characters and continue reading. It will make sense along the way.

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk — The only very familiar book on this list. I’ve referred to this book more often and I still enjoy it after all these years. It never gets old. And if you’ve never read it, drop whatever you’re doing and get this book. You’ll change after reading it.

Ask The Dust by John Fante — My favorite writer, Charles Bukowski, was influenced by Fante. In Ask The Dust, you read the story of Arturo Bandini, a struggling writer in 1930s Los Angeles. It’s a story about struggle and perseverance. It’s both depressing and feel-good at the same time. Just like life.

Death With Interruptions by Jose Saramago — We all die, right? But what if that wasn’t the case? A lot of people are afraid of death, but in this novel, people don’t have to be afraid anymore. Because on the first day of the new year, no one dies. Death basically gives up her job (yes, death is a her in this book). What happens next? Read the book. It’s really good.

Cathedral by Raymond Carver — Because Raymond Carver wrote short stories, he’s never included in any ‘top novels’ lists. And that’s a shame. Most people have heard about his classic What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. But Cathedral makes you think more. My favorite Carver collection because it’s about exploring everyday moments in human life.

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It’s a little weird to mention yourself on a book list. But it’s also weird to leave your books off your list. My readers really enjoyed my books. I hope you will too.

Win Your Inner Battles (2016) Learn how to conquer your fear.

THINK STRAIGHT (2017) Learn how to control your mind.

Do It Today (2018) A collection of my best articles on productivity and overcoming procrastination.

What It Takes To Be Free (2019) A book about personal freedom.

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67 comments

      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;

  2. Another book worth considering, IMHO, is Hugh Prather’s “Notes On How To Live In The World And Still Be Happy”,
    Alladin Factor has insights as well.
    All of these books have value, I think it’s an excellent list…
    Thanks, Darius!

  3. Post Office was the first Bukowski book I read and I was hooked. Thanks for sharing this list. I’ll have to give the rest of these a shot.

  4. Have you read “The subtle art of not giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson? I’d love to know your thoughts on it!

  5. Frankel’s book is a must read. His life experiences would kill most people. Two books by John Molloy should also be read – one on dressing for success (people judge you based upon appearance) and the other on managing one’s self – making yourself understood.

  6. Because I am extremely busy with a flow of creative projects in music and the visual arts, I do not, at the present time,have the ability to spend time learning from the wonderful literature you shared, but I am inserting the list into my folder of valuable resources. Thank you so very much, Darius.

  7. Thanks for keeping this thread going. Just discovered your blog; liking it. Here’s a book that combines humor and deep wisdom. Written by Ajahn Brahm, an Australian-British man who majored in theoretical physics at Cambridge and is now the abbot of a Thai monastery. Fascinating background. Tells real groaners. Name of the book is “Who ordered this truckload of dung?”

  8. I just discovered your website, which looks interesting, but if you recommend fewer than 5 titles by women then perhaps you might benefit from diversifying your reading list. What about trying: Whitney Johnson, Dorie Clark, Laura Vanderkam, Pamela Slim, Elizabeth Gilbert, Brene Brown, Gretchen Rubin, Julia Cameron, Anne Lamott, Jenny Blake, Tara Mohr, and many, many more.

  9. Hi Darius , your posts are really good to read..Your way of explaining about life values and stuff are very simple and easy to understand by even a person with a moderate language knowledge. Keep It Up..Looking forward for

  10. Darius,i don’t know how i stumbled to your website but one thing is for sure,you are so passionately consumed with making the people of the earth better.Whenever i want to read anything meaningful ,my solace is always here.I want to read all the books you have advised all at once,how is that possible?

  11. A great list of books Darius. I have read many from the list like Peter Drucker’s , HBR and Charles Duhigg.
    But I am bit disappointed not to see Books by Herman Hesse, Thich Nhat Hanh, Jim Collins and many others not making it to the list. While I appreciate that no list can satisfy everyone’s interest but the above omissions are too obvious.

  12. Thanks for the list. A little typo under Finance & Money “The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by Jack Bogle” — It’s John Bogle and not Jack Bogle. I thought I got the wrong book when I clicked on the linked from your website and it showed John Bogle. Thanks

  13. Thanks for the suggestions Darius..I’ll check the books and try to pick up atleast one among every genre. And, read it.. Quite useful Info..KUDOS..!!!

  14. Great list! Especially the subdivision into categories is great. And that not too many books per category are listed. Directly created a bookmark. Thanks for that.

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