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23 Excellent Books You Should Read

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23 excellent books you should read“How can you read so much?”

“Where do you find the time to read?”

“Reading books on your free time? Why do that — the course literature is enough.”

“Maybe you should spend more of your time studying instead of reading?”

–What a joke.

People seem to think that the university has a monopoly on education. They think they’ll learn everything they need in school. Is this true?

I’d say. . . No.

I’d say that public education is way too narrow, too specialized.

You want to get a real education?

Then you have to read.

A photo posted by LudvigSGM (@ludvigsunstrom) on

 

And real education means self-education. You have to take matters into your own hands. No one will “give you” education. Not even the university.

Let me tell you. . .

In a few months I’ll be graduating from university and getting my degree. Just like many other people. Will this make my degree less valuable? Should I be worried about the competition?

–I’m not.

But I can understand why many other people think like that. And they should. . . .because they don’t have any real knowledge.

You know, a degree is just a piece of paper. Just because someone hands you a piece of paper doesn’t automatically mean that you’re smart or that you can produce value. Nor does it entitle you to a high wage.

But if you read lots of good books, learn useful things and know how to use these things in the right context–then you’re onto something. (Keeping a book summary book is a great way for doing this.)


Note: If you’re reading this because you’re looking for book recommendations, other than the ones in this article, be sure to check out these two:


My peers read maybe 1-10 popular books per year to keep up with the trends. They read silly detective stories. Compare that to a person who reads 30-100 serious books per year, and applies what he learns.

These two people are NOT comparable in terms of intelligence and competence.

When you become a regular reader of quality books you gain knowledge. You learn to combine, synthesize and apply ideas from different disciplines in a way that normal people cannot do. This is an acquired skill and it takes practice to acquire it.

Normal people, who only read the books they’re given in school, rarely develop this skill. Their education is lacking.

What is “real” education?

Education is meant to provide confidence, competence, and freedom. Does school provide that? I don’t think so.

In school you have a limited control over what you learn. You’re “forced” to learn outdated theory and politically correct bullshit, like corporate social responsibility — CSR.  In real life you’re free to learn whatever you choose.

Any serious person with drive, intelligence, and ambition knows this. And so he eventually realizes that there are better places to invest his time.

In 2013 I read 80+ books. I think I’ll read about 55-60 books in 2014, since it looks like I’ll be much more busy with other things this year. I ended up reading just over 80 books in 2014 as well.

I take reading very seriously–and so should you.

Never skimp on your self-education. You should allocate a certain amount of time each day (at the very minimum 30 minutes) to reading and learning new things.

Few people become rich or successful without being voracious readers. The only exception that comes to mind is Rick Ross (not the rapper). He became a multimillionaire without knowing how to read. But he was a big time drug dealer. And you’re probably not.

Anyhow, Rick Ross actually did learn to read eventually, when he was put in jail and had to read law books to get himself out of there.

What books should you read?

Here’s a list of 23 books that I’ve read. And they were excellent. So I recommend you read them too.

Biographies

Ceasar colossusCaesar: Life of a Colossus — Adrian Goldsworthy

Very detailed depiction of Caesar’s entire life as well as other important events in the Roman Empire. You’ll learn much about the history of Rome; how they waged war, and how the political system worked.

 

Memoirs of NapoleonMemoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte — Louis Bourrienne

To my knowledge, this is the longest and most accurate biography on Napoleon Bonaparte’s life. You may consider reading an easier and “more entertaining” book on Napoleon before reading this one, to get more associations in your head. (If you already have some associations it becomes easier, and more fun, to keep building on that. It’s a smart learning hack.)

You can get the books for free on Project Gutenberg if you care to read 1200+ pages on your computer screen.

 

Muhammad AliMuhammad Ali : The Greatest

Ali was one hell of a guy.

What I like most about this book is that it gives such a clear peek into Ali’s work ethic and mindset.

There’s was no coincidence that he became as successful as he was. He outworked every other boxer. He outpromoted every other boxer. He outentertained every other boxer.

 

Nikola TeslaThe Strange Life of Nikola Tesla: Autobiography

46 pages of awesomeness. The fact that Tesla wrote down his life story in just 46 pages says a lot about his personality. Tesla was probably the closest thing to a superhuman genius this world has ever seen. His childhood was very strange.

You can get the PDF for free here.

 

arnoldArnold Schwarzenegger — Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story.

I loved reading this book. Arnold is so much smarter than he is given credit for.

It was especially interesting to learn about his humble beginnings, his raw ambition, and his inability to compromise on goals. His methods for marketing, networking and self-discipline are also useful to learn about.

 

jordan belfortThe Wolf of Wall  Street — Jordan Belfort

This is a well-written and entertaining book. It contains a number of practical lessons on business, management, salesmanship and charisma if you read between the lines.

If you’re not very interested in the book, but would like to know some of these lessons, you can read my popular article on Addicted2Success.

 

HitlerThe Young Hitler I Knew — August Kubizek

I think Hitler is one of the most interesting people in history. There are many biographies on Hitler’s life. But there are very few books on his early life.

This book is said to be the most accurate portrait of the young Hitler. Unfortunately it doesn’t cover the darkest and most crucial period of his life from 1908-1914 . That epoch will remain a mystery.

Download the book free on your computer here.

 

Philosophy

Atlas ShruggedAtlas Shrugged — Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand wrote Atlas Shrugged & The Fountainhead for the purpose of portraying the ideal man. She succeeded. Read the book!

Ayn Rand depicts the boring and empty lives that most people lead; lives lacking in integrity and self-respect, which ultimately leads them to seek external validation to make up for their inner emptiness.

 

FountainheadThe Fountainhead — Ayn Rand

Be selfish for “man’s ego is the fountainhead of all progress.”

This book is a lot like Atlas Shrugged — only better. It’s more concise (700 pages vs 1200 pages) and entertaining. In Atlas, the story suffers from Rand’s lengthy philosophical outbursts, and the philosophy sometimes suffers from her lengthy descriptions of the environment. In Fountainhead there isn’t much of that.

The main reason to read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged is because these books will strengthen the mental image about who you want to become and the life you want to lead.

 

Victor franklMan’s Search for Meaning — Victor Frankl

Victor Frankl is a Jewish survivor of the Nazi concentration camps. But he’s also a smart psychologist and a writer.

In this book he thoroughly analyzes what made the terrible circumstances of concentration camps endurable to some prisoners — such as himself — but unendurable to most others.

What gives life meaning in such a situation? Why do some people break down while others stay (somewhat) stable under gruesome conditions?

Frankl has written more books, but they suck. This one is good. It’ll teach you much about the power of visualization and mental rehearsal.

 

MontaigneComplete Essays of Michele de Montaigne

This is the best collection of philosophical essays I have ever read. Much better than Emerson’s or Bacon’s

Have you heard the Shakespearean quote, “Nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so” ? Shakespeare stole that from Montaigne, who said that “things are not bad in themselves, but our cowardice makes them so.”

Montaigne is also the guy who created the French word essay. Essay = to test your thoughts on a topic. He is also one of my role models when it comes to practicing metacognition and self-awareness.

Book 3 is the best one, in my opinion.

 

Jed McKennaSpiritual Enlightenment: The Damndest Thing — Jed Mckenna

The first book of a trilogy about enlightenment.

If you think enlightenment means to experience a state of constant bliss, and that it is easily attained, think again…

Jed McKenna is a great wrter. His sense of simplicity, taken to the maximum, permeates through all the books. Even the design and text.

If you like this book, you will also like the other two books in the trilogy. And the follow-up book, Jed Mckenna’s Theory of Everything: The Enlightened Perspective. They’re all written in the same characteristic way.

 

Marcus AureliusMeditations — Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius was the Roman philosopher king. Meditations was one of his private journals, in which he carried on a philosophical dialogue with himself to attain accurate thinking and make wiser decisions.

This is the single best piece of stoic literature. You don’t need to read Epictetus, Seneca, Zeno, and so on (unless you want to). This book will give you 80 % of the content you’re looking for if you’re interested in Stoicism.

I’ve listened to the audio book about 20 times for repetition’s sake.

The most important thing I got from it is to always ask myself:

“Is this one of the necessary things?”

You can get the PDF for free here.

 

Self-Development

Napoleon hillThe Law of Success in Sixteen Lessons — Napoleon Hill

The only book you need to read from Napoleon Hill, and really, traditional self-development. Every other book in the genre is merely a knock-off. Save yourself some time and read this book thoroughly instead.

Don’t read Think and Grow Rich or Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude. Read the original book. Always try to get as close to the source as possible, instead of settling for dumbed-down versions of the same material.

 

flowFlow — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Don’t worry, you don’t need to know how to pronounce his last name to read the book.

This is a good book in which you’ll learn the psychology of how to get yourself into flow — the state in which you do optimal work, feel awesome and do little conscious thinking.

You’ll also learn a lot of cool and useful trivia. I highly recommend you read this book. I read it a few years ago after one of the richest men in Sweden (now dead) told me to read it. He told me it was the most important book he had ever read.

 

david j schwartzThe Magic of Thinking Big — David J Schwartz

Probably my second favorite traditional self-development book. Contains a lot of concrete and practical advice that you can immediately implement.  It also contains plenty of ways for you to think more efficiently when faced with certain challenging situations.

 

steve siebold177 Mental Toughness Secrets of the World Class — Steven Siebold

This book has a cheesy cover, but it’s short and easy to read. You can read it in one or two sittings.

It’s about the 177 differences between champions and average people.

If you aren’t a big reader, and if you aren’t already “super-knowledgeable” about self-development, I would recommend that you begin by reading this book because it’s very easy to read and it gives a great overview.

 

war of artThe War of Art — Steven Pressfield

Great book on developing a stronger work ethic. Teaches you to disregard any illusions of easy success. Just focus on doing the work, and it’ll turn out well eventually. Beat the resistance every day.

If you’ve read my book Breaking out of Homeostasis, you’ll find that what Steven Pressfield refers to as “the resistance” is probably homeostasis. However, Pressfield is a lot more spiritual/metaphysical about it.

You will be inspired by reading it.

Other Books

4hwwThe 4-Hour Work Week — Tim Ferriss

The book title is an oversell, just like everything else from Tim Ferris. Working four hours per week is for lazy people. The law of compensation is always at work.  You either outwork and outsmart people for a number of years, or you work slowly all your life, like the average person does.

However, this book has a lot of practically useful tips. It’ll also open up your mind to some of the things that are possible to do — professionally speaking — if you do things differently.

 

Laptop MillionaireThe Laptop Millionaire — Mark Anastasi

Even if you currently don’t have any ambitions of making money online you should still read this book, because it’s filled with cool ideas and strategies. Many are outdated, and the author exaggerates greatly about how much money you can make. But you will get many good ideas. And remember, if you get even one good idea from a book, it was a book worth reading!

There’s zero fluff in it (except for some crappy product recommendation links).

 

david ogilvyConfessions of an Advertising Man — David Ogilvy

Ogilvy was one of the greatest admen ever — and a great writer. If you’re into marketing, advertising, or writing, you need to read this book. It’s filled with brilliant stuff from the first page to the last.

The book is short, but highly concrete. It contains many practical tips on writing, presenting and pitching, and creating ads.

It took me a surprisingly long time to finish this book, because I transcribed almost the entire book.

You can get the pdf free here.

 

linchpinLinchpin: Are You Indispensable? — Seth Godin

If you’re an employee looking to get an edge over your peers, you must read this book. Here’s how it works: You must become indispensable. When you are indispensable you will get paid much more, because the company desperately needs you.

And how do you become indispensable?

By becoming the go-to guy for different things. By handling essential clients. By over-delivering value. By daring to oppose the status quo. By daring to speak up and give useful feedback when other people are yes-men.

 

Principles — Ray Dalio

Free book written by one of the smartest and most successful people in the world. I highly recommend it.

The first half of the book is devoted to Dalio’s life philosophy and the second half is devoted to managerial principles. I wrote a summary article on it you can read.

 


Want more book recommendations?

Check out the second edition:

–And my “Sacred Tomes” (the select few best books I’ve ever read).

And the Top Takeaway from 61+ Great Books I Read.


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Comments

  1. GEORGE COSTANZA says:

    FIRST!

    Thanks so much for the free books man i will read them first. I like reading on my computer

    My favorite book is Michael Jordan’s bio. Its called something like “Drive From Within!” and you learn why MJ is so motivated, it is because he loves the game above all, whereas new kids are just in it for the money and fame.

  2. I’m not necessarily recommending it, but I think the book that most influenced me was probably Demian. Also it should be obvious from my name that I’ve read some Nietzsche, but I dare not list any title ;)

    I hated Atlas Shrugged. An idiotic and predictable plot, an excessive number of boring, undeveloped, and mostly zero-dimensional characters, endless preaching, childish wish-fulfillment, zero dramatic tension, and a comically distorted Weltanschauung. And it went on, and on, and on… Fountainhead is far better, exhibiting enough of Rand’s outlook to be interesting but without the flaws of Atlas. I’m not sure Rand intended it, but the real protagonist of Fountainhead is Gail Wynand. Atlas has nothing comparable to offer.

    • While I think you’re being a bit harsh, I can see why you hated Atlas Shrugged, Abgrund. It’s definitely a book you either love or hate due to the excess things you need to endure in reading it.

      I think Atlas Shrugged offers better quotes and some of the things being said are more clever — when said out of context. Especially some of the things said by Fransisco D’anconia and John Galt.

      Gail Wynand is badass.

      • Atlas does have some great quotes in it, but I think I recorded twice as many from Fountainhead. Atlas was much more tightly focused on money, Fountainhead was more about creativity:

        “Every man creates his meaning and form and goal.”

        “Of course, no man is ever quite equal to his highest passion.”

        “People want nothing but mirrors around them. To reflect them while they’re reflecting too.”

        “To say ‘I love you’ one must know first how to say the ‘I.’”

        “The only thing that matters, my goal, my reward, my beginning, my end is the work itself.”

        “It’s so much easier to pass judgment on a man than on an idea.”

        “There are no evil thoughts except one: the refusal to think.”

      • “Atlas was much more tightly focused on money, Fountainhead was more about creativity:”

        — Yes…

        “People want nothing but mirrors around them. To reflect them while they’re reflecting too.”

        — Great quote.

        “There are no evil thoughts except one: the refusal to think.”

        — And what an evil world we live in…

  3. Ludvig,

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I’m ALWAYS on the look-out for good books. For me, the most life-changing is The Prince, by Nicolo Machiavelli. I first read it when I was in high school. And it opened my eyes to what raw, true writing is about: the courage to say things many people would disagree with or find offensive.

    • Thanks Alex!

      Ah.. The Prince. I read that when I was 16 and in high school too, but I was a bit too young to understand it I believe. I gotta re-read it!

      • “The Prince” is well worth reading or re-reading. Machiavelli was a truly great thinker, one of the few who was both unshakably idealistic and relentlessly realistic. Today he is widely villified for being realistic about power and human nature, but not by any intelligent person who has read him. He would have been a truly great leader had he succeeded.

      • “Today he is widely villified for being realistic about power and human nature”

        — As every other great thinker who dared to be speak unpleasant truths.

  4. Lol at Freeway Rick Ross… They say he called up the rapper who stole his name and scared the shit out of him!

    Great tips and appreciate the free ones.

  5. Hey Ludvig,

    I couldn’t agree with you more on education. So much people think that just by getting a piece of paper, all of the sudden their lives will be perfect. They put minimal effort into their education, just to get that degree and when they’re done with the studying and end up unemployed, they wonder why … why can’t they get the job, “I have a freaking degree, it’s not fair!”

    People need to realize that the purpose of education is skill acquisition, and not studying per se. It’s funny to see how many people finish their studies with no new skills acqured whatsoever.

    And thanks for the book reccommendation, I’ll order the books today through your links :) Cesar and Arnold autobiography.

    • Hey Dejan,

      “People need to realize that the purpose of education is skill acquisition, and not studying per se”
      –Well put!

      ” I’ll order the books today through your links :) Cesar and Arnold autobiography.”
      –Cheers!

  6. Great list. I already read some if the books like Men’s Search for Meaning this year. I started reading Atlas Shrugged two weeks ago – a fascinating and motivating book for me.

    Would you mind to shoot me your summary from your commonplace for this book? I am curious about the quotes you might have selected (there are good ones).

    Great that you included the Principles from Ray Dalio. Your post about this hedge fund guy made me a serious reader of your blog!

    I can also recommend two books from Mark Divine a former Navy Seal: “Unbeatable Mind” and “8 Weeks to Sealfit”. They serve as a good primer into developing a strong mind and body. Although from a military background the principles are applicable in a wider context.

    • Hey Michael,

      I did my notes from that book physically with a multicolored pencil. I can’t copy paste it. But if you’d like I can send you images from my notes or from my book summary book, and you can zoom in and read it.

      If that sounds interesting, contact me and I’ll do it for you.

      However, my favorite sentence from the book is from John Galt: “You are a being of volitional consciousness.”

      “Great that you included the Principles from Ray Dalio. Your post about this hedge fund guy made me a serious reader of your blog!”

      — Great to hear. Dalio is an intelligent guy. I want to meet him and pick his brain.

      Thanks for the book ideas. I will check them out now. They sound interesting.

  7. I haven’t read it but I’ve heard good things about this book; “Go for No! Yes is the Destination, No is How You Get There” – Richard Fenton.
    http://www.amazon.com/Yes-Destination-How-You-There/dp/0966398130

  8. The Bible.

    Incredibly long, incredibly intricate, incredibly old, The Bible contains so much content, so many lessons, stories, parables, and traditional wisdom on the value of work and speech that it’s hard to top. Christianity aside, it is a thrilling and exciting read that will teach you a lot about yourself and the world.

    People who say otherwise because they’re “intelligent atheists” just have their heads stuck up their ass and haven’t cracked open any of the old testament histories or prophetic works – they’re simply parroting a line because it makes them “smart”.

    • Remy,
      I’ve looked through the Bible in old version of Swedish. But it was hardly legible. My thoughts on the Bible: Might be a lot of great info, but I don’t have the time to filter it out.

      ” they’re simply parroting a line because it makes them “smart”.”

      — Hahaha. This is even funnier, and more common, when it comes to the Quran.

    • You’re both right. There is a lot of wisdom and good advice in the Bible, but there is a much vaster amount of stuff like, “Slay the Amalekites,” “Uncloven hooves make unclean meat,” “The Ark had seven golden bimbos bearing seven golden crowns,” “The Assyrians gonna kick our ass because we suck,” and “Shit I saw after I ate that moldy bread.”

      Maybe someone should write a condensed IVV (“Important Verses Version”) edition of the Bible. After all, it’s not copyrighted, since it was written before Disney. But there’s not much Biblical support for the Virtue of Selfishness: “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth the grain.”

  9. James Croft says:

    Ludwig, you are clearly intelligent and highly driven. There are two factors within your persona that seem to be to your detriment: Lack of spirituality and aggression. Having read your ebook and a lot of your posts, I can see that you have a huge amount of potential, and as I said intelligence. However don’t disregard spirituality, self love, kindness and empathy. You come across like a robot programmer who has programmed himself to be successful. I couldn’t follow your advice or ebook because it doesn’t take into account how someone feels. Just associates negative feedback as laziness from the mental machine or something that should be disregarded because it inhibits success. What are you wishing to achieve from success other than productivity? Isn’t it comfort, joy, happiness? If those factors aren’t integrated into your way of being.. Eg how to be happy, RELAXED, FUN, joyous and positive in your daily life, then you have missed out on creating what at least is my goal. To be self sufficient, abundant, happy, joyous, and as importantly, relaxed. I got the impression that for you, your emotions are pushed to the side instead of technical goals, and if you feel crappy doing something, you do it anyway because its a “goal”. My goal is positive emotion, abundance and success. I won’t sacrifice any one of them for the other. When reading you, you can come off as robotic, and clinical, without emotion. Don’t sacrifice joy for financial success.. as a happy man with less, is far richer than a sad man with more. peace

    • Hey James,

      Thank you very much for the feedback. I really appreciate it.

      “Lack of spirituality and aggression”

      — You might be right about the aggression part. But I’d say I’m an incredibly spiritual person. I just won’t settle for the common views of it, and I need to fit it into my philosophical framework to preserve integrity. I believe I’ve already gone through my major spiritual phase of life, starting from a very early age.

      “You come across like a robot programmer who has programmed himself to be successful”

      –I was REALLY passionate/fanatic on doing battle with homeostasis when I wrote the book. It was my entire life, not just an ebook. It was a special period of my life and I had to bring my full focus on homeostasis for a long period of time. It wasn’t always fun or great. But it was worth it and I’m very content about it now.

      “What are you wishing to achieve from success other than productivity? Isn’t it comfort, joy, happiness?”

      –Great question. For me, productivity, action, and mental focus are synonomous with happiness and joy of being. I feel my best when I:

      — Push through the plateau and break out of homeostasis
      –Put myself in a flow state whilst fasting and reading/writing
      — Work myself into a state of cumulative concentration despite not initially “wanting” to do it. That’s what achievement feels like.

      So, for me it’s not about minimizing hard work and “enjoying life”. It’s about taking full responsibility for programming my brain to love hard work, to push myself past current limitations, and to put myself in a peak state of performance as often as I can.

      And there’s no excuse for me not to. I know most of the mental tricks for making my brain act how I want it to act by now.

      However, what you say about me lacking empathy is definitely something I’ll take to heart. And as far as what you’re saying about me coming off as robotic, is that your conclusion from reading both the book and the blog?

      What you currently see on my blog is not yet a fully accurate reflection of who I am. Especially in terms of content. I think, speak, and write on many other topics. But, this blog is (for now) very focused on practical self-development. You can’t write a blog about 100 topics, you must choose a few. At least to begin with as you gain investment from readers and they become incrementally more interested in you.

      • I found your reply very interesting and well worded.
        Personally, while I can understand what James pointed to in saying “aggressive/robotic” and how some people might dislike or/not be able to connect with you on that level, I actually find it refreshing! One of the reasons I like your blog is because it has more character than most self-development blogs. In sorts, I can “feel” the strength of your convictions.

        On a different note, I think you’ve finally convinced me to read Atlas Shrugged.

      • Thanks, Max. Read it. It’s a great book.

  10. The most important book I’ve ever read was “The Slight Edge” by Jeff Olson. Why? Because it made me to take action.
    According to your vocabulary Ludvig I was “stupid”, “loser” and “lazy” (in homeostasis) and this book caused me to seek changes, to become “wise, success and diligent” ;)
    You disregard personal development books all too easy. As Jim Rohn said- you don’t know which one will work for you till you read it. I read about 50 personal development books before reading SE and this one really ignited me.

    • A very successful young and driven network marketing leader who was interviewed by me on my blog also recommended this book.

    • I’m going to use this as reference for my future books because I trust your choices man!

      By the way, don’t misspell the author of one of my favourite books! “SteVen Pressfield”. :P

    • Michal,

      “According to your vocabulary Ludvig I was “stupid”, “loser” and “lazy” (in homeostasis) and this book caused me to seek changes, to become “wise, success and diligent” ;)”

      — Haha! Interesting that you should remark on that. However, those words do have a meaning. A strong negative one. You don’t want to identify with any of them. They summon powerful emotions. Emotions needed to take sufficient action to do something about the situation.

      “You disregard personal development books all too easy.”

      –Perhaps. What you’re saying makes sense. It’s highly different from person to person. However, I’m not sure I would classify “The Slight Edge” as a traditional personal development book.

  11. Nice collection of books. I have read cirka 1/3 of them, and i liked those books. You seem to have a fine tasty here so ill trust your judgment on the remaining 2/3.
    :)

    Cant really think of a best or recommended book myself…. Ill get back about that if it comes to mind.

  12. This is one of the best book recommendation lists I’ve read… I’ve got five new books in my Amazon cart :)

  13. If you had to pick a favorite book, what would it be and why?

    Like the list but just curious. I know its a hard question to answer, but if you had to pick one….?

  14. Nice post again Ludvig!

    I totally agree that school is BS for the most part. I’ll be posting soon a letter i wrote my college psychology teacher about just such thoughts! I like the Mark Twain quote “Don’t let schoolin’ get in the way of your education” haha

    Good list. I’ll add a few of these as a priority. Keep postin!

    • Sounds intriguing, G-Freedom. I look forward to reading that soon.

      • Also, if you havent picked these up already I HIGHLY recommend the entire series of books by Robert Greene: The Art of Seduction (not only useful for getting women but for business and life), The 48 laws of power, WAR and his most recent Mastery (still to read this one but i’m sure it’s excellent). If you want to learn the deepest and darkest secrets of manipulation and mind control, this guy has laid them bare in his books. I was horrified when I read them, but I also have to recommend them haha

      • Thanks for the recommendations. I looked through the Art of Seduction a few years ago when I was into pickup, but I didn’t like it. Maybe I will now.

        As for “Mastery” I think it’s cool. Robert knows how to combine interesting trivia with history to make a convincing point.

  15. Hey Ludvig,

    Loved your list. I haven’t gotten into biographies as much as I probably should. Seems like you dive right in. I loved Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”. I think it shares a great perspective, and you’re correct, does have some great insight on vision exercise.

    From a health perspective, I enjoyed “Thrive”, which was written by a vegan professional Ironman athlete.. I’m neither vegan, nor an ironman, but I appreciated his consideration for “net-energy gain” food, which are foods that take the least amount of energy for your body to transform into more energy, which is why we should eat more raw foods.

    Also, Alchemist is a great inspirational book, as well as Siddartha by Herman Hesse.

    • I would count Frankl as one of the great Existentialists, although he himself might have disagreed.

      Siddhartha was powerful; Demian was perhaps Hesse’s only work of equal power.

      “Only the ideas that we actually live are of any value.” -Hermann Hesse, /Demian/

    • Hey Chad!

      Yeah, I have some sort of natural disposition for liking to read biographies. I find it very easy to memory strange trivia about people. And it’s not always very useful, so I must force myself to read more strategic and practical books.

      I’ve read Alchemist (and like 5 other of Coelho’s books) and they’re all highly inspirational. Alchemist and Warrior of Light are my two favorites.

      As for Thrive, I’ve skimmed it. When I was in Canada I had two friends who were huge fans of Brendan Brazier.

      Thanks for the contributions!

  16. Great list.
    Thank you, I’ve bookmarked. I’m currently reading Tim Ferris’ The 4 HWW.
    Can’t wait to read The Law of Success in Sixteen Lessons.

  17. Ludvig, firstly, thank you for compiling these list. I can honestly say I should have started reading way earlier in my life. I only picked up reading recently and it has changed my mindset so much in a lot of things.

    I couldn’t agree more that self-education is way more important than the paper we get after 3-4 years in college. Moreover, uni never taught us about money and health (unless of course we’re a finance or health graduate). It’s only through educating oneself devoid of what is in the textbooks and in a four walled lecture room can we develop ourselves fully as a person.

    Once again, thanks for compiling this list. Will definitely check out some of your recommendations!

    • Thanks, Aqilah!

      “Moreover, uni never taught us about money and health (unless of course we’re a finance or health graduate).”

      — Haha. You’d be surprised at how many economics/finance students are broke ;)

      • They teach macroeconomics on the universities, not managing your personal finances. (I finished economic faculty).

  18. Thanks for the link at the bottom Ludvig. I don’t have time to read whole books now, so that’s a great resource!

    The most importat book I read was “Starting Strength” by Mark Rippetoe. This book got me started with training and helped me make it a habit (been at it 4 years now with no more than a handful of 1-2 week breaks).

  19. I would have to say that the most important book I have ever read was “Millionaire Fastlane” by: MJ DeMarco. It is an enjoyable read, and a great resource for anyone planning to start a business.
    There is a lot of solid information and new ideas while still being easy to understand and implement.
    I have read many improvement/business/finance books prior to this one, but this is the one that caused me to earn my first dollar bills online.
    This book is responsible for my first passive income from the internet, and overcoming my apprehension towards trying to make a buck online.

    Favorite quote:

    “What is the leading cause of poorness? Poor choices!”

  20. My ONE book is not THE book but I bet no one here has heard of it.

    Heroin Diaries.

    That book really influenced my style of writing.

  21. Definitely some books I will have to check out. What do you think of Robert Kiyosaki? I think he’s great. Have you ready any of his stuff? The classic Rich Dad, Poor Dad?

    • Cool.

      I read that book when I was 18. I haven’t read any other of his books. I think he’s a charismatic salesman, but I don’t much else about him. The only really key thing I got from him was to not waste money. Only invest money into income-generating assets.

  22. You read 80 books last year? I’m interested in learning things too and I read (maybe 30???) Books in 2013. But i cant see how i could read much more.

    It’s not that im a slow reader, i just dont see how you can read that many books while having a life (working/studying). Got any specific reading strategies? Do you speed-read? Id like to know

    • Victor,
      I read ca perhaps 60% of books on my computer (pdf) and 40 % of my books in physical format. I read very quickly on my computer. I read and take notes slowly in physical format. (But I believe my retention is a lot higher. When you physically take notes or draw, you activate your brain more than if you write on a keyboard or copy-paste.)

      I read 80 books because I prioritized it over school (when it wasn’t rewarding). And because I wasn’t as busy last year as I am now, like I said. I do have specific strategies for reading, but not to read faster. I don’t speed-read. I just make sure I get up early in the morning and read before anything else. And read at night. So I consistently read every day.

  23. While I was having lunch, I was thinking about how I could explain that I barely read 5 books per year. I’ve been able to spot several things:
    – I don’t have the solid habit of reading yet, but it’s getting better, I read now for an hour first thing in the morning, I’m less prone to fall into some cumbersome circumstances about “something important to do that NEEDS to be done”. I really enjoy reading in the morning now.

    – I don’t really read fiction books of stories, and most of my readings are either related to self-development/lifestyle and sports/nutrition. What does that mean? Well these are book that always lead to a dialogue with myself or lead to think more about this topic; so for the oncoming months, my mind still evolves around what I learnt from the book. Hence I don’t ‘jump’ directly on another one.

    – I’m starting to be more and more selective in my life in general, and I guess I somehow avoid to R4R (neologism based on Ferris’ W4W) :)

    • Sounds good, aZr!

      “Hence I don’t ‘jump’ directly on another one.”
      — Cool. It’s the opposite for me. I always want to read more after I am finished with a book. I have a constant hunger to learn more. This is good motivation, but as you say, sometimes it’s essential to reflect on what you learn. I hope my note-taking and book summarizing takes care of that sufficiently.

  24. Seems like a good list of books. Cant say ive read any of them however.

    But i got a question about your book. You claim that we shouldnt trust our emotions/brain’s reward system. But i read in the book ‘How We Decide’ – Jonah Lehrer that emotions are almost always right (gut feeling wins). What is your take on this and have you read that book Ludvig?

    • Mike,
      The books are great. That’s why I put them there.

      While I haven’t read that book completely, I’ve read a summary of it, and I’ve skimmed it. First off,

      The field of neuroscience is far from fully resolved:
      For example, Lehrer claims that the PFC completely regulates the placebo effect. When I checked that claim I found some scientific papers and other sources stating that it’s probable, but far from certain.

      Point being: it’s hard to say 100 % right/wrong. And the same goes for gut feeling & brain’s reward system. It’s impossible to formulate a golden principle that’s equally accurate for everyone.

      With that said,
      — I mostly agree with Lehrer. I think you should trust your emotions and brain’s reward system, but ONLY when you’ve taken care to DELIBERATELY enforce a habit/mindset/action the way you want it to be. That’s often not the case.
      Most people walk around with a ton of unconsciously implemented bad habits and suboptimal behaviors that they don’t think about. And homeostasis doesn’t distinguish between a bad or a good habit, it wants to keep it just the same and will defend it with all of its arsenal.

  25. This obviously reminds me of Patrik’s recent article (I think you contributed?). There are so many books that I need to read it’s probably time to get myself a Kindle or whatever they are called…

    I have been lazy over the last few years, only reading the books that force me to open the cover to. Years ago I read everything in site – thanks for giving me another motivational kick to implement this into my daily life.

    As for my recommendation. ‘Yes Man’ – If you haven’t read it… do it.

  26. Hi Ludvig,

    The very first time I finished reading a crime mystery novel, I vowed never to read another book again unless I was learning something useful. Whether that might be personal development, reading body language or even how to fix a dam jet-ski! It was still learning new usable skills.

    I always find it strange meeting new people who on paper have the highest of qualifications, multiple degrees and hold down successful (well paid) careers but in reality are quite dumb and lack serious common sense.

    I read a really good piece online about how school standardize testing and essays are wasting time. Kids need to be taught how to think and not programmed to know answers. I tend to agree.

    Thanks for list, I’m not surprised – you always make so many reference to books in your writing.

    Have a good weekend

    Naomi

    • How do you teach someone to think?

      • Hi Adgrund,

        I’m glad you asked. By teaching a person to think you enable them to problem solve, when you can effectively problem solve you can achieve anything. For example you may be fantastic at maths and got A* for every test, but you’ve only been taught to apply your skills in a structured, educational, ‘pen and paper’ setting. However if when your taught to ‘think’ your maths skills can be applied in every aspect when you need it throughout life. Maybe i’m not explaining it right but here a link to video which hopefully can do a better job then me!

        http://beingthechangeiwishtosee.com/4671/what-teachers-make/

      • Naomi,

        Thank you for your reply, but my question was not “why” but “how”. I have heard plenty of rhetoric about “teaching students to think” and I have seen it attempted in classrooms, but I have never seen it done successfully. I am rather of the opinion that the most one can hope for is to overcome a sloppy person’s /habit/ of not thinking, while the /ability/ to think is purely genetic and hence unteachable. What say you?

      • Hi Adgrund, I gave the ‘why’ answer instead of the ‘how’ because there is not enough hours in day for me to explain this one!

        But I believe the student has to be ‘susceptible’ to this method of teaching for it to work. I don’t believe any type of teaching can be a ‘one way will work for all’ attitude. Which explains why it works for some and not others.

        I don’t believe it’s purely comes down to genetics (although it’s part of it), I think it comes down to how well a teacher can access their student and know how to best penetrate their thought patterns to achieve desired results. But with so many other kids to teach it’s easier and more convenient for a teacher to ‘label’ a student and move onto the next one.

    • “The very first time I finished reading a crime mystery novel, I vowed never to read another book again unless I was learning something useful. Whether that might be personal development, reading body language or even how to fix a dam jet-ski! It was still learning new usable skills”

      — Haha. You are a remarkable woman, Naomi!

  27. Dan Black says:

    These are some great books! I’ve added a few of them to my book list. Personally I enjoy any John Maxwell books.

  28. I honestly have not read any of those books in your list! I agree that non-fiction biographies, etc. are useful self-education. Nowadays with the advent of the social media and the mobile gadgets, it’s so easy to be stuck in games and facebook. Unfortunately, it’s not really the books (or ebooks) that are gaining from these!

    I am more into self-help and management books. I like Stephen Covey, Dale Carnegie among the well-known ones. I have realized I have benefited from these books that I decided to do book reviews in my blog to share those learnings and ‘pay it forward’.

    • “Nowadays with the advent of the social media and the mobile gadgets, it’s so easy to be stuck in games and facebook”

      — Yes. Few people in my generation read any books.

      “I decided to do book reviews in my blog ”

      Yes I’ve read one or two of those!

  29. There are much better books than this……and no one cares for you’re book recommendations anyway…

  30. Dan Erickson says:

    I like the new look of your site. Although I’ve been a regular reader all my life, since putting more effort into writing I only read 10-20 books a year instead of 40-50. I have only read a couple of your list. Right now I’m reading books on writing by Stephen King and Anne Lamott.

  31. Walt @ Found Success says:

    I’ve actually read a few of those and they’re truly inspiring to say the very least. Also extremely spot on about “only education being self-education” – it never ceases to amaze me how people think that college-education is the only parameter for intelligence. I’m i’m like just whoa..

    Great post. great list.

    Walt

  32. I couldn’t agree more that reading is so important to becoming a successful person.

    Most people look at me like I’m an idiot when I tell them that I wake at 4am every morning to read.

    “Why?” They ask with a stupid look of incredulity.

    Pro-active, self-education is what separates the winners from the losers.

    Good post man

  33. I’m totally late to the party on this list (been swamped with work lately!), but I really enjoyed the collection.

    Linchpin is one of my absolute favorite books, and I’ve bought it for several people already! I just downloaded Tesla’s biography and bought Muhammad Ali’s biography! Thanks for putting this together :)

  34. I’ve read a decent chunk of these books already, but I found a lot of ones that look great that I haven’t heard of before. I usually tend to stay away from the biography/autobiography sections, but your selection has made me question that. Perhaps I should check out the Arnold and Muhammad Ali books simply to get into them.

    By the way, The Meditations is awesome. I read that a few years ago and soaked up everything that I could.

    Thanks for the great recommendations. I read about 70-80 or so books a year too so I’m constantly looking for new ones to check out.

    • Thanks, Steve.

      Yeah. I think we’ve read a lot of similar books!

      Definitely check out both Arnold & Ali. (btw, Ali is one of Arnold’s role models. Especially in terms of marketing and personal branding.)

  35. This is my kind of list. I’m going to check out quite a few of these titles. I don’t trust everyone’s book recommendations. I give people a trial. If they suggest a book or film and tell me how much I’ll love it, and then when I read or watch the thing it’s a waste of my time. I judge that person and never trust them with recommendations again.

    You, however, told me a couple of months back to read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. And so I did… Let’s just say you are one of the people whose recommendations I can now trust.

    • Haha, thanks Micah!

      I agree with you though. You only get one (or a few) of those recommendations, then you’re screwed — seen from the other person’s perspective — if it didn’t work out!

      I’d love to hear your thoughts on the book(s) once you’ve read them. Would be fascinating to hear your take, since I like all these books a lot.

  36. Alexander Skafte says:

    Just finished reading Tesla’s autobiography as per your recommendation. I’ve had quite an interest in Nikola Tesla and his life and inventions for the past couple years. I already that knew he was a superhuman genius with a mind and capacity for intellectual thought transcending pretty much everyone throughout history… though I didn’t know he was such a good writer.

    Part of me wants to be envious of his “talent” or “gift”, but I also know that he worked HARD AS HELL to achieve what he achieved. As he said himself: “My belief is firm in a law of compensation. The true rewards are ever in proportion to the labour and sacrifices made.” I suppose this is very true, but I still wish my IQ level were a little, just a little, closer to his…

    Thank you for the recommendation, Ludvig! Next up, I’m going to finish The Four Hour Workweek, and then probably read Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing. I trust your judgement when you say he is an amazing writer :)

    • That’s awesome, Alexander.

      Tesla was indeed a genius (genetically speaking). He wasn’t normal on any level, as you now know. And then add to that the fact that he “practiced” harder than just about anyone (at science). That makes for an extreme combination. His IQ doesn’t have much to do with the fact that his brain was weird and (like Einstein) had a very heightened ability to think visually. That was his strength/unfair advantage.

      Indeed. He was a great writer, I just wish he would have written a bit more.

  37. Keep up the fantasic work! Well done! I decided to leave a comment because reading your blog left me speechless, I just had to say somthing ;) Most blogs I come across are narcissistic rubbish and I feel robbed of the 4 minutes of my life that I will never get back after reading the first few paragraphs. Thank you for not wasting my time, for being clear, to the point, and unsympathetic even if it does sound ” robotic” …..btw Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell sparked a light in me…any thoughts there?

    • Hey Angela!

      Thank you very much. I’m glad you feel that way.

      Outliers:
      It was a while since I read that book (3 years ago perhaps). I think it was worth reading. Knowing some of the things I know today I would probably be less inspired by it though. For example, the 10000h rule is something I am very critical of, but it DOES serve as a good example. But a lot of people have completely misunderstood it… Anyway, I think Malcolm Gladwel is a great author, he uses “personal case studies” to back up his points really convincingly.

  38. Mohammad says:

    I think the most powerful book of all time is the Qur’an in terms of moving you deeply within if read thoughtfully. I would recommend it to anybody and everybody. It is equally satisfing to the intelligent as well as ordinary mind. It is a remedy of all types of thinking shortcommings in an extremly delicate and subtle manner. The quote “two birds by a stone” implies achieving two goals by one action. I would say the Qur’an achieves dozens of goals in a prodigiously efficient manner. It can be read not only by religious people but also by others though it itself says that only the ‘fearing’ can truly profit from it. It has hidden meanings (obviously due to its effective structure). Can also be read strictly as a self-help book. Go pick it up. Open it. And now read it ONLY as a guide in any matter YOU want unbiasly. You will feel your sprits lifted up in a moderate manner not to firey and not mundane but moderate as reality is.
    Sadly the Qur’an is one of the most untranslatable books ever more even than eloquent poetry like keats. This is because of the depth of meanings it contains in a single word. The first seven verses of the Quran

    In the name of Allah, the merciful,the compassionate

    All praise is due to Allah the Lord of the worlds

    The merciful, the compassionate

    Master of the day of judgement

    You alone do we worship and you alone do we seek for help

    Guide us to the straight path

    The path of those whom you have bestowed your blessings; those whose (portion) is not wrath nor those who have gone astray

  39. I finished read Meditations — Marcus Aurelius, this book was amazing! Gave me more than many popular guides book. Would you recommend me another ancient philosophy books? In the Internet, I not found any trustworthy basic list ancient phylophosy and general philosophy.

    • Rubens,

      I’m not Ludvig, but I did get an undergrad degree in philosophy. If you’re looking for practical advice from ancient philosophers, I highly recommend “Letters from a Stoic” by Seneca.

      My favorite book is “Nicomachean Ethics” by Aristotle. That provided me with some of the moral foundations I still used today, and has great insight about right vs wrong and friendship.

      Lastly, the ancient philosophy staple is Plato’s “Republic”. You can really get a sense as to whether or not you’d enjoy that book by reading “The Parable of the Cave”, which can be found with any sort of quick google search.

      Hope this helps.

      Chad

    • Hey Rubens,
      First off: Chad’s advice is good. Those books are some of the most “patented” philosophical books.

      If you liked Meditations you may also like:
      –> Epictetus “Enchiridion”
      –> Seneca (various books — just google for them)

      And here’s an add-on: Stick to the old “classical” works in philosophy. Not the stuff written in the last 10 years (unless it’s a primer book). You’ll learn why if you read my rant below.

      LONG RANT ON BOOKS – OLD VS NEW:
      –>You REALLY can’t judge a book by its cover. Because older books often look like crap and their titles are awful. Yet the best books are the old patented historical books. Most (90+%) modern books are different. . .

      . . .And you can’t judge them by their cover either. Because they often LOOK great and have GREAT titles. But they’re a poor use of time. I think the reason for this is because the book publishing industry is becoming increasingly competitive. To sell more books to the dumbed-down masses you don’t want to make a really good book with many original ideas.

      You want a popular theme everyone can identify with. Like Malcolm Gladwell’s “David vs Goliath”. And that book is an entertaining read, but it has very little long-term practical value. It’s mostly just emotional stories. This is what sells best — and why Gladwell is so popular. No one does this better than him.

      Anyway, the point is that the vast majority of books in the last 10+ years have good copywriting, advertising, and a nice cover. But they only contain a few big ideas; which are rarely new. The ideas are usually just rehashed from older, better books.

  40. I think i read only Atlas Shrugged of all these. But i already added Flow and War of Art to my cart in amazon. Great recommendations, Ludvig.

  41. Ludvig,

    I really enjoyed reading Flow, The Magic of Thinking Big, Total Recall and Meditations. Thanks for the tips!

  42. Great recommendations! I’ve read six of the books you mention, so I think I’ll take a look at some of the others.

    I also love that you have included the Caesar biography and Meditations. There were a lot of interesting men in Ancient Rome, and you can learn a lot from them – but only very few people today are aware of the greatness of the Romans. Have you read anything from Cicero?

    – Jacob

    • That’s cool. Which books did you already read?

      The Romans were great indeed. The Greeks were clearly culturally and intellectually superior to the Romans. But the Romans were more disciplined–they were fierce executors. And great system-builders.

      I have read Cicero’s “Tusculunae Disputationes”, in Swedish. It sucked. I have also read parts of “De Officiis”, which is decent (but not great).

      You can read “De Officiis” online here if you want:
      http://www.constitution.org/rom/de_officiis.htm
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tusculanae_Disputationes

      • I’ve read Meditations, The Strange Life of Nikola Tesla, Total Recall, Flow, Law of Success and 4-Hour Work Week. Except for Total Recall, I learned a lot from all of them. I haven’t read the exact Caesar biography you’re referring to, but I’ve read parts of his own Commentarii de Bello Gallico – I highly recommend it for anyone interested in Caesar or just history in general.

        Also, thanks for the De Officiis link! I might check it out when I get the time.

        The reason I asked about Cicero – if you haven’t read “De Oratore” or “In Catillinam”, I think you (and many other readers here) will find those texts interesting. In “De Oratore”, the importance of oratory, the ideal speaker, fundamentals of rhetoric, etc. are desribed. The “In Catillinam” texts are of course famous speeches by Cicero himself. I know some of his stuff can be boring, but when I read first the works mentioned here, I learned a lot about rhetoric that I didn’t know before.

      • I would love to read “De Oratore”. I am putting it on my list. Thank you.

        What were some of your key takeaways from it? Of interest and practical use.

      • Well, here are the main lessons I learned and what I found most interesting. I’ll try to keep it short, but there are a lot of good points in the book:

        – According to Cicero, anyone who can speak well (and use it in practice) can be called an orator, but to be great, knowledge is vital. Without great knowledge, the speech will not be felt properly by yourself or by the audience and will definitely not be as convincing. That’s also why it’s nearly impossible to become a ‘perfect’ orator – you can’t possibly know every fact there is.

        – According to Crassus, nothing is more noble than a speaker who can direct his own passion into words and performance. Oratory makes it possible to defend oneself and persuade others.

        – A great speaker must have morals, know philosophy and have the understanding of people in general. Looks matter and so do good body language and control over the voice.

        – There are 5 essential parts in creating a fine speech: Find the arguments, then dispose the speech in a proper order, use the right words to go with the arguments, before securing them in memory and finally deliver the speech with outstanding charisma.

        – To become a better speaker: Improve memory (read books and other speeches, then remember them), improve voice control and body language (study orators and actors) and get more knowledge (read books, study laws, study history). These methods of improving were used daily by Crassus, the great Roman orator, and are described very clearly in the book.

      • Alright. Thanks a lot Jacob. I just read the entire Wikipedia section on it and downloaded the book.

  43. ”Education is meant to provide confidence, competence, and freedom”

    Couldn’t agree more. Ludvig you have amazing content here. Good job

  44. Hi,

    There must be Benjamin Franklin’s “Autobiography” somewhere as well.

  45. Hi Ludvig, I wanted to ask you, do you read classics? I used to read them a lot as a part of my high school curriculum and I think they were crucial for me as they developed in me passion for reading and learning. What I like about them that they are often set in a different historical context, and you can learn a lot just from researching about it (you like history, right), it’s author, what has influenced him and so on…
    I’m talking about well known books like The Stranger, The Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment, Old man and the sea, The Master and Margarita, The Trial, Brave New World and you know, the stuff that ( I think) you read in school and most students consider boring. I think that autors of those and similar, well known books were amazing and intelligent people and that trough their novels they can convey us great, universal wisdom. I am curios to not whether you have read some of them and what is your opinion.

    (These link are just example descriptions of books I recommend)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_and_Punishment
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Grand_Inquisitor
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stranger_%28novel%29

  46. I found your website from a link of yours regarding Lee Kwan Yew (Munger directed me to him too).

    I cannot explain how excited I am to have found this list of books. There is much knowledge and wisdom to be learnt and lived by :)

    I deeply appreciate you making this content available.

  47. I’ve read most of these but haven’t seen others. Will definitely be checking them out. Thanks!

  48. Joseph Smith, PhD says:

    Ha ha.
    How did you get into my personal library?

    Ya, I have all those books and many more.

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