When you think about it, a book is a truly magical thing.
For the cost of a lunch, you can have an experience that can change your life. And that experience can be made even more profound when the book is a gift, inscribed with a short note that says: “I loved this book and I wanted to share it with you.” Maybe this holiday season you’ll give yourself or another special person that experience.
So here, for all of you, are 25 books that made me better, smarter, or happier in some way.
New approaches to basic skills
These 5 books helped me re-think how I write, present, and develop relationships. With their help – and practice, practice, practice – I’ve become much better at these fundamental skills.
- On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
- Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them
- Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery
- Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences
- Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time
Insights into my health
These books changed how I think about my body. One made me mindful of what I was eating (which helped me lose weight, lower my cholesterol, and stop eating meat, something I never imagined I’d do). The other made me re-think what my old age could be like and inspired me to exercise regularly.
- Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
- Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy – Until You’re 80 and Beyond
Having a better understanding of how your mind works is perhaps the most empowering knowledge you can have. These books explained why I think the way I do and made it possible for me to control my thoughts rather than have them control me.
- Thinking Fast & Slow
- Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long
- Self-Esteem: A Proven Program of Cognitive Techniques for Assessing, Improving, and Maintaining Your Self-Esteem
- Be Free Where You Are
- A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose
How and why individuals change
These books helped me understand what generally motivates people (including me) and how to change my habits. They also empowered me to actively shape my future instead of watching it unfold.
- Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
- Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
- The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It
- Steering by Starlight: The Science and Magic of Finding Your Destiny
- Are You Ready to Succeed? Unconventional Strategies to Achieving Personal Mastery in Business and Life
Driving larger-scale changes
These are good books whether you’re trying to change your firm, change your local community, or change the world. They provided me with approaches, frameworks, and heroic examples that inspired me and made me more effective.
- The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
- The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right
- Influencer: The Power to Change Anything
- The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways To Use Social Media to Drive Social Change
- Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World
- The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World
- Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America
Finally, this might be my favorite book on the list. I’d always thought of myself as a positive person but this book freed me to be more joyful and more open to the wonders in other people.
The first chapter of “The Art of Possibility” opens with this short story:
“A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a region of Africa to study the prospects for expanding business. One sends back a telegram saying:
SITUATION HOPELESS STOP NO ONE WEARS SHOES
The other writes back triumphantly,
GLORIOUS BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY STOP THEY HAVE NO SHOES”
That’s what all these books have done for me – transforming me from the first salesperson to the second. They’ve opened my mind to possibilities for my relationships, my career, and my life that I hadn’t thought possible or simply never imagined.
Books are little miracles. You can read these 25 book and imagine that you can do anything.
Because you can.