“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss)

“Do you want to study under the great teachers? Is that it? Well, you can find them anywhere. They live on the shelves of your library; they live on the walls of museums; they live in recordings made decades ago. Your teachers don’t even need to be alive to educate you masterfully.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

A few years ago I realized that to learn all of the things I wanted to know, I was going to have to figure out how to learn more effectively. After studying speed reading and memory techniques, and organizing my bookshelf*, I went from reading less than a book a month to almost a book and a half each week.

Here are some of the books that resonated the most with me over the past year, and why. For more recommendations, be sure to check out this list of must reads.

*The Free Book Shelf template google Doc has been updated with the titles below. Save a copy and start crushing your own reading list!

2015’s Top Books Read…

In no particular order:

  • How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life by Russ Roberts (272 pgs)
  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (285 pgs)
  • Not Fade Away: A Short Life Well Lived by Laurence Shames & Peter Barton (224 pgs)
  • The Martian by Andy Weir (385 pgs)
  • Broadcasting Happiness by Michelle Gielan (290 pgs)
  • The School of Greatness by Lewis Howes (272 pgs)
  • Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf by Ben Hogan & Herbert Wind (128 pgs)
  • Black Hole Focus: How Intelligent People Can Create a Purpose For Their Lives by Isaiah Hankel (272 pgs)
  • Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (304 pgs)
  • MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom by Tony Robbins (665 pgs)
  • The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely (368 pgs)
  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott (272 pgs)
  • Unlimited Memory: How to Use Advanced Learning Strategies to Learn Faster, Remember More and be More Productive by Kevin Horsley (136 pgs)

And the Lessons Learned From Them

How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life by Russ Roberts (272 pgs)

Adam Smith was a brilliant social scientist who founded the field of Economics with his famous work, The Wealth of Nations. In this book, Russ Roberts explores Smith’s other work, one in which he applied the same insightful perspective on a more micro level in order to answer the question of how to live a good life.
Biggest lesson: We’re social creatures who fundamentally want to be good and to share good.

“Life is all about choices. Getting the most out of life means choosing wisely and well. […] If you want to make good choices, you have to understand yourself and those around you. If you want to get the most out of life, Understanding what Smith has to say in The Theory of Moral Sentiments is probably more important than Smith’s insights in The Wealth of Nations.”

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (285 pgs)

Kristen read this book and told me I would love it – and I did. The author of Eat Pray Love explores why we are called to create, and the playful line between what’s holy and what’s profane.
Biggest lesson: We are part of a big, freaky, wonderful game. So dance and play.

“After a certain age, no matter how you’ve been spending your time, you have very likely earned a doctorate in living. If you’re still here—if you have survived this long—it is because you know things. We need you to reveal to us what you know, what you have learned, what you have seen and felt.”

Not Fade Away: A Short Life Well Lived by Laurence Shames & Peter Barton (224 pgs)

Wow. Recommended to me by Jacob Sokol of Sensophy, this book blew me away so much that after I finished it the first time I immediately went back to the beginning and re-read it cover to cover.
Biggest lesson: We’re all human, and death is something we must universally face.

“There’s just one final thing I want to say. Probably it’s how everybody wants to be remembered. But that’s okay. I’ve said from the start that I make no claim of being special; I’m just one more person dying, revisiting his life. I think my father would have said the same thing, in the same words, if he’d had the time. It’s simply this: I really tried. I did my best.”

The Martian by Andy Weir (385 pgs)

Fascinating story about a man left stranded on Mars, written with the help of scientific experts and released chapter by chapter. It’s now a major motion picture. The only book on this list that I didn’t technically “read,” but listened to via Audible during a road trip.
Biggest lesson: Don’t complain about your circumstances. Do what you can with what you’ve got, and try to laugh and enjoy yourself along the way.

“At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem, and you solve the next one, and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home.”

Broadcasting Happiness by Michelle Gielan (290 pgs)

Gielan covers the latest research coming from the field of Positive Psychology, and practical takeaways we can use to implement the wisdom in our careers and our lives. Plus, she’s married to Shawn Akor, one of the instructors for my Happiness course at Harvard.
Biggest lesson: Small shifts in thinking and communication can have a big impact.

“People can change the trajectory of their families, companies, and communities when they change the stories they communicate.”

The School of Greatness by Lewis Howes (272 pgs)

After almost a decade spent interviewing high performers for his School of Greatness podcast, Lewis Howes has learned a thing or two about what it takes to be great. In this book, he lays out the common factors shared by those at the top.
Biggest lesson: Greatness is available to anyone if they’re willing to do the work.

“Greatness is something that is unearthed and cultivated from within.”

Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf by Ben Hogan & Herbert Wind (128 pgs)

Golf is one of those things I’ve always wanted to be good at, but could never seem to turn the corner. This book changed that by helping me to create a proper swing from the ground up.
Biggest lesson: Improving at anything requires practice, plus the willingness to evaluate performance and make the necessary changes.

“The best way to learn golf is a great deal like learning to play the piano: you practice a few things daily, you arrive at a solid foundation, and then you go on to practice a few more advanced things daily, continually increasing your skill.”

Black Hole Focus: How Intelligent People Can Create a Purpose For Their Lives by Isaiah Hankel (272 pgs)

When I asked my friend Corey Breier, author of The Habitual Hustler,1 for his #1 book recommendation, this is the book he suggested. It’s an all-encompassing guide to defining and realizing a fulfilling life.
Biggest lesson: Our lives are what we make of them, so why not define a purpose that inspires us?

“The key is taking responsibility for your own life and where it goes. The only person who can give your life meaning—the only person who can find your life’s purpose—is you.”

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (304 pgs)

We are our bodies just as much as our minds. This exciting story of a human potential made me want to put on my shoes and head out for a run in the middle of the night. (When I was still reading the book – because I couldn’t put it down.)
Biggest lesson: We are, quite literally, born to run.

“So that’s what Lumholtz meant when he called the Tarahumara ‘the founders and makers of the history of mankind.’ Perhaps all our troubles—all the violence, obesity, illness, depression, and greed we can’t overcome—began when we stopped living as Running People.”

MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom by Tony Robbins (665 pgs)

As per Amazon: “Based on extensive research and one-on-one interviews with more than 50 of the most legendary financial experts in the world—from Carl Icahn and Warren Buffett, to Ray Dalio and Steve Forbes—Tony Robbins has created a simple 7-step blueprint that anyone can use for financial freedom.”
Biggest lesson: Having a why, and clearly defined targets, is just as important as the how.

“If you become a blessing in other people’s lives, you too will be blessed.”

The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely (368 pgs)

The follow up to Ariely’s earlier work, Predictably Irrational, this book re-examines our irrational tendencies and why they actually lead to many beneficial outcomes.
Biggest lesson: Human behavior is incredibly complex.

“We are fortunate in our irrational abilities because, among other things, they allow us to adapt to new environments, trust other people, enjoy expending effort, and love our kids.”

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott (272 pgs)

A quick, fun read from a brilliant storyteller, writer, and professor. Anne Lamott shares phenomenal advice that applies to all areas of life. Funny story: over a year after getting a physical copy of this book (from Tim Ferriss in #TIM01) I finally threw it in my carry-on for a long flight, only to end up giving it to an aspiring writer I sat next to and really connected with on the plane. As soon as we landed I bought the kindle version and finished it the next day.
Biggest lesson: Appreciate the miracles unfolding every day, and be vulnerable and willing to share your experiences with others.

“You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you.”

Unlimited Memory: How to Use Advanced Learning Strategies to Learn Faster, Remember More and be More Productive by Kevin Horsley (136 pgs)

An International Grand Master of Memory and a World Record holder explains the simple strategies used by the world champions, and how we too can have incredible memories.
Biggest lesson: With practice our minds can be trained.

“When you decide to utilize these methods and make them your own, you will unleash unlimited potential to not only improve your memory, but your life as well.”

  1. Where you can read about my daily habits, along with the daily habits of successful entrepreneurs including Tim Ferriss, Ryan Holiday, Leo Babauta, Derek Sivers, James Clear, John Lee Dumas, Lewis Howes, Benny Lewis, and Tynan. http://amzn.to/1mmm1Zt []