In interviews I’m often asked, “what are your favorite business books?” It’s a difficult question for me to answer because I read at least 50 books a year (mostly in audio version), listen to podcasts, do online courses, and attend live learning events. With so much information, it’s hard to pick favorites.
Instead, I re-frame my answer to include one more of the following criteria:
- Which books have I read more than once?
- Which books have I recommended to others?
- Which books have I gifted to others?
To me, these criteria paint a clearer picture of the value I’ve gained from the books, and support the fact that the words within them fundamentally shaped or re-shaped the way I think.
With that, here are my top 8 books of all time (so far). I’ve listed them in the chronological order that I remember reading them, starting back in my early 20’s.
8. The Spirituality of Success: Getting Rich With Integrity by Vincent M. Roazzi
This is the first business book I remember reading. Back when I was a graphic designer at a local newspaper, I would listen to business radio while working. I heard an interview with the author, and became intrigued enough to buy the book.
My main takeaway was that, not only is it okay to be financially successful, it is spiritually the right thing to do. This was a major mental shift for me, because growing up in a strict Christian household, I was taught that having lots of money is evil. The Bible actually says that “the love of money is the root of all evil,” but I didn’t hear it that way, and I subconsciously thought having lots of money was bad. This explains why I was always broke.
Although this book did not receive much fanfare, The Spirituality of Success removed my feelings of guilt around pursuing success, and also introduced me to quantum physics, the foundation for The Law of Attraction.
7. The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
I treat 48 Laws as a reference book and refer to it often. I own this book in hardback, paperback, and audio versions. Fundamentally, it is a book about persuasion. We all use persuasion every day. We all want others to follow us, buy from us, respect us, love us, etc.
This is not to be confused with manipulation, which is malicious and self-serving in nature. Persuasion is necessary and productive. Manipulation is destructive.
With that said, please be warned that this book can be dangerous if the lessons within it are used for malicious intent. For example, one chapter literally explains how to start a cult, step by step, reinforced with analyses of historical events. I believe the same knowledge can and should be used for good – to create a positive company culture, for example, where people believe in the company vision, do good deeds together, and actually want to come to work.
I also have also internalized the laws as a manner of self-defense, so that I am keenly aware when others are trying to manipulate me.
Through use of fables and historical lessons, 48 Laws also teaches war strategy, and how to deal with enemies.
Here’s a look at the table of contents:
- Law 1 Never Outshine the Master p. 1
- Law 2 Never Put Too Much Trust in Friends, Learn How to Use Enemies p. 8
- Law 3 Conceal Your Intentions p. 16
- Law 4 Always Say Less Than Necessary p. 31
- Law 5 So Much Depends on Reputation–Guard It with Your Life p. 37
- Law 6 Court Attention at All Cost p. 44
- Law 7 Get Others to Do the Work for You, but Always Take the Credit p. 56
- Law 8 Make Other People Come to You–Use Bait If Necessary p. 62
- Law 9 Win Through Your Actions, Never through Argument p. 69
- Law 10 Infection: Avoid the Unhappy and Unlucky p. 76
- Law 11 Learn to Keep People Dependent on You p. 82
- Law 12 Use Selective Honesty and Generosity to Disarm Your Victim p. 89
- Law 13 When Asking for Help, Appeal to People’s Self-Interest, Never to Their Mercy or Gratitude p. 95
- Law 14 Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy p. 101
- Law 15 Crush Your Enemy Totally p. 107
- Law 16 Use Absence to Increase Respect and Honor p. 115
- Law 17 Keep Others in Suspended Terror: Cultivate an Air of Unpredictability p. 123
- Law 18 Do Not Build Fortresses to Protect Yourself–Isolation Is Dangerous p. 130
- Law 19 Know Who You’re Dealing With–Do Not Offend the Wrong Person p. 137
- Law 20 Do Not Commit to Anyone p. 145
- Law 21 Play a Sucker to Catch a Sucker–Seem Dumber than Your Mark p. 156
- Law 22 Use the Surrender Tactic: Transform Weakness into Power p. 163
- Law 23 Concentrate Your Forces p. 171
- Law 24 Play the Perfect Courtier p. 178
- Law 25 Re-Create Yourself p. 191
- Law 26 Keep Your Hands Clean p. 200
- Law 27 Play on People’s Need to Believe to Create a Cultlike Following p. 215
- Law 28 Enter Action with Boldness p. 227
- Law 29 Plan all the Way to the End p. 236
- Law 30 Make Your Accomplishments Seem Effortless p. 245
- Law 31 Control the Options: Get Others to Play with the Cards You Deal p. 254
- Law 32 Play to People’s Fantasies p. 263
- Law 33 Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew p. 271
- Law 34 Be Royal in Your Own Fashion: Act Like a King to Be Treated Like One p. 282
- Law 35 Master the Art of Timing p. 291
- Law 36 Disdain Things You Cannot Have: Ignoring Them is the Best Revenge p. 300
- Law 37 Create Compelling Spectacles p. 309
- Law 38 Think as You Like But Behave Like Others p. 317
- Law 39 Stir Up Waters to Catch Fish p. 325
- Law 40 Despise the Free Lunch p. 333
- Law 41 Avoid Stepping Into a Great Man’s Shoes p. 347
- Law 42 Strike the Shepherd and the Sheep Will Scatter p. 358
- Law 43 Work on the Hearts and Minds of Others p. 367
- Law 44 Disarm and Infuriate with the Mirror Effect p. 376
- Law 45 Preach the Need for Change, but Never Reform too Much at Once p. 392
- Law 46 Never Appear too Perfect p. 400
- Law 47 Do Not Go Past the Mark You Aimed For; in Victory, Learn When to Stop p. 410
- Law 48 Assume Formlessness p. 419
6. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss
This book taught me that making money doesn’t require hard work. Tim Ferris teaches how to create a “muse” – a business where the majority of the work is outsourced and automated – so that you can earn passive income and work from anywhere in the world.
Growing up, I was taught that money doesn’t come out of thin air, that time is exchanged for money, and that you have to work hard for every dollar. The 4-Hour Workweek dispelled these myths for me.
While 4-Hour Workweek is a best-seller, it also receives lots of criticism for promoting laziness, shortcuts, and exploiting the hard-working nature of people in poorer countries.
To be clear, I work much more than 4 hours during a typical week. Some weeks I work 60-80 hours, and some weeks I’ve worked practically zero hours. Either way, the principles in this book have taught me how to do more with less, and how to enjoy more free time and travel when I want.
5. Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money – That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by Robert Kiyosaki
The epiphany I learned from Rich Dad, Poor Dad is that the goal is for your monthly passive income to exceed your monthly living expenses. The author does this primarily through real estate investments.
I’ve also heard it summed up nicely using the acronym P.I.L.E.: Passive Income (over) Living Expenses.
There are 4 quadrants of generating income:
- E – employee
- S – self-employed
- B – business owner
- I – investor
The ultimate goal is to generate all of your income from the B and I quadrants, so that you aren’t trading your time for dollars.
I also purchased Kiyosaki’s Cash Flow 101 board game, and periodically play the game with one of my mastermind groups. The game helps condition your mind to think in the way that the book teaches.
To be continued…
In my next post, I will continue this list and discuss the last 4 books from my top 8 list.
What are some books that have (re)shaped your thinking?