28 Books that Will Open Your Mind, Expand Your Knowledge & Transform the Way You Live
Reading Time: 13 minutes
Can books really open your mind, expand your knowledge, and transform the way you live?
YES! Three years ago, I stopped watching television and started devouring books. 100+ books later, I can confidently say it’s the best investment I’ve ever made.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss
Books have expanded my knowledge and opened my mind. They have allowed me to solve hard problems and uncover new interests. They have helped me excel in life and business. Above all else, books have brought me closer to a meaningful and fulfilling path.
I recently re-read one of my favorite books, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. The novel is about a futuristic society in which people are banned from reading books. These people do not read, think independently, have meaningful conversations, or spend time in nature.
“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” – Ray Bradbury
Bradbury’s future is my nightmare, and it’s not that far off. If we continue to scroll our phones, wear Airpods as we walk around, and consume pointless news that makes us angry at each other and the world, we’re an inch away from living in Bradbury’s world.
So how do we prevent this nightmare from becoming a reality?
READ books! Otherwise, the sun will stop rising, the oceans will boil, and we’ll all…
Okay, it probably won’t be that bad, but we can all still benefit from more reading. To help you on your journey, I’ve curated a list of 28 great books that have profoundly expanded my knowledge and changed the way I think and operate.
My hope is that these books will expand your mind as well. And if you’re looking for good advice to help improve your life, check out these 40 pieces of advice that most people ignore.
P.S. If you enjoy the recommendations in this article, it’s worth checking out Foundations, a growing and fully searchable digital notebook with insights from 100+ timeless books.
Books to Expand Your Knowledge and Open Your Mind
1. Man’s Search for Meaning By Viktor Frankl
“…Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Why it’s Great: This book changed my life. In it, Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl shows us that we have the ability to choose our response to every situation we face and that we can find meaning in our suffering.
2. Meditations By Marcus Aurelius
“Choose not to be harmed—and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed—and you haven’t been.”
Why it’s Great: A life-changing collection of philosophical and spiritual thoughts from Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic and the former Roman Emperor.
3. Sapiens: A Brief History Of Humankind By Yuval Noah Harari
“Culture tends to argue that it forbids only that which is unnatural. But from a biological perspective, nothing is unnatural. Whatever is possible is by definition also natural. A truly unnatural behaviour, one that goes against the laws of nature, simply cannot exist, so it would need no prohibition.”
Why it’s Great: A refreshingly comprehensive, engaging, and scientific account of history that will make you a better-informed person and leader.
4. The War Of Art By Steven Pressfield
“The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not. He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.”
Why it’s Great: Pressfield prepares and inspires creatives to survive and thrive the challenging journey to produce good work in the face of resistance.
5. The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*Ck By Mark Manson
“Because once we become comfortable with the fact of our own death—the root terror, the underlying anxiety motivating all of life’s frivolous ambitions—we can then choose our values more freely, unrestrained by the illogical quest for immortality, and freed from dangerous dogmatic views.”
Why it’s Great: In this engaging and philosophical read, writer Mark Manson provides philosophical and candid thoughts on how we can live a better life.
6. Getting More: How You Can Negotiate To Succeed In Work And Life By Stuart Diamond
“People do some of the most important things in life not for money, not for rational benefits, but for how it makes them feel.”
Why it’s Great: A fantastic introduction to negotiation that arms you with the knowledge and strategies to help you get more out of your work and life.
7. A Random Walk Down Wall Street: Including A Life-Cycle Guide To Personal Investing By Burton Malkiel
“What is hard to avoid is the alluring temptation to throw your money away on short, get-rich-quick speculative binges.”
Why it’s Great: A guide that blends history, economics, and behavioral finance to offer practical and actionable advice for investing and achieving financial freedom.
8. The Obstacle Is The Way: The Timeless Art Of Turning Trials Into Triumph By Ryan Holiday
“Adversity can harden you. Or it can loosen you up and make you better—if you let it.”
Why it’s Great: A practical and actionable philosophy on how to perceive, act, and thrive in an uncertain, difficult, and fast-paced world.
9. When Breath Becomes Air By Paul Kalanithi
“Science may provide the most useful way to organize empirical, reproducible data, but its power to do so is predicated on its inability to grasp the most central aspects of human life: hope, fear, love, hate, beauty, envy, honor, weakness, striving, suffering, virtue.”
Why it’s Great: While dying of lung cancer, neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi confronts the unanswerable and difficult question of what makes life meaningful.
10. Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead And Win By Jocko Willink And Leif Babin
“Leaders must always operate with the understanding that they are part of something greater than themselves and their own personal interests.”
Why it’s Great: Two Navy SEALs show you how to be a better leader by practicing extreme ownership, killing your ego, prioritizing, and executing.
11. 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote To Chaos By Jordan Peterson
“Conscious human malevolence can break the spirit even tragedy could not shake.”
Why it’s Great: A profound and deeply philosophical read that shows us why we do what we do and how we can all live better, more fulfilling lives.
12. Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance By Robert Pirsig
“To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow.”
Why it’s Great: Through an entrancing narrative of a man on a summer motorcycle trip with his son, Pirsig takes us on a deeply philosophical journey that explores society, values, and life’s big questions.
13. Shoe Dog By Phil Knight
“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.”
Why it’s Great: This is the inspiring story of Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, and his struggles, victories, and lesson learned while building a billion dollar shoe giant.
14. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit Of Less By Greg McKeown
“Play expands our minds in ways that allow us to explore: to germinate new ideas or see old ideas in a new light. It makes us more inquisitive, more attuned to novelty, more engaged. Play is fundamental to living the way of the Essentialist.”
Why it’s Great: A practical philosophy about living consciously, focusing on the essential, and creating a life to achieve your highest point of contribution.
15. Give And Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success By Adam Grant
“You never know where somebody’s going to end up. It’s not just about building your reputation; it really is about being there for other people.”
Why it’s Great: Adam Grant shows us how being a giver in our attitudes and actions towards others can fuel our long-term personal and professional success.
16. Awaken The Giant Within By Tony Robbins
“All too often, the security of a mediocre present is more comfortable than the adventure of trying to be more in the future.”
Why it’s Great: A comprehensive and invaluable guide to mastering your mind, body, emotions, and finances from leading life and business strategist Tony Robbins.
17. The Power Of Habit By Charles Duhigg
“The water is habits, the unthinking choices and invisible decisions that surround us every day—and which, just by looking at them, become visible again.”
Why it’s Great: A digestible, comprehensive, and transformative guide to understanding why habits exist, how they work, and how you can change then.
18. Never Split The Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It By Chris Voss
“He who has learned to disagree without being disagreeable has discovered the most valuable secret of negotiation.”
Why it’s Great: International hostage negotiator Chris Voss provides a practical set of principles to improve your effectiveness in getting what you want.
19. The Game: Penetrating The Secret Society Of Pickup Artists By Neil Strauss
“Smile when you enter a room. As soon as you walk in a club, the game is on. And by smiling, you look like you’re together, you’re fun, and you’re somebody.”
Why it’s Great: A fascinating and in-depth look at how journalist and author Neil Strauss became a well-respected leader in the pick-up artist community.
20. The Art Of Possibility: Transforming Professional And Personal Life By Rosamund And Benjamin Zander
“Every problem, every dilemma, every dead end we find ourselves facing in life, only appears unsolvable inside a particular frame or point of view. Enlarge the box, or create another frame around the data, and problems vanish, while new opportunities appear.”
Why it’s Great: 12 helpful and inspiring practices from a conductor and a psychotherapist that will fuel your personal and professional success.
21. Thinking, Fast And Slow By Daniel Kahneman
“The idea that the future is unpredictable is undermined every day by the ease with which the past is explained.”
Why it’s Great: An engaging and comprehensive introduction to the psychology of decision making and judgment by one of the pioneers in the field.
22. Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) By Caroll Tavris And Elliot Aronson
“Our convictions about who we are carry us through the day, and we are constantly interpreting the things that happen to us through the filter of those core beliefs.”
Why it’s Great: An examination of the human tendency to self-justify everything we do that will reshape your understanding of your memory, beliefs, and actions.
23. Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success In A Distracted World By Cal Newport
“The Deep Work Hypothesis: The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.”
Why it’s Great: Georgetown Professor Cal Newport shows us how to increase our focus and produce deep, meaningful work in a hyper-distracting world.
24. How To Lie With Statistics By Darrell Huff
“The secret language of statistics, so appealing in a fact-minded culture, is employed to sensationalize, inflate, confuse, and oversimplify.”
Why it’s Great: A great reminder of the basic principles of statistics and how they are often violated in the data we use and see in work, the news, and our personal lives.
25. The Power Of Now: A Guide To Spiritual Enlightenment By Eckhart Tolle
“To complain is always non-acceptance of what is.”
Why it’s Great: Eckhart Tolle takes you on a journey that explores presence, thinking, spirituality, and how to reduce pain in your life.
26. Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation In Everyday Life By Jon Kabat-Zinn
“Meditation is neither shutting things out nor off. It is seeing things clearly, and deliberately positioning yourself differently in relationship to them.”
Why it’s Great: A complete introduction to how and why to practice meditation and mindfulness that will help you live with more clarity, acceptance, and presence.
27. Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With The Heart Of A Buddha By Tara Brach
“When we believe something is wrong with us, we are convinced we are in danger. Our shame fuels ongoing fear, and our fear fuels more shame.”
Why it’s Great: If you have ever struggled with self-compassion, this book is for you. Clinical psychologist and meditation teacher, Tara Brach, introduces a fantastic approach to better relating to your experiences and emotions.
28. Models: Attract Women Through Honesty By Mark Manson
“Until you learn to trust your own actions and learn to pursue women with your own unique style and personality, you have learned absolutely nothing.”
Why it’s Great: An honest and helpful dating guide for men that will allow you to better connect with women in an authentic and effective way.
Final Thoughts and Tips on How to Get Started
- For more good book recommendations and lessons, check out Foundations, a growing digital notebook with lessons from 100+ timeless books across categories.
- If you haven’t read a book in a while, check out How to Read a Nonfiction Book. Yes, I know you know how to read, but this article will help you get the most out of the time you spend reading, and it starts with the topic of book selection.
- If you struggle to read, try listening to audiobooks with Amazon Audible. If you want to easily track notes and highlights from books you read, I’m a big fan of Readwise.
- Check out 40 Best Self-Help Books and 11 Great Books for Decision Making.
- Like with relationships, timing is everything with books. I’ve found that reading books that explore and solve problems I’m currently facing resonate the most. Start with a book that looks interesting based on your current life challenges.
- Don’t feel the need to finish a book that isn’t working for you. Drop it and move on.
- I think everyone should own a Kindle, so if you don’t already, consider buying one. I’ve read 5x more books with a Kindle, and it’s super handy for when you’re traveling.
Finally, I send out a weekly Sunday newsletter, Life Reimagined, with helpful ideas and quotes from good books. If you want to receive small nuggets of wisdom and recommendations for future reading every week, you can sign up below.