Recently, one of my Instagram followers requested that I make a reading list and post it online; and so, with excitement, I gathered up some of the life-changing books that I’ve read in 2018.
I read widely in both fiction and non-fiction, but in an effort to match the recent themes of my blog articles, I’ve decided to list books in the self-devolopment genre. I’ve intrepreted ‘self-development’ widely, so you’ll actually find books about finance and scientific journalism here.
I’ve made sure to only list books that have practical applications. Every one of these books includes exercises or tips to practice what they preach; moreover, I’ve taken advice from everyone of these books, and actually applied it to my life. I’m giving you what I think is the best books in their respective fields.
Moreover, everyone one of these authors have taught widely on their topic, and can be found on YouTube. I always make a point of getting a little bit into the author that I’m reading, checking out their site, YouTube videos, and seeing what other books they’ve written.
I hope you enjoy this list, and find it useful. I’ve included Amazon links for each book, and as an affiliate, I will receive a tiny kickback from any purchase you make, at no cost to you. Whether you purchase through my links or elsewhere, I do encourage to read these books, because they really do have life-changing advice in them. They are not listed in any particular order of importance, other than loosely by topic.
Without further ado:
1. Rich Dad Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki.
This is a book about shifting from the mindset of poverty, to a mindset of wealth–as well as the accompanying actions and habits that come along with that mindset. It’s a classic; easiestly the most read book on wealth and finance ever.
The basic idea is that the rich teach their children to think in a different way; they teach them to make money work for them, rather than to work for money, like the poor.
Kiyosaki’s biological father was stuck in a poverty mindset, always lacking and needing to work for money. But his mentor, whom he calls his rich dad, taught him how to make money work for him.
The advice in this book literally changed by behavior overnight. After reading this book, I immediately began putting into practice the author’s main recommendation: focus on assets, not liabilities. That’s the main teaching in this book, and everything else is like an elaboration of that.
What’s an asset? Basically, anything that is going to generate more wealth for you. An investment, essentially. You get more returns over time than you spent initially. An example would be a real education in financial literacy or a stock, or real estate. The point is to get money to work for you, rather than to work for money. “Every dollar is an employee” says Kiyosaki. That shift in thinking alone set me on a new path in life.
A liability is the opposite, of course. You make the initial investiture, and the value of the thing purchased actually costs you more, or loses value in the long run. An example would be a car, or maybe even a house depending on your circumpstances.
After reading Rich Dad Poor Dad, I became much more aware of what I was using my money for, and began setting financial goals for asset building.
There’s a ton of useful advice in this book, and I won’t go into it all here. But even Kiyosaki admits that he’s not the best writer. Don’t look for stunning prose in this work, or any of the books on this list. But do keep a pen and paper handy, because you will be taking a lot of notes.
2. The Four Hour Workweek, by Tim Ferriss.
This book will be looked back upon as a game changing, culturally impactful classic. Admittedly, there’s a lot of hype surrounding this book, largely in part to Tim’s amazing self-promotion. Will you literally be able to work four hours each week? Possibly, but probably not.
But what this book is about is the power of the internet, and technology in general, to decrease the amount of work that you do. You CAN literally be a business owner without a physical storefront, without owning a warehouse, office space, or anything other than a laptop computer and a phone. You can outsource EVERYTHING, even email checking.
Tim calls this mindset the “New Rich.”
I could go on and on. Ferriss has an extremely popular podcast where he analyzes the top-preformers in their respective fields, and he has several books that do the same. The general theme of his work is that you can work smarter and harder, but work less and still get MAJOR results.
The Four Hour Workweek is about a mindset, and this book gives practical tips for embodying that. But he also gives a TON of resources, including supplemental material from his blog.
This book set me on my long term path, and it gave me a glimpse of what is possible. I still think of Tim’s book as a kind of bible for me, and I keep it on my bedside nightstand. If you buy only one of the books on this list and are serious about improving your life and vocation, buy THIS book.
3. The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, by Nathanial Branden.
Nathanial Branden is considered the leading pioneer in the field of Self-Esteem study, and this book is his masterpiece.
Essentially, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem argues that it really is self-esteem that determines the majority of our choices and mindsets. It’s sort of an obvious observation , but Branden goes into so much detail, argues so pursuasively, that it really made me pay attention to this area of my life that I’d been avoiding.
The basic argument is this: we all have standards of value. If we don’t meet our own standards, we will not have self-esteem. Most of us attempt to please others in order to make up for a lack of real self-value, but that can never work. Self-esteem derives from within.
If we don’t get self-esteem as children from our parents, society, or any other factor in our upbringing, we will not have it in adulthood. And negative self-esteem results in self-sabotage, perpetual negative-thinking, and self-loathing.
This book resonated with me deeply. I’ve suffered from negative self-esteem my entire life, and this book forced me to face up to that fact and to do something to change it.
It offers exercise for working through negative self-esteem, but it does make it clear that the way to get self-esteem is to live in a way that you find esteemable. You have to like yourself–really, LOVE yourself–and do so unconditionally. But in order to reach that place, you have to meet your own standards.
In brief, the six pillars that Nathanial emphasizes are as follows:
1. The practice of living consciously. We live stuck in the past, and worrying about the future. Virtually every spiritual teaching out there now urges us to live in the present, which is the only thing within our sphere of control anyway.
2. The Practice of Self-Acceptance. You must accept yourself, as you are–warts and all. It can be really hard if you don’t already feel this way, so what you have to do is to start making the actions NOW that will compound with time. Act lovingly towards yourself, even if you don’t feel it. My experience is that eventually, you absolutely will.
3. The Practice of Self-Responsibility. You must take responsibility for your life, NOW. Others who hurt us, who never gave us a sense of self-esteem, even who victimized us in absolutely unacceptable ways–they may be at fault. But living as a victim isn’t going to help you. I had to learn this. YOU are responsible for YOU. If you are an adult, then you must be the parent to yourself that you never had. It isn’t going to fix itself magically by living in past hurts. Powerful, powerful teaching.
4. The Practice of Self-Assertiveness. People who love themselves act like it. They go after what they want; they are proactive. It’s a two way street, because going after those things overtime gives you the sense of self-esteem you want.
5. The Practice of Living Purposefully. Study after study has confirmed this fact: human beings need a purpose. They need to a meaning in life. Without it, it’s impossible to have self-esteem. “To live purposefully is to use our powers for the attainment of goals we have selected.”
6. The Practice of Personal Integrity. You have to try to practice what you preach. You have to keep promises to yourself. This, for me, seems to be the real key to building self-esteem. You MUST live as if you respect yourself. Only then will you actually respect yourself.
These, in a nutshell, are the six pillars. The main exercise in this book is a series of “sentence-stems”: statements such as “If I bring five percent more awarness to my surroundings today…” that you fill in each day. I do this exercise five days a week, and I can definitely tell you that it works. It takes some time, but eventually, after writing all of these thought-provoking statements down in the morning, you begin confronting the truths of what you’ve written, and you start unconsciously–and consciously–making little adjustments in behaviour.
Self-esteem is probably the number one existential issue human beings have problems with, and it results in all kinds of destructive behaviors. I LOVE this book, and I’ve already reread it two times this year alone. I also keep this book close at hand, because its that important.
4. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey. I’d be surprised if you haven’t heard of this book. All these books are classics, but probably none as classic as this book. Usually defined as self-help, it really is a book of practical philosophy. It gives you life practices to embody, not just to be successful in a material sense, but to actually become a good human being.
I’m personally working on some of the teachings in this book right now, and the shift in mindset is astounding. Here, in brief, are the seven habits:
Be Proactive. Don’t react, but act first. Take initiative.
Begin with the end in mind. Have goals, not just for the short term, but an actual manifesto for your entire life. What is it that you want to live by? What is your code, or creed? THIS then determines your values.
Put first things first. This is about time managment and priorities. So important, and something I’m learning everyday.
Think win/win. If you want to build better relationships and be more productive within a group, you have to have the courage to get what you want, but you also have to be open to what others want. Powerful teaching.
Seek first to understand, and then to be understood. This is the one I’m working on right now. Given our current political climate, this seems like one of the most important practices we can engage in. So much of our conversation isn’t really conversation at all: its just a morass of misunderstandings and platitudenal grandstanding.
Synergize. Basically, to use all parts of an organization; to leverage the mental and productive output of many minds and skills together, rather than to think as an individual.
Sharpen the Saw. There are minimal exercises you must do to maintain yourself as a biological, thinking organism. Exercise, for example. Constant learning. You must constantly put yourself to use, or you will become useless.
This is a classic book, and it’s more about becoming a good human being than it is a rich or esteemed one. However, following the practices in this book will most likely help you to become both rich and esteemed, just as a by-product.
5. The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg. I’ve written about this book in more detail here. This book is almost always cited now by habit coaches and authors; its a must for anyone trying to understand the science of habit change and habit creation.
I’ll be brief, since I’ll only be repeating myself: the basic structure of habit creation is called the “Habit Loop”: Cue, routine, and reward. There is some stimulus that puts you into an automatic behavior; this causes the actual habit, the routine, to occur. The end result is that you get some payoff, or your brain expects some payoff, which causes the craving for the routine in the first place.
Learn how to spot the cue, keep the reward, and you can replace the routine. Duhigg gives lots and lots of ways to do this in his book.
This book opened me up to the science of habit formation, and I can’t recommend it enough for my readers. A lot of the stuff I talk about on this blog was sparked by first reading this book.
6. The Slight Edge, by Jeff Olson. See my article about this book here.
Although this book is filled with excellent insights, and puts a lot on your radar, the basic teaching is simple: it is the little things we do each day that eventually leads to massive success. Going to the gym, meditating, reading, eating healthy, et cetera. Miss one day, and you hardly notice the difference. Miss 100 days, and you’re a changed human being.
I’ve given this book out as a gift now numerous times. I love it. Although the writing isn’t anything to…ahem…write home about, Olsen does have a knack for little kernals of wisdom that really do make you see things differently.
7. Focus, by Danial Goleman. This book is so filled with the science of concentration, its benefits, and how to increase it, that you really should read my article on it.
The basic premise is that technology is eroding our ability to focus on one particular thing at one time, and this is detrimental for success in life. There are numerous ways to counter this, but the best is undoubtedly to practice some form of meditation. I’ve picked up meditation recently, and I have already seen the results.
This book is packed with science and with practical information.
8. The Willpower Instinct, by Kelly McGonigal. I wrote a blog about this book, and you should read it. I give a lot of tips and information from the book, and throughout my articles I’ve probably referred to it more than any of the other books I’ve mentioned.
McGonigal focuses on practical ways to increase willpower, and explains the science behind it. In brief, here are the three main things you can do to increase your willpower: Meditate, exercise, and incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet.
In addition to these practices, there are many different tips that McGonigal shares, and I’ll be writing about them in the future.
9. Your Best Year Ever, by Michael Hyatt. Surprise; I’ve also blogged about this book! I’ll be brief: Hyatt incorporates the latest research, but not in a boring way, but into a practical system for formulating and impletementing new goals. This is the method I myself use, and I’ve seen immense benefits!
The biggest takeaways are that you should definitely write your goals down (I explain Hyatt’s method in my blog) and that you should have a review and planning session for those goals, DAILY.
Buy this book if you struggle with goals, as I have.
10. The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Achor. I don’t want to give too much away, because the next book review I write will be about this book. But suffice to say that Achor, whose Ted Talk video on YouTube is massively popular, is the leading promoter of what’s called Positive Psychology; that is, the field of research that actually studies happy people, rather than just depressed people.
Achor has done actual research, and has been involved with some of the top names in the field. His book reflects his profound knowledge. The basic idea is this: happiness IS the biggest predictor of success–and it’s tied to self-esteem, of course. But the amazing thing about it is that there are actual exercises that you can do to increase it.
As someone who has struggled with depression my whole life, this book has really helped me. Per Achor’s recommendation, I’ve made the practice of gratitude a regular part of my routine, and he shows how to do this.
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What books in this genre have you read this year? What would you recommend? Got any books you’d like for me to review? Leave it in the comments!