Every year I make it a point to read at the very least a few new books, I won't say I read the most but it is in my practice to read at least a few educational, self-improvement, business, and fictional books throughout each year. Of those books, there are always a few key standouts which I find helpful and I tend to gift to others or at the very least suggest to them to read.
When I was employed at a major obstacle course company, we started a little book review segment on the blog which has since gone away. The thing is, I had bigger plans for that project but they never fully came to for wishing. So, instead of letting that idea die, I figured why not start that idea right here? If you're into reading books, improving yourself and want to discuss books that have helped you become a more courageous, more powerful, more wise individual, then join The Club for Books of Courage, Power, and Wisdom, simply sign up for the newsletter and/or join our discussion group on Facebook.
Personally, I like to read books on hardcover, sometimes I'll get a Kindle edition for my iPad and for a growing number of books, I'll download the audiobook version to listen to on my long runs (being read to is a great way to keep me from going above the zone 2 heart rate range during my long slow distance training runs). It doesn't really matter how you like to consume your books, just make sure you consume something of substance this year. It's good for your brain.
Of the books I read during the past decade, I found these five books to be particularly helpful in developing my mind, body, and spirit. I hope you pick one, or all of them up and share with me what you learn, or what benefit you gain from reading any of them. You can share your thoughts here in the comments, by emailing me, or in the Facebook group mentioned above.
Man's Search for Meaning
Author: Viktor Frankl
In Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, writes about his experience as an inmate at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. In this 1946 classic, Frankl describes his psychotherapeutic method, which essentially amounts to choosing a life purpose that you feel positively about and then immersing yourself in seeing that outcome become a reality. In the first part, you get a deep dive and analysis of Frankl's experiences in the concentration camps, and in the second part, Frankl discusses his ideas of life meaning and a theory he developed known as logotherapy.
- On Logotherapy from Wikipedia: Logotherapy is based on an existential analysis focusing on Kierkegaard's will to meaning as opposed to Adler's Nietzschean doctrine of will to power or Freud's will to pleasure. Rather than power or pleasure, logotherapy is founded upon the belief that it is the striving to find a meaning in one's life that is the primary, most powerful motivating and driving force in humans.
Why Read It?
So why do I recommend this book, it's an analytical look at what is most important in one's life, and what is the central driving factor for someone's will to live. The story Viktor Frankl tells of his time at Auschwitz, combined with his ability take a psychoanalytic approach to his time there and what kept his will to live alive leaves readers feeling motivated about their own life, and their own will to live. Personally, I've discovered that my will to live and my true north is guided by curiosity for adventure and living life to the fullest, sharing those experiences with others in hopes of motivating them to live their life to the fullest (beyond some cubicle in an office).
The 4-Hour Body:
An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman
Author: Timothy Ferriss
A guide to eating well and a variety of tips that are useful for all aspects of life, for eating, training, and of course, sex. In this book, Tim Ferriss breaks down his tips, tricks, and hacks for living. He spent 10 years performing experiments and documenting the results, on himself and 200 other men and women aged 18 to 70. Read about the chipotle diet, slow carb eating, epic cheat days, and more in this fun book that can be read in whatever order you choose. Find the topic that interests you most, and dive in.
Why Read It?
Personally, I've learned to utilize some of the tips and tricks in this book over the years. I remember reading this the for the first time when I was in my graduate program at DePaul University. The Chipotle diet was one topic that really resonated with me, I was working a full-time job in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, commuting for an hour to an hour and a half to get to class downtown, then driving another 35-45 minutes back to the western suburbs as many as three times a week. Staying fit and eating well was tough, but healthy fast-food options such as Chipotle are super helpful. Learning how to manipulate your body into doing what you need it to is key and this book provides you with many tools to do just that.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK
A Counterintuitive Approach To Living A Good Life
Author: Mark Manson
To keep it brief, this book is about how to live your life choosing which f*cks to give. It uses real-life examples and helps you hone in on what is important to focus on, it gives you aid in prioritizing your life.
Why Read It?
I highly encourage this read not just because it has the word f*ck, a word I have defiantly used since adolescence - it's such a great word, read it because it offers a look at how great life can be when you figure out what f*cks to give, and how to prioritize those f-words in a way that gives you the life you want to live. It's a motivational book that utilizes a cheeky framework.
The Daily Stoic
366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living
Author: Ryan Holiday
Every day is a message from Stoic philosophy about how to live. The book is designed to be read one page per day, with a meditation from a Stoic philosopher along with some provocative commentary from the author and how it can be applied today. Each month focuses on a different area and each day comes with a quotation from the likes of, Seneca, Emperor Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus.
Why Read It?
With the way this book is designed, it only takes 1-3 minutes to read and digest in the morning, or afternoon, or even just before bed, whenever you find it most convenient for you to read. That's pretty powerful because if that's all you do each day for a year, no matter what, you'll have read at least one book for the year. You know what I do, often times, I read it while I brush my teeth in the morning. The point is this book is a no-brainer, it's easy to read and by following these teachings over the course of a year (and, I would even say, for years to come), you will find the self-knowledge, peace of mind, and adaptability you need for living well.
How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win
Author: Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
The best leaders in the world are developed in the harshest of environments, the battlefield. In this book by Navy SEALs Jocko Willink and Leif Babin they deliver an outstanding guide to leadership through their first-hand experiences in making critical decisions under extreme pressure on one of the most violent and dangerous battlefields in Iraq. The two served as leaders on SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser, and their mission: impossible, was to help U.S. forces secure Ramadi, a violent, insurgent-held city that had basically gone the wayside. Through these suspenseful, firsthand accounts of survival, heroics, heartwrenching loss, and hard-earned victories, this pair of leaders learned that leadership―at all levels―is the single most important factor in the success or failure of any team.
Why Read It?
If you're a leader, at any level, a coach for a local sports team (maybe your kids team) or a manager at work, or teacher or professor, or one of the most important leaders, a parent, you can learn a lot from this book about taking ownership of your actions, decisions, and the outcomes that come from them and be the leaders who leads from the front. This book provides a mental framework for taking ownership of what it is you are responsible for and guides you to become a stronger, more trusted leader, who is diligently followed by their peers.