To me, reading is life. Reading and learning and growing.
I’ve always been a book enthusiast. The library has always been my wonderland. Book stores make me giddy. They still give me such a rush. As a kid, I lived for summers when I could load up on library books (I’m talking multiple overflowing baskets), devour them, then repeat. I would read all day, then scramble to finish my chores before Mom and Dad came home.
I managed to read almost wherever I went. On WalMart outings , I’d head straight to the books and grab the one I’d started on my last visit. I’d follow my parents around the store with my nose stuck in a book, maintaining enough external awareness to know where they were walking. I soaked up as much as I could before having to put the book down and wait for the next trip. I don’t know how many books I finished this way.
I remember appreciating how awesome and uncomplicated life was as a kid, and not wanting to grow up. Growing up meant I’d have to get a job, and getting a job meant I wouldn’t have unlimited time to lose myself in books. Adulting - who has time for that?!
I personally love book recommendations (I have a couple of must-read lists) - and I’ve had a few people requesting I share books I’ve read - so here’s my latest list! Here are books I’ve read within the last 12 months, in no particular order. I’ll bold those I highly recommend:
The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt
Excellent read on fragility of today’s youth. See my last blog post: What doesn’t K I L L you makes you STRONGER for a snippet.
Be Like a Fox: Machiavelli’s Lifelong Quest for Freedom by Erica Benner
Fascinating read outlining Machiavelli’s life and work and presenting him as actually anti-Machiavellian! Benner submits Machiavelli was actually a good-hearted, profound ethical thinker who fought to uphold high moral standards and restore the democratic freedoms of his beloved Florence. His writings, such as in The Prince, actually critiqued princely power, but had to be veiled due to the politics of the time.
21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
Thought provoking. Eye opening. Fascinating.
The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
It outlines a powerful model and actionable steps to overcome common hurdles teams face, and advises on building a cohesive, effective team.
101 Secrets for a Successful Retirement: Practical, Inspirational, and Fun Ideas for the Best Years of Your Life!
As you can imagine, not a riveting read, but not bad. Though I don’t plan to retire for a loooong time, I still like to educate myself on what’s ahead, so I can make good decisions now to set me up for later success.
50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days by Dean Karnazes
The man is an animal. ‘Nuff said. I love endurance challenges and constantly seeks ways to strengthen my mind and discipline, but I didn’t necessarily derive that from this book.
Learn More Now: 10 Simple Steps to Learning Better, Smarter, and Faster by Marcia L. Conner
Strategies, exercises, and stories to maximize learning. It provides tips and tricks to identify your methods and styles best suited for you. The guidance applies to all aspects of life: work, home, school, and society.
Quite a bit different from the movie. I rarely read fiction anymore, and so this was a fun change of pace.
The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein
MUST READ. I wish I could gift this to every single person. Gabby is a total goddess. In this book, she guides you through transforming your fear to faith, and releasing the blocks to what you desire: happiness, security, and clear direction. She shows you how to cede control so you can relax into a sense of certainty and f r e e d o m. She advises on how to reclaim your power so you can life so you can truly LIVE.
How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollen
Just WOW. What an eye opener and paradigm shifter. Having always been taught that “just saying no” to drugs includes passing on psychedelics, I was shocked to learn the true history and value of them. In an engaging way, Pollan describes how significantly successful LSD and ‘shrooms are in not only mitigating difficult-to-treat conditions such as depression, addiction, and anxiety, but how they also remarkably improve the lives healthy people making sense of life. Having never partaken of such substances (alcohol is as rock’n’roll as I’ve gotten), I was essentially a newbie going into this book. Interweaving science, personal experience, history, and medicine, Pollan debunks the myths surrounding psychedelics since the 1960s, when psychedelic evangelists triggered a powerful backlash against what was then a promising field of research. Now that the therapy is re-surfacing on the conventional scene, it’s interesting to consider what it has to offer.
How Full Is Your Bucket: Positive Strategies for Work and Life by Tom Rath
This book reveals how even the briefest interactions affect our relationships, productivity, health, and longevity. Grounded in 50 years of research, this book shows how to significantly increase the positive moments in our work and personal lives -- while reducing the negative.
Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence by James R. Clapper with Trey Brown
Clapper (former US director of national intelligence and Obama’s senior intelligence adviser) explores such controversial questions as the ethics of intelligence, the morality of intercepted communications, the limits of surveillance, etc. This subject matter affects all of us. I appreciated Clapper staying apolitical and focusing on the issues themselves. He offers valuable insight into the evolution of intelligence and its increasing value and relevance today, particularly in the current political climate.
Agent Storm: My Life Inside Al-Qaeda and the CIA by Morten Storm
In his captivating autobiography, Storm shares his journey from troublemaking teen in Europe to Muslim convert to jihadist to double agent for the western intelligence (CIA, as well as British and Danish intelligence).
The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies by Michael V. Hayden
General Hayden’s book provides a snapshot of senior professional opinion during difficult times. It offers insights from an intelligence professional who held some of the US intelligence community’s highest positions, including director of CIA and NSA.
All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Wealth by Laura Vanderkam
Useful read. Vanderkam advises the key is to change your perspective. Instead of regarding money as a scarce resource, consider it a tool to creatively build a better life for yourself and your loved ones.
Unbeatable Mind: Forge Resiliency and Mental Toughness to Succeed at an Elite Level by Mark Divine
I’ve always been intrigued by the Navy SEALs, and the mental and physical mastery they embody and represent. I’ve always loved pushing myself to the max, to see just how much I can do. I enjoy reading about Hell Week and their rigorous training, to glean methods to apply to my own life. Commander Mark Divine, a retired Navy SEAL and founder of SEALFIT, and the popular Unbeatable Mind Academy, shares his insights on how to forge mental toughness, develop mental clarity, and cultivate a true warrior’s spirit - lessons that are applicable on the battlefield, in the gym, and in daily life.
Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Productivity in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
Duhigg demonstrates how genuine productivity - rather than mere busyness - relies on certain choices: how we frame daily decisions; the big ambitions we embrace and the easy goals we ignore; the cultures we establish as leaders to drive innovation; how we interact with data. Duhigg outlines eye key concepts - from motivation and goal setting to focus and decision making - that explain why some individuals and companies accomplish so much. Drawing from the latest discoveries in neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral economics - as well as the experiences of elite and accomplished people - this meticulously-researched book explains the most productive people/entities don’t merely act differently - they view the world, and their choices, in profoundly different ways.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
Duhigg explores the science behind habit creation and reformation.
Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World by Tim Ferriss
I am a major Tim Ferriss fan (author of The 4-Hour Workweek), and am an avid listener of his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. In Tribe of Mentors, Ferriss compiles wisdom and tools from multiple kick ass people. The book has 623 pages and I blew through them in two days; not because I’m a speedy reader, but because I couldn’t put the book down. Not into reading that many pages? Check it out in podcast form: The Tribe of Mentors Podcast (I listen on Spotify).
The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done by Peter Drucker
This is one of THE most highly recommended books on leadership, productivity, and business.
The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage by Mel Robbins
If you hold yourself back due to laziness/fear/doubt/etc, this could be a game changer. Robbins explains the power of a “push moment” and how you only need five seconds to break through barriers to live a productive, fulfilling, empowering, healthy, accomplished life.
The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11
This book details the evolution of Islamic terrorism, particularly in the modern day. It provides valuable insights into the interaction among various governmental/military/intelligence/law enforcement agencies, identifying not only their accomplishments, but their mistakes.
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by don Miguel Ruiz
Ruiz uncovers the source of self-limiting beliefs that steal our joy and create unnecessary suffering.
You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
Sincero is a BAMF. Bottom line. This book is not only hilarious, but enlightening, refreshing, and helpful. She shows you how to identify and change self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors that stand in your way. After reading it, you’ll be ready to take on the world.
Out of the Maze: An A-Mazing Way to Get Unstuck by Spencer Johnson, M.D.
A short story on the benefit of thinking outside of the box.
Confronting Iran by Ali Ansari
Having read previous books on Iran, this book enhanced my knowledge, particularly regarding Iran-U.S. relations, as well as Iran’s relations with other Western nations. Ansari outlines the history of these relations which leads us to our current situation, particularly regarding the nuclear issue. It identifies perpetuated misconceptions and misperceptions that continue to affect our interactions today.
Social Engineering: The Science of Human Hacking by Christopher Hadnagy
Hadnagy provides valuable insight into identifying and defending against various human hacking techniques. He advises on protecting sensitive information - both personal and professional - by explaining various methods and exploits ill-meaning actors employ.
Fierce Enigmas: A History of the United States in South Asia by Srinath Raghavan
South Asia is an integral part of American foreign policy, and understanding its history directly informs understanding of past and current international relations and global dynamics and strategies (which affect our lives).
Saudi, Inc. by Ellen R. Wald
Wald offers useful insight into geopolitics not only in the Middle East, but worldwide. She details the evolution of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry and its partnership with the U.S. She explains the oil industry’s impact on regional and global politics and economies. She outlines the genesis and succession of Saudi Arabia and its leaders.
America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East by Hugh Wilford
Wilford writes an interesting account of the evolution of the United States’ relationship with the Middle East, as well as the establishment of the CIA.
500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars by Kurt Eichenwald
This was an insightful, in-depth look at the government and military response (of the U.S. and its allies) to 9/11. It highlights such divisive issues as suspect detention and interrogation, wiretapping, Middle East invasions (specifically Iraq), and it chronicles the logic and thought processes of decision-makers grappling with those daunting decisions.
Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic by Ray Takeyh
Takeyh demystifies the Iranian regime and shows how its internal conflicts shaped its current posture toward the U.S.
Keeping At It: The Quest for Sound Money and Good Government by Paul Volcker
Volcker is the former chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and the former Undersecretary of the Treasury for Monetary Affairs and president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Volcker chronicles his career, during which he confronted multiple financial crises and issues. He extols the virtue of stable prices, sound finance, and good government. It wasn’t as dry of a read as you’d expect.
AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order by Kai-Fu Lee
I referenced this book in my recent post: Being H U M A N in the age of AI. An essential read as we face the reality of artificial technology and its potential impact on our lives.
Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad by Peter Bergen
Bergen, a subject matter expert, delivers an absorbing account of the hunt and demise of bin Laden. It outlines the counterterrorism strategy landscape and the evolution of Al Qaeda.
Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts by Brené Brown
Brown shows how to find power within, and how to live a truly courageous and resilient life by rumbling with your vulnerability. Brown is a straight shooter who is also relatable and RAW. She’s an allstar.
High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way by Brendon Burchard
After extensive original research and a decade as a leading high performance coach in the world, Burchard teaches six deliberate habits that give you the edge in not only your work life, but your personal life.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
This book was just the kick in the pants I needed to apply what I already knew to be true: having too many balls in the air prevents us from progressing on what we truly value. Read this book if you: have ever felt compelled to declutter your life; find yourself stretched too thin; feel overworked and underutilized; are frequently busy but not productive; feel like your time is hijacked by others’ agendas. This book will help your reclaim your time and power so you can do less but better.
Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin
This book highlights the power of connecting with your people and provides the inspo for finding and leading your tribe: as an entrepreneur/as an activist/as a person/as an employee.
Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin
In the same vein as Tribes, this book advocates speaking up and leading. It advises on overcoming the resistance holding you back from becoming invested, successful, and indispensable.
Witness: Lessons from Elie Weasel’s Classroom by Ariel Burger
This book is pure soul food. Wiesel, author of Night, was a well-known Holocaust survivor and human rights activist. All the feels with this book.