How to Enjoy Reading Books
I’ve recently discovered that I have been reading books the wrong way for most of my life. Maybe the same is true for you. Do you see reading a books as a burdensome task that takes up a lot of time?
If you’re not reading much, for this reason or any other reason you may have, then you’re probably missing out on a lot of opportunities for personal improvement. Don’t worry though, in the following sections I’ll explain why you should read more, and then I’ll show you how you can effortlessly achieve it.
Just as a disclaimer, this article is mainly about books that help us grow, books that teach us visions and skills to improve our lives. This category is comprised of books about technical skills like engineering or finance, and also of those dealing with more generic topics such as improving your writing, finding your passion or achieving happiness. You can also apply most of the advice I give in this blog post to fiction books, but they’re not the main focus of my discussion.
Why I Started Reading
Reading books is an awesome tool for learning, it changed my life and will probably change yours too. If you read my previous post, you’ll know that I started reading at the bus on my way to work. What I didn’t say in that post is why I started this habit, what motivated me to schedule time in my daily routine just for books. And the reason is quite simple: I wanted to become a better programmer.
I had just been transferred to the software development team at the company I was working at and I felt in disadvantage with respect to my teammates. This was because they all had degrees in Software Engineering while I had majored in Electrical Engineering. I thought that this sole fact meant that I would never be as good as them. That was until I heard a colleague I really admired as a programmer (I still do, in case he’s reading this) say that he wasn’t always good at making software. At some point in his life he simply started reading books in order to improve his programming skills.
So I set up to do the same. I searched for the best books on “how to program well”. Once I had defined which books I wanted to read (in case you’re curious, they were The Pragmatic Programmer and Clean Code) I needed to find time to read them. And that’s made me start the experiment of reading in the bus.
In retrospective, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Not only did I become a better programmer (eventually), but soon enough I was reading about other topics that interested me. I discovered books about topics such as entrepreneurship, time management and happiness. In this still ongoing process, I have encountered such jewels as: Delivering Happiness, an awesome book about building a company and a life that you love and The Obstacle is The Way, a guide that helps you appreciate and learn from everything that happens to you, no matter how “good” or “bad” you think it is.
The Benefits of Reading
So why is reading so great? My favorite quote that describes the positive consequences of reading comes from the fantasy book series “Song of Ice And Fire” later turned into the HBO series “Game of Thrones”:
“My brother has his sword, King Robert has his warhammer and I have my mind… and a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone if it is to keep its edge.” — Tyrion Lannister
But how do we explain this process? What makes reading a great way of honing our minds? I believe that one of the main reasons is that it gives us unrestrained access to the author’s mind: books are a great way of sharing not only knowledge but a thought process.
We rarely realize this, but after reading book you’ll start thinking like the book’s author. I have experienced this more than once, while rereading books after many years had passed since the first time I read them. Sometimes I would stumble upon ideas that I had absorbed entirely into my mindset, completely forgetting that I had read them in that particular book.
Furthermore, reading books is an excellent complement to first hand experience. We usually see the process of learning as a linear one: first you go to college and study, and then you apply that knowledge for the rest of your life. In reality, true learning comes from interweaving both practices continuously. Although there are other ways of closing this loop (like going back to college), books are a quite simple (and cheap) way of doing it. The benefits from this positive feedback loop come from two mechanisms that are triggered while studying: the discovery ofnew ideas and the reflection of past experience.
The process of discovering new ideas can be quite inspirational. This is specially true at those moments when you encounter a completely new perspective and everything just clicks in a way it never had before. Books are a very effective way of making this happen. Not only will they help you discover things that are important but you’ve ignored, they will also point out things that are irrelevant but you’ve somehow given too much importance to. Thus, they become a great way of pushing you out of your comfort zone: they will inspire and challenge you to try new things.
While reading you also get the chance to reflect on what you’ve done right or wrong in the past. This can be quite enlightening, since you’ll be tying your own experience to the lessons taught, which will result in a much more persistent learning. And that learning will immediately trigger the next time you encounter similar problems in the future, where you’ll have a more refined solution than the one you used to employ.
In general, if you learn a skill only by experience, you’ll soon reach a plateau where you’re comfortable at your current level, and then you’ll stop improving. That plateau may be pretty high, but it’s as high as you’ll ever get. Studying is the only way to complement that process, showing you the mountains around that plateau, showing you where you can improve.
How to Make Reading Fun
So if reading has so many benefits, why do we still think it’s so boring? Why is finding time to read so hard while finding time for other things like watching TV so easy?
I personally blame my reading assignments at school. I’m talking about those where you had to read a certain literature book like The Great Gatsby or The Catcher in The Rye before a deadline. You may be thinking: but aren’t those assignments supposed to motivate us to read? Sure, in theory, but as I have realized in countless occasions throughout my life, forcing someone to do something doesn’t normally make that person like it (it usually has the opposite effect).
Just to avoid confusions, I think those books were great and don’t regret reading them. I just regret how I did it: by stalling the process till the last possible minute. As a consequence, I had to force myself to read for hours, which imprinted in my mind the idea that reading a book was something you did for long stretches of time. I also ended up thinking that reading was something you had to force yourself to keep doing, no matter how tired or sleepy you were.
And having this predisposition makes it really difficult to find both the time and the motivation to read books. Then came my experiment of reading in the bus, which made me realize just how wrong I was.
I believe that I was able to successfully finish books by reading them on the bus for two reasons: I read periodically, since I had to commute everyday, and I read for short stretches of time, since the whole trip took only 30 minutes. These reasons made the experience of reading so much fun. When I started reading I didn’t have a long and daunting reading session ahead of me, so it was easier to just go with it. Also, keeping a constant pace allowed me to finish books at an acceptable amount of time, which then motivated me to read even more. Suddenly the huge pile of books I wanted to read was shorter by one, something that had once seemed impossible to me.
So stop believing the myth that reading is boring and will take you a lot of time. You can actually achieve amazing results with just 15 minutes a day. According to this article the average adult reads about 300 words per minute, that’s 4.500 words in 15 minutes. It may not seem much, but most non-fiction books have under 135.000 words, so there’s a huge amount of books you’ll finish in less than 30 days. That’s twelve books a year! It’s certainly better than zero books a year, which was my number for a long time.
And what’s 15 minutes anyway? It’s half the duration of a TV series episode on Netflix, 15% of the time you spend on social media each day (assuming you spend the average amount of 1.72 hours) or a third of the time you spend smoking daily (assuming you smoke as much as the average smoker).
4 Ways to Read More
So what can you do today to read more and learn from books? It ultimately comes down to trial and error, you should experiment and find what works best for you. Here are a few things you can try:
Set Some Time Aside
To me, the best way of reading consistently came from setting aside short periods of time from my day dedicated exclusively to read. It’s a lot easier to find time if those windows are small: of course you won’t have time to read books if you pretend to set aside 2 hours, but finding 15 minutes will be a lot easier.
It could be on your way to work, the first thing you do in the morning, or the last thing you do before going to sleep. It mostly depends on your own schedule, so just be creative. To make it a daily practice, assign those reading moments around things you do every day, like I did with the bus. If you can’t possibly find 15 minutes during your day to read, then you probably have a bigger problem. I would suggest reading my post on how to stop being busy all the time, because it might be unnecessary busyness what’s causing your problem.
Read About What Motivates You
As obvious as it sounds, it’s a lot easier to finish a book if it’s about something you actually care. So my advice would be that you read about problems that interest you, problems that you have and want to solve.
Next time you see a gap in your life, there’s probably a book that will help you with it. By gap I mean those situations that cause you to say: “I should be a better X”, where X can be anything you want. As soon as you face a challenge, one that you think you’ll never overcome, look for a book that addresses it. Are you afraid to speak in public? There’re books for that. Do you want to learn how to negotiate better? There’re also books for that. Do you want to start a side business to earn a little extra money? Guess what, there’re books for that too.
Get an E-Reader
An E-Reader like Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes & Nobles’ Nook can make the experience of reading an lot easier, which will then help you to read more. Not only will the books be cheaper (since you don’t have to pay the printing and shipping costs), but you’ll get them instantly delivered to your device. Also, you can read any book you like, no matter how big, and it never becomes cumbersome to carry it around.
And on top of it all, the biggest advantage they offer, in my opinion, is the dictionary you can install on them. If you don’t know a word, you just highlight it and get the definition instantly. You don’t even need an internet connection since you can download the dictionary for easy offline access. Not only did this help me increase my reading comprehension enormously, it helped me with my vocabulary as well.
I’ve heard many people say that they like the feel of traditional books and that reading from an E-Reader just isn’t the same. In my opinion, all the conveniences I described earlier greatly surpass the sensation of turning the pages or any other advantage that traditional books may offer. So, my advice is that you try reading from an E-Reader at least once in your life (if you don’t have one, borrow one from a generous friend). You can always go back to paper books afterwards; in the end you should just go with whatever works best for you.
Alternatives to Books
If you really don’t want to read books, maybe you could try other ways of consuming similar content. Reading books is just a means to an end, which in this case is to improve your own skills. So if you absolutely don’t like books, find alternative ways of growing.
Say you want to consume the same content that books have to offer, but you just don’t want to read them cover to cover. Maybe you could check Blinkist, which is a website that offers 15-minute-long summaries of the most popular non-fiction books. Similarly, there’s a YouTube channel called Fight Mediocrity that shows video-summaries of books. The videos are pretty accessible in length, ranging from 5 to 10 minutes each.
Let’s say you go to work by car so you can’t read while commuting. Then could try listening to audio-books while driving your car; not everyone knows this but many books are also available in this format. Or you could try with podcasts, which are like radio shows you download to your phone and then listen at your own pace. The internet is full of them, covering every topic imaginable. I listen to podcast sometimes while I’m at the car, it’s a great way of learning stuff that doesn’t disrupt any of my other daily activities.
Whatever the channel, the key is to incorporate personal growth into your daily life, which will always be an iterative process. Find what’s best for you and be willing to experiment with new things every once in a while.
Start Reading Today
Books are a great way of growing, and you should be constantly growing or else you’ll get left behind, specially in today’s ever changing world. Reading will give you new insights and points of view, it will give you direct access to the author’s expertise and it will motivate you to get out of your comfort zone.
I challenge you to start reading a book today. Just pick any one you like and try reading it for just 15 minutes a day. After you finish (probably a month from now, hopefully less), you can leave me a comment below letting me know how the book helped you become a better person. Good luck!
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The 50 Best Self-Help Books of All-Time
Today’s fast-paced and high-stress culture has spawned thousands of self-help books, each promising to be the key to living a happier and more successful life. With so much choice, it is easy for quality titles to get lost among the shelves. The following 50 books are some of the most influential self-help books of all time.
1. Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy By David D. Burns
This book, published in 1980, is responsible for bringing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to the forefront of psychoanalytic theory. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a treatment strategy for depression that involves conscious restructuring of harmful thought and behavior patterns under the care of a trained psychotherapist. Burn’s best-seller is responsible for bringing this theory out of academia and to the average reader.
Over the last 35 years, “Feeling Good” has become one of the most recommended books by psychologists to help depression patients understand their destructive thought patterns. It was one of the cornerstones in popularizing bibliotherapy, as research has shown depression patients who read “Feeling Good” as a supplement to regular check-ins with a mental health professional see sustained improvements in mood.
Burn’s theories in “Feeling Good” have revolutionized the field of Psychology, which has solidified its place among the most significant self-help books ever published.
Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy
2. Outliers: The Story of Success By Malcolm Gladwell
Outliers, the third book from Malcolm Gladwell, discusses the collection of factors that go into high levels of success. Gladwell uses his training in Psychology and experience as a journalist to analyze complex social theories and present them in a way that is easy to digest.
Gladwell uses real-world examples like Bill Gates and The Beatles to illustrate the journey from obscurity to mainstream success and how it is possible for anyone who executes the right strategies. One example of such strategy is the “10,000 hour rule”, which states any skill can be acquired by anybody willing to put in 10,000 hours worth of practice.
Gladwell’s ability to break down some of the greatest success stories of modern pop culture into actionable steps for the regular reader makes Outliers a motivational read.
Outliers: The Story of Success
3. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change By Stephen R. Covey
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective people has been helping people become more efficient for over 25 years. Originally published in 1989, Covey boils down the common habits of the most successful people into 7 easy to implement habits for the reader to incorporate into his or her everyday life.
The 7 habits outlined in the book are:
-Begin with the end in mind
-Put first things first
-Seek first to understand, then to be understood
-Sharpen the Saw
These 7 habits give readers the skills needed to achieve self-mastery, and then use those skills to become highly efficient in working well with others. Covey’s classic is a must-read for those on the journey of personal development.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
4. The Last Lecture By Randy Pausch
The Last Lecture is a lengthened version of the Final lecture professor Randy Pausch gave before he lost his battle with pancreatic cancer, entitled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”. The book focuses on core principles for his children to embody as part of their everyday lives. It highlights the importance of a mentor, as well as paying it forward by being a mentor towards others.
The content is broken down into 3 subjects. The first is the importance of having dreams. Giving oneself the permission to dream is essential in turning abstract dreams into concrete goals. The second subject is enabling the dreams of others. This focuses on Pausch’s idea that the best way to learn something is to think you are learning something else. The final subject is Pausch summarizing the various life-lessons he learned throughout his life.
The Last Lecture is an emotional and motivational read that highlights the role of student-professor relationship in personal development.
The Last Lecture
5. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success By Carol Dweck
This book is the culmination of years of research by Stanford professor Carol Dweck on the theory of mindsets. Her basic theory is that our mindsets towards our skills and behaviors are the determining factors in achieving our goals.
Dweck breaks down her theory into fixed mindsets and growth mindsets. Someone with a fixed mindset towards their skills and intelligence believes these traits are inherited and cannot be improved. Those with a growth mindset towards these traits believe that anything can be improved with hard work and dedication. The book focuses on teaching the reader how to progress from the prison of fixed mindsets to the freedom offered by growth mindsets.
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
6. The Purpose-Driven Life By Rick Warren
The Purpose-Driven Life has sold over 30 million copies and has been translated into more languages than any other book except the Bible. Warren has called his book the “ anti self-help book” because it focuses not on improving the self but instead focuses on discovering and following God’s plan for a fulfilled life.
The book is structured around 5 core purposes for following one’s life purpose, which are worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and mission. It is divided into 40 chapters with the author’s intention of the reader reading 1 chapter each day. Each chapter is filled with timeless nuggets of wisdom from the Bible, which provide readers with guidelines on how to live the ideal Christian life.
The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?
7. The Prophet By Kahlil Gibran
With over 100 million copies sold in over 40 languages since its 1923 publication, The Prophet is one of the best selling personal development books of all time. The plot is structured around a prophet named Almustafa who has conversations with townspeople on a variety of topics while waiting to board a ship. The information is delivered in 26 separate prose poetry essays, blending the world of poetry and self-help.
The topics covered in The Prophet include good and evil, religion, love, marriage, crime and punishment, laws and pain. These are only a few of the wide spectrum of topics that are covered. The Prophet has served as a handbook of life for readers for 90 years and shows no signs of slowing down.
The Prophet (A Borzoi Book)
8. Getting Unstuck By Pema Chodron
Pema Chodron dispenses ancient Tibetan philosophies on life in Getting Unstuck. This book serves as a great introduction into the core Eastern philosophy of mindfulness. Chodron discusses how most of our anxiety and procrastination comes from living in our heads.
Getting Unstuck helps readers get rid of their vices and bad habits by discussing how attachment to these behaviors is a mental prison. It gives readers tips on how to address these behaviors by being comfortable with one’s uneasiness. It is being uncomfortable in one’s skin that fuels all addictive behaviors and Chodron provides essential actions for remaining grounded in the present.
Getting Unstuck: Breaking Your Habitual Patterns and Encountering Naked Reality
9. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business By Charles Duhigg
The Power of Habit looks at the psychological processes behind the habits that form our daily routines. It discusses how our daily habits become unconsciously engrained by our brains to free up processing power for more important tasks. This is why it is so hard to break habits like smoking. Duhigg breaks down each habit we form into three steps, which is called “the habit loop”. The three steps are the cue, the routine, and the reward.
The Power of Habit gives the reader a road map to put the habit loop theory into practice and start consciously observing which routines are triggered by which cues, and the rewards for these routines. Establishing new habits is just a matter of consciously assigning a cue and reward to each routine you wish to establish.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
10. The Power of Now By Eckhart Tolle
The Power of Now has been assisting readers on their journey to spiritual enlightenment since its publication in 1997. This book blends psychology and spirituality in a quest to teach the reader how to see through the illusions created by the false self.
The false self, or ego, is the main subject of the Power of Now. The ego is a collection of everything we think we know about ourselves. The Power of Now shows the reader how the ego is the source of all fear and anxiety, and that releasing attachment to the ego relieves these tensions. Critics have dubbed the Power of Now as traditional Zen philosophy with a New-Age spin.
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
11. Thinking, Fast and Slow By Daniel Kahneman
Daniel Kahneman, winner of the 2011 Nobel prize in economics, wrote “Thinking, Fast and Slow” as a culmination of a lifetime of research in areas such as cognitive bias and happiness.
The main theme of the book revolves around the different systems of thought. System 1 is instinctive and reactive, or “fast”. System 2 is more deliberate and logical, or “slow”. The book progresses through the benefits and pitfalls of each system. It takes an academic approach to the self-help genre and backs up every claim with numerous academic theories. Thinking, Fast and Slow is a great read for those looking to dive into communication and psychological theory while simultaneously improving their lives.
Thinking, Fast and Slow
12. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t By Jim Collins
This self-help book focuses on the characteristics that take a business from mediocrity to high levels of success. It has sold 4 million copies and has principles that apply to everyday life as well as the business world.
The core of Collins’ bestseller centers around 7 common characteristics that took average companies and made them outstanding. These characteristics are:
-Level 5 Leadership
-First Who, Then What
-Confront the Brutal Facts: The Stockdale Paradox
-Hedgehog Concept: The Three Overlapping Circles
-Culture of Discipline
These 7 concepts cover everything from the importance of leadership to assembling the right team members. It also covers setting lofty goals and working as a team to develop a disciplined approach to sustain success.
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t
13. The Art of Happiness By The Dalai Lama XIV (Tenzin Gyatso)
The Art of Happiness embodies the foundational concepts of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy towards life. The main focus is on the idea of happiness as a state of mind. Tibetan Buddhism teaches how to surrender the feeling of attachment towards ideas and objects.
This attachment permits external objects or situations to dictate our internal emotional state.
The Art of Happiness teaches readers how to achieve inner happiness, which is happiness not attached to any external forces. It is a mind state that can be achieved to eliminate stress and anxiety in any situation. This timeless advice from a spiritual guru has cemented the Art of Happiness’ place among the best self-help books of all time.
The Art of Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Handbook for Living
14. The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth By M. Scott Peck
This book differs from most self-help books on the market in that it does not promote any “quick-fix” formula for growth. Instead, Peck promotes self-discipline as the foundation of sustainable personal and spiritual development.
The Road Less Traveled preaches acceptance of the tribulations of life, and focuses on how to exist peacefully with these realities. The main strategies Peck employs are delayed gratification and acceptance of responsibility. By accepting responsibility for every action of our daily lives, no matter how mundane, we eliminate the bad habits and limiting beliefs holding us back from unlocking our potential.
The Road Less Traveled, Timeless Edition: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth
15. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions By Dan Ariely
Predictably Irrational dives into the factors that make up our decision-making process. Ariely begins by defining rational thought and how what we think of as rational thoughts are often irrational. The first chapter sets up the rest of the theories by discussing how humans use relatively to make their decisions. The negative side of this thought process causes us to feel inferior because we constantly compare our lives to others.
Ariely continues to illustrate how we as consumers assign value to objects based on desirability, availability, and quality; and how all three of these qualities are completely arbitrary.
Ariely teaches readers how to be conscious of this “predictably irrational” thought in order to make the changes needed to live a more efficient life. The values of self-control and self-awareness are what makes Predictably Irrational a self-help classic.
Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
16. The Power of Positive Thinking By Norman Vincent Peale
The Power of Positive Thinking paved the way for the self-help book centered on the theory of positive thinking as the sole determining factor in what we get out of life. It set the groundwork for books such as “The Secret”, which deals with the Law of Attraction.
The Power of Positive Thinking teaches readers how to break the habit of worrying about things outside of their control. It gives practical exercises designed to get the reader to focus their negative energy into positive energy directed towards achieving their goals. These exercises show readers how to embrace their inner power and realize they deserve to receive even their wildest dreams if only they align themselves with the energy of positive thought.
The Power of Positive Thinking
17. You Can Heal Your Life By Louise Hay
This 1984 self-help classic has sold over 35 million copies worldwide in over 30 languages. You Can Heal Your Life teaches readers how to re-think their view of disease. She teaches her readers that most physical disease is a manifestation of emotional and spiritual unwellness.
Disease is a “dis-ease” caused by our reactions to external forces. Hay shows how to heal disease by healing the mind and spirit. The primary strategy for healing our thoughts is through affirmations. These are positive messages that the reader writes down or reads aloud every day to reinforce mental and spiritual strength. This simple strategy is why Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life is still among the top selling self-help books after 30 years.
You Can Heal Your Life
18. The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams By Deepak Chopra
This 1994 book from Deepak Chopra embodies core Hindu beliefs and gives readers the tools to apply these spiritual laws to their daily lives. There are seven laws that structure the book, and they are:
-The Law of Pure Potentiality
-The Law of Giving
-The Law of Karma
-The Law of Least Effort
-The Law of Intention and Desire
-The Law of Detachment
-The Law of Dharma
Each law is coupled with several strategies and anecdotes to help readers incorporate these laws into their attitude towards life. A reoccurring theme throughout each law is the idea that the world is like a boomerang; whatever you throw out into the world will come back to you. This book is a great compliment for those who live the fast-paced western lifestyle.
The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams
19. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living By Dale Carnegie
How to Stop Worrying and Start Living has stood the test of time as one of the most popular self-help books on the market over 60 years after its first publication. Carnegie’s book defined how a generation of readers faced the worry controlling every aspect of their lives.
The book is divided into the following 8 sections:
-Fundamental Facts You Should Know About Worry
-Basic Techniques in Analyzing Worry
-How to Break the Worry Habit Before it Breaks You
-Seven Ways to Cultivate A Mental Attitude That Will Bring You Peace and Happiness
-The Perfect Way to Conquer Worry
-How to Keep from Worrying About Criticism
-Six Ways to Prevent Fatigue and Worry and Keep Your Energies and Spirits High
-“How I Conquered Worry”
The first 7 sections outline Carnegie’s simple philosophies on how to handle worry in various aspects of our lives, such as decision-making and how we are perceived by others. The 8th section provides various stories, from all types of people, which show how they used these strategies to conquer worry and live a fulfilled life.
How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
20. The Power of Myth By Joseph Campbell
This book highlights the role storytelling plays in the development of the human psyche. It is a companion to the 1988, six-part documentary series on PBS, in which Campbell discusses the role of myth throughout human history.
The main premise throughout the six interviews is the stories we tell are a mirror of the human psyche and are humanity’s way of interpreting the world around them. He discusses how we can use these myths to interpret our own internal struggles.
He surmises that we are all on “the hero’s journey” of our own life and our lives take the general trajectory of the hero’s journey in the world’s myths.
The Power of Myth
21. The Magic of Thinking Big By David Schwartz
The Magic of Thinking Big was first published in 1959 and its philosophies on setting goals still hold true. The book’s most important philosophy is thinking highly of oneself. It preaches the importance of setting lofty goals and embracing the power of positive thought to achieve these goals.
Another core concept is the power of visualization. Schwartz provides strategies for visualizing yourself achieving your goals and channeling that feeling for motivation. As these visualizations start manifesting themselves, the next step is to spread the good news. Broadcasting good news sends out gratitude to the universe and keeps the positive cycle flowing.
The Magic of Thinking Big
22. The Seat of the Soul By Gary Zukav
The Seat of the Soul provides a unique take on life that blends science, philosophy, and spirituality. The main message Zukav stresses is the idea of humans going through a psychological and spiritual evolution.
This evolution involves a shift from external power to internal power. Zukav defines external power as power acquired and defined by our 5 senses. This power is false power since it can be taken away by external forces. Internal power is authentic power since it is completely generated by the individual.
The purpose of the book is to teach the reader how to cultivate this inner power to deal with life’s hardships.
The Seat of the Soul: 25th Anniversary Edition with a Study Guide
23. Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical, and Financial Destiny By Anthony Robbins
Awaken the Giant Within is a collection of strategies for enacting change from self-help guru Tony Robbins. Robbins states the reason people struggle with change is they are not aware of the behaviors and reasons behind bad habits. He then discusses numerous proven strategies for making one’s behaviors a conscious decision instead of an unconscious habit.
Removing the limiting thought patterns that keep one stuck in their current position allows one to unlock seemingly endless possibilities for achievement. Robbins conveys this information through easy to understand prose, which makes Awaken the Giant Within a wonderful read.
Awaken the Giant Within : How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny!
24. The 48 Laws of Power By Robert Greene
An interesting fact about The 48 Laws of Power is it is one of the most requested books among American prisoners. It is also a favorite of world leaders like Fidel Castro and hip-hop superstars such as 50 Cent. It has been dubbed by critics as a cult classic for its widespread success among America’s rich and famous.
The 48 Laws of Power illustrates 48 laws America’s rich and powerful use to acquire and maintain power. Greene presents these laws with actionable steps for the average reader to incorporate into their approach to life. The book covers areas such as negotiations, how to get people to do what you want, and how to maintain the ideal relationship with superiors in the workplace. The 48 Laws of Power is a staple for anyone looking to rise to the top of their career.
The 48 Laws of Power
25. As A Man Thinketh By James Allen
As A Man Thinketh is a 1902 self-help book revolving around the theory of responsibility assumption. Responsibility assumption states that humans have complete and total control of the external events that happen to them. This book served as the basis of the “mind over matter” style of self-help book that has become so popular among the New Age movement. The basic theory is man shapes his world, and therefore himself, by his thoughts.
The title of the book is based off a verse from King James’ Bible, which illustrates the Christian overtones of the advice. While originally published with Christians in mind, this book has evolved in the modern era as a self-help book that transcends all faiths.
As a Man Thinketh
26. Fooled By Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets By Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Fooled By Randomness has been hailed by Fortune as one of the “75 smartest books of all time” for its work on the way humans perceive randomness. Taleb breaks down the various ways humans assign meaning to a series of independent random events.
Taleb opens with 2 basic fallacies of our perception of randomness. The first is that we tend to over-estimate cause and effect. Our brains are wired to make connections between events to formulate a reaction. The second fallacy is we view the world as explainable when in reality there is no explanation for the succession of independent and random events that make up reality.
Taleb’s Fooled By Randomness is a good choice for those looking for a more pragmatic approach to the personal development genre.
Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets (Incerto)
27. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead By Brene Brown
Brene Brown gets the title of Daring Greatly from a speech made by Teddy Roosevelt in 1910, in which Roosevelt muses on the courage it takes to make oneself vulnerable by “daring greatly”. Brown extrapolates this theory on vulnerability throughout her book.
The book begins with a discussion on how humans by nature do not put themselves in vulnerable situations since our reptilian brain relies on this risk assessment to stay safe.
The reality is most risks that pop up in our daily lives are not life or death, and our reptilian brain limits us by keeping us away from feeling vulnerable.
Daring Greatly helps readers free themselves from the prison of vulnerability, and to see being vulnerable as a desirable emotional state.
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
28. First Thing First By Stephen Covey, A. Roger Merrill, Rebecca R. Merrill
First Thing First is offers a pragmatic and simple to implement approach to time management that helps readers become more efficient by putting their “first things” first. The authors’ main theory is people do not know how to assign importance to their tasks, so they spend too much time on mundane tasks and too little time on important tasks.
First Thing First gives readers a weekly worksheet to plan and prioritize one’s activities. The authors also give a 4-quadrant chart to organize daily tasks. The four categories are:
-Urgent and Important
-Urgent but Not Important
-Not Important but Urgent
-Not important and Not Urgent
Readers put every task through this classification in order to figure out the most efficient schedule for their weekly planners. The idea is that one’s most important and most urgent tasks will always get done.
First Things First
29. There is Nothing Wrong With You; Going Beyond Self-Hate By Cheri Huber
This book is all about self-hate, and how self-hate is a main factor in stopping us from achieving our goals.
Huber starts with defining self-hate. She discusses the different ways self-hate manifests itself and how this negative self-image keeps us from having the confidence necessary for success. The book also discusses the role self-hate plays in addiction and other harming behaviors.
Huber provides a strategy based on daily meditation to foster a feeling of unconditional love towards oneself. She teaches readers how to embrace their flaws as well as the flaws in others. Once we accept that we are our own worst critic, we are free to pursue our full potential.
There Is Nothing Wrong with You: Going Beyond Self-Hate
30. Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Care for Yourself By Melody Battie
Codependent No More has helped millions of people break free of the prison of codependent relationships. Battie defines codependence as relying on relationships with others for our own self-worth and happiness. Her book is a guide in working through the reasons for this codependence and helps the reader foster internal happiness.
Codependent No More made its mark as the first book on codependence written for the average reader. This brought the codependent relationship to the forefront of communicative theory.
Battie shows how those who try to help an addict or someone who is depressed can provide the breeding ground for an unhealthy codependent relationship. She provides readers with strategies on how to help others emotionally without becoming an external source of their happiness.
Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself
31. A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principle of “ A Course in Miracles” By Marianne Williamson
A Return to Love was one of the first books ever endorsed by Oprah and has sold over 3 million copies worldwide. It has been credited as one of the main driving forces for bringing the concept of spiritual well-being to the American mainstream.
A Return to Love is the source for the inspirational quote that begins “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure”.
This quote encapsulates the main theme of unlocking one’s potential through an unrestricted child-like love for life. It has been an essential tool in helping millions unlock a spiritual path to happiness for over 20 years.
A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”
32. The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science By Norman Doidge
The Brain That Changes Itself is a personal development book on the topic of neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the idea that the wiring of the brain that controls our habits and thought patterns are constantly changing.
The book uses case studies of people with brain injuries to illustrate how other areas of the brain adapt to compensate for the injured area. This research supports the biological level of neuroplasticity.
Doidge also uses case studies of children to show the brains’ changes as the child learns a skill. He highlights how repeating an action or skill over a long period of time actually re-wires the neurons in the brain.
The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science
33. Starting Strength, 3rd Edition By Mark Rippetoe
Starting Strength is widely regarded as one of the best barbell-training guides on the market. This 3rd edition is updated with new testimonials and expanded exercises to maximize results.
This book is a great read for those looking to build muscle. Most people see weight training in the gym in front of others as intimidating. Rippetoe’s book breaks down the form and science behind each exercise to make weight lifting easy for the average reader.
The book contains illustrations for each exercise so readers can see how each exercise is performed. It analyzes what each exercise does so the reader can understand what’s going on with their body and work towards their ideal physique.
Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, 3rd edition
34. The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be By Jack Canfield, Janet Switzer
The Success principles is a culmination of the tips, tricks, and skills Jack Canfield has developed over 30 years as a best-selling author and motivational speaker. Canfield carries the feel-good tone of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series into this self-help classic.
Canfield’s book covers 64 principles of success that cover a wide variety of subjects, such as love, finances, and interpersonal relationships. Throughout the book Canfield provides stories of famous celebrities and significant people from history who have used these principles to achieve greatness. With daily practice these principles of success can fast track anyone to realizing their goals.
The Success Principles(TM) – 10th Anniversary Edition: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be
35. The Power of Your Subconscious By Joseph Murphy
Murphy’s book on the subconscious shows just how much of our choices are made on autopilot. Murphy teaches his readers how the subconscious is the key to many aspects of life, including:
-Healing physical ailments using the subconscious
-Strengthen all relationships
-Developing friendships with strangers
-Living a life free of irrational phobias
-Develop the confidence needed to advance in one’s career
Murphy uses scientific research to back his claims regarding the power of the subconscious. This scientific basis makes “The Power of Your Subconscious” a great choice for the rational skeptic. With these benefits it is no wonder Murphy’s book on the power of the Subconscious has sold over 1 million copies worldwide.
The Power of Your Subconscious Mind
36. The Science of Getting Rich By Wallace Wattles
The Science of Getting Rich helped define the self-help genre with its publication in 1910. The first page paraphrases the Hindu philosophy of Oneness, which ties into all of the ideas portrayed throughout the book.
Wattles theorizes that the most efficient way to get rich is through cooperative creation instead of selfish competition. This book focuses on harnessing one’s willpower to feel great and grow their wealth. It was the inspiration for modern “mind over matter” classics such as “ The Secret” By Rhonda Bryne and “Think and Grow Rich” By Napoleon Hill. Wattles calls his thought process “The certain way of thinking”, which we know today as “The Law of Attraction”. The Science of Getting Rich is a superb read for those who want a self-help book whose advice has stood the test of time.
The Science of Getting Rich
37. Unlimited Power: The New Science of Personal Achievement By Anthony Robbins, Kenneth Blanchard, Jason Winters
Unlimited power is another self-help masterpiece from motivational speaker Tony Robbins. The main message is that humans are born with all the power they need to achieve their dreams. Power is not acquired through gathering wealth, resources, or romance.
In the book Robbins outlines his 7 principles of success, which are:
-Realize there is no failures, only outcomes. Learn from every outcome
-Take charge of your life and create your world
-Always stretch yourself
-Commit to unconscious competence
-Stay true to your values, but be flexible to new ideas
-You get what you put in when it comes to relationships
-Commit 100% to your plan for success
These 7 principles have helped millions get on track to the life they envisioned, no matter where they were at in life.
Unlimited Power : The New Science Of Personal Achievement
38. Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life By Thomas Moore
“Care of the Soul” takes the reader on a journey through the fascinating world of Myth and Archetypal Psychology. Moore combines research from renowned Psychologists, such as Carl Jung, with spiritual truths to provide a guide designed to nurture the soul.
“Care for the Soul” has sold over 200,000 copies because it shows readers how to apply the spiritual philosophies of the East to the fast-paced culture of the West. Moore highlights how the archetypes that pop up in ancient myths are mirrors of the human psyche, and that we all can embody any of those characteristics with proper nourishment of the soul.
Care of the Soul : A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life
39. When Bad Things Happen to Good People By Harold S. Kushner
“When Bad Things Happen to Good People” gets at the very core of spirituality. The inspiration for writing a book on grief was the death of Kushner’s son when he was just 11 years old. The main question Kushner discusses is “If the God of this world is so loving and nurturing, why is there so much suffering and disease in the world?”
Kushner answers this question by describing God as a being who tries to ease suffering to the best of his power; however, not all suffering can be eased since it is a natural part of the ebb and flow of life.
Kushner gives his readers timeless strategies for developing a solid foundation for handling grief.
When Bad Things Happen to Good People
40. The 80/20 Principle: The Secret of Achieving More With less By Richard Koch
“The 80/20 Principle” is a superb tool for those looking to maximize their daily efficiency. It draws inspiration from the Pareto Principle, which states 80% of effects come from 20% of the causes. The principle of Koch’s best-seller is the idea that you accomplish 80% of your tasks with 20% of your effort. The problem with most people is that 80% of their effort goes to completing only 20% of their tasks. This reversal causes the stress and anxiety that come with procrastination.
Koch provides his readers with a guideline for devouring these principles and apply them to all aspects of their lives. “The 80/20 Principle” continues to be a cornerstone in time management and efficiency.
The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less
41. Psycho-Cybernetics, A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life By Maxwell Maltz
Self-help gurus such as Tony Robbins and Zig Ziglar have used Maltz’s “Psycho-Cybernetics” as inspiration for the strategies they have used to help millions of people free themselves from mental barriers. This 1960 book revolutionized academia’s view on the role of positive thought in success.
The driving force behind Maltz’s work was to find out why setting goals is so effective in helping people achieve success. He is known as the forefather of popular techniques such as creative visualization, which has helped countless athletes achieve and maintain peak levels of performance. Maltz shares these same techniques with his readers to help them turn their abstract dreams into concrete and achievable goals.
Psycho-Cybernetics, A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life
42. How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling By Frank Bettger
This book from former professional Baseball player Frank Bettger contains everything one needs to know to become a successful salesperson. The first and most important point the book makes is that selling is not just selling a product. We sell our ideas, our desires, and ourselves every day. Bettger teaches proven techniques to increase happiness by increasing sales skills.
Bettger covers several topics such as; how to create and maintain enthusiasm, how to be confident in every sales conversation, and how to turn a no into a sale. He outlines several core sales principles, such as:
-Be organized with your time
-Find out the prospect’s main issue
-Use your product or service to resolve the main issue
“How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling” is a motivational personal story of success for any aspiring salesperson.
How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling
43. How to Have Confidence and Power in Dealing With People By Les Giblin
“How to Have Confidence and Power in Dealing With People” has helped millions of readers develop the self-esteem necessary to succeed in life.
Giblin outlines how self-esteem is just our ego at work trying to grow, and low self-esteem is a matter of starving the ego. He teaches readers how everyone you encounter is letting their ego control their actions, and once you understand this fact you can get people to do what you want.
This works by being able to suppress one’s ego to appeal to another’s ego in order to ultimately further yourself towards your goals. Giblin’s book gives readers the tools for a healthy self-esteem and successful career.
How to Have Confidence and Power in Dealing with People
44. Prometheus Rising By Robert Anton Wilson
“Prometheus Rising” has been touted by critics as “ the owner’s manual to the human mind”. This 1983 book dives into a wide spectrum of disciplines, from the scientific to the esoteric, to provide a holistic understanding of why we do what we do.
The primary goal of all this research is to show readers various techniques to evolve their consciousness. Techniques like yoga and tantric breathing are combined with theories like semantics and relativity to understand the mental constructs that keep most people in society in a perpetual state of unconscious anxiety.
“Prometheus Rising” is a classic on human consciousness that has helped spawn the new generation of conscious awareness.
45. When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times By Pema Chodron
“When Things Fall Apart” is a collection of 7 years worth of conversation with Pema Chodron, an expert on Buddhism.
These conversations meander through a wide array of life’s troubles, and how to solve them through Buddhist philosophy.Chodron focuses mainly on strategies to cope with life’s curveballs. Some of the topics covered include:
-Using pain as a resource to foster inner strength
-Giving yourself permission to experience emotion and make others around you comfortable doing the same
-Dealing with stressful situations
-Reversing bad habits and replacing them with healthy habits
“When Things Fall Apart” is not just a guide for Buddhist living, but rather a manual for living a fulfilled life no matter what one’s faith or position in life.
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
46. The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook By Edmund J. Bourne, PHD
Edmund J. Bourne has spent most of his professional life as a psychologist researching how anxiety works, and how one can overcome anxiety through cognitive behavior therapy.
Bourne outlines the diagnosable anxiety disorders and the characteristics of each. He then goes into the major causes of each disorder. This helps readers understand their feelings and lets them know they are not alone.
The workbook portion of the book outlines ways to deal with and overcome these anxiety disorders without medication. One of the main strategies is the tone of our self-talk. Letting our inner voice be a cheerleader instead of a critic is a simple way to rid worry and foster confidence.
Other strategies include breathing and meditation techniques, as well as mistaken beliefs towards anxiety. “ The anxiety and Phobia Workbook” has helped millions of people face their phobias head on and live a life of relaxation.
The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook
47. Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude By Napoleon Hill, W. Clement Stone
“Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude” Is another classic from Napoleon Hill, author of “Think and Grow Rich”. The main thesis of this book is that one’s frame of mind is the deciding factor between success in failure, not only in business, but in all aspects of life.
Hill’s book has received wide recognition from academia for its development of the field of positive thought. Numerous celebrities, CEOS, and politicians have used this book to achieve the pinnacle of success in their fields.
Hill preaches 17 simple principles the reader must adapt in order to achieve wealth, status, and happiness simply by believing it will happen.
Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude
48. To Have or To Be? By Erich Fromm
“To Have or To Be” is social psychologist Erich Fromm’s dissertation on the difference between “having” and “being”. Fromm critiques 1970’s American culture by saying America has become a culture obsessed with “having”. We let the amount of possessions we own dictate our happiness levels, and think that any uncomfortable situation can be solved with more money.
He traces the origin of the shift from “being” to “having” being the driving force of America to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Once goods were able to be mass-produced, more people were able to afford a wider variety of things. Eventually most people had enough disposable income to buy goods that have no other function but to be a symbol of status.
Fromm outlines how his readers can revert to a life revolved around “being” to enjoy the unlimited joys life has to offer.
To Have or To Be?
49. I’m OK- You’re OK By Thomas A. Harris
“I’m OK-You’re OK” is responsible for bringing the theory of transactional analysis to the mainstream. The basis of this theory is humans are shaped through their transactions with other people, and that their sense of self is constantly changing due to these transactions.
Harris shows how intense experiences from childhood remain present in the adult subconscious and dictates much of our automatic and irrational response to outside stressors. Harris discusses the four main psychological states, which are:
-I’m OK and You’re OK
-I’m OK and You are not OK
-I’m not OK and You are OK
-I’m not OK and You are not OK
Harris provides strategies to live in a constant state of “I’m OK and You’re OK” and enjoy what life has to offer.
I’m OK–You’re OK
50. Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life By Martin Seligman
This 1990 national best-seller defines the concept of “learned optimism”, which is the theory that happiness is a skill that can be developed. The theory revolves around meeting negative self-talk head on and fostering an encouraging inner voice. Doing so allows readers to begin the shift from pessimism to optimism.