Muscle for life

Books

Recommendations

While my books give you a great overall foundation of knowledge on how to build muscle, get lean, and stay healthy, there’s always more you can learn when it comes to health and fitness.

In this section of my recommendations, you’ll find a list of other people’s books that I found most helpful, and that I think should be on the shelf of everyone who’s serious about getting into shape.

And just for fun, I’ve also included a variety of other books I’ve really liked, ranging from self help to business to fiction.

Here is a Table of Contents for easy navigation of this section:

Health & Fitness

Next Section Food

Strength Training Anatomy

Understand anatomy and the biomechanics of exercise

There’s a reason why it’s sold over 1 million copies. It’s in a league of its own.

Strength Training Anatomy is a great resource for diving into anatomy and the biomechanics of exercise, and it’s also a great encyclopedia of exercises (like Arnold’s). Read More...

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Starting Strength

Useful and fundamental

Written by one of the top strength coaches in the country, Mark Rippetoe, Starting Strength teaches you the fundamentals of every great weightlifting program: heavy barbell lifts.

This is the book that finally fixed my squat, deadlift, and bench press, which enabled me to greatly accelerate my strength and muscle growth over the years. It should be on every serious lifter’s shelf.

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Becoming a Supple Leopard

Improve speed, power, endurance, and strength

Becoming a Supple Leopard teaches you common movement errors that cause injury and rob you of speed, power, endurance, and strength, and gives you hundreds of techniques you can use to correct them, and thus optimize your athletic performance. Read More...

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The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding

This is a book we should all just own on principle

This is a book we should all just own on principle. Arnold truly was a bodybuilding phenomenon.

In all seriousness, this book has several plusses:

  • Arnold’s story is truly inspiring and his take on the history and profession of bodybuilding is good reading.
  • It has a ton of exercises for training various body parts.
  • It’s huge and glossy. Just a nice product.
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You Are Your Own Gym

Solid bodyweight exercises and good diet theory

If you’re looking for a home workout program, you will really like You Are Your Own Gym.

The workouts require minimal equipment and get progressively harder in terms of intensity, it has a nice collection of other 100 bodyweight exercises, and it goes over basic diet theory (I recommend you read my book Bigger Leaner Stronger for a bit more on how to diet properly, even if you don’t want to lift weights). Read More...

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Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle

No BS, real science, great read

Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle was one the first mainstream fitness books to cut through the BS and teach the real science of building muscle and getting lean, and it quickly became a bestseller (and still is today). Read More...

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Beyond Training

Look, feel, and perform like a champion

In Beyond Training, personal trainer, holistic nutritionist, health expert, and all-around cool guy Ben Greenfield, shows you how to overcome common health-related training issues while optimizing your workouts so you can look, feel, and perform like a champion. 

This book is like a buffet of “biohacks.” Greenfield covers a wide variety of subjects like…

  • Improving endurance, mental performance, and workout recovery
  • The 25 most important blood and saliva biomarkers and how to test them
  • How to strengthen the immune system
  • And more…
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Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes from Tokyo's Most Unlikely Noodle Joint

Exotic, delicious and macro-friendly

I’m recommending this cookbook in particular because Ivan Orkin is simply the king of ramen, and although I haven’t tried his recipes yet (the book releases in a few days), I already know they’re going to be out-of-this-world good.

His story is cool too–he’s a Jewish dude from New York who decided to move to Tokyo and open a ramen shop. As a foreigner, he was given short shrift…but then people tasted his food. Word quickly spread and before he knew it, he was a celebrity in Japan, and people were coming from all around the world to eat his noodles.

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The Geometry of Pasta

History lessons, detailed descriptions, and ideal sauce parings

A good pasta is one of my favorite types of entree, and this is just an awesome pasta cookbook.

It not only has over 100 delicious recipes, it also teaches you everything you didn’t know you didn’t know about pasta.

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Serious Barbecue

Take your BBQ game to another level

Lang, the author, owns one of the most well-known BBQ restaurants in NYC (Daisy Mays), and in this book, he does more than give you a variety of interesting recipes–he actually teaches you the art of barbecuing, which makes all the difference. Read More...

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The Mac + Cheese Cookbook

50 Simple Recipes from Homeroom, America's Favorite Mac and Cheese Restaurant

When a restaurant serves nothing but mac and cheese and becomes famous for its incredible recipes, you know it must be good. Well, Homeroom is that restaurant, and their recipes really are exceptional.

Inside you’ll find traditional recipes we all know and love like the Vermont White Cheddar mac and Truffle Mac, but venture into the international section and you’ll find quirky but delightful dishes like Sriracha Mac, Shepherd’s Mac, and even a dessert version that tastes like peanut butter pie.

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Will it Waffle?

Fun and experimental

This is a fun cookbook for experimental home chefs, offering more options for your waffle maker ever conceivable before.

Of course there are breakfast recipes in Will It Waffle? by Daniel Shumski, but even these go way beyond batter. How about a ham and cheese melt, rosemary hash browns, and waffled blueberry muffins?

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Atlas Shrugged

Inspiring and mind-changing

While I don’t fully agree with all of Rand’s beliefs, I share her fundamental critiques of collectivism, and I loved the messages in Francisco’s speech on money, Galt’s (admittedly long-winded) final radio transmission, Dagny’s stubborn optimism, and the parasitic nature of government and ineffectual whiners.

I truly think this is a book everyone should read and reflect on. Whether you agree with Rand’s core tenets or not, this book will change the way you view the world.

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Killing Floor

Thrilling and heart-pounding

I know I’m a little late to the Jack Reacher party (okay, way late), but after seeing the movie, I figured I would check out the books. And I’m glad I did.

Reacher is a modern knight-errant of sorts, and Killing Floor isn’t asking you to meditate on the finer points of life–it’s telling you to strap in and get ready for a heart-pounding, bloody, violent ride involving murder, beautiful women, and a conspiracy that starts in the small town of Margrave, Georgia, and stretches far beyond.

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The Hitchhikers's Guide to the Galaxy

Quirky, whimsical, insightful, and downright fun

The book opens with the destruction of Earth to make way for a galactic freeway, and the only human to survive is one Arthur Dent. Arthur is beamed off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, who has been posing as an out-of-work actor for the last fifteen years, but who is really an intergalactic researcher for the latest edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Together the pair embarks on a journey through the stars, led by the Guide’s many wisdoms (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”). Along the way they meet a cast of characters you’ll never forget: the two-headed, three-armed ex-stoner galactic president Zaphod Beeblebrox; the ingenious but chronically depressed robot Marvin; the former student Veet Voojagig who has to figure out where all ballpoint pens disappear to; and more.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide is quirky, it’s whimsical, it’s insightful, and it’s just downright fun. One of those books that everyone should read.

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The Empire Striketh Back

Elizabethan grammar combined the original jargon

The Empire Striketh Back is the sequel to the incredibly well-executed Shakespearean adaption of A New Hope, and I’m sure it’s just as entertaining.

The premise of this series of books is simple: retell the story of Star Wars using authentic Elizabethan grammar and diction while remaining true to the jargon and story dynamics of the original trilogy. And the books aren’t just written for laughs–the attention to detail is brilliant and bestows true literary value.

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American Psycho

Exciting, outrageous and dark

In this book, Ellis gives a haunting look into the world of the Manhattan uber-Yuppies, where materialism and physical beauty is admired over all.

Patrick Bateman has gone to great pains to appear as perfect as possible: he’s obsessed with taking care of his body and looks like a GQ model, he wears nothing but the finest designers, he lives in an upper-class condo in the trendy Upper West Side, he makes six figures working for his father’s Wall Street firm, and he dines at the most exclusive restaurants in New York City, and parties in the most exclusive clubs.

Bateman loves nobody, regards his fiance, friends, and co-workers with disgust, and feels nothing but a cold, bitter hatred of the world and its inhabitants. The only thrill he can experience is brutally torturing and murdering people, particularly young women.

I won’t lie–for the first half of this book, I was pretty hooked. Bateman and his soulless comrades do and say some of the most outrageous stuff, and I just wanted to know what Ellis’ twisted mind would think up next. I appreciated the shock value of the story and situations, but by 2/3 through the book, the gimmick felt repetitive. I kept reading simply because I don’t like to quit books.

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Timebound

Mystery, drama, history, romance, politics, and religion

The story introduces you to Kate Pierce-Heller, a 16-year old girl attending a private high school in D.C. Before long, she discovers that her grandma is a time-traveling historian from the future, and that Kate too has the ability to time travel using a medallion gifted to her by her grandma. That’s when the fun begins.

Kate’s adventures bring her into contact with past and future versions of people in her life, which can be a bit confusing at points, but it’s not hard to keep the “suspension of disbelief” because, well, it’s just fun. For the requisite romance subplot, Kate falls in love with a boy from the past and fears he will be gone after all her time meddling.

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Eye of the Needle

Thrilling and entertaining

Ken Follett was only twenty-seven when he wrote Eye of the Needle, and it has remained one of his most celebrated books ever since. It’s tightly plotted, with complications around every corner. The suspense builds with every chapter, never letting up until the terrific climax.

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The Virtues of War

Historical, exciting and fun

In this piece of historical fiction, Pressfield does a wonderful job transporting you to the ancient times of Alexander, placing you right at his side and in his head during his meteoric rise to conqueror of the world, followed by his equally rapid tailspin and death. Read More...

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Sycamore Row

Fun, sad and enjoyable

In this book, Jake Brigance is back and caught up in the legal affairs of Seth Hubbard, a secretive, rich man that, before killing himself, cut his family out of his will and named his black maid the beneficiary. A lawyer dogpile quickly ensues, and Brigance has to find out why Hubbard would do such a thing, and how it all ties into a piece of land known as Sycamore Row. Read More...

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Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon

Great art, interesting premise, and effortless reading

In my opinion, Hawkeye delivers everything you want in a comic:

  • Great art.
  • Interesting premise (what does Clint Barton do when he’s not being an Avenger?).
  • Smart, subtle, quaint writing.
  • Breezy, effortless reading.
  • Entertaining, believable characters.
  • The right blend of drama, humor, and heart.

There’s a reason why Hawkeye is pretty much universally loved–it really is that good.

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The Bourne Identity

Unrelenting suspense and sheer thrill

What really makes the book work for me is the terrific plotting (interesting circumstances, perfect pacing, layered conflicts without getting overly complex), the unrelenting suspense, and the sheer vicarious thrill of stepping into the shoes of a tough, smart, assassin on the run, trying to figure out from whom and why.

All in all, The Bourne Identity is one of my favorite spy books. On par with, if not better than,The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

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Pillars of the Earth

Riveting and beautifully paced

The story is set in 12th century England and concerns the building of a cathedral in a fictional city, but like Shogun, it offers so much more than a bunch of trite archaic speak and dull historical details. Read More...

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Shogun

Amasterful tale of war, deception, heroism, and forbidden love

Shogun follows the adventures of a shipwrecked English sailor in medieval Japan, John Blackthorne, who will introduce the country to the 17th century. The story is about so much more, though.

It’s a masterful tale of war, deception, “lost cause” heroism, and forbidden love, and it gives you an incredibly vivid insight into the fascinating era in Japanese history when the country was being conquered (er, united) by a powerful shogun named Tokugawa Ieyasu (Toranaga in the book).

It’s hard to summarize everything this book is in just a few paragraphs. You need to just experience it to understand.

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Ender's Game

Award-winning, exciting, and thrilling

Whether you like sci-fi or not (I’m generally lukewarm for the genre), chances are you’re going to like this Hugo and Nebula Award–winning novel.

The plot is fun, but the biggest strength of the book is its characters, which Card develops brilliantly. You really come to love some and hate others, and can’t help but to fantasize what it would be like if you were among them in Battle School.

If you haven’t read this classic and are hunting for your next read, or if you have but read it a while ago, make Ender’s Game next on your list. It won’t disappoint.

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Ender's Shadow

Suspenseful, enthralling, and mysterious

I wasn’t sure what to think before reading this book. Was it going to be a boring traipse through familiar territory–merely an easy way for Card to cash in on the success of Ender’s Game–or did it actually have something unique to offer?

Well, I was hooked within the first 10 pages and found Bean’s tale equally enthralling as Ender’s. Card’s characterization is as good as ever, and he does a great job taking the plot whose milestones you already know, and infusing it with new mysteries and suspense.

Simply put, if you liked Ender’s Game, you’ll find Shadow an equally worthwhile read.

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William Shakespeare's Star Wars

Elizabethan grammar while remaining true to the jargon and storytelling of Star Wars

It’s an incredibly good adaptation of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, using authentic Elizabethan grammar and diction while remaining true to the jargon and storytelling of Star Wars. It’s actually meant more for its literary value than for a few laughs.

If you’re into iambic pentameter just as much as you’re into the battle between the Light and Dark Side, buy this book now. You’re going to love it.

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The Watchmen

Surreal, intellectual and emotional

The movie was cool, but the graphic novel is outstanding. One of my all-time favorites.

While The Watchmen has gritty action, gore, and sex to make it fun, what really sets it apart are the themes of the story (which, I admit, are a bit heavy-handed at points), and the depth of the characters and their subplots.

By the end of this story, you feel like you’ve truly come to know an extraordinarily diverse cast of people and enjoyed a surreal, intellectual and emotional roller coaster together.

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Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1)

Suspenseful with effortless eloquence

Game of Thrones is the first in the series, and I’m not even a huge fantasy fan, but this some of the best fiction I’ve read. Martin truly is a master.

The plots are intricate, but not confusing; the character development is some of the best I’ve ever seen; the suspense never lets up (you never know who’s going to die next); and Martin’s writing style has that effortless eloquence that can only come with decades of practice.

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William Shakespear's The Jedi Doth Return

Extremely entertaining and impressive literary scholarship

I’ve recommend the two prequels to this book–William Shakespeare’s Star Wars and William Shakespear’s The Empire Striketh Back–in previous Cool Stuff of the Week posts, so it’s only fitting that I recommend the final installment in the trilogy.

The book releases in a few days so I haven’t actually read it yet, but I have faith in author Ian Doescher’s skills. Like the previous two books, which were not only extremely entertaining but impressive displays of literary scholarship, The Jedi Doth Return is going to be enormously fun and a must-have for any Star Wars fan.

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Mythology

Educational, easily understood, and entertaining

I’ve always found mythology fascinating and this classic book, published in 1942, is one of my favorite anthologies of the many Greek, Roman, and Norse myths that shaped Western culture.

What I particularly liked about this book is Hamilton’s ability to tell the stories in such a way that they’re educational, easily understood, and downright entertaining. This book doesn’t read like a collection of Wikipedia articles–each story is a character-driven narrative that moves quickly, and Hamilton’s insights into the cultural meanings and lessons of the tales make them especially relatable.

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Dune

fascinating and imaginitive

Dune is widely considered the definitive piece of sci-fi literature, often considered the “Lord of the Rings” of the genre. And I think it lives up to the praise–it truly is a fascinating, imaginative story that delivers an otherworldly vicarious experience.

The story drops you into the life of the young Paul Atreides of the noble House of Atreides, who is to inherit control of the planet Arrakis, which is the sole source of a substance known as melange, the “spice of spices” needed across the universe for interstellar travel, tapping into latent psychic abilities, and extending life.

The incumbent family in control of Arrakis, the Harkonnen House, aren’t willing to give up their position easily though and put into motion a plan that sees Paul cast out to the hinterlands to die. Paul doesn’t die, though. Instead, he builds an army and prepares to take back what is rightfully his and discovers that his rise may have been prophesied, making him a messiah of sorts.

Simply put, this isn’t a book that just entertains you–it transports you to another place and time, makes you ponder on what you would do given the circumstances, and challenges your perceptions of the desire for wealth and power, the corrupt nature of politics, the nature of divinity, and more.

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An Optimist's Tour of the Future

Intelligent, insightful, and genuinely funny

An Optimist’s Tour of the Future is stand-up comedian Mark Stevenson’s intelligent, insightful, and genuinely funny exploration of what’s next for us humans.

Stevenson takes us on an odyssey of human development, introducing us to the sci-fi that’s becoming reality in a slew of industries like biotech, commerce, nanotech, artificial intelligence, and more.

Stevenson’s curiosity about it all is simple: what will it mean for the future of our species?

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Star Wars: Death Star Owner's Technical Manual

Learn the origins and secrets of the Death Star

I know, I know–this week’s book recommendation is a bit silly. But I wanted to have some fun. :)

The Death Star, although a fictional work of space machina, has been captivating geeks for generations. And it’s no wonder why!

If it existed, the battlestation would be the size of the moon – a moon equipped with a deadly, planet-destroying superlaser. It has two hemispheres and 24 zones to keep the ship operating and serve the Imperial army it houses with recreation like parks and taverns.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg (or one slice of the spacestation, you could say). To learn everything it takes to operate the iconic Star Wars vehicle, pick up the Death Star Owner’s Technical Manual: Imperial DS-1 Orbital Battle Station.

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75 Years of Marvel: From Golden Age to the Silver Screen

The greatest Marvel comics in one book

Comic books have never been hotter with a slew of hit films like Iron ManThe Amazing Spider Man, and X-Men: Days of Future Past.

In addition to those movies, Marvel is also behind the acclaimed TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which just began its second season. If that just whets your appetite for more Marvel history, you’ll want to pick up 75 Years of Marel: From the Golden Age to the Silver Screen by Roy Thomas, former Marvel editor from 1965–1980.

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Talent is Overrated

Empowering and motivating

In this book, author Geoff Colvin set out to solve the “mystery” of great performance. To answer the question of what greatness actually requires.

Sure, “hard work,” but what does that really mean? And what about that wondrous X factor of talent? Are some people just born with the wiring to win PGA tours or write beautiful symphonies or build mega-corporations, while most aren’t?

What I like most about the message in this book is it’s empowering and motivating. It shows us the time-proven, indisputable method of mastery, and lets us decide if we’re willing to walk it.

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Good to Great

Learn the secrets to business excellence

The premise for Collins’ now-seminal work was simple, but daunting: Start with 1,435 good companies. Examine their performance over 40 years. Find the companies that became great, and find out why.

Well, this book is the result of five years of research by Collins and his team (and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent in the process), and it’s absolutely mandatory reading if you want to get better at business.

Inside, you’ll find a powerful collection of characteristics that great companies have in common–characteristics that you can replicate in your own business or career.

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Linchpin

Short, simple, and fun

I’ve read quite a few of his books but wanted to recommend Linchpin this week because I feel its message is particularly relevant given our current economic “instability.”

linchpin is someone that is extraordinary in the workplace. They give their all with whatever they do because it just feels right to them, and this habit extends to all areas of their lives. This type of person is the person that is never out of work, always in demand. This type of person is indispensable in any organization.

That’s what this book is about–becoming a linchpin. It’s not going to try and sell you on quitting your job or striking out on your own, but instead on, as Godin puts it, “being the artist you already are.” It wants to sell you on making a difference; on standing for something; on getting the respect and security you deserve. And I think it does a damn good job of it.

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Disciplined Dreaming

Overcome challenges and get more creative

I’m a big believer in the necessity of creativity in today’s work world, both at a personal and organizational level, regardless of career or industry. Marketplaces are getting more and more challenging, and success is hinging more and more on innovation, not conformity with the norms.

How do you systematically be more creative, though? Can it even be done? Or is solely at the whims of the Muse?

According to Linkner, anyone can learn to be more creative and use that creativity in work and life to achieve higher levels of success. I agree, and I found his “system” of doing it, which boils down to Define, Prepare, Discover, Ignite, and Launch simple, intuitive, and practical.

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Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

Overcome feelings of confusion, anxiety, and being overwhelmed

With my health and fitness work and other projects I’m involved in, I kind of have to be a “productivity junkie” just to keep up. Thus, I’ve read quite a few books on the subject, and Getting Things Done is one of my favorites. It’s a bit redundant at points, but still an all-around winner.

Allen’s premise is simple: our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts are organized can we achieve effective productivity and unleash our creative potential.

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The Richest Man in Babylon

Concise and insightful

With millions of copies sold, The Richest Man in Babylon is one of the classic books on how to properly manage your finances.

In 150 short pages, it uses parables to teach you a handful of vital financial principles for creating and preserving wealth. Things like…

  • How much of your income you should be saving and investing.
  • Why controlling expenditures is so vital.
  • What types of investments you want to seek out.
  • And more.
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Meditations

Reflects on virtue, desire, rationality, and more

Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor that earned the reputation of “philosopher king” during his lifetime and has since earned the reputation as one of history’s greatest rulers, philanthropic in character and temperate in his way of life.

Meditations, originally titled To Myself, contains Aurelius’ reflections on virtue, desire, rationality, emotions, the nature of the gods, and more.

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The War of Art

Creative, constructive and inspiring

In this short, no-nonsense book, Pressfield shows us how we can overcome the internal foe of “Resistance” that keeps us from doing the things we want to do, and how to avoid the major roadblocks and pitfalls of any type of creative, constructive endeavor (starting a business, writing a book, painting a masterpiece).

Whether you’re an artist, businessperson, or just someone looking to improve your life for the better, I think this book will inspire you.

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The Warrior Ethos

Inspire purpose and integrity

In Warrior Ethos, Pressfield relates the virtues of warriors to everyday life and how we can use these ancient codes to inspire purpose and integrity, and act more honorably and decisively.

Pressfield draws wisdom from renowned armies like the ancient Spartans, Alexander’s Macedonians, and Cyrus the Great’s Persians, and examines their codes of honor and mental toughness that immortalized them as the greatest in history.

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The Obstacle Is the Way

Short, easy to read, and full of practical insights

The Obstacle is the Way is a Stoical meditation on how to turn adversity into triumph.

Holiday (the author) is extremely well-read–in fact he has done research for Robert Greene’s books–and in this book, he does a great job covering a lot of historical ground while also distilling each section down into useful, actionable advice.

The book is broken down into a few thematic sections: PERCEPTION, ACTION, and WILL.

This book is short, easy to ready, and full of practical insights. Give it a read. I think anyone, no matter their circumstances, can find value in at least some of the lessons contained within.

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Think Like a Freak

Easy, fun, and enlightening

I found Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics entertaining but had mediocre expectations for this book, expecting it to be gimmicky. I was pleasantly surprised, however.

The premise is simple: the authors Levitt and Dubner want to help us learn to think more productively, creatively, and rationally, and are going to use their formidable skills as storytellers and analysts to make us smarter thinkers. And I think it delivers nicely on this promise.

Yes, this book is a little pop-philosophic and some of the anecdotes are a little underwhelming (the “revelations” are a bit obvious), but it’s an easy, fun read that will likely turn on (or up) a few light bulbs  upstairs.

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The 48 Laws of Power

Learn how power is gained, used, and defended

As a history buff, I just love reading the work of people like Robert Greene.

The themes of his brilliant books are timeless, the depth of his historical analysis is intriguing, and many of his insights are compelling. And best of all, these books aren’t just theoretical flights of fancy–you can glean a lot of practical wisdom that can make a real difference in your life.

While many of the principles sound quite ruthless and distasteful (“Crush Your Enemy Totally,” “Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy”), and the book has a noticeable slant toward using these strategies offensively, understanding how they work can help you avoid becoming a victim of those that use them to gain advantage over others (and there are many more of these people out there than you might think).

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Daily Rituals: How Artists Work

Inspirational and educational

I’m a big believer in the power of habit and of effective daily “rituals,” and I love to hear about how successful people go about doing what they do, so this book was right up my alley.

Through entertaining and wonderfully written anecdotes, Daily Rituals shows you how some of the most famous artists and scientists worked. 161 in all, these stories will not only surprised at how diverse and eccentric their routines were, and how many had to cope with depression, lack of inspiration, lethargy, procrastination, and the like, and how they overcame these obstacles.

If you’re looking to break through a creative funk or dearth of inspiration or production, or if you’ve ever wondered how successful people spend their days, I think you’ll love this book.

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The Lessons of History

A careful exploration of meanings, consequences, and lessons

Will Durant is one of my favorite historians to read, and this easy-to-read, provocative little book of his is a great introduction to his work.

Durant wrote during a time when historiography wasn’t nearly as sterile and clinical as it is now–when personality and opinion were permitted and could help you make connections and realize insights that you would have missed otherwise. This leeway, I believe, allowed Durant to really shine intellectually.

In this book, Will and his wife Ariel distill their magnum opus, The Story of Civilization, into a 120-and-something-page survey of human history, with chapters arranged around themes like biology, race, religion, morals, and economics.

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The Willpower Instict

Truthful, inspiring, and eye-opening

I’m often asked about how to improve willpower and self-control and despite being particularly strong in these areas myself, I was kind of at a loss as to why, and thus didn’t have much to share in the way of good advice.

The typical types of “willpower failures”–procrastination, bingeing on food, buying things we can’t afford, wasting hours and hours playing video games and surfing the Internet, and so forth–are just so foreign to me that I wasn’t sure where people should even begin to overcome them.

Well, as I’m working on the second editions of both Bigger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger and am adding a ton of content based on all the feedback and suggestions I’ve gotten from readers, I knew that self-control was going to require its own chapter, and that I was going to have to get more informed on the subject.

After perusing Amazon, I settled on reading The Willpower Instinct, and I’m so glad I did. I simply loved this book and have been recommending it left and right to everyone I know, whether they struggle with willpower or not.

In this book, Dr. Kelly McGonigal–a psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University–shares the highlights and key teachings of her wildly popular university course, The Science of Willpower, which gives a fascinating look into what’s really going on “under the hood” of our willpower and self-control engines.

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Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, & Sharpen Your Creative Mind

Useful and effective

Although a bit light on the details (it reads like a bunch of long blog posts), this book shares a large collection of actionable insights on how to better manage your ideas and time to ultimately get more stuff done and shipped.

Contributors include Seth Godin, Gretchen Rubin, Stefan Sagmeister, Tony Schwartz, Steven Pressfield, Scott Belsky, Leo Babauta, Tina Seelig, Jonathan Fields, Teresa Amabile, Frans Johansson, and many more, and learning each of their viewpoints and approaches is a welcome change to similar books that offer just the author’s.

This book won’t change your life, but it’s a fast, easy read that will give you at least a handful of valuable tips and strategies that will make your work more enjoyable and effective.

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Mastery

The biographies are outstanding, the writing is elegant, and the teachings are ageless

Through extensive research and selection, Greene has compiled a compelling collection of biographies, quotes, and lessons that all offer timeless insights on how to find your “life’s task” (as he puts it) and systematically go about mastering it. Read More...

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Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

self-expression, finding love, and overcoming challenges

Anne Lamott is one of my few “Tyler Durdens” of writing: she writes like I wanna write, she’s smart, capable, and most importantly, free in all the ways that I am not.

Alright, the last bit is a stretch, but seriously, Anne isn’t just a great writer, she’s extraordinarily insightful, charming, funny, and honest, and I’m a huge fan. She’s one of the rare breeds of writers whose quirky mind and choice vocabulary can make just about anything interesting, and I thoroughly enjoyed Bird by Bird.

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Mini Habits: Small Habits, Bigger Results

short, simple, and powerful

The easiest way to do big things is to learn to do and celebrate really, really small things first. And that’s what Mini-Habits is all about.

Want to write a book? Park that away and just commit to writing 50 measly words per day instead. Want to lose 30 pounds? Great. Start with sticking to a proper meal plan for just a week and see how you feel. Want to exercise more? You can start with 10 big ol’ pushups per day.

This book is short, simple, and powerful, and it walks you through the ins and outs of this eminently practical method of getting things done. A perfect read to help you attack the year ahead.

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Words That Sell

Easy to read and very useful

Unless you’re an experienced writer, you might be surprised at how big of a difference seemingly small changes in wording can make. One word changed for the better in a headline can take an ad from dud to stud. One phrase, better worded, can mean the difference between little to no response and a healthy, profitable return on investment.

Whenever I’m writing copy, I have this book at my side, and it helps me to some degree EVERY time.

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Ogilvy on Advertising

Great ideas and workable techniques

Ogilvy casually shares many gems of priceless advertising wisdom in this book, and they all are centered around one premise: That advertising is salesmanship in print, and that ads must make money to make sense.

Read this book. The ideas and techniques taught in it worked decades ago when he wrote it. They work now. They will continue to work.

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Predictably Irrational

Insightful and great for anyone involved in sales and marketing

We love to think that, for the most part, we have our behavior under control–that we know what we need and want and we’re educated and rational enough to avoid obvious blunders. But who hasn’t made poor decisions that were, in hindsight, pretty blatant? Buying that car we couldn’t really afford? Making that investment that really was too good to be true?

Predictably Irrational gives us fascinating explanations for these “chaotic” elements of human behavior, and shows how we’re subtly influenced to act in, well, predictably irrational ways.

I particularly liked the chapters on procrastination and self-control and why options distract us from our primary goals. They offer very practical insights in how we can better “make” ourselves do what we know we should and how we can consciously “close doors” in our life that lure us off course.

Like Influence, if you’re involved in any form of sales and marketing, I think this book is a must read. You’ll find a wealth of economic examples that are easily applied to any business endeavor. If you’re not a sales or marketing person, I think you’ll still find the book entertaining and enlightening in terms of how you’re “wired” to behave in irrational ways, and how you can combat these tendencies.

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Miscellaneous

“Bond on Set” Book Series

Behind-the-scenes photography, and excerpts from the screenplays

There are four books in the series–one for Skyfall, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Die Another Day–and they contain all kinds of behind-the-scenes photography with explanatory captions, and excerpts from the screenplays. If you like to see how movies are made, and you like Bond, you’ll like these books. Read More...

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Bravo Two Zero

Exciting, thrilling, and inspiring

Based on a true story, this story places you among eight members of the elite SAS regiment who infiltrated into Iraq in 1991 to seek and destroy mobile Scud launchers. Within days of arriving, their location was compromised and after their first major encounter with enemy forces, they had to flee toward the Syrian border to survive. Things only get worse from here: hypothermia and other injuries, capture, torture, and death. Only the author made it out alive, and this is his story. Read More...

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Freakonomics

Fun to read and thought provoking

It’s an entertaining romp through our culture and sheds a new light on many intriguing phenomena that only mathematics can reveal. While some cases were more convincing than others, all were fun to read and thought provoking. I particularly enjoyed the stories about the dangers of guns vs. swimming pools, why parenting experts like to scare parents, and eight things that help a child in school and eight things that don’t.  Read More...

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Rogue Warrior

A story of superhuman toughness and resolve

This book chronicles Marcinko’s harrowing missions across Vietnam and other theaters of war, as well as his prodigious rise through the Navy ranks. This is the guy that created and ran both SEAL Team SIX and Red Cell, so you know he has some stories to tell. Read More...

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Marvel Comics: The Untold Story

Entertaining, in-depth look at the history of Marvel Comics

It’s not really about Marvel’s comics, but of Marvel Comics, the institution. It’s the story of how Marvel went from the B-lister of the 1970s to the juggernaut it is today, through harrowing busts and heady booms, and it gives a  particularly fascinating insight into the ego-fueled, contentious relationship between the co-creators of the Marvel universe, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Read More...

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Understand Rap

Understand rap better, and never appear uncooly ignorant again

This humorous book explores rap lyrics from a wide variety of popular songs, and break them into different categories (brags, cars, crime, disses, fashion, etc.).

Each lyric is quoted, along with the artist, song, and album, and then explained in a dry, academic manner that will ensure you never appear uncooly ignorant again.

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Secrets of Mental Math

Fun and easy to work through

Want to impress your friends and family by solving seemingly complex math problems in seconds? Things like…

  • Multiplying and dividing triple digits.
  • Computing with fractions.
  • Figuring out squares, cubes, and roots.
  • Remembering long strings of numbers.
  • And more.

Well, these things aren’t nearly as hard as people think–they only require that you learn and practice various simple number tricks.

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Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction Volume 1

Silly stuff and silly fun

The Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction series gives you detailed instructions for building tiny weapons that fit perfectly on your desk or in your cubicle, all made with commonly-found office supplies and household items. These books show you how to build things like:

  • Catapults
  • Slingshots
  • Minibombs
  • Darts
  • Combustion shooters
  • And much much more…
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Confessions of an Economic Hitman

Eye-opening and informative

This book caused quite a stir when it was published in 2004. It rocketed up the New York Times list, and Perkins–the author–was praised by some as a brave whistleblower, and vilified by others as a shameless liar.

Perkins, a former chief economist at Boston strategic-consulting firm Chas. T. Main, says he was an “economic hit man” for 10 years, helping U.S. intelligence agencies and multinationals cajole and blackmail foreign leaders into serving U.S. foreign policy and awarding lucrative contracts to American business.

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33 Strategies of War

Political, philosophical, and religious

In this book, Greene takes us on a journey through thousands of years of wars and conflicts and their political, philosophical, and religious motives and justifications.

He does a wonderful job analyzing some of the most effective war strategies in history, as executed by a men and women like Napoleon, Margaret Thatcher, Lyndon Johnson, George Patton, and others, and extracting simple, powerful lessons that can be used to gain the advantage in any competitive endeavor.

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Undisputed Truth

A brave and honest memoir

Despite crashing into as hard as a rock bottom as anyone can imagine, Tyson, the man who said he was once addicted “to everything,” has fought his way back to prominence, regaining success, his self-respect, and the love of his family. This is his story. Read More...

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Story

Practical, simple and clear

As you move through this book, you’ll recognize the validity of McKee’s teachings by simply looking back over stories that you’ve loved. Nearly invariably, they will include many of the elements described in this book, and follow the formulas given. Don’t be afraid of the word “formula,” either–there is room for endless creativity with what McKee teaches. He simply shows you the blueprint of storytelling and shows you what is needed for what and why. Just as all houses must have a foundation, walls, a roof, and so forth to stand correctly, all stories must have certain elements to capture a person’s interest and cause him or her to care. The style of houses and stories that can be built are endless, however.

I loved that the information in this book was incredibly PRACTICAL. Some writing teachers plunge into the abstract and abstruse, leaving you to figure out how to use their advice to write a better story. Not so in STORY. McKee shares nothing but clean, clear concepts that mean exactly what he says, and that are immediately applicable and observable in other stories you’ve seen or read. He also shares quite a few examples of his own throughout the book.

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Panzer Commander: The Memoirs of Colonel Hans Von Luck

Interesting and educational

I’m a bit of a history nut (I’ve plowed through hundreds of hours of Great Courses lectures) and especially like military history.

The best historical reads are almost always biographies as they give you so much more than a dry account of “this happened followed by that”–they give you the vicarious experience of the period and events and the great ones also give you profound lessons on how to navigate the ups and downs of life.

Well, Panzer Commander is one of the great ones.

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Console Wars

Business insights and lessons to be learned

This book uses hundreds of interviews with former Sega and Nintendo employees to tell the fascinating story of the battle that took place between the “Goliath” of video gaming, Nintendo, and the upstart “David,” Sega, and how brilliant marketing and business leadership took the former from an obscure Japanese arcade game to a global enterprise.

If you grew up saving princesses, performing brutal fatalities, and racing around with Tails in pursuit of Dr. Robotnik, you’re going to thoroughly enjoy this book. And even if you never were into video games, there are quite a few business insights and lessons to be learned as well.

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Information Graphics

Educational and historical

With the sheer amount of information we’re hit with every day, it’s basically impossible to live in the modern world without seeing at least some form of an infographic every day.

Well, if you’ve wondered how they’re made or are just fascinated by this art as much as I am, then you’ll love Information Graphics.

This massive, 480-page book contains over 400 infographic images ranging from journalism to art, government, education, business and much more, each with explanatory text, as well as historical essays about the development of information graphics since its beginnings and the current masters of the craft.

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Shadow Divers: The True Adventure to Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II

Dramatic, rewarding, and satisfying

Deep-wreck divers are cut from a different cloth than the rest of us. They spend their days hundreds of feet underwater, in near-zero visibility, navigating by touch alone, knowing that if they die, their bodies will never be found.

This book tells the true story of two “weekend warrior” divers, John Chatterton and Robert Kohler, who in 1991 found an unidentified U-boat on the ocean floor off the coast of New Jersey.

This discovery touched off a fascinating “average-guy adventure” for Chatterton and Kohler, who went to extraordinary lengths to discover where the submarine came from, who its crew was, and what ultimately caused its demise.

The cast of characters you meet along the way are memorable, the dramatic tension never lets up, and the ending is rewarding and satisfying. If you like literary adventures, you can’t go wrong with Shadow Divers.

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The Sports Gene

Fun, engaging, and accurate

The Sports Gene is a fascinating, up-to-date look at what genetic research can teach us about elite athletic performance.

In this well-researched book, Epstein takes us on a quest to discover what really makes great athletes great: practice, genetics, or some other unknown factor or factors?

Similar to books like The Talent Code and Outliers, Epstein delivers in spades and keeps it fun and engaging by using a variety of well-chosen anecdotes ranging from how wingspan affects basketball performance to the importance of visual acuity in baseball to the undeniable sporting advantages gained by various–and sometimes odd–physical traits and much, much more.

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Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of the Wilderness Suvival

Useful and educational

All the zombie apocalypse survival gear on Amazon isn’t going to help you if you don’t know how to use it.

Written by survivalist expert Dave Canterbury, Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival gives you over 250 pages of tips and tricks for outdoor traveling (or escaping), ranging from how to pack survival kits and cook your food to properly using rope and knots and taking care of your tools.

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75 Years of Marvel: From Golden Age to the Silver Screen

The greatest Marvel comics in one book

Comic books have never been hotter with a slew of hit films like Iron ManThe Amazing Spider Man, and X-Men: Days of Future Past.

In addition to those movies, Marvel is also behind the acclaimed TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which just began its second season. If that just whets your appetite for more Marvel history, you’ll want to pick up 75 Years of Marel: From the Golden Age to the Silver Screen by Roy Thomas, former Marvel editor from 1965–1980.

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The Code Book

Interesting, historical, and entertaining

The Code Book delivers a fascinating history of encryption, but is really more than that: it’s an exploration of the incredible power of secrecy and how it not only shapes our everyday lives, but how it has shaped human history as a whole. Read More...

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What If? Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

Brilliant and funny

Not all books are exactly educational – even this one with “scientific” in the title! But that doesn’t mean they won’t leave you laughing uproariously in a room by yourself.

If you’re a fan of the iconic webcomic xkcd, you won’t want to miss What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe.

In it the xkcd creator answers his fans’ strangest queries, such as “Are fire tornadoes possible?” and “What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light?”

Using illustrations and text, the book features new and never-before-answered questions, depicting for example the many horrible ways you could die while building a periodic table out of all the actual elements. Ok, so maybe Munroe’s What If? will teach you something after all, but hopefully you never find yourself applying the concepts covered in the book in the real world.

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The Art of Eating Through the Zombie Apocalypse

Practical and useful

Prepping for when shit hits the fan? You’d better have a plan in place for how to get and prepare sustenance despite the worst. Get in the know before it’s too late with The Art of Eating through the Zombie Apocalypse: A Cookbook and Culinary Survival Guide.

It’s full of practical advice, for example how to build a filtration system, what it takes to make a solar-powered still, and the absolute essential tools to cook. Plus, there are useful recipes that will taste delicious whether you’re bugging out or cozy and safe at home in your own kitchen.

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How to Archer: The Ultimate Guide to Espionage and Style and Women and Also Cocktails Ever Written

Everything you need to be a great secret agent

Ask Archer about how to get educated, and he would say, “Read a book.” Then again, he’s probably be referring to his own book, How to Archer: The Ultimate Guide to Espionage and Style and Women and Also Cocktails Ever Written.

It has everything you need to know about, well, it’s pretty much in the title. In this guide to everything Archer thinks is awesome, you can learn how a (cartoon) spy would kill a guy and how he would make brunch. After all, who else would you take advice from but the world’s greatest secret agent – one who conveniently puts all his secrets in one easy-to-read book?

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Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think

Well written, well reasoned, and practical

I don’t recommend many health and fitness books because, well, most of them I read just aren’t that great. They overcomplicate matters or focus too much on relatively unimportant details or complete ignore basic physiology like energy balance in the hopes of selling you on a “new” or “easier” way of getting fit.

Accordingly, I went into Mindless Eating with low expectations, but was pleasantly surprised. It’s a well written, well reasoned, and practical book grounded in good science on how to “mindlessly” improve your eating habits and lose some weight in the process, as well as prevent the creeping weight gain that makes people wonder what the hell happened to the body they had back in college.

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