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Ryan Holiday's Top Book Recommendations

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Want to know what books Ryan Holiday recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Ryan Holiday's favorite book recommendations of all time.

1

The 48 Laws of Power

This amoral, cunning, ruthless, and instructive book synthesizes the philosophies of Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, and Carl Von Clausewitz with the historical legacies of statesmen, warriors, seducers, and con men throughout the ages. less

Charlamagne Tha GodThese are the books I recommend people to listen to on @applebooks. (Source)

Marvin LiaoMy list would be (besides the ones I mentioned in answer to the previous question) both business & Fiction/Sci-Fi and ones I personally found helpful to myself. The business books explain just exactly how business, work & investing are in reality & how to think properly & differentiate yourself. On the non-business side, a mix of History & classic fiction to understand people, philosophy to make... (Source)

Ryan HolidayThere is no living writer (or person) who has been more influential to me than Robert Greene. I met him when I was 19 years old and he’s shaped me as a person, as a writer, as a thinker. You MUST read his books. His work on power and strategy are critical for anyone trying to accomplish anything. In life, power is force we are constantly bumping up against. People have power of over us, we seek... (Source)

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2
John D. Rockefeller, Sr.--history's first billionaire and the patriarch of America's most famous dynasty--is an icon whose true nature has eluded three generations of historians. Now Ron Chernow, the National Book Award-winning biographer of the Morgan and Warburg banking families, gives us a history of the mogul "etched with uncommon objectivity and literary grace . . . as detailed, balanced, and psychologically insightful a portrait of the tycoon as we may ever have" (Kirkus Reviews). Titan is the first full-length biography based on unrestricted access to Rockefeller's exceptionally rich... more

Ryan HolidayA biography has to be really good to make read you all 800 pages. To me, this was one of those books. Since reading it earlier this year, I’ve since found out it is the favorite book of a lot of people I respect. I think something about the quality of the writing and the empathic understanding of the writer that the main lessons you would take away from someone like Rockefeller would not be... (Source)

Adam Townsend@Sociopathlete Great book (Source)

Anas Alhajji@Morg2006 Yep, I already have it. great book. (Source)

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3
Everywhere acknowledged as a modern American classic, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and chosen by the Modern Library as one of the hundred greatest books of the twentieth century, The Power Broker is a huge and galvanizing biography revealing not only the saga of one man's incredible accumulation of power, but the story of the shaping (and mis-shaping) of New York in the twentieth century.

Robert Caro's monumental book makes public what few outsiders knew: that Robert Moses was the single most powerful man of his time in the City and in the State of New York. And in telling...
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Barack ObamaHe may have the country’s finest experts at his fingertips, but it still doesn’t hurt to read up on environmental and economic issues. (Source)

Ryan HolidayIt took me 15 days to read all 1,165 pages of this monstrosity that chronicles the rise of Robert Moses. I was 20 years old. It was one of the most magnificent books I’ve ever read. Moses built just about every other major modern construction project in New York City. The public couldn’t stop him, the mayor couldn’t stop him, the governor couldn’t stop him, and only once could the President of... (Source)

Ben GreenmanWell, if you look at a picture of a place, you can normally get a sense of what it’s like. But hopefully what books do, or what thinking does, is to show you what that place is like underneath. The Power Broker is the definitive history of how, in modern America, cities get built, power gets thrown around, neighbourhoods are overpowered by developers and politicians. It’s gigantic and it’s a... (Source)

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4
From the author of the international mega-bestseller The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck comes a counterintuitive guide to the problems of hope.

We live in an interesting time. Materially, everything is the best it’s ever been—we are freer, healthier and wealthier than any people in human history. Yet, somehow everything seems to be irreparably and horribly f*cked—the planet is warming, governments are failing, economies are collapsing, and everyone is perpetually offended on Twitter. At this moment in history, when we have access to technology, education and communication...
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Nir EyalMark Manson has succeeded in explaining a crazy world to an entire generation by invoking hard science, moral philosophy, and gobs of hilarious wit. This book is guaranteed to make you laugh, question your beliefs, and (hopefully) change your life. (Source)

Ryan HolidayJust because everything appears to be a mess doesn’t mean you have to be one. Mark Manson’s book is a call to arms for a better life and better world and could not be more needed right now. (Source)

Eric BarkerMark provides an antidote to our era of spiritual malaise with a much-needed tincture of laughter, practical advice and philosophical wisdom. His counterintuitive insight will keep a three-bourbon smile on your face the whole time you’re reading it. (Source)

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5
You sit down at your desk to work on an important project, but a notification on your phone interrupts your morning. Later, as you're about to get back to work, a colleague taps you on the shoulder to chat. At home, screens get in the way of quality time with your family. Another day goes by, and once again, your most important personal and professional goals are put on hold.  

What would be possible if you followed through on your best intentions? What could you accomplish if you could stay focused and overcome distractions? What if you had the power to become...
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Cal NewportIndistractable is a master class in understanding the root cause of distraction. Recommended for anyone looking to do more deep work. (Source)

Arianna HuffingtonThis is such an important book. Indistractable is the best guide I’ve read for reclaiming our attention, our focus, and our lives. (Source)

Mark MansonIndistractable is the most practical and realistic approach to balancing technology with well-being. A must-read for anyone with a smartphone. (Source)

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6

Antifragile

Things That Gain from Disorder

From the bestselling author of The Black Swan and one of the foremost philosophers of our time, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a book on how some systems actually benefit from disorder.

In The Black Swan Taleb outlined a problem; in Antifragile he offers a definitive solution: how to gain from disorder and chaos while being protected from fragilities and adverse events. For what he calls the "antifragile" is one step beyond robust, as it benefits from adversity, uncertainty and stressors, just as human bones get stronger when subjected to stress and tension.

Taleb stands...
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James AltucherYou ask about success. To be successful you have to avoid being “fragile” – the idea that if something hurts you, you let collapse completely. You also have to avoid simply being resilient. Bouncing back is not enough. Antifragile is when something tries to hurt you and you come back stronger. That is real life business. That is real life success. Nassim focuses on the economy. But when I read... (Source)

Marvin Liaoeval(ez_write_tag([[250,250],'theceolibrary_com-leader-2','ezslot_7',164,'0','1'])); My list would be (besides the ones I mentioned in answer to the previous question) both business & Fiction/Sci-Fi and ones I personally found helpful to myself. The business books explain just exactly how business, work & investing are in reality & how to think properly & differentiate yourself. On... (Source)

Vlad TenevThe general concept is applicable to many fields beyond biology, for instance finance, economics and monetary policy. (Source)

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7
Alternate cover edition of ISBN 9780062457738

In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be "positive" all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people.

For decades, we’ve been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life. "F**k positivity," Mark Manson says. "Let’s be honest, shit is f**ked and we have to live with it." In his wildly popular Internet blog, Manson doesn’t sugarcoat or equivocate. He tells it like it is—a dose of raw, refreshing, honest truth...
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Ryan HolidayI loved Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck. There’s a reason this book is blowing up. It’s that good. (Source)

Ella BottingYou’ll meet a lot of d*ck heads at work. This book helps you prioritise how you spend your energy. I liked how Mark used examples from his real life to explain his points, means you can relate to his whole ideology more. (Source)

Chris GowardHere are some of the books that have been very impactful for me, or taught me a new way of thinking: [...] The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. (Source)

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8

The Score Takes Care of Itself

My Philosophy of Leadership

"Even when you have an organization brimming with talent, victory is not always under your control. There is no guarantee, no ultimate formula for success. It all comes down to intelligently and relentlessly seeking solutions that will increase your chance of prevailing. When you do that, the score will take care of itself." (Bill Walsh)

Bill Walsh is a towering figure in the history of the NFL. His advanced leadership transformed the San Francisco 49ers from the worst franchise in sports to a legendary dynasty that won three Super Bowls. In the process, he changed the way...
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Jack DorseyThere is never a better time to do the hard things when things are going extremely well and that can be as an individual that can be as a team as well. “Number nine, never fall prey to the belief that getting to the top makes everything easy.” It doesn’t, it makes it harder. “Number 10, recognize that mastery is a process, not a destination.” That’s what Bill Walsh had to say. The book is The... (Source)

Ryan HolidayIn 2014, I read The Education of a Coach, a book about Bill Belichick which influenced me immensely (coincidentally, the Patriots have also read my book and were influenced by it). Anyway, I have been chasing that high ever since. Bill Walsh’s book certainly met that high standard. Out of all the books I read this year, I marked this one up the most. Even if you’ve never watched a down of... (Source)

Noah KaganA few months ago, I was drinking a Noah’s Mill whiskey (cute) with my good buddy Brian Balfour and talking about life... During the conversation, we got on the topic of books that changed our lives. I want to share them with you. I judge a book's success if a year later I'm still using at least 1 thing from the book. (Source)

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9
Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days is a collection of interviews with founders of famous technology companies about what happened in the very earliest days. These people are celebrities now. What was it like when they were just a couple friends with an idea? Founders like Steve Wozniak (Apple), Caterina Fake (Flickr), Mitch Kapor (Lotus), Max Levchin (PayPal), and Sabeer Bhatia (Hotmail) tell you in their own words about their surprising and often very funny discoveries as they learned how to build a company.

Where did they get the ideas that made them rich?...
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Paul GrahamProbably the single most valuable book a startup founder could read. (Source)

Ron ConwayCollection of interviews with founders of famous technology companies about what happened in the very earliest days. (Source)

Alexis OhanianA bunch of really great interviews [Jessica] did with a bunch of just OGs of entrepreneurship. (Source)

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10
A legendary tale, both true and astonishing, from the author of Israel is Real and Sweet and Low

When Samuel Zemurray arrived in America in 1891, he was tall, gangly, and penniless. When he died in the grandest house in New Orleans sixty-nine years later, he was among the richest, most powerful men in the world. In between, he worked as a fruit peddler, a banana hauler, a dockside hustler, and a plantation owner. He battled and conquered the United Fruit Company, becoming a symbol of the best and worst of the United States: proof that America...
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Ryan HolidayThe book sucked me in completely. The subject, Samuel Zemurray, is fascinating and compelling. The writer has a voice that is utterly unique. Since reading this book, I have explored all of this further: I studied Zemurray (whose house was not far from mine in New Orleans and still stands) and am using his story in my next book. I interviewed the author, Rich Cohen. And I read his other books, am... (Source)

Benjamin SpallI loved The Fish That Ate the Whale by Rich Cohen. Not only is it a fascinating story, Cohen's writing is a reminder of just how great non-fiction writing can be if you truly care about it. (Source)

Andrew Wilkinson@BrentBeshore Love that book. (Source)

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Don't have time to read Ryan Holiday's favorite books? Read Shortform summaries.

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  • Interactive exercises: apply the book's ideas to your own life with our educators' guidance.
11

The War of Art

The Art of War meets "The Artist's Way" in this no-nonsense, profoundly inspiring guide to overcoming creative blocks of every kind. less

James AltucherWhen a writer or an entrepreneur, or a manager, or an employee, or a…whatever…sits down to get to work, he or she is often met by “the resistance”. The excuses that come up: I can’t do this. I am too old. I don’t have enough money. I’m scared. “The War of Art” is the guide to getting through that block. The comfort zone is papered up and cemented shut by our excuses. Learn to blast through that... (Source)

Seth GodinAlso hard to find on audio. I find Steve's voice to be fascinating, and even before I knew him, I was fascinated by listening to him speak his own work. The War of Art is one of those books, at least for me when I finally was exposed to it, I said, 'Why wasn't I informed? Why did it take this long for this book to land on my desk?'... You need to be clear with yourself about what you are afraid... (Source)

Brian KoppelmanTalks about resistance. (Source)

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12

When Breath Becomes Air

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the... more

Bill GatesI don’t know how Kalanithi found the physical strength to write this book while he was so debilitated by the disease and then potent chemotherapy. But I’m so glad he did. He spent his whole brief life searching for meaning in one way or another -- through books, writing, medicine, surgery, and science. I’m grateful that, by reading this book, I got to witness a small part of that journey. I just... (Source)

Ryan HolidayDespite its popularity, When Breath Becomes Air is actually underrated. It’s make-you-cry good. (Source)

Bethany S. MandelMore Shabbat reading recommendations: This book was breathtaking and such a powerful advertisement for the joy of parenthood. https://t.co/V8BH97eiL9 (Source)

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13
In this candid and riveting memoir, for the first time ever, Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight shares the inside story of the company’s early days as an intrepid start-up and its evolution into one of the world’s most iconic, game-changing, and profitable brands.

In 1962, fresh out of business school, Phil Knight borrowed $50 from his father and created a company with a simple mission: import high-quality, low-cost athletic shoes from Japan. Selling the shoes from the trunk of his lime green Plymouth Valiant, Knight grossed $8,000 his first year. Today, Nike’s annual sales top $30...
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Bill GatesThis memoir, by the co-founder of Nike, is a refreshingly honest reminder of what the path to business success really looks like: messy, precarious, and riddled with mistakes. I’ve met Knight a few times over the years. He’s super nice, but he’s also quiet and difficult to get to know. Here Knight opens up in a way few CEOs are willing to do. I don’t think Knight sets out to teach the reader... (Source)

Warren BuffettThe best book I read last year. Phil is... a gifted storyteller. (Source)

Andre AgassiI've known Phil Knight since I was a kid, but I didn't really know him until I opened this beautiful, startling, intimate book. And the same goes for Nike. I've worn the gear with pride, but I didn't realize the remarkable saga of innovation and survival and triumph that stood behind every swoosh. Candid, funny, suspenseful, literary - this is a memoir for people who love sport, but above all... (Source)

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14

Being Nixon

A Man Divided

Evan Thomas delivers the best single-volume biography of Richard Nixon to date, a radical, unique portrait of a complicated figure who was both determinedly optimistic and tragically flawed. The New York Times bestselling author of Ike’s Bluff and Sea of Thunder, Thomas brings new life to one of American history’s most infamous, paradoxical, and enigmatic politicians, dispensing with myths to achieve an intimate and nuanced look at the actual man.

What drove a painfully shy outcast in elite Washington society—a man so self-conscious he refused to make eye...
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Walter IsaacsonWhat was it really like to be Richard Nixon? Evan Thomas tackles this fascinating question by peeling back the layers of a man driven by a poignant mix of optimism and fear. The result is both insightful history and an astonishingly compelling psychological portrait of an anxious introvert who struggled to be a transformative statesman. (Source)

Bill GatesI was a little surprised to learn what a bad manager Nixon was. Although it doesn’t compare to his other failings, Nixon’s management style offers some good reminders of how not to run a team. He avoided conflict at all costs. His staff frequently left meetings with diametrically opposed views on what he had just asked them to do. Or he would be crystal-clear about what he wanted, while actually... (Source)

Ryan HolidayOne of the best books I’ve ever read about a politician. It’s worth reading whatever country you live in and whatever your political beliefs are. (Source)

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15

The Road to Character

“I wrote this book not sure I could follow the road to character, but I wanted at least to know what the road looks like and how other people have trodden it.”—David Brooks
 
With the wisdom, humor, curiosity, and sharp insights that have brought millions of readers to his New York Times column and his previous bestsellers, David Brooks has consistently illuminated our daily lives in surprising and original ways. In The Social Animal, he explored the neuroscience of human connection and how we can flourish together. Now, in The Road to Character, he...
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Bill GatesThe insightful New York Times columnist examines the contrasting values that motivate all of us. He argues that American society does a good job of cultivating the “résumé virtues” (the traits that lead to external success) but not our “eulogy virtues” (the traits that lead to internal peace of mind). Brooks profiles various historical figures who were paragons of character. I thought his... (Source)

Howard SchultzA fantastic journey of learning from the lives of some of the greatest leaders and thinkers of our time. (Source)

Indra NooyiBeyond provoking valuable self-reflection and introspection, it sparked a wonderful discussion with my two daughters about why building inner character is just as important as building a career. In fact, the two go hand in hand—the moral compass of our lives must also be the moral compass of our livelihoods. (Source)

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16
No matter your goals, Atomic Habits offers a proven framework for improving--every day. James Clear, one of the world's leading experts on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.

If you're having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn't you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don't want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change. You do not rise to the level of...
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Cal NewportI recently read an advance copy of James Clear’s new book, Atomic Habits. His thesis is that small but carefully selected habits can, over time, create massively positive results — not just in terms of what you accomplish, but also in terms of the type of person you become. James’s exposition rings true with what’ve I learned hanging around interesting people and high achievers. I recommend you... (Source)

Mark MansonA lot of people email me asking about habits - how to form good ones, how to break bad ones, how to stop doing the dumb shit we always do. I've got a friend named James Clear. He's an accomplished author and business owner and is kind of a "habit guru." He's probably forgotten more habits research than I've ever brought myself to look at. He just launched his first book. It's called Atomic Habits... (Source)

Ryan HolidayThis book is out on Tuesday and it's also very good. An atomic habit is a tiny habit or change that can have an enormous impact on your life. Getting up a little earlier, deleting social media from your phone, automating your savings, developing a system, these are atomic habits. Me personally, I don't feel like I am particularly talented or even that disciplined, but I have a number of atomic... (Source)

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17
A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was.

The astonishing success of Google was a black swan; so was 9/11. For Nassim Nicholas Taleb, black swans underlie almost everything about our world, from the rise of religions to events in our own personal lives.

Why do we not acknowledge the phenomenon of black swans until after they occur? Part of the answer, according to...
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Recommended by Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Simon Sinek, and 22 others.

Bill Gates[On Bill Gates's reading list in 2012.] (Source)

Jeff Bezos[From the book "The Everything Store: and the Age of Amazon"] “The scholar argues that people are wired to see patterns in chaos while remaining blind to unpredictable events, with massive consequences. Experimentation and empiricism trumps the easy and obvious narrative,” Stone writes. (Source)

James AltucherAnd throw in “The Black Swan” and “Fooled by Randomness”. “Fragile” means if you hit something might break. “Resilient” means if you hit something, it will stay the same. On my podcast Nassim discusses “Antifragility” – building a system, even on that works for you on a personal level, where you if you harm your self in some way it becomes stronger. That podcast changed my life He discusses... (Source)

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18

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

With its first great victory in the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, the civil rights movement gained the powerful momentum it needed to sweep forward into its crucial decade, the 1960s. As voices of protest and change rose above the din of history and false promises, one voice sounded more urgently, more passionately, than the rest. Malcolm X—once called the most dangerous man in America—challenged the world to listen and learn the truth as he experienced it. And his enduring message is as relevant today as when he first delivered it.

In the...
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Casey NeistatAside from The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Casey's favorite book is The Second World War by John Keegan. (Source)

Ryan HolidayI forget who said it but I heard someone say that Catcher in the Rye was to young white boys what the Autobiography of Malcolm X was to young black boys. Personally, I prefer that latter over the former. I would much rather read about and emulate a man who is born into adversity and pain, struggles with criminality, does prison time, teaches himself to read through the dictionary, finds religion... (Source)

Keith EllisonMalcolm X is somebody that everybody in America’s prisons today could look at and say, ‘You know what, I can emerge, I can evolve' (Source)

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19
You don’t need to be a genius, you just need to be yourself. That’s the message from Austin Kleon, a young writer and artist who knows that creativity is everywhere, creativity is for everyone. A manifesto for the digital age, Steal Like an Artist is a guide whose positive message, graphic look and illustrations, exercises, and examples will put readers directly in touch with their artistic side. less

Seth GodinBreezy and fun and yes, scary. Scary because it calls your bluff. (Source)

Ryan HolidayPart of ambition is modeling yourself after those you’d like to be like. Austin’s philosophy of ruthlessly stealing and remixing the greats might sound appalling at first but it is actually the essence of art. You learn by stealing, you become creative by stealing, you push yourself to be better by working with these materials. Austin is a fantastic artist, but most importantly he communicates... (Source)

Chase JarvisSuper small, fast read. (Source)

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20
Every day, we make decisions on topics ranging from personal investments to schools for our children to the meals we eat to the causes we champion. Unfortunately, we often choose poorly. The reason, the authors explain, is that, being human, we all are susceptible to various biases that can lead us to blunder. Our mistakes make us poorer and less healthy; we often make bad decisions involving education, personal finance, health care, mortgages and credit cards, the family, and even the planet itself.

Thaler and Sunstein invite us to enter an alternative world, one that takes our...
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Dan ArielyNudge is a very important book. One of the reasons Nudge is so important is because it’s taking these ideas and applying them to the policy domain. Here are the mistakes we make. Here are the ways marketers are trying to influence us. Here’s the way we might be able to fight back. If policymakers understood these principles, what could they do? The other important thing about the book is that it... (Source)

Eric RiesA pioneer in behavioral economics and just recently awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics, his classic book on how to make better decisions. (Source)

Ryan HolidayThis might feel like a weird book to include, but I think it presents another side of strategy that is too often forgotten. It’s not always about bold actors and strategic thrusts. Sometimes strategy is about subtle influence. Sometimes it is framing and small tweaks that change behavior. We can have big aims, but get there with little moves. This book has excellent examples of that kind of... (Source)

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Don't have time to read Ryan Holiday's favorite books? Read Shortform summaries.

Shortform summaries help you learn 10x faster by:

  • Being comprehensive: you learn the most important points in the book
  • Cutting out the fluff: you focus your time on what's important to know
  • Interactive exercises: apply the book's ideas to your own life with our educators' guidance.
21
Winning by not competing! This international best seller upends traditional thinking with principles and tools to make the competition irrelevant.
In an audiobook that challenges everything you thought you knew, W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne assert that tomorrow's leading companies will succeed, not by battling their rivals for market share in the bloody "red ocean" of a shrinking profit pool, but by creating "blue oceans" of untapped new market spaces ripe for growth.

Based on a study of 150 strategic moves, spanning more than 100 years and 30 industries, they provide a...
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Daymond JohnThere are the normal ones that everybody loves. There would be "Rich Dad Poor Dad," "Who Moved My Cheese?;" I love all the Dale Carnegie books; "The One Minute Manager." I love newer ones like "Blue Ocean Strategy" and all the "Freaknomics" books. (Source)

Ryan HolidayI don’t remember who originally told me to read Blue Ocean Strategy but I’m glad they did because this simple recommendation would substantially shape the course of my life and my career. (Source)

Santiago BasultoIt’s hard to pick a favorite business book, they all have a lot of insight spread among different publications. But if I’d need to choose one, it’d be The Blue Ocean Strategy. It completely changed my way of seeing business when I was just getting started. It’s filled with amazing stories and insights. (Source)

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22

Steve Jobs

From the author of the bestselling biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein, this is the exclusive, New York Times bestselling biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years—as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues—Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal...
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Elon MuskQuite interesting. (Source)

Bill Gates[On Bill Gates's reading list in 2012.] (Source)

Gary VaynerchukI've read 3 business books in my life. If you call [this book] a business book. (Source)

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23

Letters from a Stoic

I feel, my dear Lucilius, that I am being not only reformed, but transformed. I do not yet, however, assure myself, or indulge the hope, that there are no elements left in me which need to be changed. Of course there are many that should be made more compact, or made thinner, or be brought into greater prominence. And indeed this very fact is proof that my spirit is altered into something better, - that it can see its own faults, of which it was previously ignorant. In certain cases sick men are congratulated because they themselves have perceived that they are sick. less

Timothy FerrissThis is a letter from Stoic heavyweight Seneca the Younger — who lived a mere 2,000 years or so ago — to his friend Lucilius. It’s from a collection of letters that comprise, effectively, my favorite book of all time. I’ve read it dozens of times, and I loved it so much that I turned it into The Tao of Seneca, a three-volume set of audiobooks. (Source)

Ryan HolidayAfter Marcus Aurelius, this is one of my favorite books. While Marcus wrote mainly for himself, Seneca had no trouble advising and aiding others. In fact, that was his job—he was Nero’s tutor, tasked with reducing the terrible impulses of a terrible man. His advice on grief, on wealth, on power, on religion, and on life are always there when you need them. (Source)

Oliver BurkemanIt’s important to stress that I take a completely mercenary attitude towards Stoicism, picking and choosing the bits that seem to me to be useful techniques for the present day. There are aspects of Stoicism that are very hard to stomach today. For example, the underlying principle that the universe as a whole is in some sense God, with a will or agency of its own, and that rational behaviour... (Source)

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24
A superb new collection from one of our best and best-loved writers. Nine stories draw us immediately into that special place known as Alice Munro territory-a place where an unexpected twist of events or a suddenly recaptured memory can illumine the arc of an entire life.
The fate of a strong-minded housekeeper with a "frizz of reddish hair," just entering the dangerous country of old-maidhood, is unintentionally (and deliciously) reversed by a teenaged girl's practical joke. A college student visiting her aunt for the first time and recognizing the family furniture stumbles on a...
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Lauren MechlingAny Alice Munro story is a horrid story to boil down to an elevator pitch. I still don’t even know what the story Nettles is about, except I know that it’s about a woman who feels at home in the Alice Munro universe: she’s a writer, she’s a Canadian, she’s a mother, she’s sexually alive. (Source)

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25
One of the most valuable skills in our economy is becoming increasingly rare. If you master this skill, you'll achieve extraordinary results.

Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It's a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. Deep work will make you better at what you do and provide the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship. In short, deep work is like a super power in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy. And yet, most...
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Marvin LiaoThe Joy of Not Working (Zelinkski), Flash Foresight (Burrus), The Art of Worldly Wisdom (Gracian), Sapiens (Yuval), The End of Jobs (Pearson), Deep Work (Newport), Sovereign Individual (Davidson), The Fourth Economy (Davison) & The Monk & the Riddle (Komisar). Every single one of these books completely changed how I looked at everything in the world & literally pushed my life in a new direction.... (Source)

Daniel PinkAs automation and outsourcing reshape the workplace, what new skill do we need? The ability to do deep work. Cal Newport's exciting new book is an introduction and guide to the kind of intense concentration in a distraction-free environment that results in fast, powerful learning and performance. Think of it as calisthenics for your mind-and start your exercise program today. (Source)

Seth GodinCal Newport is a clear voice in a sea of noise, bringing science and passion in equal measure. (Source)

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26
The nation's premier communications expert shares his wisdom on how the words we choose can change the course of business, of politics, and of life in this country In Words That Work, Luntz offers a behind-the-scenes look at how the tactical use of words and phrases affects what we buy, who we vote for, and even what we believe in. With chapters like "The Ten Rules of Successful Communication" and "The 21 Words and Phrases for the 21st Century," he examines how choosing the right words is essential. Nobody is in a better position to explain than Frank Luntz: He has... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, Brian Burkhart, and 2 others.

Ryan HolidayThese two books are the two best books of political thinking and theater from both the left and the right. Regardless of ideologies, both are experts in influencing and leading public perception through image and words. It actually matters whether we’re talking about illegal immigrants or undocumented workers, or whether we describe the problem as climate change or global warming. Strategists... (Source)

Brian BurkhartHe’s the one who said the two most powerful words are “imagine” and “believe.” That’s huge, and I absolutely agree. (Source)

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27

Benjamin Franklin

An American Life

In this authoritative and engrossing full-scale biography, Walter Isaacson, bestselling author of Einstein and Steve Jobs, shows how the most fascinating of America's founders helped define our national character.

Benjamin Franklin is the founding father who winks at us, the one who seems made of flesh rather than marble. In a sweeping narrative that follows Franklin’s life from Boston to Philadelphia to London and Paris and back, Walter Isaacson chronicles the adventures of the runaway apprentice who became, over the course of his eighty-four-year life, America’s...
more

Elon MuskI didn't read actually very many general business books, but I like biographies and autobiographies, I think those are pretty helpful. Actually, a lot of them aren't really business. [...] Isaacson's biography on Franklin is really good. Cause he was an entrepreneur and he sort of started from nothing, actually he was just like a run away kid, basically, and created his printing business and sort... (Source)

Scott Belsky[Scott Belsky recommended this book on the podcast "The Tim Ferriss Show".] (Source)

Brandon StantonThe [biography of Benjamin Franklin] I read. (Source)

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28

Howard Hughes

His Life and Madness

Howard Hughes has always fascinated the public with his mixture of secrecy, dashing lifestyle, and reclusiveness. This is the book that breaks through the image to get at the man. Originally published under the title Empire: The Life, Legend, and Madness of Howard Hughes. less
Recommended by Elon Musk, Ryan Holiday, and 2 others.

Elon MuskMusk said that he had just finished Barlett and Steele's (Source)

Ryan HolidayFor me, this year was filled with what one might called “cautionary biographies”—bios of people you don’t want to end up like—and Hughes is at the top of the list. The authors clearly respect what was great about Howard—his daring, his talent for flying, his sense for people and love of negotiation—but they also see clearly his many, crippling flaws. They are able to tell his story in a way that... (Source)

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29

Meditations

One measure, perhaps, of a book's worth, is its intergenerational pliancy: do new readers acquire it and interpret it afresh down through the ages? The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, translated and introduced by Gregory Hays, by that standard, is very worthwhile, indeed. Hays suggests that its most recent incarnation--as a self-help book--is not only valid, but may be close to the author's intent. The book, which Hays calls, fondly, a "haphazard set of notes," is indicative of the role of philosophy among the ancients in that it is "expected to provide a 'design for living.'" And it... more

Arianna HuffingtonI find [this book] so inspirational and instructive, it lives on my nightstand. (Source)

Chip ConleyI have given [this book] away to a number of people. (Source)

Marvin LiaoMy list would be (besides the ones I mentioned in answer to the previous question) both business & Fiction/Sci-Fi and ones I personally found helpful to myself. The business books explain just exactly how business, work & investing are in reality & how to think properly & differentiate yourself. On the non-business side, a mix of History & classic fiction to understand people, philosophy to make... (Source)

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30

Status Anxiety

For this study, de Botton asks where our worries about status come from and what, if anything, we can do to reduce them. He looks at how people have coped with these anxieties in the past with a range of unexpected examples and entertaining anecdotes. less
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, Garry Tan, and 2 others.

Ryan HolidayAh yes, the drive that we all have to be better, bigger, have more, be more. Ambition is a good thing, but it’s also a source of great anxiety and frustration. In this book, philosopher Alain de Botton studies the downsides of the desire to “be somebody” in this world. How do you manage ambition? How do you manage envy? How do you avoid the traps that so many other people fall into? This book is... (Source)

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31

Man's Search for Meaning

Man's Search for Meaning has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 psychiatrist Viktor Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the stories of his many patients, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl's theory—known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos ("meaning")—holds... more

Tony RobbinsAnother book that I’ve read dozens of times. It taught me that if you change the meaning, you change everything. Meaning equals emotion, and emotion equals life. (Source)

Jimmy FallonI read it while spending ten days in the ICU of Bellevue hospital trying to reattach my finger from a ring avulsion accident in my kitchen. It talks about the meaning of life, and I believe you come out a better person from reading it. (Source)

Dustin Moskovitz[Dustin Moskovitz recommended this book on Twitter.] (Source)

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32

Mastery

In this book, Robert Greene demonstrates that the ultimate form of power is mastery itself. By analyzing the lives of such past masters as Charles Darwin, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and Leonard da Vinci, as well as by interviewing nine contemporary masters, including tech guru Paul Graham and animal rights advocate Temple Grandin, Greene debunks our culture’s many myths about genius and distills the wisdom of the ages to reveal the secret to greatness. With this seminal text as a guide, readers will learn how to unlock the passion within and become masters. less

James AltucherWhat better way to learn about success then the minute paths taken by 100s or 1000s of successful people.It feels like Robert takes everyone in history and dissects the exact moments and decisions that led to their great success. (Source)

Ryan HolidayThere is no living writer (or person) who has been more influential to me than Robert Greene. I met him when I was 19 years old and he’s shaped me as a person, as a writer, as a thinker. You MUST read his books. His work on power and strategy are critical for anyone trying to accomplish anything. In life, power is force we are constantly bumping up against. People have power of over us, we seek... (Source)

Tobias S@Oliver_Rankin @Ashthorp Great book, read it twice! (Source)

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33
Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills—and it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel. Sugar—the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir Wild—is the person thousands turn to for advice.

Tiny Beautiful Things brings the best of Dear Sugar in one place and includes never-before-published columns and a new introduction by Steve Almond.  Rich with humor,...
more

Ryan HolidayIt was wonderful to read these two provocative books of essays by two incredibly wise and compassionate women. Cheryl Strayed, also the author of Wild, was the anonymous columnist behind the online column, Dear Sugar and boy, are we better off for it. This is not a random smattering of advice. This book contains some of the most cogent insights on life, pain, loss, love, success, youth that I... (Source)

James AltucherCheryl had an advice column called “Dear Sugar”. I was reading the column long before Oprah recommended “Wild” by Cheryl and then Wild became a movie and “Tiny Beautiful Things” (the collection of her advice column) became a book. She is so wise and compassionate. A modern saint. I used to do Q&A sessions on Twitter. I’d read her book beforehand to get inspiration about what true advice is. (Source)

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34

The Laws of Human Nature

Robert Greene is a master guide for millions of readers, distilling ancient wisdom and philosophy into essential texts for seekers of power, understanding and mastery. Now he turns to the most important subject of all - understanding people's drives and motivations, even when they are unconscious of them themselves.
We are social animals. Our very lives depend on our relationships with people. Knowing why people do what they do is the most important tool we can possess, without which our other talents can only take us so far. Drawing from the ideas and examples of Pericles, Queen...
more

Ryan HolidayRobert has been writing this book since Mastery came out in 2013 and it shows - it's a spectacular masterwork that builds atop all his other books. Robert's book have always been an unvarnished look at how the world really works, for better and for worse. What I like about this book is that it pushes us to question our own biases, our own assumptions, irrationalities and tendencies. It's almost... (Source)

James Altucher@BrettSSimon Any book by @RobertGreene is great so pick up his latest: "The Laws of Human Nature". (Source)

Ayush KumarPeople are the ROI, people are the asset, everything is people and one needs to understand people. (Source)

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35

Alexander Hamilton

The inspiration for the hit Broadway musical Hamilton

In the first full-length biography of Alexander Hamilton in decades, National Book Award winner Ron Chernow tells the riveting story of a man who overcame all odds to shape, inspire, and scandalize the newborn America. According to historian Joseph Ellis, Alexander Hamilton is “a robust full-length portrait, in my view the best ever written, of the most brilliant, charismatic and dangerous founder of them all.”Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than...
more

Travis Kalanick[Travis Kalanick changed his Twitter] avatar to Alexander Hamilton after having read [this book]. (Source)

Ryan HolidayRelated and with equal weight, I want to recommend George B. McClellan: The Young Napoleon by Stephen W. Sears (a biography of the talented but utterly delusional General George McClellan), Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson by S.C. Gwynne (a biography of the brilliant but manic Stonewall Jackson) and Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton (an equally brilliant, more... (Source)

Jim ManleyAm reading this book, it’s called Hamilton by Ron Chernow. Not sure if anyone has heard of it - but Hamilton calling john Adams a crazy President has a certain resonance in this day and age. History is amazing (Source)

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36
Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'" "Superb writing advice... hilarious, helpful and provocative." -- "New York... more

Susan CainI love [this book]. Such a good book. (Source)

Timothy FerrissBird by Bird is one of my absolute favorite books, and I gift it to everybody, which I should probably also give to startup founders, quite frankly. A lot of the lessons are the same. But you can get to your destination, even though you can only see 20 feet in front of you. (Source)

Ryan HolidayIt was wonderful to read these two provocative books of essays by two incredibly wise and compassionate women. [...] Anne Lamott’s book is ostensibly about the art of writing, but really it too is about life and how to tackle the problems, temptations and opportunities life throws at us. Both will make you think and both made me a better person this year. (Source)

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37
Fooled by Randomness is a standalone book in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s landmark Incerto series, an investigation of opacity, luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision-making in a world we don’t understand. The other books in the series are The Black Swan, Antifragile, and The Bed of Procrustes.

Now in a striking new hardcover edition, Fooled by Randomness is the word-of-mouth sensation that will change the way you think about business and the world. Nassim Nicholas Taleb–veteran trader, renowned risk expert, polymathic scholar,...
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James AltucherAnd throw in “The Black Swan” and “Fooled by Randomness”. “Fragile” means if you hit something might break. “Resilient” means if you hit something, it will stay the same. On my podcast Nassim discusses “Antifragility” – building a system, even on that works for you on a personal level, where you if you harm your self in some way it becomes stronger. That podcast changed my life He discusses... (Source)

Howard MarksReally about how much randomness there is in our world. (Source)

Anant JainThe five-book series, "Incerto", by Nassim Nicholas Taleb has had a profound impact on how I think about the world. There’s some overlap across the books — but you'll likely find the repetition helpful in retaining the content better. (Source)

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38

Leonardo da Vinci

Based on thousands of pages from Leonardo's astonishing notebooks and new discoveries about his life and work, Walter Isaacson weaves a narrative that connects his art to his science. He shows how Leonardo's genius was based on skills we can improve in ourselves, such as passionate curiosity, careful observation, and an imagination so playful that it flirted with fantasy. He produced the two most famous paintings in history, The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. But in his own mind, he was just as much a man of science and technology. With a passion that sometimes became obsessive, he pursued... more

Bill GatesI think Leonardo was one of the most fascinating people ever. Although today he’s best known as a painter, Leonardo had an absurdly wide range of interests, from human anatomy to the theater. Isaacson does the best job I’ve seen of pulling together the different strands of Leonardo’s life and explaining what made him so exceptional. A worthy follow-up to Isaacson’s great biographies of Albert... (Source)

Satya NadellaMicrosoft CEO has plunged into what must be an advance copy of Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson, who has written biographies of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein and Ben Franklin. Isaacson’s biography is based on the Renaissance master’s personal notebooks, so you know we’re going to be taken into the creative mind of the genius. (Source)

Ryan HolidayTruly excellent book about one of history’s all time greats. (Source)

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39
For readers of Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit and Unbroken, the dramatic story of the American rowing team that stunned the world at Hitler's 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Daniel James Brown's robust book tells the story of the University of Washington's 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in...

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Satya NadellaNadella calls this tale with a local Seattle connection—it involves an underdog University of Washington crew team and the 1936 Berlin Olympics—”A wonderful illustration of the importance of teamwork, which was a core part of my focus out of the gate as CEO. (Source)

Ryan HolidayAnother great narrative nonfiction out this year that I hope you’ll like is: The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown. (Source)

Gail KellyMember of the Group of 30, and former CEO of Westpac will be spending her summer months reading a memoir, a novel and historical non-fiction. (Source)

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40
Now a  New York Times  bestseller and from the author of The Psychopath Test, a captivating and brilliant exploration of one of our world's most underappreciated forces: shame.
 
'It's about the terror, isn't it?'
 
'The terror of what?' I said.
 
'The terror of being found out.'
 
For the past three years, Jon Ronson has travelled the world meeting recipients of high-profile public shamings. The shamed are people like us - people who, say, made a joke on social media that came out badly, or made a mistake at work. Once their...
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Ryan HolidayThere’s no question this was the year’s best book about media and culture–maybe even the best of the decade. Not only is it provocative and insightful, but the idea—interviewing and focusing on people who have screwed up and found themselves in the midst of massive online controversies—is one I am genuinely jealous of. Ronson proceeds to write about it with such sensitivity, empathy, humor and... (Source)

Max Rushdenfascinating, open & honest. I've said this before - but I recommend @jonronson's book - "So You've Been Publicly Shamed" - on the often seismic difference between someone's mistakes and the impact on their lives...and our increasing inability to forgive.👍❤️ https://t.co/bzJRyOO3Mb (Source)

Tim SoretTo anyone facing a mob one day, and to anyone wishing to develop their empathy rather than joining the fury of social networks, read this fantastic book from @jonronson. It truly helped me on so many accounts. https://t.co/BDO45a4EWg (Source)

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Don't have time to read Ryan Holiday's favorite books? Read Shortform summaries.

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41

First published in 1971, Rules for Radicals is Saul Alinsky's impassioned counsel to young radicals on how to effect constructive social change and know “the difference between being a realistic radical and being a rhetorical one.” Written in the midst of radical political developments whose direction Alinsky was one of the first to question, this volume exhibits his style at its best. Like Thomas Paine before him, Alinsky was able to combine, both in his person and his writing, the intensity of political engagement with an absolute insistence on rational political discourse and...

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Ryan HolidayThis is the 48 Laws of Power written in more of an idealist, activist tone. Alinsky was the liaison for many civil rights, union and student causes in the late 50’s and 60’s. He teaches how to implement your radical agenda without using radical tactics, how to disarm with words and media as opposed to arms and Utopian rhetoric. (Source)

Mad BitcoinsI just read this fantastic book by Saul Alinsky and I tell you what, I think @AOC has read it as well. Trump should be very afraid. https://t.co/n7rlmetqzW (Source)

Michael CoudreyIf you want to know the tactics of the Democrats, you must read this book. If you understand their tactics, you'll be less likely to fall into their traps & better able to defeat them in conversation, in communication, in appearance, in reputation, in policy, & frankly, in life. https://t.co/L4gfuwZ6a3 (Source)

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42

Montaigne

Complete Essays

Catalog of a private collection of mostly post-archaic Chinese jade carvings, including many very fine animals and human figures. less

Ryan HolidayThere is plenty to study and see simply by looking inwards — maybe even an alarming amount. (Source)

Alain de BottonI’ve given quite a lot of copies of [this book] to people down the years. (Source)

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43
Malcolm Gladwell, host of the podcast Revisionist History and author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Outliers, offers a powerful examination of our interactions with strangers -- and why they often go wrong.

How did Fidel Castro fool the CIA for a generation? Why did Neville Chamberlain think he could trust Adolf Hitler? Why are campus sexual assaults on the rise? Do television sitcoms teach us something about the way we relate to each other that isn't true?

While tackling these questions, Malcolm Gladwell was not solely writing a book for the page. He...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, Nilofer Merchant, and 2 others.

Ryan HolidayI'll put here what I emailed Malcolm when I finished the book: "Just finished your new book in one sitting yesterday. So good. You are at the height of your powers and remain an inspiration to all of us trying to master an un-masterable profession." It's a little less practical or self-improvement oriented than his previous books, but far more thought provoking. (Source)

Nilofer MerchantAn interesting analysis/ essay re Gladwell’s latest book —> https://t.co/5Ey1maNRyI (Source)

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44
Are men literally born to cheat? Does monogamy actually serve women's interests? These are among the questions that have made The Moral Animal one of the most provocative science books in recent years. Wright unveils the genetic strategies behind everything from our sexual preferences to our office politics--as well as their implications for our moral codes and public policies. Illustrations. less
Recommended by Reid Hoffman, Ryan Holiday, and 2 others.

Ryan HolidayThis is probably the definitive beginner text on evolutionary psychology and one of the easiest to get into. It’s a little depressing at first, realizing how ruthless many of our so called “good” feelings are. But then you realize that truth is better than ignorance, and you emerge seeing the world as it truly is for the first time. (Source)

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45

The Book of Five Rings

Written over three centuries ago by a Samurai warrior, the book has been hailed as a limitless source of psychological insight for businessmen-or anyone who relies on strategy and tactics for outwitting the competition. less

Ryan HolidayWidely held as a classic, this book is much more than a manifesto and manual on swordsmanship and martial arts. It’s about the mindset, the discipline, and the perception necessary to win in life or death situations. As a swordsman, Musashi fought mostly by himself, for himself. His wisdom, therefore, is mostly internal. He tells you how to out-think and out-move your enemies. He tells you how to... (Source)

Zach Even EshLove this book & should have re-read long ago. . It only takes a page or 2 to change your life IF YOU FOLLOW THROUGH. . #musashi #samurai #undergroundstrengthgym #undergroundstrengthcoach #undergroundstrengthbook… https://t.co/zL8zxUwCJG (Source)

Stephane GrandI do not believe there are business and non-business books. Business is life, you do business like the man or woman you excavate from the person you are told you are. Hence, the most potent business books are not about business, in my opinion. What makes a great business book is that it is a book that helps you find a better version of yourself. Therefore, I would say that my favorite business... (Source)

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46

Essays and Aphorisms

One of the greatest philosophers of the nineteenth century, Schopenhauer believed that human action is determined not by reason but by 'will' - the blind and irrational desire for physical existence. This selection of his writings on religion, ethics, politics, women and many other themes is taken from Schopenhauer's last work, Parerga and Paralipomena, which he published in 1851. He depicts humanity as locked in a struggle beyond good and evil, each individual absolutely free within a Godless world in which art, morality and self-awareness are our only salvation. This innovative and... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 2 others.

Ryan HolidaySchopenhauer is a brilliant composer of quick thoughts that will help us with our problems. His work was often concerned with the “will”–our inner drives and power. “For that which is otherwise quite indigestible, all affliction, vexation, loss, grief, time alone digests.” But he also talks about surprisingly current issues: “Newspapers are the second hand of history”–and that the hand is often... (Source)

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47

Eleven Rings

The Soul of Success

During his storied career as head coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, Phil Jackson won more championships than any coach in the history of professional sports. Even more important, he succeeded in never wavering from coaching his way, from a place of deep values. Jackson was tagged as the “Zen master” half in jest by sportswriters, but the nickname speaks to an important truth: this is a coach who inspired, not goaded; who led by awakening and challenging the better angels of his players’ nature, not their egos, fear, or greed.

This is the story of a preacher’s kid...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, Adam Lawrence, and 2 others.

Ryan HolidayFavorite business or leadership book in a long time. (Source)

Adam LawrenceQuestion: What’s your favorite book and why? Answer: [...] Eleven Rings by Phil Jackson [...] (Source)

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48

The 33 Strategies of War

Brilliant distillations of the strategies of war—and the subtle social game of everyday life—by the bestselling author of The 48 Laws of Power and Mastery

Robert Greene’s groundbreaking guides, The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, and his latest book, Mastery, espouse profound, timeless lessons from the events of history to help readers vanquish an enemy, ensnare an unsuspecting victim, or become the greatest in your field. In The 33 Strategies of War, Greene has crafted an important addition to this ruthless and unique...
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Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

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49

Totto-Chan

The Little Girl at the Window

This engaging series of childhood recollections tells about an ideal school in Tokyo during World War II that combined learning with fun, freedom, and love. This unusual school had old railroad cars for classrooms, and it was run by an extraordinary man-its founder and headmaster, Sosaku Kobayashi--who was a firm believer in freedom of expression and activity.

In real life, the Totto-chan of the book has become one of Japan's most popular television personalities--Tetsuko Kuroyanagi. She attributes her success in life to this wonderful school and its headmaster.

The...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayThe book has sold something like 5 million copies in Japan alone (an insane number). Totto-Chan is a special figure in modern Japanese culture—she is a celebrity on par with Oprah or Ellen, with a magazine, news show and exalted position to boot. The book describes a childhood in pre-WWII Japan as a poorly misunderstood girl who obviously suffered from attention disorders and excess energy. It... (Source)

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50

Washington

A Life

The celebrated Ron Chernow provides a richly nuanced portrait of the father of America. With a breadth and depth matched by no other one-volume life, he carries the reader through Washington's troubled boyhood, his precocious feats in the French and Indian Wars, his creation of Mount Vernon, his heroic exploits with the Continental Army, his presiding over the Constitutional Convention and his magnificent performance as America's first president.

Despite the reverence his name inspires Washington remains a waxwork to many readers, worthy but dull, a laconic man of remarkable...
more
Recommended by Barack Obama, Ryan Holiday, and 2 others.

Barack ObamaThe president also released a list of his summer favorites back in 2015: All That Is, James Salter The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates Washington: A Life, Ron Chernow All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr (Source)

Ryan HolidayIn terms of big biographies, Ron Chernow’s biography of Washington, Eric Romm’s biography of Seneca Dying Every Day (LOVED THIS) and Edmund Morris’ final biography of Theodore Roosevelt, Col. Roosevelt were all worth every page. (Source)

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Don't have time to read Ryan Holiday's favorite books? Read Shortform summaries.

Shortform summaries help you learn 10x faster by:

  • Being comprehensive: you learn the most important points in the book
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51
John Boyd may be the most remarkable unsung hero in all of American military history. Some remember him as the greatest U.S. fighter pilot ever -- the man who, in simulated air-to-air combat, defeated every challenger in less than forty seconds. Some recall him as the father of our country's most legendary fighter aircraft -- the F-15 and F-16. Still others think of Boyd as the most influential military theorist since Sun Tzu. They know only half the story.

Boyd, more than any other person, saved fighter aviation from the predations of the Strategic Air Command. His manual of...
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Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayBoyd was probably the greatest post-WWII military strategist; he developed the F-15 and F-16, revolutionized ground tactics in war and covertly designed the US battle plans for the Gulf War. He shunned wealth, fame, and power all to accomplish what he felt needed to be accomplished. Coram captures his essence in a way that no other author has touched. (Source)

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52
Winner of the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography

How to get along with people, how to deal with violence, how to adjust to losing someone you love—such questions arise in most people’s lives. They are all versions of a bigger question: how do you live? How do you do the good or honorable thing, while flourishing and feeling happy?

This question obsessed Renaissance writers, none more than Michel Eyquem de Monatigne, perhaps the first truly modern individual. A nobleman, public official and wine-grower, he wrote free-roaming explorations of his...
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Marc AndreessenHow to get along with people, how to deal with violence, how to adjust to losing someone you love—All versions of a bigger question: How do you live? (Source)

Ryan HolidayMontaigne is one of humanities greatest treasures. If you've not read any of his essays or Sarah Bakewell's magnificent book How To Live [...] you are missing out. (Source)

Austin KleonBook that introduced me to one of my new favorite thinkers: Sarah Bakewell’s How To Live: Or A Life Of Montaigne. (Source)

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53
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayThese two books of letters are great—I wish my father had written me stuff this good. The first book is the (supposedly) preserved correspondence between Old Gorgon Graham, a self-made millionaire in Chicago, and his son who is coming of age and entering the family business. The letters date back to the 1890s but feel like they could have been written in any era. Honest. Genuine. Packed with good... (Source)

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54

History of the Peloponnesian War

Written four hundred years before the birth of Christ, this detailed contemporary account of the long life-and-death struggle between Athens and Sparta stands an excellent chance of fulfilling its author's ambitious claim. Thucydides himself (c.460-400 BC) was an Athenian and achieved the rank of general in the earlier stages of the war. He applied thereafter a passion for accuracy and a contempt for myth and romance in compiling this factual record of a disastrous conflict. less

Ryan HolidayThis book – of a long forgotten war – really functions as a biography and strategic analysis of some of the greatest minds in the history of war. We have Pericles, Brasidas, Alcibiades and many others. The anecdotes and the stories in this book are timeless. If you make your way all the way through it, I promise you will not forget it. Because the war was so long, involved so many different... (Source)

Steven PressfieldIt is loaded with hardcore, timeless truths and the story it tells ought to be required reading for every citizen in a democracy. (Source)

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55
In the tradition of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm comes a true tale of riveting adventure in which two weekend scuba divers risk everything to solve a great historical mystery–and make history themselves.

For John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, deep wreck diving was more than a sport. Testing themselves against treacherous currents, braving depths that induced hallucinatory effects, navigating through wreckage as perilous as a minefield, they pushed themselves to their limits and beyond, brushing against death more than once in...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, Ryan Stephens, and 2 others.

Ryan HolidayGoddamn this guy can tell a story. (Source)

Ryan Stephens@Jon_Finkel Shadow Divers may be my favorite narrative non-fiction book, ever. I don't think I've recommended it to one person who didn't love it. (Source)

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56

The Man Without a Country


This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most important libraries around the world), and other notations in the work.

This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayPatriotism is not a concept that gets a lot of love today. But this essay/book makes you think a little. Released in 1863 during the height of the Civil War, the plot’s simple: an innocent man caught up in Aaron Burr’s treasonous conspiracy stands trial for his actions. When asked to address the judge, he bitterly remarks that he wishes to be done with the United States forever. So the judge... (Source)

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57
It’s December 1997, and a man-eating tiger is on the prowl outside a remote village in Russia’s Far East. The tiger isn’t just killing people, it’s annihilating them, and a team of men and their dogs must hunt it on foot through the forest in the brutal cold. As the trackers sift through the gruesome remains of the victims, they discover that these attacks aren’t random: the tiger is apparently engaged in a vendetta. Injured, starving, and extremely dangerous, the tiger must be found before it strikes again.

As he re-creates these extraordinary events, John Vaillant gives us an...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, TC Boyle, and 2 others.

Ryan HolidayHoly shit, this book is good. Just holy shit. Even if it was just the main narrative–the chase to kill a man-eating Tiger in Siberia in post-communist Russia–it would be worth reading, but it is so much more than that. The author explains the Russian psyche, the psyche of man vs predator, the psyches of primitive peoples and animals, in such a masterful way that you’re shocked to find 1) that he... (Source)

TC BoyleSometimes nature strikes back, and in this book you really do root for the animal. (Source)

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58
Plutarch's Lives, written at the beginning of the second century A.D., is a social history of the ancient world by one of the greatest biographers and moralists of all time. In what is by far his most famous and influential work, Plutarch reveals the character and personality of his subjects and how they led ultimately to tragedy or victory. Richly anecdotal and full of detail, Volume I contains profiles and comparisons of Romulus and Theseus, Numa and Lycurgus, Fabius and Pericles, and many more powerful figures of ancient Greece and Rome. The present translation, originally published in... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayClearly the master of this genre, Plutarch wrote biographies of famous Greeks and Romans around the year 100 AD. As always, I tend to default to the Penguin collections. I strongly recommend Plutarch’s Lives Vol. I & II, Essays, and The Makers of Rome: Nine Lives. His book On Sparta is also a collection of biographies (and aphorisms) from the famous Spartans. There is a reason that Shakespeare... (Source)

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59
In August 1914, days before the outbreak of the First World War, the renowned explorer Ernest Shackleton and a crew of twenty-seven set sail for the South Atlantic in pursuit of the last unclaimed prize in the history of exploration: the first crossing on foot of the Antarctic continent. Weaving a treacherous path through the freezing Weddell Sea, they had come within eighty-five miles of their destination when their ship, Endurance, was trapped fast in the ice pack. Soon the ship was crushed like matchwood, leaving the crew stranded on the floes. Their ordeal would last for twenty months,... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

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60

Twelve Years a Slave

Twelve Years a Slave, sub-title: Narrative of Solomon Northup, citizen of New-York, kidnapped in Washington city in 1841, and rescued in 1853, from a cotton plantation near the Red River in Louisiana, is a memoir by Solomon Northup as told to and edited by David Wilson. It is a slave narrative of a black man who was born free in New York state but kidnapped in Washington, D.C., sold into slavery, and kept in bondage for 12 years in Louisiana. He provided details of slave markets in Washington, D.C. and New Orleans, as well as describing at length cotton and sugar cultivation on major... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayI read two important memoirs from slaves as well, and strongly recommend 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup and A Slave in the White House about Paul Jennings. (Source)

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61

The Art of War

For more than two thousand years, The Art of War has stood as a cornerstone of Chinese culture-a lucid epigrammatic text that reveals as much about human psychology, politics, and economics as it does about battlefield strategy. The influence of Sun-tzu's text has grown tremendously in the West in recent years, with military leaders, politicians, and corporate executives alike finding valuable insight in these ancient words. In his crisp, accessible new translation, scholar John Minford brings this seminal work to life for modern readers.

Minford opens with a lively,...
more

Reid HoffmanReid read Carl von Clausewitz and Sun Tzu as a boy, which informed his strategic thinking. (Source)

Neil deGrasse TysonWhich books should be read by every single intelligent person on planet? [...] The Art of War (Sun Tsu) [to learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art]. If you read all of the above works you will glean profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world. (Source)

Evan SpiegelAfter meeting Mark Zuckerberg, [Evan Spiegel] immediately bought every [Snapchat] employee a copy of 'The Art Of War'. (Source)

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62
In this classic volume available now once again, Jay Haley in the controversial title article, proposes an original interpretation of the Bible analysing Jesus actions as a man trying to build a mass movement to topple a power structure. Using wit and wry humor, Haley in the other essays discusses such topics as: what it takes to be schizophrenic; the art and technique required to have an awful marriage; and how to be an awful therapist. His rationale for a directive therapy is the subject of other essays. less
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayThe title essay in this book is peerless and amazing. The rest of the essays, which talk about Haley’s unusual approach to psychotherapy are also quite good. If you’ve gone to therapy, are thinking about going to therapy, or know someone going to therapy, this book is a must-read. (Source)

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63

Edison - A Biography

Regarded as the classic standard biography on Thomas Edison. It is the only biography written in the last 40 years to be recommended by the official voice of the caretakers of the Edison Laboratory National Monument in New Jersey which houses all of Edison's original records, sketches, notes, correspondence and memoranda. Depicts Edison as a pivotal figure in America's economic and industrial revolution success and at the same time as a human being, including his exploitative and, at times, crude qualities. less
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayOlder biographies are better in my experience. This one is 50+ years old and that’s right in the sweet spot. It didn’t have to be trendy, it didn’t have to psychoanalyze, it didn’t have to be political correct or controversial. It just had to be a sweeping, conclusive picture of the man. Modern enough to be historically accurate, old enough to still have respect for ambition. No question, this is... (Source)

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64

The Crack-Up

A self-portrait of a great writer 's rise and fall, intensely personal and etched with Fitzgerald's signature blend of romance and realism.

The Crack-Up tells the story of Fitzgerald's sudden descent at the age of thirty-nine from glamorous success to empty despair, and his determined recovery. Compiled and edited by Edmund Wilson shortly after F. Scott Fitzgerald's death, this revealing collection of his essays—as well as letters to and from Gertrude Stein, Edith Wharton, T.S. Eliot, John Dos Passos—tells of a man with charm and talent to burn, whose gaiety and genius made...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayIf you like Asylum, read The Crack Up, a book put together by Fitzgerald’s friend Edmund Wilson after his death. It is such an honest and self-aware compilation of someone hell-bent on their own destruction. At the same time, Fitzgerald’s notes and story ideas within the book make it undeniably clear what a genius he truly was. It’s a sad and moving but necessary read. (Source)

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65

Carl Von Clausewitz on War

Clausewitz, a Prussian General who fought in the Napoleonic Wars, is considered the founder of modern military strategy. This book is based on Vom Kriege, published in 1832 and translated into English in 1908. An important work of influence on American military strategists for more than a century, the present leadership consider it a primary text for our current wars. less
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

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66
Don't Think of An Elephant! is the antidote to the last forty years of conservative strategizing and the right wing's stranglehold on political dialogue in the United States.

Author George Lakoff explains how conservatives think, and how to counter their arguments. He outlines in detail the traditional American values that progressives hold, but are often unable to articulate. Lakoff also breaks down the ways in which conservatives have framed the issues, and provides examples of how progressives can reframe them.

Lakoff’s years of research and work with leading...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayThese two books are the two best books of political thinking and theater from both the left and the right. Regardless of ideologies, both are experts in influencing and leading public perception through image and words. It actually matters whether we’re talking about illegal immigrants or undocumented workers, or whether we describe the problem as climate change or global warming. Strategists... (Source)

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67

Reveille for Radicals

Legendary community organizer Saul Alinsky inspired a generation of activists and politicians with Reveille for Radicals, the original handbook for social change. Alinsky writes both practically and philosophically, never wavering from his belief that the American dream can only be achieved by an active democratic citizenship. First published in 1946 and updated in 1969 with a new introduction and afterword, this classic volume is a bold call to action that still resonates today.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayThis is the 48 Laws of Power written in more of an idealist, activist tone. Alinsky was the liaison for many civil rights, union and student causes in the late 50’s and 60’s. He teaches how to implement your radical agenda without using radical tactics, how to disarm with words and media as opposed to arms and Utopian rhetoric. (Source)

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68

The Control of Nature

While John McPhee was working on his previous book, Rising from the Plains, he happened to walk by the engineering building at the University of Wyoming, where words etched in limestone said: "Strive on--the control of Nature is won, not given." In the morning sunlight, that central phrase--"the control of nature"--seemed to sparkle with unintended ambiguity. Bilateral, symmetrical, it could with equal speed travel in opposite directions. For some years, he had been planning a book about places in the world where people have been engaged in all-out battles with nature, about (in the... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

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69

What Makes Sammy Run?

What Makes Sammy Run?

Everyone of us knows someone who runs. He is one of the symp-toms of our times—from the little man who shoves you out of the way on the street to the go-getter who shoves you out of a job in the office to the Fuehrer who shoves you out of the world. And all of us have stopped to wonder, at some time or another, what it is that makes these people tick. What makes them run?

This is the question Schulberg has asked himself, and the answer is the first novel written with the indignation that only a young writer with talent and ideals could concentrate...
more

Ryan HolidayBudd Schulberg’s (who wrote the screenplay for On the Waterfront) whole trilogy is amazing and each captures a different historical era. His first, What Makes Sammy Run? is Ari Gold before Ari Gold existed–purportedly based on Samuel Goldwyn (of MGM) and Darryl Zanuck. His next book, The Harder They Fall is about boxing and loosely based on the Primo Carnera scandal. All you need to know about... (Source)

Brian KoppelmanA legendary book about how somebody makes their way in Hollywood. (Source)

Marina HydeIt’s a novel by Budd Schulberg about a copyboy who’s worked his way up from absolutely nothing to become an incredibly grasping self-motivated amoral movie producer. I think it was really based on Jerry Wald who was a Warners executive and then an independent who made lots of fantastic movies. Louis Meyer of MGM was appalled, and told Schulberg’s parents – Schulberg was the son of a movie exec –... (Source)

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70

Fight Club

"THE FIRST RULE ABOUT FIGHT CLUB IS YOU DON'T TALK ABOUT CLUB."

Every weekend, in the basements and parking lots of bars across the country, young men with good white-collar jobs and absent fathers take off their shoes and shirts and fight each other barehanded for as long as they have to. Then they go back to those jobs with blackened eyes and loosened teeth and the sense that they can handle anything. Fight Club is the invention of Tyler Durden, projectionist, waiter, and dark, anarchic genius, and it's only the beginning of his plans for revenge on a world where cancer support...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, Van Badham, and 2 others.

Ryan HolidayI’m amazed how many young people haven’t read this book. Truly life-changing. This is the classic of my generation; it is the book that defines our age and ultimately, how to find meaning in it. It’s a cautionary tale too—about being too caught up in revolutionary ideas. (Source)

Van BadhamSUPER EXCITED to receive my copy of “Solved! How Other Countries Have Cracked the World’s Biggest Problems and We Can, Too” by Andrew Wear. SO GREAT to read a political book that’s about both pragmatic action *and* hope. Squee! #auspol https://t.co/jIYgr36kZO (Source)

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Don't have time to read Ryan Holiday's favorite books? Read Shortform summaries.

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71

Ask the Dust

Arturo Bandini is a struggling writer lodging in a seedy LA hotel. While basking in the glory of having had a single short story published in a small magazine, he meets local waitress Camilla Lopez and they embark on a strange and strained love-hate relationship. Slowly, but inexorably, it descends into the realm of madness.

Ask the Dust is one of the truly great, yet unsung, American novels of the twentieth century. A tough and unsentimental story with a soft and tender heart, it remains as fresh and affecting as the day it was written.
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Neil Strauss[Neil Strauss recommended this book in the book "Tools of Titans".] (Source)

Ryan HolidayI found John Fante through Neil Strauss, who considers Ask the Dustone of his favorite books. I read it in one day, LOVED it and subsequently read everything by Fante I could get my hands on. In 2011, I read seven Fante novels, one biography by his son and a book of letters between John and H.L Mencken. I utterly immersed myself in his world, from spending hours in Downtown LA where the books are... (Source)

Jonathan EvisonI won’t say this is the book that made me want to be a writer, because I always wanted to be that, but it solidified my insistence on becoming some hopelessly young, starving misfit awash in an urban landscape somewhere, working my ass off, just really throwing my heart out there and getting it kicked around. Ask the Dust is just a really powerful book for me. It’s a chronicle of the immigrant... (Source)

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72

The Harder They Fall

“Toro” Molina certainly looks the part. He’s built like the Minotaur, but few would guess at the fear consuming the Argentine farmer and former circus performer after he’s brought to the United States to be the next heavyweight champion of the world. The problem is that Molina can’t box at all. But monstrous fight promoter Nick Latka fixes every fight on the way to the championship, and builds Toro’s renown with the help of cynical sports journalist Ed Lewis and a host of lackeys. less
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayBudd Schulberg’s (who wrote the screenplay for On the Waterfront) whole trilogy is amazing and each captures a different historical era. His first, What Makes Sammy Run? is Ari Gold before Ari Gold existed–purportedly based on Samuel Goldwyn (of MGM) and Darryl Zanuck. His next book, The Harder They Fall is about boxing and loosely based on the Primo Carnera scandal. All you need to know about... (Source)

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73

Company K (The Library of Alabama Classics)

With an Introduction by Philip D. Beidler

This book was originally published in 1933. It is the first novel by William March, pen name for William Edward Campbell. Stemming directly from the author's experiences with the US Marines in France during World War I, the book consists of 113 sketches, or chapters, tracing the fictional Company K's war exploits and providing an emotional history of the men of the company that extends beyond the boundaries of the war itself.

William Edward Campbell served courageously in France as evidenced by his chestful of medals and...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayIf you read one book about WWI, or one book of fiction about war, pick this one (Source)

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74
A compelling vision. Bold leadership. Decisive action. Unfortunately, these prerequisites of success are almost always the ingredients of failure, too. In fact, most managers seeking to maximize their chances for glory are often unwittingly setting themselves up for ruin. The sad truth is that most companies have left their futures almost entirely to chance, and don’t even realize it. The reason? Managers feel they must make choices with far-reaching consequences today, but must base those choices on assumptions about a future they cannot predict. It is this collision between commitment and... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayI don’t have a lot of modern books on this list, but this is an excellent one. We tend to wrongly think that strategy is about coming up with a genius plan and then committing to it. In fact, this is often a recipe for disaster, particularly in business. Though success often requires a total investment in a particular strategy, this is also the recipe for extreme failure. It’s a paradox. ... (Source)

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75

Giving Good Weight

"You people come into the market—the Greenmarket, in the open air under the down pouring sun—and you slit the tomatoes with your fingernails. With your thumbs, you excavate the cheese. You choose your stringbeans one at a time. You pulp the nectarines and rape the sweet corn. You are something wonderful, you are—people of the city—and we, who are almost without exception strangers here, are as absorbed with you as you seem to be with the numbers on our hanging scales." So opens the title piece in this collection of John McPhee's classic essays, grouped here with four others, including... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

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77

Hunger

First published in Norway in 1890, Hunger probes into the depths of consciousness with frightening and gripping power. Like the works of Dostoyevsky, it marks an extraordinary break with Western literary and humanistic traditions.

Librarian note: an older cover for this ISBN can be found here.
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Recommended by Ryan Holiday, Stephane Grand, and 2 others.

Ryan HolidayA dark and moving first-person narrative, about the conflicting drives for self-preservation and self-immolation inside all of us. Hunger is about a writer who is starving himself. He cannot write because he is starving and cannot eat because writing is how he makes his living. It’s a vicious cycle and the book is a first-person descent into it. Strangely modern for being published in 1890 and... (Source)

Stephane GrandThis is an amazing book about being true to your engagements. (Source)

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78

Death Be Not Proud

Johnny Gunther was only seventeen years old when he died of a brain tumor. During the months of his illness, everyone near him was unforgettably impressed by his level-headed courage, his wit and quiet friendliness, and, above all, his unfaltering patience through times of despair. This deeply moving book is a father's memoir of a brave, intelligent, and spirited boy less
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayWritten in 1949 by the famous journalist John Gunther about his death of his son–a genius–at 17 from a brain tumor, this book is deeply moving and profound. Every young person will be awed by this young boy who knows he will die too soon and struggles to do it with dignity and purpose. Midway through the book, Johnny writes what he calls the Unbeliever’s Prayer. It’s good enough to be from... (Source)

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79
Modern Library 190. 435pp. Abridged from the translation by Gaston DuC. DeVere. Edited with an Introduction by Robert N. Linscott. Covers Giotto, Uccello, Masaccio, Brunelleschi, Botticelli, Leonardo, Raphael, Titian and others. less
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayA friend and peer of Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Raphael Titian and all the other great minds of the Renaissance sat down in 1550 and wrote biographical sketches of the people he knew or had influenced him. What I like about this book is that the profiles are not about statesmen or generals but artists. There are so many great lessons about craft and psychology within this book. The best part? It was... (Source)

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80

Strategy

The classic book on strategy by one of the foremost military thinkers of the twentieth century, Strategy draws on all of military history, from the Greek-Persian wars of the fifth century B.C. to the development of geurrilla warfare in the nuclear age. Liddell Hart provides a perceptive and fascinating examination of wars and their architects. He shows how Hitler almost won, and ultimately lost, World War II, and defines practical principles - "Adjust your end to your means," "Take a line of operation which offers alternate objectives" - that are as fundamental in the worlds of... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayThese are two very short books but will help you understand the topics more than thousands of pages on the same topic by countless other writers. In my view, Hart is unquestionably the best writer on military strategy and history. Better than von Clausewitz, that’s for sure (who for all the talk is basically useless unless you are planning on fighting Napoleon). His theories on the indirect... (Source)

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Don't have time to read Ryan Holiday's favorite books? Read Shortform summaries.

Shortform summaries help you learn 10x faster by:

  • Being comprehensive: you learn the most important points in the book
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  • Interactive exercises: apply the book's ideas to your own life with our educators' guidance.
81

Cyropaedia

The Education of Cyrus

Xenophon's masterpiece, The Education of Cyrus, is a work that was admired by Machiavelli for its lessons on leadership. Also known as the Cyropaedia, this philosophical novel is loosely based on the accomplishments of Cyrus the Great, founder of the vast Persian Empire that later became the archrival of the Greeks in the classical age. It offers an extraordinary portrait of political ambition, talent, and their ultimate limits.

The writings of Xenophon are increasingly recognized as important works of political philosophy. In The Education of Cyrus,...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayXenophon, like Plato, was a student of Socrates. For whatever reason, his work is not nearly as famous, even though it is far more applicable. Unlike Plato, Xenophon studied people. His greatest book is about the latter, it’s the best biography written of Cyrus the Great (aka the father of human rights). There are so many great lessons in here and I wish more people would read it. Machiavelli... (Source)

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82
Widely acclaimed as one of the world’s most influential economists, Tyler Cowen returns with his groundbreaking follow-up to the New York Times bestseller The Great Stagnation.

The widening gap between rich and poor means dealing with one big, uncomfortable truth: If you’re not at the top, you’re at the bottom.

The global labor market is changing radically thanks to growth at the high end—and the low. About three quarters of the jobs created in the United States since the great recession pay only a bit more than minimum wage. Still, the United States...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayThis was the most important book I read this year. It’s the only one I framed a passage from to put on my wall. It was the only one I thought was so good I bought for multiple other people this year (it also inspired the one piece of writing I am most proud of this year). Cowen’s books have always been thought provoking, but this one changes how you see the future and help explain real pain... (Source)

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83

Why Don't We Learn from History?

Preface
Foreword
Part 1: History & truth
Part 2: Government & freedom
Part 3: War & peace
Conclusions
"A must read for both the people & the leaders of ALL the dictatorial regimes around the world (democracies would also surely benefit). A book for all times to come. His understanding & explanation of where the real power lies is outstanding. What s breathtaking is how relevent his arguments are today & how strikingly similar the working of all governments turn out to be (as generalized by Hart). He deals with issues such as 'patterns...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, Shane Parrish, and 2 others.

Ryan HolidayThese are two very short books but will help you understand the topics more than thousands of pages on the same topic by countless other writers. In my view, Hart is unquestionably the best writer on military strategy and history. Better than von Clausewitz, that’s for sure (who for all the talk is basically useless unless you are planning on fighting Napoleon). His theories on the indirect... (Source)

Shane ParrishThe wisdom in this short book goes well beyond the few hours it takes to read. The author, B. H. Liddell Hart was a British Soldier and military historian. Two ideas that come out of this book are worth reinforcing. First, human nature changes slowly, if at all. What changes is the leverage we have to carry out that nature. Second, is that we study too narrowly and thus lose the context and... (Source)

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84

Sherman

Soldier, Realist, American

Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayThis was someone I knew little about before the year began, and by the end of it found myself referencing and thinking of him constantly. It is equal parts due to the greatest of the man himself and to Hart’s vivid and engrossing portrait. I almost feel like I have lost something not having known this of him my whole life. There is a stunningly profound quote from Hart in the book that I’ll... (Source)

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85

Tough Jews

To author Rich Cohen, images of Jews involved in violent organized crime were entirely at odds with what he and his generation were taught was the dominant Jewish stereotype: intellectualism and professional legitimacy, not physical aggressiveness and lawlessness.Cohen's "Tough Jews" is the first in-depth examination of the Jewish underworld to chronicle the lives of the Jews from working-class families who took to the streets in search of illegitimate authority. The focus of Cohen's narrative is the generation of Jewish gangsters that controlled the neighborhoods in New York City where his... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

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86

Fragments

Citations Et Témoignages

Peut-être Héraclite d'Ephèse (520-460 ?), dont nous ne savons presque rien, a-t-il de son vivant écrit un livre Sur la nature. Les auteurs anciens en ont conservé une centaine de brèves citations, énigmatiques, qui sont autant d'oracles prononcés sur le monde, le feu qui le constitue et le changement perpétuel auquel tout est éternellement soumis. Ces «fragments», qui sont ici rassemblés et commentés avec quelques-uns des témoignages anciens relatifs à la vie et à la doctrine de ce solitaire que les auteurs anciens nommaient l'«Obscur», montrent un effort inédit : en s'appuyant sur les acquis... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayWhile most of the other practical philosophy recommendations I’m making are bent towards hard, practical advice, Heraclitus might seem a bit poetic. But those beautiful lines are really the same direct advice and timeless, perspective-changing observations as the others. “Try in vain with empty talk / to separate the essences of things / and say how each thing truly is.” “Applicants for wisdom /... (Source)

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87
Washington, Lincoln, Grant--these were once the triumvirate of American nationalism. But, like his tomb on the Hudson, Grant's reputation has fallen into disrepair. The image many Americans hold of him is a caricature: someone "uniquely stupid," an insensitive butcher as a general, an incompetent mediocrity as president, and a drunk. Several efforts to counter this stereotype have often gone too far in the other direction, resulting in an equally distorted laudatory portrait of near-perfection. In reading the original sources, Brooks D. Simpson became convinced that Grant was neither a... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayFrom there I went on to Grant’s Memoirs, which are incredibly readable and deeply moving as well as the biography Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph Over Adversity, 1822-1865 by Brooks D. Simpson (Source)

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88
Excerpt from Forty Years a Gambler: On the Mississippi
The author of this book has written the stories as they would recur to his memory, and no effort has been made at classification. They are not fictitious; many of the persons named are now livi
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Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayThe memoir of a professional gambler, fighter and criminal who rode the riverboats of the Mississippi and Red Rivers. It’s a true and vibrant snapshot of a period of American life that you can’t get anywhere else. Gun fights, brawls, cons–it’s all here. Fascinating, peculiar and very easy to read. (Source)

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89

The Moviegoer

Winner of the 1961 National Book Award
The dazzling novel that established Walker Percy as one of the major voices in Southern
literature is now available for the first time in Vintage paperback.
"The Moviegoer" is Binx Bolling, a young New Orleans stockbroker who surveys the world with
the detached gaze of a Bourbon Street dandy even as he yearns for a spiritual redemption he
cannot bring himself to believe in. On the eve of his thirtieth birthday, he occupies
himself dallying with his secretaries and going to movies, which provide him with the
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayThe Moviegoer is exactly the novel that every young kid stuck in their own head needs to read. The main character—who lives in New Orleans just a few blocks from where I lived—is so in love with the artificiality of movies that he has trouble living his actual life. The Moviegoer—it is like a good Catcher in the Rye but for adults. Just a perfect book. (Source)

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90

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is the novel that established Mordecai Richler as one of the world’s best comic writers. Growing up in the heart of Montreal’s Jewish ghetto, Duddy Kravitz is obsessed with his grandfather’s saying, “A man without land is nothing.” In his relentless pursuit of property and his drive to become a somebody, he will wheel and deal, he will swindle and forge, he will even try making movies. And in spite of the setbacks he suffers, the sacrifices he must make along the way, Duddy never loses faith that his dream is worth the price he must pay. This... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayWhat a book. It’s not as good as What Makes Sammy Run but it’s so damn good. “A boy can be two, three, four potential people,” Duddy’s uncle tells him, “but a man is only one. He murders the others.” Which potential person will you be? Which part of you will you allow to rule? The part that betrays your friends, family, principles to achieve success? Or are there other priorities? (Source)

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91

My Life and Battles

African American historian Gerald Early refers to Jack Johnson (1878-1946), the first African American heavyweight champion of the world, as the first African American pop culture icon. Johnson is a seminal and iconic figure in the history of race and sport in America. This manuscript is the translation of a memoir by Johnson that was published in French, has never before been translated, and is virtually unknown. Originally published as a series of articles in 1911 and then in revised form as a book in 1914, it covers Johnson's colorful life and battles, both inside and outside the ring, up... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayThis is the lost and translated book that came out of a series of pieces Johnson–perhaps the greatest boxer who ever lived–wrote for a French newspaper in 1911. It’s not very long but it is full of really interesting strategies and anecdotes. You get the sense that he was an incredibly intelligent and sensitive man–clearly had a thirst for drama and attention. Who knows what place he would occupy... (Source)

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92
"Sex on the Brain" presents a convincing case that we're products of both our biology and our culture - and that the two perform an intricate dance whose steps are, to some extent, ones we can choose. Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer Deborah Blum has synthesized research so new - from the fields of evolutionary biology, anthropology, animal behavior (especially primatology), neuroscience, psychology, and other disciplines - that scientists are just beginning to publish it. She provides the best picture yet of the biological underpinnings of the differences between the sexes. Examples of... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayOne of the better books on evolutionary biology that focuses almost entirely on the biological and psychological differences between men and women. It’s written by a journalist (who cites scientists) so it’s easy to read if you’re not studied in the field. If you want to get into evolutionary psychology–which you totally should–this is a good starting point because it covers all the basics.... (Source)

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93
In 1944 the OSS set out to recover more than 500 airmen trapped and sheltered for months by villagers behind enemy lines in Yugoslavia. Classified for over half a century for political reasons, this is the full account of Operation Halyard, a story of loyalty, self-sacrifice, and bravery. less
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

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94
This book was converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers. You may find it for free on the web. Purchase of the Kindle edition includes wireless delivery. less
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

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95
Excerpt from The Moral Sayings of Publius Syrus, a Roman Slave: From the Latin

Syrus soon surprised his new master with sallies of wit superior to his age and condition. They were one day crossing a court to gether, in which a slave afflicted with the dropsy lay idly basking in the sun. What are you doing there cried the master in an nu gry tone. He is only warming his water, said Syrus; and the master's anger vanished in a laugh. On another occasion, his guests were discussing this question at table: what renders repose insup portable? The guests debated at great length without any...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

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96
In his New York Times bestseller Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon showed readers how to unlock their creativity by stealing from the community of other movers and shakers. Now, in an even more forward-thinking and necessary book, he shows how to take that critical next step on a creative journey getting known. Show Your Work! is about why generosity trumps genius. It s about getting findable, about using the network instead of wasting time networking. It s not self-promotion, it s self-discovery let others into your process, then let them steal from you. Filled with illustrations, quotes,... more

Ryan HolidayPart of ambition is modeling yourself after those you’d like to be like. Austin’s philosophy of ruthlessly stealing and remixing the greats might sound appalling at first but it is actually the essence of art. You learn by stealing, you become creative by stealing, you push yourself to be better by working with these materials. Austin is a fantastic artist, but most importantly he communicates... (Source)

Chase Jarvis[Chase Jarvis recommended this book on the podcast "The Tim Ferriss Show".] (Source)

Derek SiversBoth Chase and are big fans of the book Show Your Work by Austin Kleon. (Source)

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97

Tribe

On Homecoming and Belonging

Sebastian Junger, the bestselling author of War and The Perfect Storm, takes a critical look at post-traumatic stress disorder and the many challenges today’s returning veterans face in modern society.

There are ancient tribal human behaviors-loyalty, inter-reliance, cooperation-that flare up in communities during times of turmoil and suffering. These are the very same behaviors that typify good soldiering and foster a sense of belonging among troops, whether they’re fighting on the front lines or engaged in non-combat activities away from the action. Drawing from...
more

Ryan HolidayTo balance out that depressing book, I highly recommend David Brooks’ The Road To Character, Sebastian Junger’s Tribe and Chuck Klosterman’s What If We’re Wrong. (Source)

Jason KanderAfter years of people recommending it, I finally picked up Tribe by @SebastianJunger. I’m halfway done and it’s already the best non-fiction book I’ve read in years. (Source)

Andrew YouderianAnd finally, the book "Tribe" by Sebastian Junger reinforced in my the importance of relationships and in-person community, and made it something I'm trying to prioritize more in my life. (Source)

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98
No two lives could have been more different, yet similar in a few essential ways than John and Dan Fante′s. As father and son, John and Dan Fante were prone to fights, resentment and extended periods of silence. As men, they were damaged by alcoholism. As writers, they were compelled by anger, rage and unstoppable passion.

In FANTE, Dan Fante traces his family′s history from the hillsides of Italy to the immigrant neighborhoods of Colorado to Los Angeles. There, John Fante struggles to gain the literary recognition he so badly craves, and despite the publication of his best known...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayI found John Fante through Neil Strauss, who considers Ask the Dustone of his favorite books. I read it in one day, LOVED it and subsequently read everything by Fante I could get my hands on. In 2011, I read seven Fante novels, one biography by his son and a book of letters between John and H.L Mencken. I utterly immersed myself in his world, from spending hours in Downtown LA where the books are... (Source)

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99
Rubin Carter is the Hurricane. A pistol shot in a bar room ruined his chances of becoming the middleweight champion of the world. But he did not fire the gun. Nineteen long years in prison, a massively high profile campaign to release him that failed, and the persistence of an unlikely supporter finally saw him free.


This is the story of a raging bull who learned to accommodate that rage. The Hurricane is an authentic C20th hero, every inch a fighter.


Rubin Carter was a boxer on the threshold of the Middleweight Championship, with all the celebrity and wealth...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayHurricane Carter’s biography is about a man who refused to be anything but himself—even in prison. There are great parallels to his personal struggles to maintain the sovereignty of self amidst awful circumstances and the lessons of Stoicism. My favorite: how he refused to sue the government after his wrongful conviction was overturned because it’d be saying that they’d taken something from him,... (Source)

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100

It Can't Happen Here

Since it was written in a time when the English was somewhat different in America, the reader must adjust
to the way Lewis wrote the book. However, old-timey sayings aside, this is an incredible piece of fiction.
It Can't Happen Here parallels what an American regime, like that of Adolph Hitler's in Germany would
be like as it unfolded. The main character is a small town newspaper editor, who enjoys his life and the
way things have gone in his town and state, for much of his life. Doremus Jessup, the main character, is
even able to convince himself to stay out of...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, Daniel Pink, and 2 others.

Ryan HolidayIf you want to be scared about the next four years, pick up Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here (because, well, it may have just happened here). (Source)

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101

Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, Vol 1

Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayIronically, Diogenes’ most famous biography in this collection is of the other Diogenes—Diogenes the Cynic. Other excellent and illustrative sketches include Zeno, Ariston, Cleanthes and Chrysippus the Stoic. Heraclitus is another great biography. All of these vary in length. Zeno is over a 150 pages, Herillus (not to be confused with Heraclitus) is 2 pages. But regardless of length, they are all... (Source)

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102

The Nicomachean Ethics

‘One swallow does not make a summer; neither does one day. Similarly neither can one day, or a brief space of time, make a man blessed and happy’

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle sets out to examine the nature of happiness. He argues that happiness consists in ‘activity of the soul in accordance with virtue’, for example with moral virtues, such as courage, generosity and justice, and intellectual virtues, such as knowledge, wisdom and insight. The Ethics also discusses the nature of practical reasoning, the value and the objects of pleasure, the different...
more

Ryan HolidayAristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics was something I reread and cannot recommend highly enough. (Source)

A C GraylingHe said the great question is how we should live well, so that we live a good life, and he came up with a very positive response – what distinguishes us from the rest of the world is our possession of reason (Source)

Christian B MillerAccording to Aristotle, it is hard to become virtuous, and hard to become vicious too. The character of most people is somewhere in the middle. (Source)

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103
Rediscover Antoine de Saint-Exupery's universal masterpiece with original text and magnificent new illustrations created by masters of film animation. This wise and enchanginting fable teaches the secret of what is really important in life. less

Ryan HolidayEqually allegorical, I read The Little Prince for the first time which for some reason I’d never been exposed to before. If you’re in the same boat, read it. It’s short but great. (Source)

Brandon Stanton[Brandon Stanton recommended this book on the podcast "The Tim Ferriss Show".] (Source)

Karen PaolilloThe Little Prince has influenced me in every aspect of my life, from my own emotions and how I feel inwardly, to how I like to view our planet. (Source)

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104

This Boy's Life

This unforgettable memoir, by one of our most gifted writers, introduces us to the young Toby Wolff, by turns tough and vulnerable, crafty and bumbling, and ultimately winning. Separated by divorce from his father and brother, Toby and his mother are constantly on the move, yet they develop an extraordinarily close, almost telepathic relationship. As Toby fights for identity and self-respect against the unrelenting hostility of a new stepfather, his experiences are at once poignant and comical, and Wolff does a masterful job of re-creating the frustrations and cruelties of adolescence. His... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, Calvin Trillin, and 2 others.

Ryan HolidayIf you wanted to read a book to become a successful, well-adjusted person, you probably could not do worse than Catcher in the Rye. Tobias Wolff’s memoir is a far better choice for the young man struggling with who he is and who he wants to be. (Source)

Calvin TrillinThis is, in the first place, a fine memoir on its own. (Source)

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105
Inspired by the author's own pilgrimage of walking the legendary Camino de Santiago across Spain comes Rebirth, a novel of reconciliation and forgiveness.

After losing his estranged father, Amit wanders across Europe and embarks on the five-hundred and fifty mile Camino de Santiago to reconcile his inner conflict. It is on this path that he begins reflecting on relationships and forgiveness, to find answers we all seek. As Amit runs from his life, it soon becomes clear that it's impossible to run from himself. It is a universal pilgrimage, and a teaching-tale about love,...
more

Timothy FerrissIf you need an injection of wanderlust in your life, this debut novel by my friend Kamal Ravikant is your medicine. It motivated me to keep writing. (Source)

Ryan HolidayThere is a line in this book: If you're on the road, you're a pilgrim. This is a beautiful book for anyone who ever has or ever will make a journey--inward or outwards. (Source)

James AltucherThis book transported me into an adventure I hope I never leave. (Source)

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106

Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning

Viktor Frankl is known to millions of readers as a psychotherapist who has transcended his field in his search for answers to the ultimate questions of life, death, and suffering. Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning explores the sometime unconscious human desire for inspiration or revelation, and illustrates how life can offer profound meaning at every turn. less
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayFrankl is one of the most profound modern thinkers on meaning and purpose. His contribution was to change the question from the vague philosophy of “What is the meaning of life?” to man being asked and forced to answer with his actions. He looks at how we find purpose by dedicating ourselves to a cause, learning to love and finding a meaning to our suffering. His other two books on the topic,... (Source)

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107
The harrowing tale of British explorer Ernest Shackleton's 1914 attempt to reach the South Pole, one of the greatest adventure stories of the modern age.

In August 1914, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton boarded the Endurance became locked in an island of ice. Thus began the legendary ordeal of Shackleton and his crew of twenty-seven men. When their ship was finally crushed between two ice floes, they attempted a near-impossible journey over 850 miles of the South Atlantic's heaviest seas to the closest outpost of civilization.

In Endurance, the...
more

Ryan Holiday50 plus years old, this is a story that more than stands the test of time. Sir Ernest Shackleton makes his daring attempt to cross Antarctic continent but his crew and boat are trapped in the ice flows. What follows are 600 days of harrowing survival, first from the elements, then from hunger, then from the sea as he makes a daring attempt in a small lifeboat to reach land 650 miles away, then... (Source)

Scott BelskyI think that there are some biographies, the Doris Kearns Goodwin type stuff, the Walter Isaacson classic biographies. I recently read Shackleton’s Endurance story. [...] Which, obviously, relates to my thinking these days, which is just a phenomenal story. And there’s so many interesting leadership lessons of counterintuitive things that he did that help you understand difficult decisions that... (Source)

Mark MosesTruly inspiring story of determination, grit and beating all odds. (Source)

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108
A few common principles drive performance, regardless of the field or the task at hand. Whether someone is trying to qualify for the Olympics, break ground in mathematical theory or craft an artistic masterpiece, many of the practices that lead to great success are the same. In Peak Performance, Brad Stulberg, a former McKinsey and Company consultant and journalist who covers health and the science of human performance, and Steve Magness, a performance scientist and coach of Olympic athletes, team up to demystify these practices and demonstrate how everyone can achieve their best.
more

Dick CostoloSo much in this book resonates with me. With practical advice for performance in the workplace or on the playing field, Brad and Steve meticulously deliver a comprehensive understanding of peak performance and howto achieve it. (Source)

Arianna HuffingtonAn essential playbook for success, happiness, and getting the most out of ourselves. (Source)

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109
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, Lewis Howes, and 2 others.

Ryan HolidayThe best way to change your life is to change what your life is made up of—your rituals, your habits, how you eat and think. This book is a road map for doing exactly that, written by an author whose results can’t be argued with. (Source)

Lewis HowesAubrey is the ultimate life hacker—the Indiana Jones of mind and body optimization—and his book breaks down becoming a master of your mind-set and body, building businesses, sustaining peak energy, incredible connections, tantric sex, and having it all. (Source)

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110
If you’re relying on willpower alone to help you lose weight, improve your relationships, or achieve more at work, you’re doomed to fail. The environment around us is far too powerful, stimulating, addicting, and stressful to overcome by white knuckling. The only way to stop just surviving and learn to truly thrive in today’s world is to proactively shape your environment.

That’s the premise of Willpower Doesn’t Work by Medium.com’s most-read writer, Benjamin Hardy. Building on copious existing research, as well as his own experience of growing up in a broken family...
more

Arianna HuffingtonBenjamin Hardy is one of the leading voices on well-being and productivity. Willpower Doesn't Work is an insightful guide to help us thrive in today's world. (Source)

Ryan HolidayChange your environment, change your life. Ben Hardy's book is a prescription for excellence and contains the hidden keys to success. (Source)

Adam GrantIf you want to get more done, don't worry about willpower--focus on motivation. Challenging the dominant view of self-control as a muscle. Benjamin Hardy reveals that productivity is really about clarity and commitment. (Source)

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Don't have time to read Ryan Holiday's favorite books? Read Shortform summaries.

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111
Looks at the career of Rommel, and shows how superficially undisciplined his bold style of leadership could be, and how it inspired the men under his command to attack with ferocity and pursue with tenacity - qualities that served him well in his battles in the North African desert. less
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayIt’s going to feel weird reading a book about a German general in WWII but for Rommel we must make an exception. Yes, he fought for a terrible cause. But he did so brilliantly — as a soldier, strategist, and leader. His victories in North Africa were the stuff of legend, and had the US and British troops not ultimately had better resources, the whole thing might have turned out very differently.... (Source)

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112

The Education of a Coach

Pulitzer Prize-winner David Halberstam's bestseller takes you inside the football genius of Bill Belichick for an insightful profile in leadership. Bill Belichick's thirty-one years in the NFL have been marked by amazing success--most recently with the New England Patriots. In this groundbreaking book, David Halberstam explores the nuances of both the game and the man behind it. He uncovers what makes Bill Belichick tick both on and off the field. less
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, Bobby Voicu, and 2 others.

Ryan HolidayIn 2014, I read The Education of a Coach, a book about Bill Belichick which influenced me immensely (coincidentally, the Patriots have also read my book and were influenced by it). (Source)

Bobby VoicuThe first one is gentler with the coach, because the author had access to him personally. It also has only the first two Superbowls, because it stops in 2003. This means the writer didn’t know about the 2 biggest scandals that involved Belichick: Spygate and Deflategate. (Source)

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113
The key to living well in a high tech world is to spend much less time using technology.

Georgetown computer scientist Cal Newport's Deep Work sparked a movement around the idea that unbroken concentration produces far more value than the electronic busyness that defines the modern work day. But his readers had an urgent follow-up question: What about technology in our personal lives?

In recent years, our culture's relationship with personal technology has transformed from something exciting into something darker. Innovations like smartphones and social media are...
more

Brad FeldI’m an introvert in an extrovert’s world. I like to be alone. In contrast, I spend a large portion of my work time with groups. Figuring out how to manage this duality, while staying mentally healthy, has been a life-long challenge. Newport’s concept of digital minimalism helps me with all of this. Newport has an entire chapter on solitude, nicely titled “Spend Time Alone.” He makes the... (Source)

Charlamagne Tha GodThis book is incredible. I’m a have to read it at least 3x and reference it forever. Disconnecting is very important because as the book says “Human Beings are not wired to always be wired.” A Silicon Valley whistle blower name Tristan Harris says “Is Silicon Valley programming apps or are they programming people?” They are programming people!!! Technology is not neutral, they want us to use it... (Source)

Ryan HolidayThe unassuming Georgetown computer science professor has become one of this generation’s leading voices on how we can all work more wisely and more deeply. With media consumption continuing to go way up (which, for most of us, means happiness and productivity continue to go way down) and the world becoming noisier every day, this book is an urgent call to action for anyone serious about being in... (Source)

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114

Up from Slavery

Up from Slavery is the 1901 autobiography of Booker T. Washington detailing his personal experiences in working to rise from the position of a slave child during the Civil War, to the difficulties and obstacles he overcame to get an education at the new Hampton University, to his work establishing vocational schools-most notably the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama-to help black people and other disadvantaged minorities learn useful, marketable skills and work to pull themselves, as a race, up by the bootstraps. He reflects on the generosity of both teachers and philanthropists who helped in... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayBooker T. Washington’s memoir Up from Slavery [is] incredibly moving and inspiring as well. (Source)

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115
How many times have you heard yourself saying yes to the wrong things—overwhelming requests, bad relationships, time-consuming obligations? How often have you wished you could summon the power to turn them down? This lively, practical guide helps you take back that power—and shows that a well-placed “No” can not only save you time and trouble, it can save your life.

     Drawing on their own stories as well as feedback from their readers and students, James Altucher and Claudia Azula Altucher clearly show that you have the right to say no: To anything that is hurting you. To...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayYour life is defined by how good you get at saying no to the things you need to say no to. (Source)

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116
This is the first-ever English-language edition of the book Leo Tolstoy considered to be his most important contribution to humanity, the work of his life's last years. Widely read in prerevolutionary Russia, banned and forgotten under Communism; and recently rediscovered to great excitement, A Calendar of Wisdom is a day-by-day guide that illuminates the path of a life worth living with a brightness undimmed by time. Unjustly censored for nearly a century, it deserves to be placed with the few books in our history that will never cease teaching us the essence of what is important in... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayIt’s basically a collection of Tolstoy’s favorite passages from the ancient and classic texts, with excellent supplements from his own considerable wisdom. Each day draws on Chinese, Jewish, Stoic, Christian, Indian and Arabic sources (he quotes everyone from Emerson to Marcus Aurelius to Lao-Tzu) and manages to give good, actionable advice from all of these differing schools. It’s no wonder the... (Source)

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117

“It takes an entire lifetime to learn how to die,” wrote the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca (c. 4 BC–65 AD). He counseled readers to “study death always,” and took his own advice, returning to the subject again and again in all his writings, yet he never treated it in a complete work. How to Die gathers in one volume, for the first time, Seneca’s remarkable meditations on death and dying. Edited and translated by James Romm, How to Die reveals a provocative thinker and dazzling writer who speaks with a startling frankness about the need to accept death or even, under certain...

more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayI really enjoyed the new series of translations that Princeton University Press has done of Cicero and Epictetus and Seneca. They are worth reading for sure. (Source)

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118
A superb new edition of Epictetus's famed handbook on Stoicism--translated by one of the world's leading authorities on Stoic philosophy

Born a slave, the Roman Stoic philosopher Epictetus (c. 55-135 AD) taught that mental freedom is supreme, since it can liberate one anywhere, even in a prison. In How to Be Free, A. A. Long--one of the world's leading authorities on Stoicism and a pioneer in its remarkable contemporary revival--provides a superb new edition of Epictetus's celebrated guide to the Stoic philosophy of life (the Encheiridion) along with a...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayI really enjoyed the new series of translations that Princeton University Press has done of Cicero and Epictetus and Seneca. They are worth reading for sure. (Source)

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119

How to Grow Old

Ancient Wisdom for the Second Half of Life

Worried that old age will inevitably mean losing your libido, your health, and possibly your marbles too? Well, Cicero has some good news for you. In How to Grow Old, the great Roman orator and statesman eloquently describes how you can make the second half of life the best part of all--and why you might discover that reading and gardening are actually far more pleasurable than sex ever was.

Filled with timeless wisdom and practical guidance, Cicero's brief, charming classic—written in 44 BC and originally titled On Old Age—has delighted and inspired readers, from...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, Kathleen Taylor, and 2 others.

Ryan HolidayI really enjoyed the new series of translations that Princeton University Press has done of Cicero and Epictetus and Seneca. They are worth reading for sure. (Source)

Kathleen TaylorI like De Senectute because it’s one of the few books that is actually all about old age. (Source)

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120

Composed

A Memoir

"One of the best accounts of an American life you'll likely ever read." -Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune

As moving, disarming, and elusive as one of her classic songs, Composed is Rosanne Cash's testament to the power of art, tradition, and love to transform a life. For more than three decades she has been one of the most compelling figures in popular music, having moved gracefully from Nashville stardom to critical recognition as a singer-songwriter and author of essays and short stories. Her remarkable body of work has often been noted for its emotional...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayI read so many biographies this year [...] A final book I’d add this collection would be Rosanne Cash’s memoir, Composed. I heard about it from Steven Pressfield and it’s excellent. (Source)

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Don't have time to read Ryan Holiday's favorite books? Read Shortform summaries.

Shortform summaries help you learn 10x faster by:

  • Being comprehensive: you learn the most important points in the book
  • Cutting out the fluff: you focus your time on what's important to know
  • Interactive exercises: apply the book's ideas to your own life with our educators' guidance.
121

Tiger Woods

The #1 New York Times bestseller based on years of reporting and interviews with more than 250 people from every corner of Tiger Woods’s life—this “comprehensive, propulsive…and unsparing” (The New Yorker) biography is “an ambitious 360-degree portrait of golf’s most scrutinized figure…brimming with revealing details” (Golf Digest).

In 2009, Tiger Woods was the most famous athlete on the planet, a transcendent star of almost unfathomable fame and fortune living what appeared to be the perfect life. But it turned out he had been living a...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayI was riveted (and appalled) by Tiger Woods and probably talked to more people about this book than anything else I read this year. (Source)

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122
"Sonia Purnell has at long last given Clementine Churchill the biography she deserves. Sensitive yet clear-eyed, Clementine tells the fascinating story of a complex woman struggling to maintain her own identity while serving as the conscience and principal adviser to one of the most important figures in history." –Lynn Olson, bestselling author of Citizens of London 

Longlisted for the 2016 Plutarch Award

A long-overdue tribute to the extraordinary woman behind Winston Churchill.


By Winston Churchill’s own admission, victory...
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Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidaySonia Purnell’s examination of Winston’s better half was truly revelatory. (Churchill said the best decision he ever made in his life was marrying Clementine and this book makes it clear just how many times she saved his ass). (Source)

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123
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayI knew nothing about Queen Victoria but Julia Baird does an amazing job of making her accessible and interesting–and captures just what life was like for a woman in the 19th century, even if she was a queen! (Source)

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124
On June 6, 1944-D-Day-six thousand Allied ships, the largest fleet in history, arrived off the French coast to begin the liberation of Europe. To their enormous relief, the Allies had obtained complete tactical surprise; the Nazi eagle slept. D-Day, which could have been one of history's bloodiest disasters, became instead one of its greatest victories.How this astonishing surprise was achieved is the subject of Bodyguard of Lies, one of the most exciting volumes ever written about the Second World War. Telling the most complete story of the biggest and most complicated intelligence operation... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayThe book is a masterclass in the art of strategy. (No wonder it was one of John Boyd’s favorites). (Source)

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125

The Hidden-Hand Presidency

Eisenhower as Leader

Drawing on extensive interviews and archival research, Fred Greenstein reveals that there was great political activity beneath the placid surface of the Eisenhower White House. In a new foreword to this edition, he discusses developments in the study of the Eisenhower presidency in the dozen years since publication of the first edition and examines the continuing significance of Eisenhower's legacy for the larger understanding of presidential leadership in modern America. less
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayThe Hidden-Hand which I read around the same time is equally a masterclass in leadership. It will give you not just a new appreciation of Eisenhower, but teach you how real leaders get things done: it’s not through talking, it’s not through looking tough, it’s through organization, delegation and through behind the scenes influence. (Source)

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126

Montaigne

Stefan Zweig was already an émigré-driven from a Europe torn apart by brutality and totalitarianism-when he found, in a damp cellar, a copy of Michel de Montaigne's Essais. Montaigne would become Zweig's last great occupation, helping him make sense of his own life and his obsessions-with personal freedom, with the sanctity of the individual. Through his writings on suicide, he would also, finally, lead Zweig to his death.

With the intense psychological acuity and elegant prose so characteristic of Zweig's fiction, this account of Montaigne's life asks how we ought to think, and...
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Recommended by Ryan Holiday, Austin Kleon, and 2 others.

Ryan HolidayIf you’ve been struggling with the onslaught of negative news and political turmoil, start with Montaigne. Why? It’s the biography of man who retreated from the chaos of 16th century France to study himself, written by a man fleeing the chaos of 20th century Europe. [...] This book helped me get through 2017, no question. (Source)

Austin KleonZweig wrote this before his suicide, while exiled in Brazil during World War II. To get Montaigne, Zweig said, “you should not be too young, too deprived of experience and life’s deceptions, and it is precisely a generation like ours, cast by fate into the cataract of the world’s turmoil, to whom the freedom and consistency of his thought conveys the most precious aid.” (Source)

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127

Magellan

Many of the earliest books, particularly those dating back to the 1900s and before, are now extremely scarce and increasingly expensive. We are republishing these classic works in affordable, high quality, modern editions, using the original text and artwork. less
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayNow if you’re looking for some inspiration and excitement, Magellan is the book for you. What makes a man an explorer? What made Magellan so he could find a passage he had no reason to be certain he could find? And how thankless a job! [...] There are some books where you feel like everything the writer did led up to this masterpiece they were born to create: that might be what this book is. It’s... (Source)

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128
Meet the Cooke family. Our narrator is Rosemary Cooke. As a child, she never stopped talking; now that she's started college, she has wrapped herself in silence: the silence of intentional forgetting, of protective cover. Rosemary is now an only child, but she used to have a sister the same age as her, and an older brother. Both are now gone—vanished from her life. Her once lively mother is a shell of her former self, her clever and imperious father now a distant, brooding man. And there was something unique about Rosemary's sister, Fern.
You'll have to find out for yourself what it is...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayIn chaotic times, novels are a way to find peace and keep that flicker of vulnerability alive and nurtured. [...] The story is funny, heartbreaking—like literally will make you cry heartbreaking, especially if you have children—and beautifully written. (Source)

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129

Bright Shiny Morning

One of the most celebrated and controversial authors in America delivers an extraordinary novel—a sweeping chronicle of contemporary Los Angeles that is bold, exhilarating, and utterly original. Dozens of characters pass through the reader's sight lines—some never to be seen again—but James Frey lingers on a handful of LA's lost souls and captures the dramatic narrative of their lives. A dazzling tour de force, Bright Shiny Morning illuminates the joys, horrors, and unexpected fortunes of life and death in Los Angeles. less
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayThe same goes for Bright Shiny Morning which I loved just as much. Like stayed up until very late at night loved it. (Source)

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130
First published in 1955, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Bruce Catton’s classic account of the Civil War simultaneously captures the dramatic scope and intimate experience of that epic struggle in one brilliant volume.
 
Covering events from the prelude of the conflict to the death of Lincoln, Catton blends a gripping narrative with deep, yet unassuming, scholarship to bring the war alive on the page in an almost novelistic way. It is this gift for narrative that led contemporary critics to compare this book to War and Peace, and call it a “modern Iliad.” Now over fifty...
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Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayThis year I loved Bruce Catton’s This Hallowed Ground: A History of the Civil War and A Stillness at Appomattox. If you want to understand the Civil War and you want to see one of the greatest non-fiction writing ever, read Catton. (Source)

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131

A Stillness at Appomattox

When first published in 1953, Bruce Catton, our foremost Civil War historian was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for excellence in nonfiction.  This final volume of The Army of the Potomac trilogy relates the final year of the Civil War. less
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayThis year I loved Bruce Catton’s This Hallowed Ground: A History of the Civil War and A Stillness at Appomattox. If you want to understand the Civil War and you want to see one of the greatest non-fiction writing ever, read Catton. (Source)

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132
Since Alexis de Tocqueville, restlessness has been accepted as a signature American trait. Our willingness to move, take risks, and adapt to change have produced a dynamic economy and a tradition of innovation from Ben Franklin to Steve Jobs.

The problem, according to legendary blogger, economist and bestelling author Tyler Cowen, is that Americans today have broken from this tradition—we’re working harder than ever to avoid change. We're moving residences less, marrying people more like ourselves and choosing our music and our mates based on algorithms that wall us off from...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, Aaron Watson, and 2 others.

Ryan HolidayThe Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream by Tyler Cowen who is not only one of my favorite authors, he is a personal hero. (Source)

Aaron WatsonQuestion: What books would you recommend to young people interested in your career path? Answer: Purple Cow by Seth Godin End of Jobs by Taylor Pearson Rework by Jason Fried & DHH Trust Me I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday The Complacent Class by Tyler Cowen The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson (Source)

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133
Charlamagne Tha God—the self-proclaimed “Prince of Pissing People Off,” co-host of Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club, and “hip-hop’s Howard Stern”—shares his unlikely success story as well as how embracing one’s truths is a fundamental key to success and happiness.

In his new book, Charlamagne Tha God presents his comic, often controversial, and always brutally honest insights on how living an authentic life is the quickest path to success. Beginning with his journey from the small town of Moncks Corner, South Carolina to his headline grabbing interviews with celebrities like...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayI also loved Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It by Charlamagne Tha God, and I wish more celebrity memoirs bothered to do what he did with this book: You know, actually teach people stuff in the form of concrete lessons instead of just talking about their lives. (Source)

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134
In the tradition of Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed and Wendy Mogel’s The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, this groundbreaking manifesto focuses on the critical school years when parents must learn to allow their children to experience the disappointment and frustration that occur from life’s inevitable problems so that they can grow up to be successful, resilient, and self-reliant adults

Modern parenting is defined by an unprecedented level of overprotectiveness: parents who rush to school at the whim of a phone call to deliver forgotten assignments, who challenge teachers on report...
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Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayI read The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed by Jessica Lahey because I have a son, but it’s worth reading for anyone, parent or not. Written by a middle school teacher and education expert, the book is an exploration of how one raises self-sufficient children who are responsible for themselves. (Source)

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135

America's youth are in crisis. Raised by well-meaning but overprotective parents and coddled by well-meaning but misbegotten government programs, they are ill-equipped to survive in our highly-competitive global economy.

Many of the coming-of-age rituals that have defined the American experience since the Founding: learning the value of working with your hands, leaving home to start a family, becoming economically self-reliant--are being delayed or skipped altogether. The statistics are daunting: 30% of college students drop out after the first year, and only 4 in 10 graduate. One...

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Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayI read this book (note: The Gift of Failure) not long after reading Senator Sasse’s The Vanishing American Adult and found it to be a great companion. We forget that homework doesn’t matter, grades don’t matter—only what the process they represent matters. Children are not a reflection of their parents, they depend on their parents to raise them into adults who can be reflections of who they... (Source)

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136

The City and the Stars

Clarke's masterful evocation of the far future of humanity, considered his finest novel.

Men had built cities before, but never such a city as Diaspar. For millennia its protective dome shut out the creeping decay and danger of the world outside. Once, it held powers that rule the stars.

But then, as legend has it, the invaders came, driving humanity into this last refuge. It takes one man, a Unique, to break through Diaspar's stifling inertia, to smash the legend and discover the true nature of the Invaders.
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Recommended by Ryan Holiday, Ilan Kelman, and 2 others.

Ryan HolidayI’ve never really been a science fiction fan but The City and The Stars by Arthur C. Clarke was beautiful and moving. (Source)

Ilan KelmanThe City and the Stars is a book which is about trying to reconcile two different communities which serve as a metaphor for two different worlds. The way the reconciliation happens is through creating crisis, and trying to search beyond one’s own experiences and world view in order to create a better future out of that crisis. (Source)

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137

The Bhagavad Gita

“Bir daha duy, sözümün en yücesi, hepsinin en gizlisi şudur: Sen benim büyük sevgilimsin, bu yüzden senin iyiliğin için konuşacağım. Zihnini/gönlünü Bana ver, kendini Bana ada, Bana kurban sun, Beni tazim et ve Bana gel. Sana gerçekten söz veriyorum, çünkü sen benim için azizsin.”
*
Bhagavad-Gita (Tanrı’nın Şarkısı), Hindu dininin en önemli ve en kutsal metinlerinden biridir. Büyük Hint destanı Mahabharata’nın bir bölümünü oluşturur.

Savaşçı prens Arcuna ile dostu ve arabacısı, aynı zamanda Tanrı Vishnu’nun yeryüzünde bedene bürünmüş bir zuhuru (Avatar) olan Şri Krişna...
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Recommended by Ryan Holiday, Wim Hof, Bernard Tan, and 4 others.

Ryan HolidayI read The Bhagavad Gita, which is something I wasn’t ready for before, but glad to finally understand. (Source)

Wim Hof[Wim Hof said this is one of his most-recommended books.] (Source)

Bernard TanThe “Tao Te King” by Lao Tzu probably resonated with me the strongest, but others like the “Art of War” by Sun Tzu, “Bhagavad Gita” or Zen Buddhist scriptures were also real eye-openers, even for a non-religious person like myself. (Source)

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138
From the founding editor of The Wall Street Journal's sports section comes a bold new theory of leadership drawn from the elite captains who inspired their teams to achieve extraordinary success.

Named one of the best business books of the year by CNBC, strategy+business, Forbes, and SI.com

The secret to winning is not what you think it is.
It's not the coach. It's not the star.
It's not money. It's not a strategy.
It's something else entirely.

Several years ago, Sam Walker...
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Recommended by Ryan Holiday, Eric Ries, and 2 others.

Ryan HolidayThis was definitely the best business/leadership book I read this year. It proves that we have really missed what makes great teams and organizations work. It’s not star players, it’s not even how much they can spend–it’s whether they have great captains. Walker’s chapter on “carrying the water” had some great insights re: Ego is the Enemy and I think this incredibly well-written book should be... (Source)

Eric RiesA fascinating book about the one thing that the greatest sports teams in history have in common and the critical aspects of leadership they share. (Source)

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139
Why do people dodge responsibility when things fall apart? Why the parade of public figures unable to own up when they screw up? Why the endless marital quarrels over who is right? Why can we see hypocrisy in others but not in ourselves? Are we all liars? Or do we really believe the stories we tell?

Renowned social psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson take a compelling look into how the brain is wired for self-justification. When we make mistakes, we must calm the cognitive dissonance that jars our feelings of self-worth. And so we create fictions that absolve us of...
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Peter AttiaA book about cognitive dissonance that looks at common weaknesses and biases in human thinking. Peter wants to ensure he goes through life without being too sure of himeself, and this book helps him to recalibrate. (Source)

Ryan HolidayCognitive Dissonance is one of the most powerful and delusionary forces in the world. (Source)

David KramaleyWhen asked what books he would recommend to youngsters interested in his professional path, David mentioned Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me). (Source)

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140

The Disenchanted

Considered by some to be Budd Schulberg’s masterpiece, The Disenchanted tells the tragic story of Manley Halliday, a fabulously successful writer during the 1920s—a golden figure in a golden age—who by the late 1930s is forgotten by the literary establishment, living in Hollywood and writing for the film industry. Halliday is hired to work on a screenplay with a young writer in his twenties named Shep, who is desperate for success and idolizes Halliday. The two are sent to New York City, where a few drinks on the plane begin an epic disintegration on the part of Halliday due to the... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayThe Disenchanted and The Crack Up are both about the fall of F. Scott Fitzgerald, one from the first person perspective and the other from the fictional eyes of a friend watching his hero fall to pieces — just like the story of Gatsby itself. (Source)

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141

Profiles in Courage

The Pulitzer Prize winning classic by President John F. Kennedy, with an introduction by Caroline Kennedy and a foreword by Robert F. Kennedy.

Written in 1955 by the then junior senator from the state of Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage serves as a clarion call to every American.

In this book Kennedy chose eight of his historical colleagues to profile for their acts of astounding integrity in the face of overwhelming opposition. These heroes, coming from different junctures in our nation’s history, include John Quincy Adams,...
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Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayWritten by President Kennedy when he was bedridden after back surgery, Profiles in Courage recounts the inspiring acts of eight different American Senators, including John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Sam Houston, and Robert A. Taft. Kennedy had recently been elected as the junior Senator from Massachusetts and was inspired to write a book after reading a passage from The Price of Union about an... (Source)

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142

Lives of the Later Caesars

One of the most controversial of all works to survive from ancient Rome, the Augustan History is our main source of information about the Roman emperors from 117 to 284 AD. Written in the late fourth century by an anonymous author, it is an enigmatic combination of truth, invention and humour. This volume contains the first half of the History, and includes biographies of every emperor from Hadrian to Heliogabalus - among them the godlike Marcus Antonius and his grotesquely corrupt son Commodus. The History contains many fictitious (but highly entertaining) anecdotes about the depravity of... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayWritten by an anonymous author (possibly multiple) in the 4th century, these biographies are a mix of myth, legend and fact about some of the most powerful men who ever lived: the Roman emperors. We have Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, Trajan, Avidius Cassius, Severus and countless others. I’m sure you can guess my favorite subject. Also try The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius Translated by the peerless... (Source)

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143

This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most important libraries around the world), and other notations in the work.

This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely...
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Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayWritten in 1901 these are uplifting business oriented biographies of men like Marshall Field, John D Rockefeller, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison and women like Helen Gould and Julia Ward Howe (creator of Battle Hymn of the Republic). I was referred this book by Maria Popova over at Brainpickings and loved it—I’ve referred to it many times since reading it. (Source)

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144

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt

Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time

Described by the Chicago Tribune as "a classic," The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt stands as one of the greatest biographies of our time. The publication of The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt on September 14th, 2001 marks the 100th anniversary of Theodore Roosevelt becoming president.
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Barack ObamaThe Oval office can be a lonely place, so reading about your forefather’s experience could only help. “The biographies have been useful, because I do think that there’s a tendency, understandable, to think that whatever’s going on right now is uniquely disastrous or amazing or difficult,” said President Obama in an interview. (Source)

Ryan HolidayWhen I was younger I would ask any smart or successful person I met to recommend a book for me to read. Dr. Drew recommended that I read The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. It immediately became a lifetime favorite that I have reread several times (Amazon tells me I bought it Oct 26, 2006). It ends the day he is telegraphed that McKinley has been assassinated–so the book focuses on everything before... (Source)

Simon JohnsonThis book is about admiration for a man who rises through a series of remarkable coincidences. The key thing is that he channelled the times. (Source)

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145

My Bondage and My Freedom

My Bondage and My Freedom is an autobiographical slave narrative written by Frederick Douglass and published in 1855. It is the second of three autobiographies written by Douglass, and is mainly an expansion of his first (Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass), discussing in greater detail his transition from bondage to liberty. Following this liberation, Douglass, a former slave, went on to become a prominent abolitionist, speaker, author, and publisher. In his foreword to the 2003 Modern Library paperback edition, John Stauffer writes: "My Bondage and My Freedom," [is] a deep... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayA man is born a slave. Man teaches himself to read. Man decides he will no longer consent to being whipped, realizes that slavery is dependent on this consent and then leaves it. In fact, his self-education was so complete that he went on to become one of America’s foremost intellectuals. That is the life of Frederick Douglass. You need to read it. (Source)

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146

The 50th Law

The ultimate hustle is to move freely between the street and corporate worlds, to find your flow and never stay locked in the same position. This is a manifesto for how to operate in the twenty-first century, where everything has been turned on its head. Building on the runaway success of Robert Greene's The 48 Laws of Power (almost five million copies sold), the 'modern Machiavelli' teams up with rapper 50 Cent to show how the power game of success can be played to your advantage. Drawing on the lore of gangsters, hustlers, and hip-hop artists, as well as 50 Cent's business and artistic... more
Recommended by Charlamagne Tha God, Ryan Holiday, and 2 others.

Charlamagne Tha GodThese are the books I recommend people to listen to on @applebooks. (Source)

Ryan HolidayI also recommend The 50th Law, which while not technically a biography tells the stories of many such individuals and will stick with you just as long. (Source)

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147
Some people think Jay-Z is just another rapper. Others see him as just another celebrity/mega-star. The reality is, no matter what you think Jay-Z is, he first and foremost a business. And as much as Martha Stewart or Oprah, he has turned himself into a lifestyle. You can wake up to the local radio station playing Jay-Z's latest hit, spritz yourself with his 9IX cologne, slip on a pair of his Rocawear jeans, lace up your Reebok S. Carter sneakers, catch a Nets basketball game in the afternoon, and grab dinner at The Spotted Pig before heading to an evening performance of the Jay-Z-backed... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayJust because I didn’t want this list to be all stuffy old classics, I thought I’d put this interesting (and unofficial) biography of Jay-Z on here. This is a biography that also functions as a business book. It shows how Jay applied hustling techniques to the music business and eventually built his empire. (Source)

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148
Historians, politicians, feminists, critics, and reviewers everywhere have praised Blanche Wiesen Cook's monumental Eleanor Roosevelt as the definitive portrait of this towering female figure of the twentieth century. Now in her long-awaited, majestic second volume, Cook takes readers through the tumultuous era of the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the gathering storms of World War II, the years of the Roosevelts' greatest challenges and finest achievements. In her remarkably engaging narrative, Cook gives us the complete Eleanor Roosevelt— an adventurous, romantic woman, a...
more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayThe prospects Eleanor Roosevelt faced when she entered the White House were not good. First Ladies hadn’t done anything in decades besides party planning and a few of her predecessors had had nervous breakdowns. She wanted to do something different. This is a book about her political and social acumen–her ability to turn a meaningless position into a powerful platform for change and influence. I... (Source)

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149

Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume 1

1884-1933

Celebrated by feminists, historians, politicians & reviewers everywhere, Blanche Wiesen Cook's Eleanor Roosevelt presents an unprecedented portrait of the towering female figure of the 20th century. This volume begins with her harrowing childhood, describes the difficulties of her marriage & explains how she persuaded Franklin to make the reforms that would make him famous. less
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayThe prospects Eleanor Roosevelt faced when she entered the White House were not good. First Ladies hadn’t done anything in decades besides party planning and a few of her predecessors had had nervous breakdowns. She wanted to do something different. This is a book about her political and social acumen–her ability to turn a meaningless position into a powerful platform for change and influence. I... (Source)

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150
Hidden somewhere, in nearly every major city in the world, is an underground seduction lair. And in these lairs, men trade the most devastatingly effective techniques ever invented to charm women. This is not fiction. These men really exist. They live together in houses known as Projects. And Neil Strauss, the bestselling author, spent two years living among them, using the pseudonym Style to protect his real-life identity. The result is one of the most explosive and controversial books of the year -- guaranteed to change the lives of men and transform the way women understand the... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, Aubrey Marcus, and 2 others.

Ryan HolidayIt probably seems weird to recommend books on pickup artists, pick pockets and con men (nor am I necessarily equating the three groups) but it fits. Though I would accept that most of what these guys do is tactical rather than strategic–they are still quite excellent at identifying opportunities and weaving such flawless, enveloping plans that the marks often have no idea that anything is... (Source)

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Don't have time to read Ryan Holiday's favorite books? Read Shortform summaries.

Shortform summaries help you learn 10x faster by:

  • Being comprehensive: you learn the most important points in the book
  • Cutting out the fluff: you focus your time on what's important to know
  • Interactive exercises: apply the book's ideas to your own life with our educators' guidance.
151
Whiz Mob is David W. Maurer's classic study of the world of pickpockets. Similar to his best-known work, The Big Con, in Whiz Mob Maurer explains the colorful expressions and vivid words used by pickpockets and uses them to provide a window into the life and experiences of the professional criminal. Although he is quick to point out that he never had any actual experience on the racket, Maurer spent many years interviewing pickpockets and learning about their way of life. The result is a fascinating look at the work, lives, morals, and dangers of this element of the criminal subculture. Whiz... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayIt probably seems weird to recommend books on pickup artists, pick pockets and con men (nor am I necessarily equating the three groups) but it fits. Though I would accept that most of what these guys do is tactical rather than strategic–they are still quite excellent at identifying opportunities and weaving such flawless, enveloping plans that the marks often have no idea that anything is... (Source)

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152

The Big Con

The Story of the Confidence Man

Shares insights from confidence men and swindlers on the schemes they used to cheat their victims. less
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, Mike Dash, and 2 others.

Ryan HolidayIt probably seems weird to recommend books on pickup artists, pick pockets and con men (nor am I necessarily equating the three groups) but it fits. Though I would accept that most of what these guys do is tactical rather than strategic–they are still quite excellent at identifying opportunities and weaving such flawless, enveloping plans that the marks often have no idea that anything is... (Source)

Mike DashDavid Maurer is another remarkable character. He’s dead now, but he was a professor of linguistics at the University of Louisville. His basic academic interest was criminal slang. He was very interested in the way criminals used slang to disguise their intentions from people. The people who most need that ability are conmen because they deal face-to-face, for long periods of time, with the people... (Source)

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153
How to avoid the mistakes that lead to the majority of business failures.

Most executives shudder at the word “failure” and try to avoid thinking about it. No wonder there are thousands of books about successful companies but virtually none about the lessons to be learned from those that crash and burn.

Paul Carroll and Chunka Mui think there’s enormous value in learning from companies that lost millions (if not billions) in pursuit of strategies that led to spectacular flameouts. Everyone makes mistakes, but why make the same mistakes over and over?

...
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Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayI am putting this book on here as a cautionary tale for all the supposed business strategists out there. Because it turns out that most (if not all) genius business strategies are totally misguided and lead to catastrophic failure. Your planned merger, roll up, pivot–it’s probably got glaring strategic flaws in it. Why? Because you’re too caught up in your own vision to see what can go wrong, to... (Source)

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154

On War

Carl von Clausewitz's On War has been called, "not simply the greatest, but the only truly great book on war." It is an extraordinary attempt to construct an all-embracing theory of how war works. Its coherence and ambition are unmatched by other military literature. On War is full of sharp observation, biting irony, and memorable phrases, the most famous being, "War is a continuation of politics by other means."


About the Author
Except for a brief stint in 1812 when he served in the Russian army, Clausewitz spent his whole career, from the age of...

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Reid HoffmanReid read Carl von Clausewitz and Sun Tzu as a boy, which informed his strategic thinking. (Source)

Ryan HolidayI know this will offend many strategy purists, but for most audiences I recommend these two books only with a pretty strong disclaimer. While both are clearly full of strategic wisdom, they are hard to separate from their respective eras and brands of warfare. As budding strategists in business and in life, most of us are really looking for advice that can help us with our own problems. The... (Source)

Mary KaldorThis is the sort of Bible of military strategists. (Source)

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155

The Measure of My Days

Playwright and Jungian analyst Florida Scott-Maxwell explores the unique predicament of one's later years: when one feels both cut off from the past and out of step with the present; when the body rebels at activity but the mind becomes more passionate than ever. Written when Maxwell was in her eighties, The Measure of My Days offers a panoramic vision of the issues that haunt us throughout our lives: the struggle to achieve goodness; how to maintain individuality in a mass society; and how to emerge—out of suffering, loss, and limitation—with something approaching wisdom. Maxwell's... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayThe daily notes of a strong but dying woman (born 1883, written in 1968) watching her life slowly leave her and wind to a close. The wisdom in this thing is amazing and the fact that most people have no idea exists–and basically wait until the end of their life to start thinking about all this is very sad to me. Also I love her generation–alive during the time of Wyatt Earp yet lived to see man... (Source)

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156

Asylum

"Perhaps the most honest and haunting accounts of the struggle for mental health in literature." — Observer
This dramatic memoir recounts an eight-month stay at a Westchester mental hospital in the early 1930s. William Seabrook, a renowned journalist and explorer, voluntarily committed himself to an asylum for treatment of acute alcoholism. His sincere, self-critical appraisal of his experiences offers a highly interesting look at addiction and treatment in the days before Alcoholics Anonymous and other modern programs.
"Very few people could be as honest as Seabrook is...
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Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayIn 1934, William Seabrook was one of the most famous journalists in the world. He was also an alcoholic. But there was no treatment for his disease. So he checked himself into an insane asylum. There, from the perspective of a travel writer, he described his own journey through this strange and foreign place. Today, you can’t read a page in the book without seeing him bump, unknowingly, into the... (Source)

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157

What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars

Jim Paul's meteoric rise took him from a small town in Northern Kentucky to governor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, yet he lost it all—his fortune, his reputation, and his job—in one fatal attack of excessive economic hubris. In this honest, frank analysis, Paul and Brendan Moynihan revisit the events that led to Paul's disastrous decision and examine the psychological factors behind bad financial practices in several economic sectors.

This book—winner of a 2014 Axiom Business Book award gold medal—begins with the unbroken string of successes that helped Paul achieve a...
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Ryan HolidayThere are lots of books on aspiring to something. Very little are from actual people who aspired, achieved, and lost it. With each and every successful move that he made, Jim Paul, who made it to Governor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, was convinced that he was special, different, and exempt from the rules. Once the markets turned against his trades, he lost it all — his fortune, job, and... (Source)

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158

The Satires

Commonly considered the greatest of Roman satirical poets, Juvenal is the author of sixteen satires of Roman society, notable for their pessimism and ironic humor. In this new translation of the Satires, Professor Rudd combines textual accuracy with colorful poetry, vividly conveying Juvenal's gift for evoking a wealth of imagery with a few economical phrases.

About the Series: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's...
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Ryan HolidayThese are bitter, sarcastic attacks on Rome. They partially inspired my book Trust Me, I’m Lying. (Source)

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159

Hamlet

No Fear Shakespeare gives you the complete text of Hamlet on the left-hand page, side-by-side with an easy-to-understand translation on the right.

"Hamlet" is the story of the Prince of Denmark who learns of the death of his father at the hands of his uncle, Claudius. Claudius murders Hamlet's father, his own brother, to take the throne of Denmark and to marry Hamlet's widowed mother. Hamlet is sunk into a state of great despair as a result of discovering the murder of his father and the infidelity of his mother. Hamlet is torn between his great sadness and his desire for...
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Recommended by Ryan Holiday, Tim Lott, and 2 others.

Ryan HolidayPhilosophy runs through this play–all sorts of great lines. There are gems like “..for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” which I used in my last book and “Beware of entrance to a quarrel; but, being in, bear it, that the opposed may beware of thee.” was a favorite of Sherman. (Source)

Tim LottI love the speech when Hamlet’s uncle Claudius admits to being inflicted with the primal eldest curse for killing his brother, and begs on his knees for forgiveness for this ultimate violation of the law of nature. (Source)

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160

Epigrams

Martial, the father of the epigram, was one of the brilliant provincial poets who made their literary mark on first-century Rome. His Epigrams can be affectionate or cruel, elegiac or playful; they target every element of Roman society, from slaves to schoolmasters to, above all, the aristocratic elite. With wit and wisdom, Martial evokes not “the grandeur that was Rome,” but rather the timeless themes of urban life and society. less
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Ryan HolidayThese are hilarious. I have one hanging on the gate in front of my house. Martial also served as a partial inspiration for my writing on the Canvas Strategy. (Source)

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161

The Epic of Gilgamesh

Andrew George's "masterly new translation" (The Times) of the world's first truly great work of literature

Miraculously preserved on clay tablets dating back as much as four thousand years, the poem of Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, is the world’s oldest epic, predating Homer by many centuries. The story tells of Gilgamesh’s adventures with the wild man Enkidu, and of his arduous journey to the ends of the earth in quest of the Babylonian Noah and the secret of immortality. Alongside its themes of family, friendship and the duties of kings, the Epic of Gilgamesh is,...
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Recommended by Ryan Holiday, Stephen Cave, and 2 others.

Ryan HolidayI read this on my honeymoon (probably the only person on the beach reading it, if I had to guess). Especially when I learned after that a new introduction paragraph had been discovered only recently. His tomb may have been found recently too. Imagine if Homer’s works had only been discovered in the mid 1800’s after being lost to history for thousands of years. How crazy would that be? Reading the... (Source)

Stephen CaveGilgamesh is a hero in the ancient mould. He’s half-god, enormously strong, a bit randy, a bit dim, and he goes through adventures which embody the human experience writ large. He starts off as the king of a small kingdom, making a nuisance of himself – enforcing droit du seigneur, sleeping with women on their marriage night, pushing other men around, being a bit of an arse. So the gods make a... (Source)

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162
2014 Reprint of 1856 Edition. Full facsimile of the original edition, not reproduced with Optical Recognition Software. Publius Syrus, a Latin writer of maxims, flourished in the 1st century BC. He was a Syrian who was brought as a slave to Italy, but by his wit and talent he won the favor of his master, who freed and educated him. All that remains of his corpus is a collection of moral maxims in iambic and trochaic verse. This collection must have been made at a very early date, since it was known to Aulus Gellius in the 2nd century AD. Each maxim consists of a single verse, and the verses... more
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayA Syrian slave in the first century BC, Publius Syrus is a fountain of quick, helpful wisdom that you cannot help but recall and apply to your life. “Rivers are easiest to cross at their source.” “Want a great empire? Rule over yourself.” “Divide the fire and you will sooner put it out.” (Source)

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163
Excerpt from Letters Written by Lord Chesterfield to His Son

But first to C[arteret] fain you'd sing. Indeed he's nearest to the king, Yet careless how to use him, Give him, I beg, no labour'd lays, He will but promise if you praise, And laugh if you abuse him.

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This book is a reproduction of an important historical work. Forgotten Books uses...
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Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayThese two books of letters are great—I wish my father had written me stuff this good. [...] Chesterfield wrote his letters to his illegitimate son, tutoring him on how to learn, how to think, how to act, how to deal with important people. I don’t agree with all his advice but most of it is great. (Source)

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164
From the author of Man's Search for Meaning, one of the most influential works of psychiatric literature since Freud."Perhaps the most significant thinker since Freud and Adler," said The American Journal of Psychiatry about Europe's leading existential psychologist, the founder of logotherapy. less
Recommended by Ryan Holiday, and 1 others.

Ryan HolidayFrankl is one of the most profound modern thinkers on meaning and purpose. His contribution was to change the question from the vague philosophy of “What is the meaning of life?” to man being asked and forced to answer with his actions. He looks at how we find purpose by dedicating ourselves to a cause, learning to love and finding a meaning to our suffering. His other two books on the topic,... (Source)

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165

On the Shortness of Life

The Stoic writings of the philosopher Seneca offer powerful insights into the a