Want to be the best version of yourself in 2018, in both work and life? If reading is on your list of self-improvement habits to adopt this year, check out these highly recommended titles.
The most successful people typically are creative thinkers, work smart, practice healthy habits each day, and often read for the purpose of learning and self-betterment. If you’re looking for book recommendations that are sure to sharpen your mind, take some suggestions from 16 of our #ProductivityGiants who turn to these titles for motivation and inspiration.
Noah Kagan, Founder of AppSumo
“Essentialism by Greg McKeown. I love entrepreneurship and marketing. I have so many half-baked projects that I’m doing okay on, but not great. This book taught me the importance of doing less and inspired me to cultivate the habit of focusing on the essential things in both business and life.”
James Clear, Author and Entrepreneur
“For practical wisdom, I think everyone should read Manual For Living by Epictetus. It’s short, easy to understand, and useful for everyone. For perspective, I really like The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant. It showcases the broad themes of history across thousands of years and tells you a lot about human nature. For other suggestions, I keep a list of the 10 books with the most “page for page” wisdom here.”
Derek Flanzraich, Founder of Greatist
“The honest answer would be “Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling, because I grew up struggling with weight issues and having no friends at one point. Harry Potter helped introduce me to my first friend and love of the world. I’m grateful for it.
In terms of the business world, a book I love is actually “Building a Company.” It’s a biography of Roy Disney, who is Walt Disney’s older brother. There are some really great biographies about Walt Disney, that I find very inspiring. He’s an interesting character, and there’s a lot of misunderstandings and perceptions about him. He’s definitely an entrepreneur who failed so many times, and then had a vision and worked obsessively to accomplish it. And his brother was the one who was able to make it happen. That’s the book that I turn to most often because it’s all about how to make a vision become reality. I have a younger brother so I relate to it.”
Eric Bandholz, Founder of BeardBrand
“Eat People. It’s a book about outsourcing the things you aren’t good at, and focusing on your core strengths. It’s how we were able to scale up our business so quickly.”
Dharmesh Shah, CTO of HubSpot
“Les Miserables. It was my first exposure to brilliant writing. I loved the story so much, I had story-telling sessions with my younger siblings and told them the story over many, many weeks.”
Nilofer Merchant, Author & Speaker
It’s impossible to choose just one! I love books that reframe the world from what has been, to what will be.
Daniel Goleman’s work, Emotional Intelligence, was definitive. Before his work, people valued skills like mathematical ones, but didn’t value soft skills as much. As more mathematical skills are automated with AI, the work that still needs the human touch is emotional intelligence type skills. His book offers a framework for understanding that.
Similarly, Susan Cain’s book Quiet tells us we miss out on the ideas of one-third of the population. We do this by placing more value on extroverted qualities, and not seeking out the input of less assertive people – those who prefer solitude or individual endeavors. She wrote: “There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” I love this idea.
Mel Robbins, Speaker, Author, & CNN Contributor
“The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo. I read a passage every single morning. I use his words to center myself on the deeper themes present in our daily lives, to pause and connect with my soul, and take a moment before I race head first into my day.”
Eric Paley, Partner at Founder Collective
“I think Fooled by Randomness is the book I always think of that was most intellectually insightful for me as an entrepreneur and investor. Largely because it forces you to have a lot of thought experiments that absorbs any sort of notions about what’s actually happening in the world.
It also creates frameworks that it helps you realize that everything that’s happening is really just a distribution of probabilities, and the best thing you can do is take the probabilities in your favor, but there’s enormous randomness in how things play out.”
Adam Braun, Co-Founder of MissionU
“The lessons in The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho are still as powerful today as when I read the book 12 years ago as an early 20-something traveling the world. There’s a deep and profound wisdom within his words. We actually gifted this book to every student who was accepted into MissionU’s first cohort in the hopes that it’ll be a source of guidance and inspiration for them.”
Gretchen Rubin, Bestselling Author of “The Happiness Project”
“So many! Where do I start? The book A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander changed the way I see the world. The book Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes revolutionized the way I eat. The book Cod by Mark Kurlansky changed the way I saw the possibilities of non-fiction. Orwell’s essays and Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary changed the way I view language.”
Nelson Dellis, USA Memory Champion
“One book that changed my life was Douglas Hofstadter’s “Gödel, Escher, & Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.” I read it for the first time in college but it just opened my eyes to the joys of math, music, and logic. It challenged me and led me to head into the more cognitive areas of my career. You might say it subconsciously led me to memory.”
Jordan Harbinger, Host of the Art of Charm Podcast
“How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. He shows what motivates people and how to make yourself happier by working in conjunction with people’s motivations.”
Brad Feld, Partner at Foundry Group
“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Every founder, manager, and product person should read it slowly and savor it.”
Sheena Brady, CEO of Tease Tea
“The Relaxation Response: I recently was diagnosed with hypertension, due to high blood pressure. It’s easy to say it’s partially to blame on stress – though that’s not true. The truth is that I hadn’t learned how to properly cope with stress, and manage the stress in my life effectively with the balance of proper relaxation.
This book opened up my eyes to the fact that while some stress is often a necessary ingredient to thrive, it’s extremely important to your mental, emotional and physiological health to always be eliciting the “Relaxation Response” in those “fight or flight” moments we can face in work and life.”
Camille Ricketts, Head of Content at First Round Capital
“Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari changed my life. Yes, it is mostly a historical survey of humanity and how we’ve evolved over time and since. But it did go into a ton of fascinating detail about where a lot of our present-day instincts come from and how much of our wants, needs, and personalities are rooted in the concerns, fears, and calculations needed in the ancient world. So, for example, why are we struck with such abject terror, nerves, anxiety around social situations in our personal lives and careers? A lot of that is attached to the fact that we used to depend entirely on tribal acceptance for our survival. Even knowing these facts and being able to trace what occasionally feel like irrationalities back to instincts has given me a leg up and helped me conquer incidental social anxiety where it might have otherwise held me back.”
Christian Howes, Violinist & Founder of Creative Strings
“The School of Greatness by Lewis Howes partly because Lewis is my little brother, and seeing his ascension to a New York Times bestselling author inspires me.”
Want specific, actionable strategies to prioritize your day and amp up your productivity? Check our Productivity Giants series, interviews with top leaders in tech and beyond, to steal their strategies on hacking your life for the better.