It’s that time of the year again where the summer vacations are approaching and I need to get my suitcase of books ready (actually it’s all on my Kindle Paperwhite now. Quick note: if you don’t have one yet and want to read out in the sun – get it! It’s been a life changer for me!). In the past, I literally took 10 books with me on a vacation of two weeks – no I can happily pack lighter and fit more baby stuff in my bag.
As you may know, I read quite a lot myself. So here are some recent recommendations – please don’t forget to tell me your favorites in the comments.
My no. 1 book recommendation (nonfiction)
Okay, so if you only have time for one (nonfiction) book, choose this ONE:
The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, by Gary Keller (nonfiction, productivity)
This book has truly impressed me with a very simple message (the title kind of gives it away): Every day, do the one thing that you are best at or that you are meant to do and focus on that as much as possible. Throughout history, the vast majority of people that we remember are famous for one thing only and it is because they have dedicated their life’s work to that one thing. The message is simple but so powerful and it gives you the guidance to make the right decisions in your life. Get rid of everything that is not essential and focus on what is.
What makes this book my no. 1 pick is that it has given me a simple tool that I can use every day in order to be more productive and work on the things that really matter: the focusing question. Every day, I try to ask myself “What is the one thing I should do that makes everything else easier or unnecessary?”. And by answering that question you know where you should spend your time on.
My no. 1 nonfiction book recommendation
If you want to add a fiction book to the mix, my number 1 pick is this:
Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts (fiction)
Shantaram has been a long time favorite of mine and I recommend it to everyone who has some time on their hands as the the book is pretty long. But I have never come across a page turner like this before.
The book is semi-autobiographical in that it partly outlines the story of Roberts himself. It’s hard to tell how much fiction is woven in but if only half of it is true this man has seven lives.
Most of the book is situated in Mumbai where Roberts strands as a criminal after successfully breaking free from a high security prison in New Zealand. Without money, Roberts becomes friends with an Indian guy and decides to live in his slum outside of Mumbai. By accident (having a first aid kit on him when a major fire breaks out), he becomes the slum doctor and a well respected figure in this community of the lower classes of the country. From then on he lives through one adventure after another, involving selling and consuming massive amounts of drugs, the Indian mafia, living and being tortured in an Indian prison, the Soviet–Afghan War in the 1980s, etc.
Roberts himself wrote the book twice after leaving India when he was incarcerated because his first draft was taken away from him and destroyed. Man, what a story! If you check him out on Youtube you can see that his guy has lived through a lot!
More nonfiction book recommendations
I consume vast amounts of books, especially nonfiction ones in the area of personal development. If you’re up for some inspiration and learning this summer, check them out!
1. Choose Yourself, by James Altucher
We live in an era where we don’t need permission from others to be happy and spend our time doing and working on things that fulfill us. The internet has made it possible for everyone of us to choose ourselves to succeed. It is just up to us to use the possibilities that lie ahead of us. Our parents worked for The Man and after many decades retired with a pension. Today, the corporate careerists are constantly threatened by layoffs, shifts, restructuring, and they are at the whim of the economy and corporations. But we can follow a different path – if we choose ourselves.
Many great bits of wisdom including the Daily Practice and becoming an idea machine. James publishes all over the internet and his writing is brilliant. He also runs two podcasts with amazing guests – but I have a harder time listening to his voice than reading his stuff. Check it out and see for yourself.
2. Rich Dad Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!, by Robert Kiyosaki
As a classic of the personal finance literature this book has been around for many years but it teaches (or reminds) you of the most fundamental truths when it comes to building up wealth: invest in assets, not liabilities (many of which we mistake for assets). Short and to the point.
3. Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
I haven’t finished this book yet but when I needed to make a difficult decision about whether to move to a new apartment I turned to the book and picked the sections that I needed. Great advice on how to make better decisions with lots of stories, examples, tools and excellent chapter summaries to go back to frequently.
4. Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live, by Martha Beck
If you’re unhappy with your life or something seems off, it is probably because you do not know how to listen to your ‘essential self’. The ‘essential self’ is the ‘true’ part of you that contains your emotions, gut feelings and heart’s desires. In contrast, your ‘social self’ is the part of you that makes you function in society, makes rational (as opposed to intuitive) decisions and that dominates most of our behavior. This book is about how to harmonize these divergent voices and make them act as one so that you can find and follow your own North Star towards happiness.
Martha Beck is a long-time acclaimed ‘self-help’ author and tells true stories from many years of her own counseling experience that are often funny or sad. There are also a lot of self-awareness exercises which help you implement the knowledge from the book right away. Highly recommended!
5. MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom, by Tony Robbins
I’m a long time fan of Tony Robbins and his body of work. And some of you may know that I even once joined one of his live programs in London (Unleash the Power Within) which was amazing! After 20 years of not writing a book he has published this massive game plan for your personal finances. While the length and depth of the book can seem overwhelming and it is mainly focused on the US market and service providers there, I still think it is very eye opening to read.
Through his connections, Tony Robbins has taken the time to interview the top 0.01% of investors in the world, meaning the billionaires, top hedge fund managers and other gurus in the finances. The ultra-wealthy share their knowledge, their portfolios and their strategies to grow your money while Tony breaks it down into actionable steps for everyone. Especially, he helps us to understand all the lies and misinformation in the financial markets that profit-oriented market players use to take away money from the small investors like us. Tony’s mantra has always been to learn from the best of the best – and so should you. Or why would you let someone from your local bank tell you how to invest your money when they earn less than you do?!
More great fiction book recommendations
While I do read mainly nonfiction, I read fiction every night before I go to sleep to calm my brain down, and on vacations. So here is what I really liked recently.
6. The Martian, by Andy Weir
An astronaut finds himself left alone on Mars and needs to survive. A little geeky and full of engineering stuff, but fascinating. It’s like McGyver on Mars. Must-read if you’re an engineer, I guess.
7. Jack Reacher series, by Lee Child (start with book 1: “Killing Floor”)
These thrillers are my guilty pleasure. In the long term, I will hardly remember anything about them. Also, there are many more of these novels to read (I’ve read 5 or so), meaning plenty more time that will be spent on them. But they are true page turners (which is why I don’t read them before going to bed, just on holidays – I’m just getting too excited!).
Jack Reacher as an ex military policeman who has quit his career in the army and exchanged it for a life as a drifter, visiting places as his gut feeling tells him, accepting odd jobs here and there to make ends meet. Chance has it that wherever Reacher appears trouble awaits. As an ex military, he is quick to help those who need help, analyze people and situations (kind of like Sherlock Holmes) and take appropriate (often violent) measures when necessary to resolve them. As I said, not a likely winner of the Pulitzer Prize, but good stuff if you’re sitting by the pool with time to kill.
8. The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling)
If you like thriller and crime, this is a good read. Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling) introduces the figure of Cormoran Strike, an ex-army private investigator with an infamous rock star dad and little commercial success in his London office. Approached by a childhood acquaintance, Cormoran starts to investigate the apparent suicide of the supermodel Lula Landry with the help of his newly hired assistant Robin which he can hardly afford to pay. With one wooden leg and a lot of stamina (and not much else to do) to solve the case Cormoran dives into a scene of celebrities, drugs and dysfunctional families.
9. The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton
This book is not for everyone. First of all, it is quite long (over 800 pages in paper version). Second, it takes some stamina beyond the number of pages to get through it and keep up with the web of characters and events that are intertwined in the gold mining town of Hokitika, New Zealand in 1866.
The book starts out with a confidenial meeting of 12 men into which a new arriver in Hokitika stumbles. As the men begin to confide in the stranger, they tell bits and pieces of a story leading up to a night two weeks before in which a famous prostitute committed suicide, a hermit died in his shack and a successful young man disappeared. All of the men seem to be somehow involved in these incidents and as their stories evolve new connections and relationships form. A complicated but masterful book of historical fiction, if you have the stamina for it.
10. Live By Night, by Dennis Lehane
From the author of Mystic River and Shutter Island. Live by Night is a great tale of the making of a gangster in the Roaring Twenties during the time of Prohibition. Main character Joe Coughlin rises from small gangster in Boston to big mobster and liquor king on the Gulf Coast. And while he evolves from good-hearted thief to violent criminal you still can’t help to sympathize with him. An amazing story against the historical backdrop of the time and place.
So as I gave you my recommendations, please give me yours! Tell me which books have inspired you, both fiction or nonfiction, and write it in the comments to the post on the blog. (Please leave out anything that you wouldn’t give a 5 star recommendation on Amazon.)
All the best, and talk soon,
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