Help Me Read More (Book Recommendations Needed)

Help Me Read More (Book Recommendations Needed)

At the risk of having you think less of me, I’m going to admit I don’t remember the last time I finished reading an entire book.

I digest plenty of online articles on a daily basis, but it’s been a while since I picked up an actual book (or even an eBook) and read it through. My room in Arizona has about six books–I’ve read 3 of them–collecting dust on the nightstand.

I tried forming a reading habit back in December 2013 when I bought myself a copy of The Art of War. After 10 pages, I promised myself I’d pick it back up the following night.

The book has sat untouched ever since.

All of the people I admire read like it’s their job.

They often reference tons of books I’ve never even heard of and hold engaging conversations about the contents. They argue the points they disagree with and expand on the ones they do. They exchange book recommendations with one another and create laundry lists of their own. I can’t do any of that and I’m left in awe of their knowledge, sometimes even feeling ignorant for not being able to join or contribute to the discussion.

I have a hunch as to why I rarely read and it’s not just laziness (although that certainly plays a role.)

In high school, we were constantly forced to read books we didn’t care about. We were graded on nonsense but plausible analyses on these books and it made me feel like the whole thing was bull. Doing this for four years got me into the mindset that books weren’t for me.

I can choose to read any book I want now and I’m not forced to “analyze” any work that I don’t want to, so I’m going to commit myself to reading more often.

Sitting here, I remember that I used to enjoy reading when I was younger and I think about the few books I have read on my own in recent years that I was fond of.

Some books literally changed my life and gave me different perspectives on who I am and what I should be doing.

For example, William B. Irvine’s book on Stoicism, A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, I could at least credit for getting me to where I am today. This book was a springboard that launched and encouraged me to do certain things, one of them being starting this blog.

The popular Tim Ferriss’ The Four-Hour Workweek opened my eyes to the possibilities of location independent living and the world of entrepreneurship.

Someone pointed out that it’s not always about the content of the books that make it life-changing for an individual. What makes books amazing is that the person read it at the right time in his or her life and were facing the very struggles the book sought to solve.

If books can expand my mind and change my life again then I’m all for it!

It helps that the people I admire have lists written out on books they recommend so that’s where I’m going to start.

Here are the 14 books I’m going to tackle first (in no particular order:)

  1. So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport
  2. Choose Yourself by James Altucher – Finished July 6, 2014
  3. The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman
  4. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield – Finished July 7, 2014
  5. Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  6. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey
  7. Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal by Nick Bilton
  8. In The Plex – How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives by Steven Levy
  9. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin
  10. Masters of DooM by David Kushner
  11. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T Kiyosaki
  12. Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin
  13. Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You by John Warrilow
  14. The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines Into Massive Success by Jeff Olson
  15. 50 Shades of Gray (kidding)

Pretty small list but I’m hoping you can help me enlarge it a bit.

What books would you recommend?

I would love to explore books in business/entrepreneurship, philosophy, self-improvement, personal finance, and psychology. Hopefully I can keep up and thanks in advance!

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Vincent Nguyen is the author of Self Stairway and founder of Growth Ninja, a digital marketing agency that specializes in Facebook Ads. Voted "Most Guapo" five years in a row (lost during 6th year to a hand model.)

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69 responses to Help Me Read More (Book Recommendations Needed)

  1. Read anything Camus. Check out Paulo Coehlo, mainly the Alchemist and Veronika Decides to Die. East of Eden is my favorite book and it changed my life. Harry Potter is awesome and actually has a lot of valuable insights into life and relationships. Dumbledore has some fantastic quotes.

    Read Influence the Power to Change Anything. Steve Jobs Autobiography. Phil Jackson’s 11 rings book. Anything Malcolm Gladwell.

    • Thanks for the recommendations! Let’s see…

      I read The Stranger by Camus in senior year of high school. I half-way appreciated it but at the same time, being forced to read it in school made me not like it. Might be worth a re-visit.

      Read The Alchemist but only the graphic novel version. I won the book from Scott Dinsmore in a contest.

      Got through more than half of Outliers by Gladwell while I was in a 5-hour car trip. Haven’t touched it since… The book is sitting on my nightstand in Arizona.

      All the rest, thanks for the suggestions! I’ll look into them.

      I may have to skip Harry Potter though. I’m not too into fiction and HP is SUPER long. 🙂

  2. Nice. I am sure the graphic novel version was pretty good. They are coming out with a movie of it.

    For psychology books, check out this post from a random website I found. It has a list of 50 social psychology books. I’ve read a few of them and they are pretty good.

  3. Hi Vincent, you had me by the title of this one! I’m going to have to check out that book by William Irvine. Thanks for the suggestion!

    Well, I have read tons of fiction and could suggest so many, but my favorite is Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Great life lessons in that one. I’ve read it three times, and I NEVER read books more than once.

    I am really into nonfiction these days and have really enjoyed Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and The China Study by Dr. Colin Campbell. I am currently reading What I Think About When I Think About Running by Haruki Murakami which is about a man who started a bar but ended up a novelist and runner. Fascinating and almost like reading a meditation!

    • Please let me know what you think of the book if you do! None of the links I used in the article above are affiliate links, so feel free to purchase it straight from the link in my article knowing I’m not being biased. 😛

      Thanks for the suggestions. I like the idea of Haruki’s book. Noting that one.

      • I put it on my Wishlist in Amazon!

        I’m about halfway through Haruki’s book and like the simplicity of it all. Even for people who don’t run (like me about a month ago!), the lessons of his life can be transferred to any area of interest.

        Thank you, Vincent!

  4. Robert Greene’s books: The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction and Mastery.

    • Haven’t read his books but Mastery does interest me. I’ve heard some people compare it to George Leonard’s book, Mastery (which I did read.) Have you read both and if you have, do you think Greene’s book is different enough?

  5. Harvard Business Review Guide to Getting the Right Work Done. It’s a book of short articles written by successful people on how they manage their time, create daily rituals, prioritize and get the right work done. It’s been a good resource for me and I find myself going back to some articles to read their pointers.

  6. Hey Vincent,

    That’s a great list you’ve got there. I’ve read a few of those books and they were great. Especially Linchpin. Speaking of Antifragile, if you haven’t read it, you may want to read Kyle’s MASSIVE summary of it at StartupBros.

    Here are five highly recommended books:

    –Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger
    –Poor Charlie’s Almanac
    –Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damndest Thing

  7. For philosophy, I really enjoyed Wittgenstein’s Poker, which is a more a historical look at the recent direction of philosophy (the analytic/continental divide).

    For actual philosophy, I would highly recommend this pdf: Which is part 1/2 of James Stocksdale’s speech on living through Stoicism. I’m a new member, so you might already know about him. If you don’t, he was a prisoner of war that survived some crazy stuff, and he thinks Epictetus (of the Stoicism philosophy) for getting him through. It’s also short 🙂

    Also don’t be afraid of reading Young Adult literature. It’s light, you get through it quickly, and you learn a lot about yourself with a good book. I’m digging on Kenneth Oppel’s work right now. Definitely hit up a library – my favorite books tend to be totally blind picks.

    Best of luck, and thank you for your great blog :))

    • Amber, thanks for stopping by. Love philosophy and wish I read more.

      I’ll start off with the PDF (once I get through the books already on my list + the comments above yours) and move over to Wittgenstein’s Poker.

      Interesting point. I know John Greene is really popular for young adults right now. I’m hip n’ happenin’!

    • Amber, just wanted to let you know that I’ve just finished reading Stocksdale’s speech (the half from the doc, at least.) Great stuff and I’ll admit that a lot of it I had to keep re-reading for comprehension.

  8. Hey Vincent 🙂
    I love Dr. Amy’s books – her words have really eased my mind:
    Modern Enlightenment
    Being Human

    And also Alan Watts’ classic which was recommended by my therapist years ago and I just read recently:
    The Wisdom of Insecurity

    I also read a cool biography on Nikola Tesla that I loved called Man out of Time.

    Take care, and congrats on all the cool things you have brought to life by following your dreams!

    • Will eventually get to the others you recommended but the Tesla bio would be the first one to start off with once I finish the other reads.

      Thanks for the recs and kind words, Carolyn!

  9. Never Eat Alone (Ferrazzi)
    The Magic of Thinking Big (Scwartz)
    Mastery (Greene)
    The Obstacle is the Way (Holiday)

  10. Hi Vincent

    I’d recommend going back to read some of the classic business (and other) books as a start. They have formed the basis for a lot of the stuff people are writing today. If you haven’t already read it, I’d suggest starting with Stephen R. Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. It provides a great foundation to form the basis of any life you want to lead.

  11. Jofferson Jones Panos July 1, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Reading is a great activity. It allows you hear (see) the thoughts of smart people. It can even take you to places you’ve never been before.

    I got a copy of Linchpin, you want to borrow? 🙂

    • Dude, that’d be great! I do remember you having a photo of yourself reading the book. 🙂

      • Jofferson Jones Panos July 1, 2014 at 7:41 pm

        Yeah! love the book. I want to be indispensable someday.

        The book does not give a lot of practical examples though. Theoretical and very inspiring.

        • I think theoretical reads can be extremely powerful if you read it at the right time in your life. E.g. you’ve already got the right skills and drive but you just need the trigger to turn you onto “Go kill it” mode.

  12. Hey Vincent,

    You’ve got a really nice list to get you started there – I’ve read around half of them myself!

    You asked me this the other day and I mentioned “Built To Sell”, but I’m SO glad you included The War Of Art – excellent, excellent book.

    I have to say that I tried “The Personal MBA” based on a glowing recommendation from Derek Sivers and didn’t even make it halfway. There’s good/helpful info in there, but it was just way too dry for me to get through.

  13. Recommend that you read 2 interesting books:

    The Mystic Path To Cosmic Power
    – Vernon Howard

    Man’s Search For Meaning
    – Victor Frankel

    Your life will never be the same.

  14. Further proof that I should read more:

    I goofed up the very first sentence of this article!

    It was originally “At the risk of having you think lower of me…” Now fixed to “think less of me…”

    Bright side, I’ve been reading for four days straight. Started off with James Altucher’s “Choose Yourself.”

  15. Just today I realised how important my daily routine is to keep me motivated. Then, on cue you send this newsletter. Thank you for the reinforcement of this life lesson.

    I read around 10 books per month and have done so since I can remember. I find that people are more easily motivated to read, when they find a particular genre that speaks to them. Even if that means starting with 50 Shades of Grey.

    Your communication is timely and priceless. Keep it up Vincent.

    • Glad the quick tip was useful! I’m still going strong with my daily routine and almost every morning I feel myself wondering if it’s okay to skip a couple steps. I’ve been cheating on the meditation (aiming for 10 minutes but realistically, it’s more like 1 minute,) but it’s better to partially do it then skip it 100%.

      WOW! That is some serious pro reading there. I’ve been chipping away slowly at James Altucher’s Choose Yourself and I think I’m almost half way. Clearly I’ve got to step up my game.

  16. Hi, as you re. still developing the reading habit i suggest the following self help books. The tone is conversational, easygoing and the points made are illustrated by real life stories.
    How to win friends and influence people-
    The leader in you- dale carnegie
    power of positive thinking- Norman vincent peale
    Think and grow rich- Napoleon Hill

  17. Davis Nguyen, above, mentioned The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. If you’re up for reading another blog post, I’d recommend Holiday’s “Read to Lead: How to Digest Books Above Your ‘Level'”. It really gave me a new perspective on selecting and reading books.

  18. Hey Vincent,

    1 book that I would recommend is Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk.

    It may not be for you because you are already “crushing” it 🙂 but I really enjoyed it.

    It gives incredible insight on where Gary believes business and social media is headed and how everyone should create a personal brand and follow their passion.

  19. James’ book is a joyful read. An expression of a pained individual reaching rock bottom and then rising to greet himself in love. His humor is wonderful, reaching into his moments of despair yet keeping us in perspective.

  20. Hey, Vincent. I recently wrote an article reviewing the 7 books that have had the most effect on me. If you haven’t read any of them – do it, NOW! 🙂

  21. The best of my collection, the ones I’ve read several times:

    * Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
    * Getting the love you want by Harville Hendrix
    * How to raise your self-esteem by Nathaniel Branden
    * The six pillars of self-esteem by Nathaniel Branden
    * The power of habit by Charles Duhigg
    * Stumbling on happiness by Daniel Gilbert
    * The road less traveled by Scott Peck
    * Thinking, fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman
    * No more mr. nice guy by Robert Glover

    Many all psychology and science based, cause I just love it.

  22. I would suggest 2 books on productivity:
    -Getting Things Done by David Allen
    -The Effective Executive by Drucker

    P.S. About your opt-in box with the green grass. Does that come from Glen (ViperChill)? How’s it working for you?

    • Nice. I hear about GTD all the time and loves that system. That’s a book I’ve got to check out soon.

      Yup, I got the idea from Glen a while back. Can’t really say if it’s helping anything or not though as I’m not tracking conversions on this website anymore. 😛

  23. On that list, I’ve read So Good They Can’t Ignore You, The Personal MBA, and Rich Dad, Poor Dad.

    I highly recommend the first two. Newport’s is one that you could easily get equal value from in an audiobook version, so consider that if you like to walk or bike a lot. Personal MBA is amazing, and I think it’s best consumed by reading (and re-reading).

    Rich Dad is an OK book, and I did find the priority grid in it to be useful. I read it when I was 15, and while it’s got some good stuff, I think your time might be better used on better personal finance books like Ramit Sethi’s

    • Interesting, I was reconsidering reading The Personal MBA and just opting to read Derek Siver’s summary/notes after Justin said he thought it was a dry read. I’m flip flopping all over.

      I read Ramit’s book a few years ago but it was at the wrong time I think. I didn’t retain much of what I read and couldn’t really apply any of it then. Worth another look.

      • Oh yeah, Derek Sivers’ notes are actually really good! I’d forgotten about those.

        The Personal MBA is a bit dry, but I view it almost as a reference for all the main topics that relate to business. Each section is a little starting point for further research.

  24. I’ve been an avid reader for a year now and it has completely changed my life.

    I’ve thrown up a copy of my Audiobook library on the about me page of my blog, if anyone is interested.

    I also wrote a post on how Audiobooks have changed my life, also outlining some of the books that have had the biggest influence on me recently.

    If anyone is interested, click on my name 🙂

    Out of the ones you mentioned, Rich Dad Poor Dad and Built to Sell are definitely gold.

    Daily Rituals is definitely on my reading list for my two month retirement, hehe.

    • I’ve never tried audiobooks because I don’t like the idea of being stuck with the pace of the narrator. Though I suppose I should give it a shot since I like podcasts. 🙂

  25. W. Shannon Hale July 6, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    “The Magic Of Thinking Big” by David Schwartz. I didn’t discover this book until last year, but it is phenomenal. Definitely a life-changer.

  26. All leaders are readers.
    “The book you don’t read won’t help you.” – Jim Rohn

    I found Rich Dad, Poor Dad an easy read, but also a scam. I recommend Start Over, Finish Rich or any ‘finish rich’ book of David Bach.

    Science of Getting Rich by Wallace Wattle (public domain: – it made me think. Very short read.

    Other good recommendations were already mentioned – 7 Habits, The Slight Edge is on your list.

    For fiction I recommend anything of Cormak McCarthy and Stanislav Lem. Both of them wrote books I don’t fully understand. They meade me stretch myself.

    • Thanks for the recs.

      Regarding RD, PD, what makes you say it’s a scam? Keep in mind I haven’t read the book itself or looked into the summary or anything so I have no idea.

  27. It’s a fiction which pretends to be a real account. Totally unnecessary in my opinion and it spoiled all the fun I had reading the book.
    Plus the controversy around Kiyosaki and his bankrupcy gives it even less credit.
    I love the message, I hate way it was provided.

  28. Hi Vincent,
    Some book recommendations from me- thats what I can easily think of: Predictably irrational, Dan Ariely (where and why our minds are wired to make us act irrationally, and how marketing is already exploiting some of it; the book helped me be more aware of my own irrational impulses, which helps me prevent them from becoming actions)
    The Now habit, Neil Fiore (overcoming procrastination for good with the right mind set and strategies instead of discipline – good read though for me the most important thing was starting to get up early to get things done that never get done elseway.)
    The choice, Eliyahu M. Goldratt (helps to recognize, understand and solve even chronic conflicts with win win solutions, and other fundamental human problems, if you ever happen to manage projects or processes where several people are involved, check out other books by the same author , all novels, so nice to read, or on the Theory of Constraints)
    The Vorkosigan saga, Lois Mc Master Bujold (awesome role model characters for leadership, great character development, well researched and probable science fiction  – and fast paced action. Hands down the best fiction I have ever read (also, it received tons of awards). AND with application to the real world, at least for me.)
    have fun reading! Hannah

    • Ariely’s book sounds really interesting. As a marketer myself, maybe I could use this to exploit… I mean… Uh… 🙂

      Fiore’s topic sounds a lot like the article I just published for this week.

      Goldratt’s book I could have used sooner but it’s better late than never.

      Bujold, great book title and author name.

      Will check these out when I finish the ones that came before. Loooong way!

      Thanks, Hannah!

  29. Hey Vincent!

    Try these non-fiction novels: -by Charles Bukowski-
    >Ham On Rye, (somehow I feel like equating his writing style, his honesty with Altucher’s)
    >Factotum, or
    >Woman, or
    >Post Office.

    He sounds like Altucher’s brother…

  30. As of August 25, almost two months since writing this post, I’ve finished:

    Choose Yourself by James Altucher

    The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

    Amber’s recommendation on Mr. Stockfield’s Stoicism speech

    Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy

    Bit of a slower pace than when I first started (I finished two books in two days when I first began)

    Currently trying to finish:


    I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi (AWFUL/scammy-sounding book title but this guy and book are legit.)

    Rework by Jason Friend (thanks Tung Tran from for the recommendation)

    I’ve started several other books but focusing on the 3 above at the moment.

  31. Paths To Satan by Mc Greggor………is an excellent book that explains Theistic and Atheistic Satanism clearly and simply…….it’s a good read.

    ps- I love your articles….and share them with my recovery groups

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