Here are my ten favorite fiction and non-fiction books. The order does not represent a ranking.
- The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
- A great science fiction story that displays many ways in which a free society will function.
- Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
- One of the best philosophical novels of all time, and it bears a spooky resemblance to the many things that are happening in the western world in 2016. This work of fiction will teach you more about politics than a poli sci degree.
- Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
- A father creates an interactive piece of technology to teach his daughter in his place. A second copy falls into the hands of a lower class girl. A technologically advanced, psychedelic future which will leave you flooded with all sorts of ideas.
- Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
- A virus that affects you in virtual reality can also affect you in normal reality. Reading it today it is cool and accurate to some major tech trends. It’s crazy to think that this book was written in the early 90’s. The big ideas include thinking of ideas as viruses, the breakdown of nation states, and virtual reality becoming almost as important as reality.
- The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
- No book gives a more clear look at the motivations underlying altruism, self-interest and the dynamics of power. Getting to know Elsworth Toohey will leave you with an ability to see straight through the power games people are playing.
- 1984 by George Orwell
- A compelling look at the end game of those chasing power. This is where the philosophy of central planning ends (except with less technology).
- How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid
- Mohsin Hamid breaks a lot of rules in this book. That is a big reason why I like it so much. It is from a weird perspective, and with an unusual style, but the story of the struggles an entrepreneur has to go through in a corrupt country are enlightening. You’ll leave with a better understanding of why poor countries are poor.
- We The Living by Ayn Rand
- A more personal account (though still fiction) of the bleakness of life for a young woman in a communist country. Starvation, suffering, and desperation as hundreds of years of progress are destroyed by communist ideas.
- Dune by Frank Herbert
- Dune is a fun read, and the lessons are slightly less obvious. A Duke is sent to rule on a new planet and attempts not to be sabotaged by a rival house. You can’t help but think about the geopolitical rivalries on Earth while you read, and notice the parallels in the lack of concern for ordinary citizens in these royal houses power games.
- Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) by George R.R. Martin
- If you’ve talked to a human being in the last few years, you have heard about how good the books are. If you’ve just watched the show, you will still find yourself sucked in for days as you power through these books. There is so much more depth to the characters, the moral conflicts, and the power struggles going on.
- Economics in One Lesson – Henry Hazlitt
- Short, clear, and concise summary of the most common economic fallacies. Unlike your confusing and overly empirical economics classes in college, this is common sense economics. Learning these economic basics will change your world view.
- The Last Safe Investment – Bryan Franklin and Michael Ellsberg
- People get caught up chasing money because they forget that money is a means to and end and not an end in itself. The Last Safe Investment helps you see clearly that happiness — not a bank account — is what you should maximize your return on, and it explains how to think about using your limited time, energy, and savings.
- Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. – Ron Chernow
- An in-depth look at a man who created an astounding amount of wealth. Reading Titan, lets you see what Rockefeller’s childhood was like, what habits he had, how he thought about investing his time and money. It humanizes an icon and leaves you thinking “how can I do something like that?”
- Man’s Search for Meaning – Victor Frankl
- Frankl’s story of survival in concentrations camps is deeply moving. But combining it with his knowledge of psychology allows you to see your life in a new way. You can’t read this book without re-assessing what your purpose is.
- Mastery – Robert Greene (Not a biography of one person, but many compelling life stories)
- Like Titan, Mastery lets you see behind the scenes of icons. But with Mastery you get dozens. Greene breaks down the steps that the historical figures we consider geniuses actually took to get to the top of their field. It allows you to see that there is a consistent pattern people take to reach mastery in a field, and it is a pattern you can replicate.
Self Help / Psychology
- The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden
- Real self-esteem is not created by praise, it is creating by viewing yourself acting in a way that lives up to your standards and ideals. Branden lays out the six practices that demonstrate and build self-esteem. Six Pillars is the best framework for thinking about your relationship with yourself.
- The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk
- The neuroscience of childhood trauma, how it happens, what happens to the body, and how to go about healing. Childhood trauma is a major cause of negative health and overall life outcomes, but most people never address the psychological wounds they may have suffered. Reading TBKTS will change the way you think about your behavior and the actions of others. It’s a human body owners manual.
- Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg
- Like Six Pillars is a great framework for our understanding our relationship’s with ourselves. NVC is a great framework for understanding and improving our relationship with others through our communication. NVC lays out the ways that language and communication interact with our emotions. It teaches how to connect on a deeper level with the people that you’re talking with. How to be empathetic in your communication. And how to resolve conflicts. Effective communication is a big part of a fulfilling life, and NVC is the best system I’ve found.
- Awaken The Giant Within by Tony Robbins
- If you’re going through a down stretch, feeling depressed, disappointed, or unmotivated; this book is a great way to go through what is holding you back systematically. It helps you identify limiting beliefs, identify purpose, set goals, and take action towards creating the life that you want to be living.
- The Pursuit of Perfect by Tal Ben-Shahar
- A breakdown of the psychology and philosophy of perfectionism, and the harmful affects it can have on our happiness, productivity, and ironically the quality of our work. Ben-Shahar sets out to shift you from perfectionist habits to optimalist habits.
- Influence by Robert Cialdini
- The best look at how our unconscious mind affects the decisions that we make, and the tools we can use to Influence the unconscious decision making of others. Reading this book is like putting on a pair of glasses. You can see advertising, politicians, and influencers in a whole different way because you understand the techniques they are using and can defend against them.
Bonus: 101 Ways to Choose The Life You Want by Tal Ben-Shahar – 101 short chapters with wisdom from psychology and philosophy on how to live a better life. This is a nightstand book that never fails to uplift and empower.