*A lot of these books I listen to while cooking, strolling about, and traveling. Once I discovered I could speed up playback, the game changed. If you haven’t tried audiobooks, do. Not to cut out physical reading time, but to read even more. Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks. Bam!
If you like to see your words and use e-readers, you seriously need to be on a Kindle Unlimited Membership Plan. The book deals are straight up ridiculous. And no waste or clutter!
The Writing Career
How To Make A Living With Your Writing: Books, Blogging and More – Joanna Penn 5 Stars!
Joanna is a beast in the best way. Concise and well-written, read her stuff and listen to her podcast.
Becoming a Writer – Dorothea Brande 4 stars
Good ideas: Create a “habitat” for writing—Find a wordless stimulus for writing/”light state of hypnosis” (long walks, sitting on park benches, gardening…)—Journal to understand your writing style—If conscious is intellect, unconscious is creative—Honesty is the source of originality
On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction – William Zinsser 5 Stars!
This is THE MOST USEFUL BOOK I HAVE EVER READ ON WRITING. Read it now. End of story.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – Stephen King 5 Stars!
I’m not proud to admit how surprised I was by how ridiculously enjoyable this book was. He makes it all real. The first half is the best part (imho). A thoroughly enjoyable vignette of his life. The technical advice, of course, is invaluable.
Secrets of the Six-Figure Author: Mastering the Inner Game of Writing, Publishing and Marketing Books (Volume 1) – Tom Corson-Knowles 3.5 stars
Early read, a skimmer, a bit platitude-heavy, worth it more for beginner’s motivation than getting to six figures.
Why Authors Fail: 17 Mistakes Self-Published Authors Make That Sabotage Their Success (And How To Fix Them) – Derek C. Doepker 4 stars
Early read, a skimmer, but a useful look at the business side of things and 17 big mistakes to avoid.
Writing Habit Mastery: How to Write 2,000 Words a Day and Forever Cure Writer’s Block – S.J. Scott 4.5 Stars
Read at the very beginning of my career, it’s a great wham-bam look at common pitfalls and things you can do to promote a writer’s mindset. Reading it evokes the sense of listening to a super enthusiastic guy giving a presentation at a conference or something.
Secrets of Six Figure Authors: The 10 Most Important Kindle Publishing Action Tasks for Self Published Authors – Eric Michael 3.5 stars
Another early read. More of a skimmer, but legitimate seed-planting on how a great income from Kindle success isn’t impossible.
You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) – Jeff Goins 5 Stars!
Jeff was a huge inspiration early on (along with his podcast). Every aspiring writer should read this.
Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! – Robert Kiyosaki 5 Stars!
Yes, the veracity of his storytelling is questionable, but the ideas are sound. This is a book more on how to think about money—even if you think you know what you’re doing, this is a must-read.
Your Money or Your Life– Joseph R. Dominguez 3.5 Stars if you’re good with money, 5 Stars if not
Very beginner mindset-level content on money. Read this if you’re terrible with it.
MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom – Tony Robbins 5 Stars!
Seriously. Read. A bit skim-worthy in the first half by dear ol’ Tony, but the 8 interviews w/ the world’s best investors are KEY.
Creative & Entrepreneurial Living
The Magic of Thinking Big– David J. Schwartz 5 Stars!
I was lucky to read this early in my career, but read it any time. Good ideas: It is self-deprecation that holds us back—You are not innately a success or failure. Success boils down to habits, behaviors, and thought processes. These things can be taught—All confidence is acquired, developed. No one is born with confidence—You can’t act devoted for very long without feeling devoted—Basic truth: to do anything we must first believe it can be done.
The War of Art – Steven Pressfield 5 Stars!
You want to do anything at all that you actually want to do? Then you should probably keep this book always by your side. I suggest taking a daily passage approach or picking it up for a quick chapter whenever you’ve hit an impasse.
The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage – Mel Robbins Pending
Mel hit me with the genius 5-Second Rule when I saw her speak on Impact Theory. My favorite schpeel transcribed on this blog post. Go check it out, and I bet you’re gonna want the book.
The Entrepreneur Mind: 100 Essential Beliefs, Characteristics, and Habits of Elite Entrepreneurs – Kevin Johnson 5 Stars!
A departure from my normal reads, but worth it. Lots of good thinking and actionable techniques. Quick read, but the big points stick.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear – Elizabeth Gilbert 5 Stars!
Devoured. She’s an amazing example of a writer with a VOICE. Good ideas: Treat your creativity like you’re having an affair with it—Perfectionism is just a version of fear—Onward ever, backward never—Complaining scares away inspiration—Move toward your sense of wonder—Ego gets wounded, the soul just does its thing—The outcome *cannot* matter
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business – Charles Duhigg 5 Stars
Kind of silly how well-done and entertaining this book is. A spectacular example of great narrative structure through use of story-telling. Nerdily I loved that, but the information in here is invaluable, especially because I get obsessed with habits sometimes. Here’s the gist: “When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit — unless you find new routines — the pattern will unfold automatically.”
The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich – Tim Ferriss 5 Stars
Yes, the title sucks, but this book is not what you think. You must read if you want to live any sort of lifestyle that departs fro mthe norm. (and his podcast is a MUST listen)
Words Can Change Your Brain: 12 Conversation Strategies to Build Trust, Resolve Conflict, and Increase Intimacy – Andrew Newberg, Mark Robert Waldman 5 Stars
One of those Forever-Change-My-Life (FCML) books. About effective communication (not woo-woo, science-based), physiological effects of negative thinking (we need three positives to restore ourselves chemically after a negative), and much more amazingness.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Greg McKeown 4 Stars
A skimmer for me. Probably a better read for how to minimize when the corporate or social media world has taken over your life, but worthwhile for whomever. Favorite quote? “The ability to choose cannot be taken away or even given away—it can only be forgotten.
Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts–Becoming the Person You Want to Be– Marshall Goldsmith 3.5 Stars
If you’ve deeply delved into self-improvement, this skims the surface, probably because it’s way geared to the executive and professional realms. Essential idea: Understand trigger: “I’m hungry” -> Action: eat -> Reward: “Yum I feel good” (dopamine release). Change the triggered action (instead of eating, do 20 pushups), and you’ll still get a dopamine release. I wanted more of this from the book, but didn’t get it. Great idea to have a list of “Did I do my best to . . .” questions each day.
Show Your Work! – Austin Kleon 3 Stars
I’m all about the ideas here, but this is more of a coffee table or toilet reader. Inspiration in passing, but I’d rather read one something like Big Magic for a true, sticky impact.
Influence: Science and Practice (5th Edition)– Robert Cialdini 5 Stars
I’m going to go ahead and guarantee that you will think about this book every couple of days. I can’t even begin with quoting this thing, it’s simply littered with widom on the ways we humans operate. It is another FCML and another required read for those of us who happen to be human. I mean it.
The Dark Side of the Light Chasers: Reclaiming Your Power, Creativity, Brilliance, and Dreams – Debbie Ford 5 Stars
Required reading for the seeker! Good ideas: “[If we] lie to ourselves about our own internal feelings, the only way we can find them is to see them in others.” “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” “[Commitment to your full potential] will guide you to the places you need to go.”
Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela – Nelson Mandela 5 Stars
Everything I try to say here would be an understatement. This man is one of my number one inspirations for taking action when it comes to hardship. I don’t feel like it? Well, Nelson Mandela was productive nearly every day of his 27-year confinement. Shut up, Meggan.
Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl 5 Stars
You NEED to read this in a way I cannot exaggerate. Possibly more than any book on this or any to-do list ever. A FCML in the most extreme way.
How to Win Friends & Influence People – Dale Carnegie 5 Stars
I’ve listened to his narration of this book twice. He’s great and so is this book, even though the title is ridiculous. As an ambivalent introvert, it’s been quite useful. If this was required reading in the school system, the world would undoubtedly be better. FCML.
Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious – Timothy D. Wilson 5 Stars
FCML. I think about this, oh, every five days or so. A surprisingly digestible look into the interplay of our unconscious and conscious minds. covers introversion, attachment theory, but most importantly: why you simply don’t/can’t know yourself the way you think you do/can. “It is often better to deduce the nature of our hidden minds by looking outward at our behavior and how others react to us…distilling our behavior and feelings into a meaningful and effective narrative.”
Stopping the Noise in Your Head – Reid Wilson 5 Stars
I randomly picked this up as I thought it’d be about positive self-talk. Turns out it’s more about anxiety and OCD, but Reid’s writing style is utterly engaging, so I kept on. He even finds masterful ways to insert humor into it all. Loved ” when we fight anxiety, anxiety wins” and the idea to treat negative thoughts by saying “Really? is that all you got?” Undoubtedly would be helpful for OCD sufferers, but great for everyday wisdom, too.
The Happiness Project– Gretchen Rubin 5 Stars
I was really convinced that this one was gonna be a bore. Some feel-good wish-wash. But it was amazing. Super engaging and honest, with tons of insights and experiments relevant to daily life. Though Gretchen doesn’t strike me as my type of person, I loved the type-A way she attacked the happiness issue. A book worth revisiting every few years
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain 3 Stars
Yeesh, as a probably introvert who’s struggled to accept that part of myself, I feel slightly guilty saying I didn’t so much like this one. Maybe I was in a bad mood for the week, but it was just too verbose, too much story telling. Needed a fat-trimming. Anyway, I skimmed it, was useful reference for me to look up other things.
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance – Angela Duckworth 5 Stars
I LOVED this. Duckworth is a ridiculously engaging writer/story-teller. Quotes? “Before hard work comes play. Before those who’ve yet to fix on a passion are ready to spend hours a day diligently honing skills, they must goof around, triggering and retriggering interest.” “To be gritty is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. To be gritty is to hold fast to an interesting and purposeful goal. To be gritty is to invest, day after week after year, in challenging practice. To be gritty is to fall down seven times, and rise eight.”
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – Daniel Pink 5 Stars
First attracted by his Ted Talk, this book has groundbreaking insights for the creative pursuit. For example? Artists pursuing art primarily out of true desire (vs. profit) made more money and were more fulfilled 25 years down the road. Or, commissioned art projects were rated more poorly by critics and typically sold for less than vs. non-commissioned. Boom! Read more on this post.
Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao– Dr. Wayne W. Dyer 5 Stars
Accept it as a given that you know you need to be familiar with the Tao Te Ching, and our boy Wayne is an amazing relator of things. People think he’s all woo-woo (I did too, at first), but he’s actually just incredibly clear about making good psychological/emotional points. Give it a shot, hater.
Here more than anywhere I feel the need to mention that I’m writing in order of most-recently read, which means I’ve so far left out some fiction heavyweights (Catch-22, A Confederacy of Dunces, Ishmael, LOTR, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Awakening, The Fountainhead, Lolita, Time’s Arrow, most Tom Robbins, but especially Jitterbug Perfume, Barbara Kingslover, especially The Poisonwood Bible, Anna Karenina, The Catcher in the Rye, Nada, Harry Potter (I don’t care about your age), Ender’s Game, Dune, War and Peace)
The Baron in the Trees – Italo Calvino 5 Stars
Whimsical in all the right ways. Part realistic fantasy, part philosophy. Touching in a way I find difficult to explain.
On Love: A Novel Alain de Botton 3.5 Stars
A bit rife with heavy-handed philosophical takes on love. Well done, but not surprising that he wrote this in his twenties. I can imagine my heart bleeding out to sweet, sweet death if I read this in college. Given that I read this post break-up in my 30s, it still offered good thinking points, and you’ll know when to skim if necessary.
The Razor’s Edge W. Somerset Maugham 5 Stars
Picked this up randomly and was STUNNED by how much I needed it. For those of us seeking career and philosophical freedom, it may well bring you to tears with its undertones of empathy.