Reading List: Summaries and Lessons from the Best Books I’ve Read
“I’m not saying that you have to be a reader to save your soul in the modern world. I’m saying it helps.” -Walter Mosley
Reading will transform your life. Books allow you to transcend the limitations of your direct experience and tap into centuries of knowledge and wisdom from the world’s greatest thinkers across every discipline. Books teach you how to live, how to be a good person, how to lead, and how to succeed.
Below I summarize and rate the best books that I’ve read across multiple disciplines using a simple 1 (never read) to 5 (must read) system:
To get started, click on a category you’re interested in. The best books for each category appear first in the list. When you click on an individual book, you will be taken to a page with detailed notes and key lessons from the book. I hope you enjoy!
P.S. You can also find more great book recommendations here.
P.S.S. If you want to access a fully-searchable digital notebook of all of the book summaries below and many more, check out Foundations.
William Zinsser’s On Writing Well is the most practical guide around if you want to learn how to write better nonfiction.
Pressfield prepares and inspires creatives to survive and thrive the challenging journey to produce good work in the face of resistance.
A refreshingly comprehensive, engaging, and scientific account of history that will make you a better informed person and leader.
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.
A life-changing collection of philosophical and spiritual thoughts from Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic and the former Roman Emperor.
In this engaging and philosophical read, writer Mark Manson provides philosophical and candid thoughts on how we can live a better life.
Two Navy SEALs show you how to be a better leader by practicing extreme ownership, killing your ego, prioritizing, and executing.
A practical and actionable philosophy on how to perceive, act, and thrive in an uncertain, difficult, and fast-paced world.
Through an interesting narrative about an Andalusian shepherd boy, Coelho communicates essential life lessons and values.
While dying of lung cancer, neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi confronts the unanswerable and difficult question of what makes life meaningful.
A fantastic introduction to negotiation that arms you with the knowledge and strategies to help you get more out of your work and life.
A Random Walk Down Wall Street: Including a Life-Cycle Guide to Personal Investing by Burton Malkiel
A guide that blends history, economics, and behavioral finance to offer practical and actionable advice for investing and achieving financial freedom.
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.
This book will save your soul in difficult times. In it, Tibetan Buddhist Pema Chodron provides a guide to thriving in the face of a fundamentally groundless and painful world.
Through an engaging story about a fictional plant manager who has 90 days to turnaround his plant, author Eliyahu Goldratt teaches you the first principles of operating a system and implementing a process of ongoing improvement.
Awareness is nourishment for the soul. In a humorous and digestible way, Anthony de Mello helps you understand yourself and the world.
Jim Simons solved the market and became the most successful money manager in modern history. This story reveals how his fund beat the market with computers and averaged annual returns of 66% since 1988.
In the Psychology of Money, Morgan Housel teaches you how to have a better relationship with money and to make smarter financial decisions.
Wharton professor Adam Grant discusses the value of rethinking in our personal lives, interpersonal interactions, and collective actions.
In this time-tested book, Dale Carnegie shows us how to conquer worry and anxiety through stories that reveal helpful lessons and frameworks.
The Body Keeps is a deep dive into the science of the brain, mind, and body as it relates to healing trauma.
Legendary music producer Rick Rubin’s The Creative Act: A Way of Being is a mind-bending series of meditations on what it means to be an artist and creator.
Using her experience as a writer and wisdom as a Zen practitioner, Natalie Goldberg provides of a wealth of knowledge, encouragement, and simple exercises that will enliven your writing life.
A practical philosophy about living consciously, focusing on the essential, and creating a life to achieve your highest point of contribution.
Adam Grant shows us how being a giver in our attitudes and actions towards others can fuel our long-term personal and professional success.
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.
A digestible, comprehensive, and transformative guide to understanding why habits exist, how they work, and how you can change then.
Health and fitness entrepreneur Aubrey Marcus provides tacticial, science-backed advice about living a healthier, happier, productive, and fulfilling life.
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.
A dense, candid, and frightening examination of power and its many dynamics. If you want to understand people and achieve big things in this world, this book is a must read.
A comprehensive and invaluable guide to mastering your mind, body, emotions, and finances from leading life and business strategist Tony Robbins.
Chang explores how the male-dominated, work-at-all costs culture of Silicon Valley has shut women out of the greatest wealth creation in history. As someone who has worked in tech for most of my career, I read this to better understand one of the industry’s biggest challenges.
This is the life story of former Disney CEO, Bob Iger. Iger led a fascinating career in which he ascended from the lower ranks of organizations to being the leader of one of the world’s largest, most respected organizations. It’s full of fascinating stories, triumphs, and leadership lessons.
Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs by John Doerr
In Measure What Matters, venture capitalist John Doerr introduces you to Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), a powerful goal-setting framework for organizations. This system has been used by countless successful companies to direct efforts and grow over the long-term.
This is the fascinating tale of Steve Jobs, the mythicized founder of Apple. Isaacson gives you an in-depth look at Steve Jobs – his childhood, the businesses he built, his personality quirks, and more.
Radical Candor is a crash course on how to be a great manager. In it, former Google leader Kim Scott shares her philosophy about how to be an empathetic and results-oriented leader. If you’re new to management, you’ll find a wealth of useful tidbits that will help you avoid common mistakes.
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull
Creativity, Inc. is Ed Catmull’s story about how he built a culture of constant creativity and innovation at the Pixar. Through engaging stories, Catmull conveys timeless business principles that will help you be a better leader and agent of creativity in your organization.
In this insightful book, former FBI officer Joe Navarro teaches you how to master nonverbal intelligence (body language). By learning how to observe and interpret body language, you’ll improve your interactions with friends, family, bosses, and strangers.
Loserthink is about unproductive ways of thinking. In it, writer Scott Adams will show you how to avoid Loserthink and to become a better and more rational thinker.
Clinical psychologist Meg Jay challenges the thirty-is-the-new-twenty culture and advocates for being intentional about how you spend your twenties.
Barbarian Days is a beautiful memoir. Through his tale a lifelong surfer, writer William Finnegan takes you on an exciting journey across the world. Above all else, he describes the joys, perils, and zen of the surfer’s path in elegant and profound ways.
In this great marketing book, Wharton professor Jonah Berger explains how to use social currency, triggers, emotion, practical value, public, and stories to make ideas and products go viral.
In The War of Art, writer Steven Pressfield argues that the antidote to Resistance – the ultimate killer of creative dreams – is turning pro. Turning Pro is a follow-up book that answers the important question: “How exactly do you turn pro?”
This is the story of Tara Westover, a woman born in Idaho to survivalist parents who viewed hospitals, schools, and the government as evil. She did not enter a classroom until the age of 17 and went on to study at Cambridge and Harvard. Education liberated her mind, but she lost her family in the process.
Gladwell challenges the rags to riches narrative of success and shows us why ambition, intelligence, and hard work don’t explain everything.
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.
Professional poker player Annie Duke discusses how we can all learn from the lessons of poker to become better decision-makers in an uncertain and challenging world.
In Fooled by Randomness, Nassim Taleb explores the important idea of how randomness influences our world more than we think.
An engaging and comprehensive introduction to the psychology of decision making and judgment by one of the pioneers in the field.
This book explores the spread of a potentially dangerous set of ideas making people more fragile, subject to emotional reasoning, and comfortable using an “us versus them” lens to view the world.
Wanting is a transformational deep dive into the origins of desire. In it, Luke Burgis shows us how we come to want certain things in life and how we can transform our relationship with desire in ways that allow us to live a more aligned, fulfilling existence with other people.
Made to Stick is a crash course on how to make sure that your ideas are understood and remembered by other people.
Cal Newport discusses why “follow your passion” is terrible career advice that leads people down unrewarding paths. In its place, share advice about how to pursue a realistic path toward a meaningful and engaging work life.
In Rich Dad Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki gives you the crash-course financial education that you should have learned in school.
This is Kevin Hart’s inspiring story. His path to success reaffirms the importance of perseverance and learning to find the meaning and value in adversity.
Leveraging the teachings and wisdom of the ancient Toltecs, Don Miguel Ruiz takes you on a spiritual and philosophical path of understanding and changing the agreements you have with yourself.
How to Get Rich is magazine legend Felix Dennis’s entertaining and informative tale about what it really takes to amass a lot of money.
A concise, thematic account of history that covers the core biological, social, economic, and philosophical lessons of life.
Two Stanford professors show you how to use design thinking to create a meaningful, joyful, and fulfilling life. If you fully engage with the frameworks and self-reflection exercises, you will have a clearer path to creating a life worth living.
Bill Eddy’s practical and helpful guide for understanding and working with people who have personality disorders and high conflict tendencies.
Writer James Altucher tells a series of short stories that teach you the importance of improving every day and adding more value.
Through his story of beating the odds, Vance highlights the difficulties of upward mobility and the decline of white working-class Americans.
World-class performer Josh Waitzkin shares his strategy for the art of learning, achieving mastery, and living a life of constant growth. You’ll come away with timeless principles that you can integrate into the domains that you care most about.
12 helpful and inspiring practices from a conductor and a psychotherapist that will fuel your personal and professional success.
Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss
A comprehensive resource that synthesizes the habits, tools, and philosophies of the world’s top performers, leaders, and thinkers.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz
A wealth of practical and actionable life and leadership lessons from the legendary entrepreneur and investor, Ben Horowitz.
Eckhart Tolle takes you on a journey that explores presence, thinking, spirituality, and how to reduce pain in your life.
A collection of interesting stories from the life of the fascinating, infinitely curious, and Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Richard Feynman.
A fascinating and in-depth look at how journalist and author Neil Strauss became a well-respected leader in the pick-up artist community.
An honest and helpful dating guide for men that will allow you to better connect with women in an authentic and effective way.
Writer Michael Lewis tells the story of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, pioneers in the field of human decision making and judgment.
A masterful guide that will drive your success by helping you understand and practice the key principles of influence and persuasion.
A great introduction to the fundamentals of public speaking from the organization that spreads the ideas of the world’s most influential people.
A simple, engaging, and practical guide to mastering your finances and achieving financial freedom with minimal time and effort.
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.
Writer and entrepreneur Derek Sivers reveals what he learned in scaling his business from 0 to 20+ million in revenue.
Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln: 21 Powerful Secrets of History’s Greatest Speakers by James Humes
Leveraging personal experience and historical anecdotes, speaker James Humes shares practical insights and tips for becoming a better public speaker.
Princeton professor Peter Singer’s book will transform the way you think about giving. Through a compelling moral argument, Singer shows us why and how we can all do more to help alleviate unnecessary suffering and death in this world.
Gary Keller provides a simple and powerful framework for achieving extraordinary results and creating a life worth living.
A complete introduction to how and why to practice meditation and mindfulness that will help you live with more clarity, acceptance, and presence.
Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle’s enlightening and uplighting philosophical guide for loosening the toxic grip of the ego and living a fulfilling existence in the present.
Georgetown Professor Cal Newport shows us how to increase our focus and produce deep, meaningful work in a hyper-distracting world.
In the rapidly changing and crowded marketplace, you need to be remarkable to succeed. If you aren’t a purple cow, you are invisible.
Creator Austin Kleon encourages you to share your work and processes as a strategy to learn, find your audience, and improve your work.
Learn Dale Carnegie’s 30 principles that will help you succeed, build better relationships, and thrive in business.
A guide for understanding the basic principles of personal finance and the tools you need to chart your path to financial freedom.
Ryan Holiday provides a framework for learning how to slow down & better deal with the overwhelming amount of information that’s coming at us.
An old Cuban fisherman’s agonizing battle to catch a giant Marlin that teaches us about resilience, presence, and courage.
David Goggins shares how he transcended poverty and abuse to become one of the world’s top endurance athletes. His story reveals how mastering your mind, hard work, and becoming friends with pain can help you achieve the unimaginable.
Do the Work is a part of Steven Pressfield’s series of fantastic nonfiction works about pursuing your creative dreams – The War of Art, Turning Pro, Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t.
A short narrative tied together by a series of short essays that teach you about love, giving, pain, law, friendship, children, and more.
A practical and time-tested guide that will help you reduce stress, increase productivity, and feel clearer and more centered.
Inspired by Simon Sinek’s wildly popular Ted Talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action, Start With Why teaches us how great organizations communicate, lead, and acquire loyal customers.
Marketing guru Seth Godin teaches us about forming, connecting, and leading a tribe in a world full of immense possibility.
Atomic Habits by James clear will help you understand the importance of habits, how they form, and how you build good habits in your life.