Last year, when I was riddled with enough depression and social anxiety to make going to the grocery store akin to shopping with aliens on Mars, I started reading the right kinds of books.
When I didn’t like my life (which was pretty much my whole life) I read fiction. Fiction always let me escape.
But this time, Scarlett O’Hara and Harriet the Spy and Holden Caulfield weren’t going to make me feel better, and most of all they weren’t going to change my life.
When I started reading books that blew my mind open, I finally started to realize that our life situation is often dictated by our life perspective, and our life perspective is dictated by the knowledge in our heads.
So don’t like your life situation? Go get some new knowledge.
And if you don’t know where to start, this list is the best of what I’ve been reading over the past year. Because of these books, I started this blog and began pursuing a boundless life beyond the limits of conformity and expectation.
So beware, reading them just might change your life.
1. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
MG is a freaking genius. But I didn’t always know that. When I discovered him, it was only because I had to teach his book to an ESL class of middle schoolers. Ugh.
But I’d sit at my desk on my 5-minute breaks rapidly turning the pages to find out why the best hockey players are born in January and why Asians are good at math and why airplanes actually crash. While my students took naps behind glazed, uncomprehending eyes, MG was blowing my mind.
If you think that successful people are mysterious demi-gods destined for greatness and miraculously self-made, this is the book to shatter that crippling perspective.
2. The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness by Jeff Olson
While Outliers tells the story of success, The Slight Edge is more of a practical motivator for building the kind of habits you need for the kind of life you want.
It’s kind of a slap in the face for anyone who likes to whine and blame other people for their crappy lives (me!), but it made me get off my butt and actually start taking action to improve my life. Because oh yeah, I guess I’m responsible for that.
3. If Grace Is True by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland
Spirituality and religion are tough topics for me and not something I like to talk about, but this book quite possibly saved my life. I’m throwing it in here for anyone who may have suffered at the hands of an unhealthy religion or ever believed (or still believes) that they are going to hell.
If you think you’re stuck on the hell train simply because of your existence as a human being, then there’s not much in life worth living for. This book could change all that.
4. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck
Dweck’s name pops up in half the books I read. Her work is awesome and important. Here she reveals what she’s discovered from studying people’s mindsets and how that affects the quality of their lives.
If you assume that people are born with fixed abilities and characteristics that are essentially unchangeable, then you probably have a fixed mindset.
If you think that people are born with the ability to constantly learn new things, improve on those skills, and develop their characters, then that’s the growth mindset.
Guess which one will create the kind of person you want to be?
5. The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ Is Wrong by David Shenk
The title says it all. Citing Dweck’s research and a whole lot more, Shenk debunks common beliefs about the things we think make some people more awesome than others.
6. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
Pink is moving up there on my favorite authors list. I mentioned this book in my post The Case for the Weekend-less Week because of his research on the concepts of work and flow and what really motivates people to create things like computers and smartphones and spaceships to Mars.
The book validates what all J.O.B. haters are thinking but don’t know how to express in a logical, scientifically backed-up way. Thanks for that, DP.
7. To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink
I picked this one up because it had Pink’s name on it, not because I was jumping up and down to learn about selling.
But his argument is profound. While most of us think of sales as sleazy and deceptive, Pink argues that we’re all salespeople. We all try to move others every day, whether it’s getting a partner to do the dishes, getting a kid to go to bed, or getting a boss to let you leave work early.
What does practicing improv have to do with improving your relationships and your chances at moving people? Pink tells you that too.
8. James Altucher’s blog
Recently I was at one of those social functions where every single person asks you what you do for a living and what you majored in at college. They’re the kind of small talk questions that are supposed to help people peg other people into perfectly fitting peg holes.
But my college major has just about as much relevancy in this economy as where I went to elementary school. And where my money comes from defines me about as much as my choice in toothpaste.
Whenever this happens, I go home and read James Altucher’s blog. James tells it like it is: College is dumb. Don’t buy a house just because that’s what all the cool kids are doing. Beware the cubicles that kill your creativity because we now live in an era where ideas have become the currency.
His brain is amazing. When the world is being run by robots and the handful of people who run the robots, everyone else will be crying and asking themselves why they didn’t listen to James.
And there you have it, the best perspective-busting books and a blog that I’ve been reading this past year.
If you want to know some other titles on my ever-growing to-read list, here you go:
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
- The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau
- Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie
- Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown
- The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller
- The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
- Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by K. Anders Ericsson
Have you read any of them? Are they worth my time? And most of all, will they blow my mind and change my life?