“A book is like a garden carried in the pocket” – Proverb

The books that have largely shaped my thinking

A few books that can help you understand how life, work, and the world work.

The list starts with some books on behavioral psychology especially as it relates to work and managing people. This is a theme throughout as it is of interest to me and underlines just about everything we do at home and work.

The theme of organizational culture is next on the list. For me, this is the soil for building good governments and companies alike.

Books on leadership, measuring success, management systems, negotiating, personal drive and habits, and the role of chance are next – they support the above themes. These are pillars that support culture and organizational frameworks.

Next, come books on a range of topics that I find interesting and instructive. They hold great lessons that are transferrable to any field. Those include history, physics, meditation, Zen Buddhism, and breathing techniques.

I like to think that by reading all these books you will learn just about everything you need to know about life.

This is a running list. I add on to it as I discover gems. Dig in:

The book list

  1. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
    1. Habit 1: Be proactive
    2. Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind
    3. Habit 3: Put first things first
    4. Habit 4: Think win-win
    5. Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood
    6. Habit 6: Synergize
    7. Habit 7: Sharpen the saw
    8. Quote: “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”
  2. Thinking Fast & Slow by Daniel Kahneman
    1. Quote: “A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth. Authoritarian institutions and marketers have always known this fact.”
  3. Principles: Life & Work by Ray Dalio
    1. Quote 1: “If you’re not failing, you’re not pushing your limits, and if you’re not pushing your limits, you’re not maximizing your potential”
    2. Quote 2: “The happiest people discover their own nature and match their life to it.”
  4. Mastery by Robert Greene
    1. Quote 1: “Think of it this way: There are two kinds of failure. The first comes from never trying out your ideas because you are afraid, or because you are waiting for the perfect time. This kind of failure you can never learn from, and such timidity will destroy you. The second kind comes from a bold and venturesome spirit. If you fail in this way, the hit that you take to your reputation is greatly outweighed by what you learn. Repeated failure will toughen your spirit and show you with absolute clarity how things must be done.”
    2. Quote 2: “The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.”
    3. Quote 3: “No one is really going to help you or give you direction. In fact, the odds are against you.”
  5. The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene
    1. Quote 1: “You like to imagine yourself in control of your fate, consciously planning the course of your life as best you can. But you are largely unaware of how deeply your emotions dominate you. They make you veer toward ideas that soothe your ego. They make you look for evidence that confirms what you already want to believe. They make you see what you want to see, depending on your mood, and this disconnect from reality is the source of the bad decisions and negative patterns that haunt your life. Rationality is the ability to counteract these emotional effects, to think instead of react, to open your mind to what is really happening, as opposed to what you are feeling. It does not come naturally; it is a power we must cultivate, but in doing so we realize our greatest potential.”
    2. Quote 2: “Learn to question yourself: Why this anger or resentment? Where does this incessant need for attention come from? Under such scrutiny, your emotions will lose their hold on you. You will begin to think for yourself instead of reacting to what others give you.”
    3. Quote 3: “Not to become someone else, but to be more thoroughly yourself.”
  6. Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoğlu, James A. Robinson
    1. Quote 1: “As we will show, poor countries are poor because those who have power make choices that create poverty.”
    2. Quote 2: “Nations fail today because their extractive economic institutions do not create the incentives needed for people to save, invest, and innovate. Extractive political institutions support these economic institutions by cementing the power of those who benefit from the extraction.”
    3. Quote 3: “Inclusive economic and political institutions do not emerge by themselves. They are often the outcome of significant conflict between elites resisting economic growth and political change and those wishing to limit the economic and political power of existing elites.”
  7. Good to Great by Jim Collins
    1. Quote 1: “Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.”
  8. Measure What Matters by John Doerr
    1. Quote 1: “Ideas are easy. Execution is everything.”
    2. Quote 2: “Early on in your career, when you’re an individual contributor, you’re graded on the volume and quality of your work. Then one day, all of a sudden, you’re a manager. Let’s assume you do well and move up to manage more and more people. Now you’re no longer paid for the amount of work you do; you’re paid for the quality of decisions you make.”
  9. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande
    1. Quote 1: “Man is fallible, but maybe men are less so.”
    2. Quote 2: “Good checklists, on the other hand are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything–a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps–the ones that even the highly skilled professional using them could miss. Good checklists are, above all, practical.”
  10. The Chancellor: The Remarkable Odyssey of Angela Merkel by Kati Marton
    1. Quote 1: “In her experience, language cannot be trusted. Words are weapons to be deployed cautiously.”
    2. Quote 2: “War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace. Thomas Mann, German-American author (1875–1955)”
  11. Value: The Four Cornerstones of Corporate Finance by McKinsey & Company, Inc. , Tim Koller , Richard Dobbs , Bill Huyett
    1. The four cornerstones:
      1. ROIC
      2. Conservation of value
      3. Market expectations
      4. Best owner
  12. The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
    1. Quote 1: “The intelligent investor is a realist who sells to optimists and buys from pessimists.”
    2. Quote 2: “But investing isn’t about beating others at their game. It’s about controlling yourself at your own game.”
    3. Quote 3: “The stock investor is neither right or wrong because others agreed or disagreed with him; he is right because his facts and analysis are right.”
  13. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein
    1. Quote: “We learn who we are in practice, not in theory.”
  14. An Everyone Culture by Robert Kegan, Lisa Laskow Lahey
    1. Quote 1: “When people hear ‘flourishing,’ they think of appreciation and good feelings. But growth and development does not always equal ‘feeling good.’ Our culture is not about maximizing the minutes you feel good at work. We don’t define flourishing by sitting-around-the-campfire moments. We ask people to do seemingly impossible things.”
    2. Quote 2: “The way we’re going to be a better company is by your working on yourself, and helping others work on themselves.”
  15. The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle
    1. Quote 1: “Vulnerability doesn’t come after trust—it precedes it. Leaping into the unknown, when done alongside others, causes the solid ground of trust to materialize beneath our feet.”
    2. Quote 2: “The road to success is paved with mistakes well handled.”
    3. Quote 3: “Give a good idea to a mediocre team, and they’ll find a way to screw it up. Give a mediocre idea to a good team, and they’ll find a way to make it better. The goal needs to be to get the team right, get them moving in the right direction, and get them to see where they are making mistakes and where they are succeeding.”
  16. Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh 
    1. Quote 1: “Happiness is really just about four things: perceived control, perceived progress, connectedness (number and depth of your relationships), and vision/meaning (being part of something bigger than yourself).”
    2. Quote 2: “Things are never as bad or as good as they seem.”
    3. Quote 3: “Envision, create, and believe in your own universe, and the universe will form around you.”
  17. Radical Candor by Kim Scott
    1. Quote 1: “Make sure that you are seeing each person on your team with fresh eyes every day. People evolve, and so your relationships must evolve with them. Care personally; don’t put people in boxes and leave them there.”
    2. Quote 2: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
    3. Quote 3: “A good rule of thumb for any relationship is to leave three unimportant things unsaid each day.”
  18. Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
    1. Quote 1: “He who has learned to disagree without being disagreeable has discovered the most valuable secret of negotiation.”
    2. Quote 2: “Conflict brings out truth, creativity, and resolution.”
    3. Quote 3: “Negotiate in their world. Persuasion is not about how bright or smooth or forceful you are. It’s about the other party convincing themselves that the solution you want is their own idea. So don’t beat them with logic or brute force. Ask them questions that open paths to your goals. It’s not about you.”
  19. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson, Stephen R. Covey, Joseph Grenny
    1. What are crucial conversations?
    2. Quote 1: “People who are skilled at dialogue do their best to make it safe for everyone to add their meaning to the shared pool–even ideas that at first glance appear controversial, wrong, or at odds with their own beliefs. Now, obviously they don’t agree with every idea; they simply do their best to ensure that all ideas find their way into the open.”
    3. Quote 2: “As much as others may need to change, or we may want them to change, the only person we can continually inspire, prod, and shape—with any degree of success—is the person in the mirror.”
    4. Quote 3: “Goals without deadlines aren’t goals; they’re merely directions.”
  20. Your Next Five Moves: Master the Art of Business Strategy by Patrick Bet-David
    1. yournextfivemoves.com
  21. Motivational Interviewing by William R. Miller, Stephen Rollnick
    1. Quote: “People are the undisputed experts on themselves. No one has been with them longer, or knows them better than they do themselves. In MI, the helper is a companion who typically does less than half of the talking.”
  22. Originals by Adam Grant
    1. Quote: “In the deepest sense of the word, a friend is someone who sees more potential in you than you see in yourself, someone who helps you become the best version of yourself.”
  23. Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
    1. Quote: “Control of consciousness determines the quality of life.”
  24. Factfulness by Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund
    1. Quote: “There’s no room for facts when our minds are occupied by fear.”
  25. Data Science by John D. Kelleher, Brendan Tierney
    1. Framework takeaway:
      1. Abstraction
      2. Data
      3. Information
      4. Knowledge
      5. Wisdom
  26. Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows
    1. Quote: “Remember, always, that everything you know, and everything everyone knows, is only a model. Get your model out there where it can be viewed. Invite others to challenge your assumptions and add their own.”
  27. How Google Works by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg
  28. Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink, Leif Babin
  29. Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
  30. The Toyota Way by Jeffrey K. Liker, Gary L. Convis
  31. Quiet by Susan Cain
  32. Lee Kuan Yew by Graham Allison, Robert D. Blackwill, Ali Wyne, Lee Kuan Yew
  33. The Box by Marc Levinson
  34. Atomic Habits by James Clear
  35. The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday
  36. The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday
  37. Switch by Dan Heath, Chip Heath
  38. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  39. Getting Things Done by David Allen
  40. Smart Brevity: The Power of Saying More with Less by Jim Vandehei , Mike Allen , Roy Schwartz
  41. Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond
  42. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond
  43. Rubicon by Tom Holland
  44. Persian Fire by Tom Holland
  45. SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard
  46. The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius
  47. History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides
  48. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
  49. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
  50. Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph by T.E. Lawrence
  51. River Out of Eden by Richard Dawkins
  52. Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Taleb
  53. Reality is Not What it Seems by Carlo Rovelli
  54. Seven Brief Lessons in Physics by Carlo Rovelli
  55. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  56. The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene
  57. Quantum Space by Jim Baggott
  58. Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life by Helen Czerski
  59. Relativity: The Special and General Theory by Albert Einstein
  60. What Is Life by Erwin Schrodinger
  61. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
  62. Letters from a Stoic by Seneca
  63. The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh
  64. Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh
  65. Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh
  66. Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
  67. Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel
  68. The Way of Zen by Alan Watts
  69. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
  70. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
  71. Breath by James Nestor
  72. Brain Energy by Christopher M. Palmer