This is my book recommendation list. They are organized into sequences. A sequence is a loosely related sequence of books in a particular area of interest. All of these books stand alone, but they are listed sequentially in a recommended reading order. Reading them in the recommended order should make them significantly easier to absorb.
I’d love to chat about these books. E-mail me!
Last updated: 22 January 2019
This sequence increases overall power level and effectiveness.
So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport
We can increase our bargaining power by being exceptionally good at something.
Deep Work, Cal Newport
Increase productivity by focusing without distractions for extended periods of time. This is often impossible in many work environments, but try to maximize available focus time.
How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, Scott Adams
Systems and processes are a more useful way of thinking than goals. This book also provides a detailed list of good systems to follow.
On Writing Well, William Zinsser
Strong writing skills are an effective form of passive salesmanship. This book teaches us how to write effective non-fiction.
Notes on the Synthesis of Form, Christopher Alexander
This is a book about design. On the surface, it’s unrelated to achieving success. However, reading it helps synthesize the lessons from the previous books in this sequence.
This sequence suggests ways that we may want to live. What leads to a good life?
The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, Oliver Burkeman
Forced positive thinking is counterproductive. Due to homeostasis, we can instead benefit from regularly considering the negatives instead.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, Mark Manson
What a scandalous title! This book has rude words and so it isn’t for the faint-hearted. But it is a great instruction manual for authenticity. Accept failure without shame, welcome struggle, commit to meaningful ideals.
Seneca is the most readable of the classic Stoicism texts. Stoicism is about finding contentment through acceptance of the world.
The Optimal Person
This sequence provides immediately useful insights into how we think and act.
Quiet, Susan Cain
For the introverts who are unable or unwilling to replace their introversion with extraversion, this book is a great handbook on maximizing introvert strengths.
Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman
Most of the experiments in this book failed to replicate, but the core concept about intuition versus deliberation is still useful.
The Willpower Instinct, Kelly McGonigal
Willpower experiments also failed to replicate. Despite this, the concept of willpower as a limited resource is almost certainly correct, and this book introduces useful strategies for coping with our limited willpower.
Filters Against Folly, Garrett Hardin
This book describes the importance of second-order effects and how to train ourselves to prioritize them above first-order effects. Rather dated writing style.
This sequence teaches us how to change and replace our habits, thoughts, preferences, and ideas. Incredibly powerful but comes with a non-trivial risk of losing touch with reality. I strongly recommend that you read these books in sequential order!
Left Brain, Right Stuff, Phil Rosenzweig
A business and management book, with the recurring theme of being able to switch between deliberative, rational thinking and implemental, optimistic thinking.
The Charisma Myth, Olivia Fox Cabane
This book teaches us the skill of being charismatic, which is a learned skill that depends on intentionally applying optimistic and confident mindsets in order to radiate warmth and power. (My favorite charisma type is Focus Charisma!)
Impro, Keith Johnstone
Ignore facts, accept intention. Improvisation is a backdoor into our subconscious mind. Related article here.
Instant Self-Hypnosis, Forbes Robbins Blair
Hypnosis is an incredibly powerful technique that can sequentially change major parts of our personalities. Hypnosis can help us directly access our thought patterns by bypassing the brain’s logical guardian. This book provides guidelines for self-hypnosis, which can be performed without a trained hypnotherapist. (I’m currently changing from introvert to ambivert, and I’ve previously made other major changes as well!)
Ericksonian Approaches: A Comprehensive Manual, Rubin Battino and Thomas L. South
The Ericksonian school of hypnotherapy emphasizes the creativity of the hypnotherapist and the importance of trying many different approaches to induce hypnotic trance in the subject. Popular methods include sensory overload, verbal confusion, physical movements, and command phrases. These methods share much in common with the concept of “multiple simultaneous perspectives”, which will be the topic of a future blog post.
Roaring Silence, Ngakpa Chogyam & Khandro Dechen
This book describes the Dzogchen school of Buddhism, which is a method of directly achieving enlightenment. The previous books in the series are a good preparation for the required mindset, although it also requires significant discipline and an in-depth, intuitive understanding of non-duality.
This sequence introduces us to human societies and behavior, giving us a better understanding of how humans function on both individual and group levels.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert B. Cialdini
This book introduces the six main persuasion levers: reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency/commitment, liking/similarity, social proof, as well as ways of using them to achieve our objectives.
The Elephant in the Brain, Kevin Simler and Robin Hanson
This book considers the implications of humans evolving in an intensely social environment, and how societies are affected by such environmental pressures.
Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches, Marvin Harris
This is an anthropology study that shows how selection pressures on societies explain many puzzles. For example, why did religious traditions in the Middle East ban pork consumption specifically?
The Origins of Political Order / Political Order and Political Decay, Francis Fukuyama
Related article here. These two books provide a plausible and useful model of societal competition and factors affecting differential societal success rates, supported by copious research and description of comparable historical societies.
This sequence gives us tools to become happier and more in tune with others.
The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky
An explanation of the research into happiness, as well as a suite of useful tools for maximizing it.
The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman
This book is targeted at romantic relationships, but the general theme of identifying and respecting other people’s preferences are applicable to all relationships.
Principia Amoris: The New Science of Love, John Gottman
A relatively dense book which discusses romantic relationships in detail. This is both a good reference and a way to deepen our understanding of how people feel.
China is pretty interesting and is worth some study. But not too much, though. Too much is not useful. Several of these focus on international relations.
Age of Ambition, Evan Osnos
Evan Osnos is a superb writer and information gatherer. This book is a readable introduction to the worldview, concerns, and hopes of an important slice of Chinese society.
Anxious Wealth, John Osburg
An anthropological description of how some business in China is conducted. Not all business is like this, it depends on which sector is being discussed. Nevertheless, a good read, especially for people without much direct exposure to Chinese business culture.
Easternization, Gideon Rachman
A thoroughly researched and readable book with great analysis about the political fundamentals in Asia and how this will affect the world. The author is not afraid to directly state his views and he has had many years of privileged access to sources. Highly recommended.
End of an Era, Carl Minzner
This book eloquently argues for a specific thesis: that China’s deinstitutionalization (weakening of political institutions and increased reliance of charismatic leadership) under Xi Jinping will be unsustainable in the long term. Regardless of the accuracy of the thesis, it’s an important viewpoint to be familiar with.
Asia’s Reckoning, Richard McGregor
A relatively detailed look at the international relations between the United States, China, and Japan. These are currently the three most important powers in the Pacific, yet their motivations and interactions are not well understood.
Red Flags, George Magnus
A list of the major potential pitfalls for the Chinese economy: corruption, financial leverage, demographics, total factor productivity, political stagnation, and mis-allocation of resources.
Business and Investing
Due to the glut of business books on the market, I only describe the relatively obscure books here, and I present the well-known ones without comment. These can be read in any order.
Competition Demystified, Bruce Greenwald and Judd Kahn
Competitive Strategy, Michael E. Porter
The Intelligent Investor, Benjamin Graham
Once in Golconda: A True Drama of Wall Street 1920-1938, John Brooks
The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, John Maynard Keynes
The Road to Serfdom, F. A. Hayek
The Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton M. Christensen
Zero to One, Peter Thiel
Seeking Wisdom, Peter Bevelin
An introduction to value investing principles. The advice on how to become emotionally stable and rational has positive spillover effects to life in general.
Friend & Foe, Adam Galinsky
People like both cooperation and competition. This book describes heuristics for when to cooperate and when to compete. The importance of perspective-taking and trust are broadly applicable to non-business situations too.
Best Practices for Equity Research Analysts, James Valentine
Equity research occupies a sweet spot for anyone interested in understanding how business works. Working in a company gives great insight into the details but can miss the bigger picture, and looking at the macro situation easily leads to becoming disconnected from business realities. Equity research provides visibility in both directions. This book describes the most important factors that a research analyst needs to focus on to understand businesses and industries.
A primitive is basic building block. This sequence describes important primitives in more detail. These can be read in any order and the subject matter is self-explanatory.
Salt: A World History, Mark Kurlansky
Coal: A Human History, Barbara Freese
Crude: The Story of Oil, Sonia Shah
The Potato: How the Humble Spud Rescued the Western World, Larry Zuckerman
The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger, Marc Levinson
This is a short list of some fiction books I enjoyed, in no particular order. I’m behind on my non-fiction book queue, but I hope to add in some new fiction soon.
The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
This book is a meditation on the nature of love. The Prince’s relationship with the rose is unhealthy, but the author’s authenticity shines through in every word.
48 and Counting, Jonathan Clements
A relatively obscure book about the life of a middle-aged potentially adulterous bicycling financier. People get what they want, adjust their expectations, or suffer unexpected blows, but their ultimate life satisfaction isn’t clearly linked to what happens in the story. Meaning must be found from within ourselves.