I like to read books that inspire me to be a better person and help me understand life from a different perspective. And although I haven’t spent a lot of time reading this year, the books I have read have made a profound difference in my life and perspective.
Lately, I’ve tried to read more, and have even read a few books on my iPhone using the Kindle app (very convenient). For me, one of the keys to reading more has been finding the right books. When I find a book that is really interesting to me, I don’t have to make time to read. I just find myself reading it every spare moment I get, until I’m done with it. Here is the list of books I read this year that were like that for me, in no particular order. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
Most of these books I got from the library, but I have bought a few as digital books. Note: If you buy any of these books through the links below, I’ll get a small cut. But don’t buy them just for me. :)
The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
This is actually the third time I’ve read this book. Tim just released this revised edition with lots more content and case studies. This is a powerful book and one of the influences that first made me realize that it is possible to make a living working only four hours a week. (I’ve been doing it – or something like it – for over a year now).
Tim definitely has a bold attitude, and while I don’t necessarily agree with all of his methods, he does teach some incredible ideas that are a must read for anyone interested in living their lives fully now, rather than the typical scenario of working for 40 years at a job you’re tired of, and then finally retiring to do what you want to do (if you’re still around). Time is your most valuable resource – Tim shows that selling most of it for money isn’t the necessity most people think it is.
This book powerfully illustrates the possibility of increasing results without increasing work by working smarter – not harder, outsourcing the mundane tasks you don’t want to do, taking “mini-retirements” throughout your life rather than waiting until the end, and filling the void of time with meaning, once you no longer have to work so much to make money. It not only defines principles and perspectives, but gives powerful examples and exercises that show you exactly how to do it yourself. Powerful stuff. Buy the 4-Hour Workweek.
The Power of Less by Leo Babauta
Written by the author of the popular Zen Habits blog, the premise of this book is, “Identify the Essential. Eliminate the Rest.” This book helps you apply that idea to several different areas in your life. I can’t tell you the effect that the idea of focusing directly on one thing at a time has had one me. I used to be a habitual multitasker, and didn’t realize how unproductive it really is. I am able to accomplish so much more now in so much less time, and I am doing more of the things that are really important to me, and less of what is not. There’s also a lot less mental clutter in my brain and less physical clutter in my life because I have simplified and removed much of the non-essential. This is a great book to help with those upcoming New Years’ resolutions, too. Highly recommended. Buy the Power of Less.
Leadership and Self Deception by The Arbinger Institute
This is an eye-opening book, based on the idea that it’s not what you do that matters, but how you do it, and the frame of mind you’re in when you do so. It’s less about leadership than it is about relationships in general, and how we often deceive ourselves without even knowing it, thinking we’re doing the right thing for the right reason, when we’re really not. People can see through tricks and pretending to care about someone to get what you want. This book helps you begin to see when you might be “in the box” toward someone, and are treating them like an object, and how to get out of the box, to really care about others as individuals.
While not a religious book, I discovered that it was written by my former Stake President, Duane Boyce, who I guess is one of the head guys at Arbinger. I always wondered how and why he knew the name of every one of the thousands of adults and children in his stake. This book answered that question for me, and a lot more. This book is a very quick and easy read – reads like a novel – but there is a wealth of great principles that would take a lifetime to apply. It helped me realize how far off the mark I am most of the time, and makes me want to do better. It’s one I will definitely read again. Buy Leadership and Self-Deception.
Anatomy of Peace by The Arbinger Institute
This book is kind of a sequel to Leadership and Self Deception, and goes into more detail about the principles in that book, and how to apply them more specifically in your life. Written in the same story-like format as Leadership and Self Deception, with lots of dialogue, this book is also an easy read, even though the book is a bit longer. This book really shows how to overcome and prevent the fundamental problems in our relationships with everyone from our spouse and children to our business colleagues. Highly recommended. But read Leadership and Self-Deception first. Buy Anatomy of Peace
I thought this was a very well-written book and about a subject I’m obviously very interested in at the moment. The book is filled with great quotes from the Vagabonders of history (Thoreau, Annie Dillard, etc.), and he shows how anyone can achieve the dream of extended overseas travel, and overcome the potential pitfalls associated with it. I especially enjoyed his chapters on how to make travel a growing experience for your spirit, not just a typical tourist experience to say you’ve “seen” stuff. Filled with other fabulous resources for further reading, I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in long-term travel, and making the most of it. Buy Vagabonding.
The New Global Student: Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition, and Get a Truly International Education by Maya Frost
This book contained some useful tips for those interested in living globally, and helping students gain an education more quickly and more broad than the typical U.S. approach. However, I found the first half of the book rather long and drawn out – too much philosophy, too little practicality. I wish she would have summarized her tips and got to the point quicker. You kind of have to hunt for the gems. But the reason I included it on this list is because of the chapter on living abroad with your family. This chapter gave us a lot of motivation to make it work and helped us think of things we hadn’t considered that will make the move easier to handle (Jen and I read it together). This book would be most helpful for those with children looking to live abroad or those looking to save money on college tuition and wanting to give older students a broad education. Buy The New Global Student.
This was a very helpful resource as we were planning our move abroad. Although we are not really taking a 1-2 year sabbatical, but are going more long-term, the book was still very applicable. The author lived abroad in Mexico, but shared experiences of others in different parts of the world. She covered the benefits of living abroad with children, how to choose where to go, dealing with responses from family and friends back home, financing the trip, schooling, dealing with the new culture and language, making friends abroad, and much more. There was a lot that was common sense to us, but it was still fun to read about someone else’s experience of doing something similar to what we’ve been planning. Buy The Family Sabbatical Handbook.
Jen actually got this book from the library first, and after she finished it, I wanted to read it myself. And this is another book I think I will need to read again, because the teachings are ones that must be practiced in order to have them really sink in, and I have a lot of practicing to do. In Love as a Way of Life, Gary Chapman, also the author of The 5 Love Languages, discusses several ways in which we can practice loving: kindness, patience, forgiveness, courtesy, humility, generosity, and honesty. Each chapter ends with thought-provoking questions and exercises to help make the point more personal and apply it. He also talks about how we can apply each of these areas to our marriage, parenting, and workplace. This book is a great reminder of the joy that love can bring. Buy Love as a Way of Life.
The Not So Big Life: Making Room for What Really Matters by Susan Susanka
Jen and I read this one together as well, and we both found each chapter (with a few exceptions) inspiring and thought-provoking. This is one I may read again as well. Susan, an architect, shows us that more is not always better and that there is always room in our lives for what is most important to us if we make subtle changes to allow that to take place, similar to the changes we would make if remodeling a house. Her chapters on dream interpretation and meditation were not what I was expecting from the book, but actually ended up being a couple of my favorites. Buy The Not So Big Life.
A simple and easy-to-read beginner’s guide to long-term investing. I picked up this book because I got tired of not understanding what my financial advisor was doing with my money. This book helped me realize that he really wasn’t doing much that I couldn’t do on my own in 20 minutes a year. Because of this book, I am now taking my investments into my own hands and savings thousands of dollars in the process. Alex teaches that trying to time the market is foolish for most of us, and that by simply putting your funds in a well-balanced portfolio, continuing to put money into it regularly, and re-balancing every 12-18 months, you can be assured of a strong investment, and over the long-term, beat most of the others who spend all day trading stocks, and especially beat those who take their money out when times get bad. He also outlines exactly how to get started, and gives that push for those not sure what to do. Very good book. I couldn’t put it down. Buy The Gone Fishin’ Portfolio.
Happy for No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy From the Inside Out by Marci Shimoff
Okay, I’m actually still in the process of reading this one. But I already know that it is one of the best books I have read in a long time. Every time I read this book, I come away a happier person, and I keep telling Jen after each chapter, “This is such an awesome book!” So many of us look for happiness in our possessions or our achievements, but Marci shows that happiness really comes from within, regardless of our circumstances. What’s better, she gives numerous ways to cultivate that happiness, after having interviewed and analyzed the lives of over 100 happy people (many of whom share their experiences in the book), and pulling from dozens of scientific studies on the subject. She talks about questioning our thoughts, letting love and gratitude lead our lives, paying attention to your body and nourishing it properly, plugging yourself into a spiritual connection with God, finding greater purpose in what you do, and cultivating nourishing relationships. This is definitely a book I will want to read again, as she seems to cover every avenue of how to have happiness in your life. Buy Happy for No Reason.
So, there’s my list. Have you read any of these? What did you think? What other influential books have you read lately, and how have they helped you? Share your comments below.