Want to Know More About Your Present: Learn from These History Books

Learn From These History Books

They say that history is the mother of all sciences.

Some people misunderstand this to mean that all other sciences have stemmed from the science of history.

But, that’s beside the point.

The real point is that, no matter which science you’re currently interested in, you can’t make any progress if you haven’t researched the progress those before you have already made.

So, if you want to understand your present better, reading history books is always a great start. Otherwise, you’ll end up repeating history.

In fact, that’s exactly how we introduced our previous top history books list. Consider this one both a reminder and a refresher!

In other words: if you want to learn –

Learn from These History Books

#1. “A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes” by Stephen Hawking

A Brief History of Time SummaryWe sometimes tend to forget that history didn’t begin with the human race.

Oh no!

As we shall see with our second entry on this list, in cosmic time, humans came on this planet just yesterday! And is there a better place to start your journey throughout history than its very beginning? Much before the humans came, much before our planet was created.

Yes – the very beginning. When there was absolutely nothing.

About 15 billion years ago.

Believe it or not, that’s exactly where “A Brief History of Time” begins. And there’s no one better than Stephen Hawking to tell you what happened next and how history unraveled up to this present day.

Take this book and start reading about the origins of our universe. Learn what the Big Bang was, and how is it that time and space are a continuum. See how much things such as quarks and gravity were important and why Einstein was wrong when it came to quantum theory.

And how quantum theory may be our best attempt to explaining away everything – absolutely everything there’s to know.

Ah yes – the Grand Unified Theory.

#2. “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens SummaryAs you will learn from Hawking, the Earth was created some 4.5 billion years ago. And men started inhabiting it about 300,000 years ago.

Now, when we say men – we don’t mean you and me. We’re talking about six different species of men! Just like there’s a polar bear and a grizzly bear, once upon a time, there was a Neanderthal and a Sapiens.

The latter one – now we’re talking about you and me – somehow prevailed. About 70,000 years ago. And from then on, this species went on to develop in such a manner that it currently governs almost everything on this planet (and, maybe, soon enough, in the entire universe).

In “Sapiens,” Yuval Noah Harari, an Israeli historian, tries to understand how that happened. Because, once you think about it, it’s miraculous!

And Harari follows the miracle through the Agricultural Revolution of early humans, to the Unification of Humankind and the history of the Scientific Revolution.

And he doesn’t stop there: in the next book, Harari attempted to write a history of tomorrow. According to him, that’s a history of a new species: “Homo Deus.”

#3. “A History of the World in 6 Glasses: How Your Favorite Drinks Changed the World” by Tom Standage

A History of the World in 6 Glasses SummaryWe’re moving – inch by inch, step by step. Hawking gave us the macro-history of the entire universe; Harari the macro-history of humanity; Tom Standage gives us the macro-history of humanity’s favorite drinks.

Wait, what?

You’ve read it correctly!

A History of the World in 6 Glasses” isn’t, as Harari’s, a history of 70,000 years. But it is of some 6,000 or so. And it’s retold in 12 chapters, two chapters for each of humanity’s six favorite drinks: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and Coca-Cola.

And reading this book is as interesting as you’d expect!

For example, where else would you find out that beer is, in fact, one of the main contributors to the creation of civilization? In fact, that’s exactly how it was described in “Gilgamesh” – “the drink of the civilized man.”

The culture of the Greeks spread so fast because of their wines – and you can find evidence for this in the myth of Dionysius!

The Age of Exploration might not have happened if people weren’t so thirsty for sugary spirits. And – who would have thought? – the French Revolution actually started because there were suddenly many coffeehouses in Paris!

The Boston tea party started another revolution you are certainly aware of. And “Coca-Cola” is basically how you say “globalization” in a drink!

#4. “From Silk to Silicon: The Story of Globalization Through Ten Extraordinary Lives” by Jeffrey E. Garten

From Silk to Silicon SummarySpeaking about globalization – now, how would you want to hear its history retold in ten extraordinary lives?

You’re in luck if you do!

That’s exactly what Jeffrey E. Garten, in the aptly titled “From Silk to Silicon,” sets out to do! And he does – exceptionally well!

For Garten, globalization started about a millennium ago – with a tyrant and a globalized trading network. The former is Genghis Khan; the latter – the Silk Road. Then came Prince Henry the Navigator who introduced slavery to Europe.

Mostly on the shoulders of slaves, the third person on Garten’s list, Robert Clive, built the first global brand: the East India Company. Afterward, Mayer Rothschild changed modern banking altogether. Cyrus West Field – global communication: he was the man who laid the first telegraph cable across the Atlantic!

You already know John D. Rockefeller – at one point, he was all but richer than the US government. Jean Monnet envisioned the European Union – which wasn’t exactly what Margaret Thatcher believed in. To her, free market was the be-all and end-all.

Deng Xiaoping wasn’t as radical – but he introduced free markets within China’s communist society. And, finally, Andrew Grove used its philosophy to create the Silicon Valley.

#5. “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Team of Rivals SummaryCheck any list you like (and Wikipedia has all of them): Abraham Lincoln is the most revered and loved US President in history. Both by scholars – and by the general public.

He strived to end slavery – and he managed to unite America. And he did it all during the most tumultuous period of American history.

Unsurprisingly, “Team of Rivals” by Pulitzer-Prize winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin is exactly about that period. Mainly about the political genius of Abraham Lincoln – but also about few other men who served in his cabinet between 1861 and 1865.

And get this: three of those people ran against him in the 1860 election!

Well, that’s exactly what Goodwin terms as Lincoln’s genius. Creating a cabinet which mixed both opponents and supporters alike was a masterstroke decision. And possibly the only one which guaranteed Lincoln authority to tackle problems as serious as slavery and Civil War.

And, as Jonathan Haidt advises, it may be the only decision which can stop the polarization of the American nation today.

#6. “Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin” by Timothy Snyder

Bloodlands SummaryA revered Yale historian, Timothy D. Snyder is one of the leading authorities on the Holocaust and Central and Eastern European history.

Published in 2010, his sixth book, “Bloodlands” won the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought and was described by “The Economist” as “revisionist history of the best kind.” And, really, reading it will make you wonder if you remember history correctly!

Neal Pease described it best when he wrote: “Many books are useful; a handful can be called important. ‘Bloodlands’ does no less than change the way we think of 20th century history, and of the deadly human cost of the totalitarian utopianism that was among its most distinctive characteristics.”

Totalitarian utopianism has more than one name: Nazi Germany and Soviet Union. True, their leaders, Hitler and Stalin, were vicious enemies – World War II was basically a war fought between them – but they shared one similar disinterest when it came to the people living in the area between them.

And that area – Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic states – is what Snyder refers to as “the bloodlands.” Because there, 14 million innocent non-combatants were killed. And to them – it didn’t matter whether the perpetrator was a Nazi or a Socialist and whether he won or lost the World War…

#7. “The Road to Serfdom” by Friedrich von Hayek

The Road to Serfdom SummaryTimothy D. Snyder has the luxury of hindsight. In fact, today everybody knows that both utopian visions of Europe (Hitler’s and Stalin’s) ended up being more dystopian than Orwell’s visions.

When he was writing “The Road to Serfdom,” Friedrich Hayek – a Nobel Prize and an FBA award winner – could have only known that Hitler is on the wrong side of history. But in this book, he argued that Stalin is as well. And that most of Europe might end up there if it isn’t careful.

What frightened Hayek back in 1944 was something everybody believed was fairly good at the time. Namely, the control governments had over their countries’ economies. But, Keynes was deemed the savior of capitalism after his measures successfully alleviated the Great Depression.

So, why was Hayek, a staunch defender of classical liberalism, so bothered and afraid?

Well, because he thought that the only way a country can guarantee the freedom of the individual is by allowing the free market to work its magic. And that Nazi Germany was made possible exactly because people believed the other way around.

And on many accounts, Hayek was right. Even though the whole world criticized him at the time. Though, he may have made a mistake or two as well.

Read our summary to find out why and where.

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Final Notes

There are many ways to understand your present. Anything from perusing the newspapers on a daily basis, to reading current books on physics. However, there’s probably no better way to get to the root of the current problems than knowing their history. So, if you want to learn everything about your present – learn from these history books!

 

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Do the Right Things in the Right Order with Our Top Productivity Books

Top Productivity BooksYou’ll probably agree that we’re not very wide off the mark in proposing a fairly simple definition for productivity: “doing more in less.”

However, it seems that no matter how much we do in no matter how little time, there’s always something left on our to-do list.

So, what’s the problem?

Well, most of the people would tell you that you have to find a better technique. Some others – as the ones we’ve included on our list – will tell you something else.

Namely, that there’s more than one secret to productivity, and that productivity should not be about doing everything on your to-do list.

Maybe it’s should be about doing the right things in the right order.

So, without further ado –

Our Top Productivity Books

#1. “The Motivation Manifesto: 9 Declarations to Claim Your Personal Power” by Brendon Burchard

The Motivation Manifesto SummaryIf you’ve ever watched “Oprah”, you probably already know that Brendon Burchard is one of the “most influential leaders in the field of personal growth.” And he’s probably the most successful and highest-paid motivation trainer in history.

Why?

Well, not because he says something original. But, because everything that he says, he says it in such a manner that makes you jump out of your bed and start doing something. Well, not just something – exactly those things that he asks you to do.

The Motivation Manifesto” is one of the best productivity prerequisites. Keep it under your pillow. And learn its 9 declarations by heart – and start putting them into practice right away:

We shall meet life with full presence and power! We shall reclaim our agendas! We shall defeat our demons! We shall advance with abandon! We shall practice joy and gratitude! We shall not break integrity! We shall amplify love! We shall inspire greatness! And we shall slow time!

#2. “Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time” by Brian Tracy

Eat That Frog SummaryIn the introduction to one of his numerous bestsellers, “Eat That Frog,” Brian Tracy explains the curious title straight away. He writes: “Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”

For what it’s worth, it may not have been Twain – but Nicholas Chamfort. But, either way – the point stands. The great thing about it is that it’s only 1 of the 21 Brian Tracy is trying to make.

The other include “plan every day in advance” and “prepare thoroughly before you begin,” as well as “consider the consequences” and even “practice creative procrastination.” Nothing especially new or not known, but everything worth repeating and remembering – and inspiring throughout.

Especially great as an introduction!

#3. “Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg

Smarter Faster Better SummaryBefore you say anything – we didn’t know which of Charles Duhigg’s books to choose either. And the only reason why both of them aren’t here (of course we have “The Power of Habit” in mind) is our dedication to the “one author/one book” ideal.

And, after all, we did include “Smarter Faster Better” among our top entrepreneurship books. So, we were kind of obliged to include it here as well!

In “Smarter Faster Better,” Duhigg thoroughly explores eight productivity concepts. Each of them essential to establishing the habits of a productive person. The eight concepts are: motivation, teams, focus, goal setting, managing others, decision making, innovation, and absorbing data.

But what may interest you more than the theoretical discussion is the Appendix: “A Reader’s Guide to Using These Ideas.”

No peaking!

#4. “StrengthsFinder 2.0: Discover Your Strengths” by Tom Rath

StrengthsFinder 2.0 SummaryNow, this is an interesting case.

Now, Discover Your Strengths” was such a great book that it found place both among our top management and top motivational books.

Well, “StrengthsFinder 2.0” is its update!

Written by Tom Rath, the book builds upon the work of the Don Clifton, the father of Strengths Psychology. The main idea behind it: there are 34 strengths and each individual is a unique combination of at least two of them!

How does this help you in terms of productivity?

In at least two ways! First of all, the book is linked to an online assessment tool which we’ll help you find your key strengths. Secondly, once you find them, it will help you realize how you can use them.

Because productivity is not about spending countless hours to develop strengths you don’t own. It’s about perfecting those you already have.

After all, you won’t try and teach a fish to fly, would you?

#5. “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity” by David Allen

Getting Things Done SummaryCarola Endicott, director of “Quality Resources,” says that David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done” should come with a warning sign.

Its content:

“Reading ‘Getting Things Done’ can be hazardous to your old habits of procrastination. David Allen’s approach is refreshingly simple and intuitive. He provides the systems, tools, and tips to achieve profound results.”

OK – Endicott may have gone a little overboard with the “simple” part. We warn you that “Getting Things Done” is “jargony” enough that it includes its own “Glossary of Terms.”

But, there’s a reason why “Lifehack” calls it “the modern Bible of productivity books” and why its philosophy has as many followers as a small religion. (Really: they are called GTDers!)

And the reason is simple: it works!

#6. “Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More” by Jason W. Womack

Your Best Just Got Better SummaryYour Best Just Got Better” is a book which can help you become exactly what its title claims to be. And the path is there – in its very subtitle.

So, Jason W. Womack’s philosophy is as simple as 1-2-3!

1: Work Smarter!

“Duh?!”, you say. “But how?”

It’s simple as having an IDEA and a MIT. Or, in other words, as simple as remembering these acronyms and doing what they say you should do: identify, develop, experiment, and assess. While never forgetting your Most Important Things.

2: Think Bigger!

No more than four mantras should do the trick: “I did it before,” “They were able to do it,” “They think I can do it,” and “I know I can do it!” (Read our great summary to see how.)

And 3: Make More!

What you need so as you can make more is a feedback. In all of these areas: results, experience, contribution, measurement, service, and habits.

That’s it: your best just got better!

#7. “The Code of the Extraordinary Mind: 10 Unconventional Laws to Redefine Your Life and Succeed On Your Own Terms” by Vishen Lakhiani

The Code of the Extraordinary Mind SummaryMost of the books about changing your life and productivity habits are few-step manuals. And, naturally, the inclusion of “The Code of the Extraordinary Mind” on our list begs the question: why is this book so different than the rest?

Well, Vishen Lakhiani’s style – just like his laws – is unconventional. Down-to-earth, inspiring, well-structured. And – memorable!

Really!

Like it or not, you’ll catch yourself using its neologisms over and over again. You’ll understand them, however, only if you read the book. And, soon after – believe us – you’ll start using them.

First, you’ll want to transcend your culturescape – and, while doing that, you’ll see that you’ve been raised on brules. But, by the time you reach the seventh law – living in a blissipline – you would have already bended reality so much that you’ll be a king or a queen of a world of your own – a sort of a yourscape.

#8. “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change” by Stephen R. Covey

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People SummaryThe ones who read – know: Stephen R. Covey is a frequent guest on lists such as this one. And “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” – the first non-fiction book to sell 1 million copies of its audio version – is practically a mainstay in many different categories.

Unsurprisingly, we’ve listed it among our top leadership and top self-help books.

So, what’s so special about it?

Well, almost everything!

It’s well-researched and well-planned, simply written and is perennially applicable. Covey deduces that effective people are different than the rest because they share seven habits. Namely, they are proactive, they begin with the end in mind, and they put first things first; also, they have a win-win mentality, they seek first to understand, then to be understood, and they synergize; finally, they sharpen the saw.

The first three habits are related to their independence; the second three to their interdependence. The final – self-improvement – is the bridge.

But, wait – there’s one more!

#9. “Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions” by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths

Algorithms to Live By SummaryIf you feed your computer with enough information about a certain topic, you’re guaranteed that you’ll get the right answer, right?

But, if so – why aren’t we doing the same with our lives? Surely, there has to be some way to scientifically figure out whether it’s better for the tired me to do some more work tonight, or just relax and watch something on Netflix!

Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths are right there with you! There is, they say – and more than one, in fact! So, they have prepared for you a unique cheat-book, “Algorithms to Live By.”

What you’ll find out inside may amaze you. True, life may be a complex category, but some of our habits are actually simple. For example, there seem to be three simple algorithms to perfectly manage your time.

And one to find your perfect love!

#10. “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” by Cal Newport

Deep Work SummaryThe world is full of distractions. So many, in fact, that it’s hard to think what is distraction anymore? Namely, are Facebook and Twitter distracting us from work – or is work distracting us from Facebook and Twitter?

That will not do, says Cal Newport!

Leisure is leisure, but work is work! And when it is real work, it needs to be “Deep Work.”

And, according to Newport, deep work begins with embracing boredom and quitting social media. You think that Beethoven wrote the “9th Symphony” in a night, or that Michelangelo drew the Sistine Chapel before lunchtime?

No – they worked deeply for a long period of time! And they valued deeply deliberate practice and distraction-free environments.

Don’t believe us?

Then ask yourself this: why do so many writers go to the library to write?

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Final Notes

If productivity is doing the right things in the right order, then the books which will help you discover which are the right things for you and which is the best order to do them – are the top productivity books you can find on the market.

And we believe that these 10 fit the description better than any others.

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Best Nonfiction Books of All Time

Naturally, our first idea for our final list – best nonfiction books of all time – was making “a best of the best” list. After all, we already made for you no less than 16 lists, and choosing the best book of each of them would have been a perfect finale to our wonderful list-making journey of the past year.

(Which, by the way, we hope you enjoyed it at least as much as us.)

However, halfway down making such a list, we realized that there were so many great books we didn’t have a chance to include anywhere else. So, we decided to make a U-turn! Instead of compiling books from our lists, we decided that each of our top nonfiction books should be a unique entry.

Yes, that meant that this list would be bereaved of many highly deserving classics. From the top of our heads: “The Diary of a Young Girl”, “Night” or “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” (top biographies), “Civilization and Its Discontent” (top psychology books), “Capitalism and Freedom” and “The General Theory of Employment, Interest, And Money” (top economics choices) or half of our top history books.

But, it also meant that we’ll provide you with 15 more reviews of 15 more exceptional books by 15 more exceptional people. Although, we would have wanted to include at least as many even here.

Enjoy!

#1. “A Dictionary of the English Language” by Samuel Johnson

A Dictionary of the English Language SummaryContrary to popular belief, this is not the first dictionary of the English language. However, it is certainly both the most influential and the most admirable one. As Walter Jackson Bate wrote, Samuel Johnson’s “Dictionary” “easily ranks as one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship, and probably the greatest ever.”

No, this is not a biased opinion! And a simple comparison may be the only argument you’ll ever need to read as evidence.

Namely, the Académie française took 55 years and the dedication of 40 scholars to complete their Dictionnarre; it included about 30,000 words. Samuel Johnson spent 8 years to compile a list of 40,000 words. And all were thoroughly defined and meticulously illustrated with over 114,000 quotations!

And he did it all – by himself!

There’s nothing even remotely similar to Johnson’s endeavor in all of human history! His dictionary was so good that was unanimously considered the preeminent work of its kind for almost a century and a half, until the “Oxford English Dictionary” came out.

Bonus: some of the definitions in the dictionary are really funny! Such as “Lexicographer: a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge that busies himself in tracing the original and detailing the signification of words.”

#2. “Critique of Pure Reason” by Immanuel Kant

Critique of Pure Reason SummaryBarely thirty years after Samuel Johnson transformed the way people think about the English language, German philosopher Immanuel Kant transformed the way people think about – well, anything. A miraculous achievement, considering the fact that Kant almost never left his hometown, the city of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad).

First published in 1781 – before being revised six years later – “Critique of Pure Reason” attempts to give an answer to the question “how do we know.” A question as old as time, you might say, but a question with so many answers before Kant as well.

Kant didn’t like this, so he tried to explain away the confusion and put an end to all speculation once and for all. However, he didn’t want to resort to some easy answers, such as the skepticism of René Descartes and David Hume. So, he went on to develop about a thousand-page long theory of the relationships between pure reason and human experiences.

And, magnificently, philosophers worldwide agree that he did quite a good job. Although, to be perfectly honest, some time passed before anyone understood what Kant was saying.

Bear that in mind if you ever want to leaf through its pages. You’ll definitely need some help.

#3. “The Communist Manifesto” by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

The Communist Manifesto Summary1848 was one of the most tumultuous years in human history. Revolutions broke in over 50 countries around the planet, and almost each and every one in Europe. Objective historians have rightly dubbed 1848 as the Year of Revolution. The more hopeful ones have opted for a more poetic title: People’s Spring.

Well, a month before the actual commencement of that year’s spring (February 21, 1848), Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published a very brief political pamphlet which would go on to change the course of human history.

Widely considered the most influential text of its kind in history, the three-part “Communist Manifesto” is a summary of Marx and Engels’ ideas about the nature of society and politics.

The first part, “Bourgeois and Proletarians,” states from the outset the main premise: “history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” The second part, “”Proletarians and Communists,” lists and explains the measures necessary to achieve a classless society. Finally, the third part “Socialist and Communist Literature,” sets apart communism from other similar doctrines.

Some love it; others despise it. Nevertheless, the ideas presented in “The Communist Manifesto” have been hotly debated ever since its publication.

And will be – for any foreseeable future.

#4. “Walden; or, Life in the Woods” by Henry David Thoreau

Walden SummaryIn 1845, Henry David Thoreau – then merely 28 years of age – left behind the materialist America of his time to live a life of seclusion and solitude in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s country cabin near Walden Pond, near Concord, Massachusetts.

He stayed there for two years, two months and two days. And nine years later, he gave the world his account of his experiences, “Walden,” a book so influential that, as John Updike noted it “risks being as revered and unread as the Bible.”

If you’ve ever watched “Dead Poets Society,” you probably already know its (a bit jumbled-up, though) introduction by heart: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

What you may not know, however, is that “Walden” is the most radical way in which Thoreau tried to practice his ideas of civil disobedience. Expounded more thoroughly in another essay of his, the concept – and “Walden” – would influence figures as diverse as Tolstoy, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

A book for all the ideologists out there. For all times.

#5. “On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill

On Liberty SummaryJohn Stuart Mill was raised to be a genius; so, he became one of the greatest of his, or, for that matter, all times. He contributed to so many areas of human knowledge that he is often considered to have been “the most influential English-speaking philosopher of the nineteenth century.”

However, his short book titled “On Liberty” seems to have stood the test of time like no other of his books. It’s still widely read and widely commented. A copy of the book, for example, is regularly passed to the new president of The British Liberal Democrats and the Liberal Party as a symbol of his office.

Written as an attempt to apply Mill’s favored philosophical doctrine (utilitarianism) to the state and society in general, “On Liberty” analyzes the relationship between governments and individuals, and between authority and freedom. It tries to uncover where one’s freedom ends and where someone else’s begins. And, finally, it tries to show how we can remain democratic without falling victims to an unexpected “tyranny of the majority.”

Just like any of the books on this list, “On Liberty” has been as much lauded as it has been criticized. However, just like them, it’s also still thought-provoking and debated. A testament to its greatness.

#6. “On the Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin

On the Origin of Species SummaryThe same year Mill published “On Liberty,” one man published a book which will largely overshadow its significance. A book which – some may argue – has overshadowed almost every single nonfiction book ever written, bar one or two it rubs its shoulders with at the peak of the pedestal.

The full title of the book: “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” You already know the author: Charles Darwin.

Written for the general public – so as to attract more attention – “On the Origin of Species” argued something nobody had ever dared before. Namely, that living organisms have a common ancestor and that their diversity is the result of random selection.

No gods, no divine will. Merely Mother Nature, in all its haphazard glory.

It’s practically impossible to overestimate the effects Darwin’s theory would have on every living person. And when twelve years later Darwin would apply the theory of evolution he devised here to humans, the circle would be completed.

Because “The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex” would be the first book to argue that humans are not an exceptional species.

And that – there’s so much humbleness and beauty in this finding.

#7. “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus” by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus SummaryAustrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein was such a colorful person that a short biography would do no justice to either his life or his larger-than-life personality. For now, suffice to say that he is considered to have been “the most perfect example… of genius” even though he published just one fairly slim book during the 62 years he was given to live and think on this planet.

And that volume is “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus” – in all of its 80 pages and 526 numbered statements.

Written during the period of the First World War, the “Tractatus” is comprised of no more than seven main propositions, each as seemingly comprehensible as thoroughly inscrutable as the next one.

Want to have a go?

Here is the first one: “the world is everything that is the case;” it’s followed by seven sub-propositions which may help you understand it; or not. Either way, they won’t prepare you for the second one: “What is the case (a fact) is the existence of states of affairs.” Cue 79 apparently elucidating statements. (Click here for the whole structure.)

Now, you’re probably wondering how then the “Tractatus” ended up being on our list?

Well, because almost every single sentence of it has been scrutinized and/or challenged by almost any thinker who matters. Not the least – by Wittgenstein himself. A bit strange if you take into consideration that, at the time he published it, he claimed, in a Kantian manner, that the “Tractatus” had solved all philosophical problems.

Even stranger in view of the last – and by far most famous – of his seven propositions. This one’s a beauty: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”

#8. “A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf

A Room of One’s Own SummaryIt was precisely something many had remained silent about that an English modernist writer by the name of Virginia Woolf wanted to speak about in 1929. And in “A Room of One’s Own” she did. In her familiar exuberantly fluid, and sumptuously beautiful prose. A lifetime interest for her – style – wasn’t as important this time around.

It was what she wanted to convey through it. A message which echoed through time and space. It isn’t just to her talent to summarize it in a sentence, but, since it’s hers, will be unjust. “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

As axiomatic as it may sound nowadays, when Woolf wrote it, it was both frowned upon and as radical as a political manifesto.

However – and fortunately – it set the foundation for feminism; and, through it, for women’s rights. Because Woolf was the first one to ask the right question. It’s not “why have there been no talented women artists and scientists up to the nineteenth century”; it’s: “why no talented women artists and scientists ever got the chance to employ their talents?”

We already quoted her fairly straightforward answer above.

#9. “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell

The Hero with a Thousand Faces SummaryWhen it was published in 1949, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” was one of the most thorough analyses of how similarly world mythologies have shaped the stories of their heroes’ journey to greatness. In the meantime, it has also become a sort of a manual for creating long-lasting works of art.

You probably don’t know it, but whether it’s “Star Wars” or “Harry Potter,” “Watership Down” or “Beauty and the Beast” – they all consciously owe their structure to Joseph Campbell’s investigations and his idea of the monomyth. Borrowed from Joyce, Campbell uses this word to speak about the fundamental architecture of the archetypal hero’s journey. And he summarizes thus:

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder; fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won; the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

Of course, there are many episodes interspersed with this narrative, but, even those are shared throughout cultures. Why? Because we’re all humans and because some stories are buried deep within our subconscious.

“The Hero with a Thousand Faces” strives to uncover the arche-stories. While warning us that if we ever forget them, we’ll forget being humans as well.

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#10. “The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan

The Feminine Mystique SummaryVirginia Woolf may have been the first one to remind women that they are as much as humans as men. However, Betty Friedan was the author who really shook women to their core, waking them from centuries of stony sleep. And showing them the way to a world where women can be equal to men.

Published in 1963, “The Feminine Mystique” is widely considered to have been the book which launched second-wave feminism. It was originally intended to be an article about the results of a survey Friedan conducted of her former Smith College classmates on their 15th-anniversary reunion. But, nobody wanted to publish the article. So, Friedan authored a whole book.

As she famously put it herself, about “the problem that has no name.”

You see, what Friedan discovered is that most of her friends were unhappy. Contrary to popular belief, what made them unhappy was the fact that they were expected to be wives and mothers.

And – herein lies the nameless problem – nothing more.

And each suburban wife, wrote Friedan, struggled with this problem alone. “As she made the beds, shopped for groceries… she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question — ‘Is this all’?”

Friedan was sure it couldn’t be. And she gave voice to all the women who shared her feelings.

And the world changed.

#11. “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil” by Hannah Arendt

Eichmann in Jerusalem SummaryA Jew who left Germany soon after Adolf Hitler’s rose to power, Hannah Arendt is considered one of the most significant modern political philosophers. So influential is she that – as many would argue – the book we’ve chosen for our list isn’t the one she’s most famous for. That one is, in fact, “The Origins of Totalitarianism” where she carefully examines the roots of Nazism and Communism.

However, we went here with “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” a book smaller both in length and in scope; but, in our opinion, also a book whose conclusions are much more related to the human nature and, thus, much more relevant and frightening.

Based on Arendt’s “New Yorker” reports about the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann, the book famously argues that Eichmann, one of the organizers of the Holocaust, was not a gruesome monster, but merely averagely intelligent “joiner.”

Or, in other, much more worrisome words, a person just like anybody else. He boasted of no exceptional intelligence or hatred, and he wanted to belong to some community.

But therein lies the rub: it was exactly because of people like him that the Holocaust was made possible. Evil has no movie-like qualities, and you can’t really detect it the way you can detect a serial killer in a slasher movie.

As Arendt famously said, evil is banal. And almost anyone, under the right circumstances, can become its agent.

#12. “Orientalism” by Edward Said

Orientalism SummaryAll humans belong to the same species. However, it seems that cultural differences have created chasms between them. Only recently we started understanding the greatest one, the West/East schism.

And it couldn’t have been written by anyone else other than Edward Wadie Said, a public intellectual born in Jerusalem to a Palestinian father and Lebanese mother, and raised and educated in Cairo at a British Anglican Christian school. All in all, by his own admission, “an uncomfortably anomalous student.”

But, “Orientalism” stemmed out of this discomfort. It strives to describe the cultural representations of some Eastern cultures (Asia, North Africa, Middle East) in the works of the authors who belong to the Western literary canon.

The results themselves are nothings short of expected. Predictably, Western writers never saw the inhabitants of these places as people of real flesh and blood, but as underdeveloped caricatures residing in an exotic world of myths and legends.

However, the consequences are far-reaching. According to Said, in time, the ruling elites in these Eastern societies realized that they could use these stories to exert authority and influence over their subjects. So, they internalized the Western narratives – and actually started turning into what they were wrongly portrayed to have been.

So, “Orientalism” is not only about culture and literature. It’s also about power and freedom.

#13. “The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA” by James D. Watson

The Double Helix SummaryThere are not many events in modern history that can compare – both in terms of instant impressions and eternal effects – to the publication of a single two-page article in the 171st volume of the scientific journal “Nature” on 25 April 1953.

Titled “Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid” and signed by Francis Crick and James D. Watson, the article has been variously described as a scientific “pearl” and as “the most important scientific discovery of the 20th century.”

Could it be any different?

What the article first described was the double helix structure of the DNA. Or, to put it in laymen’s terms – there, on these two pages, lay the answer to one of science’s fundamental mysteries.

The origin of life.

Fifteen years later, one of these two scientists, James Watson, wrote “The Double Helix”. An intimate autobiographical account of the discovery of DNA, “The Double Helix” was voted the 7th best nonfiction book of the 20th century by the Modern Library, and was placed on Library of Congress’ list of the 88 “Books That Shaped America.”

Important and immensely popular, the book has inspired a fair share of controversies as well. Which, of course, makes the book even more appealing.

#14. “A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes” by Stephen Hawking

A Brief History of Time SummaryWe really wanted to include a book by Einstein or Newton in our list; however, we opted for Stephen Hawking. And that already says a lot about how much we value the British physicist and his most celebrated book.

However, the reason why we preferred Hawking to Einstein or Newton is a blatantly obvious one. Namely, during the past two decades, “A Brief History of Time” has sold more than 10 million copies. You can’t say that about many books – let alone scientific treatises.

Because, even though it’s bereaved of the technical jargon associated with similar books, “A Brief History of Time” is still a serious study about serious matters. Such that go even beyond the questions answered by the discovery of DNA.

In it, Hawking writes about the origins and the eventual death of our universe; about concepts such as the Big Bang, time-space continuum, quarks and gravity; and, finally, he discusses two different theories which try to explain the existence of the universe – Einstein’s theory of general relativity and quantum physics.

Nobody has ever succeeded in bringing the world of cosmology and astrophysics as close to the general public as Hawking. And, unsurprisingly, in 2002 BBC poll, he was voted the 25th Greatest Briton of all time.

#15. “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History” by Elizabeth Kolbert

The Sixth Extinction SummaryThe most recent entry on our list is one we felt we had to include in spite of it being published in 2014. Because we want you to take its subject matter as seriously as a heart attack. And because, in a way, “The Sixth Extinction” by Elizabeth Kolbert talks about some things which, if you don’t, there will be no writers left to write, and no readers to compile lists like this.

A winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction, “The Sixth Extinction” argues that we are currently in the middle of a modern extinction process. However, unlike the previous five, this one’s man-made. Consequently, it’s also preventable.

However, the extinction will probably not be prevented, because, as Kolbert shows, humans are in a state of absolute denial. She compares this denialism to the one pre-Darwinian people had in view of prehistoric mass extinction. Most of them simply didn’t believe that any event could be powerful enough to wipe down a whole species from this planet.

Now, we know for sure that they were wrong. Unfortunately, we have invested enormous amounts of energy to – well, repeat it.

The result? Kolbert demonstrates that, if our estimates are correct, almost half “of all living species on earth” may be extinct by the end of 21st century.

Bleak? In need of immediate action?

Well, that’s what books can do.

And why we need lists like this one to guide us through the libraries of history.

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Top Biographies Books

There are so many biographies, memoirs, and diaries out there, and so many essential and influential people who have actively shaped our world that, really, choosing the books for this list took us a lot more time than actually writing it.

In the end, we longlisted so many books that we decided to leave out some of the more usual suspects. In our defense: we have included each of them in some of our other lists; and you can read our opinion about them there.

Of course, we’re talking about classics such as “Titan” and “Elon Musk” (featured in our top business books list, at #3 and #4), “Alexander the Great” (#3 in our top history books), or our personal favorite, Skidelsky’s “John Maynard Keynes” (#4 among our top economics books).

And even with these four out of the picture, it took some time to settle on the following 15. So, who knows, maybe we won’t resist the urge to make an additional best biographies booklist!

But, until then – here are our top biographies books.

#1. “The Twelve Caesars” by Gaius Suetonius

The Twelve Caesars SummarySuetonius (full name: Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus) lived through the last third of the first and the first third of the second century after Christ. He was a close friend of Pliny the Younger and for the last few years of his life worked as a private secretary to Hadrian (yes, the emperor with the wall).

While there, he wrote a group biography of Julius Caesar and the first eleven emperors of the Roman Empire, originally called “De vita Caesarum,” (literally: “About the Life of the Caesars”) but known to us by the much more straightforward title “The Twelve Caesars.”

The leaders whose lives are covered by Suetonius are the following: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian. And the order in which each biography is retold illustrates Roman discipline at its best: appearance, omens, family, quotes, life.

You’ll find everything here: decadence and lewdness, greatness and madness. And oh so much ancient purple-prosed yellow press!

#2. “Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects” by Giorgio Vasari

Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects SummaryThey say that the Renaissance was a period which required giants to happen at all; and it was giants it got. And in Giorgio Vasari’s “Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects” it also got their dedicated official biographer.

Considered by many “the first important book on art history” and “perhaps the most famous, and even today the most-read work of the older literature of art,” “The Lives” would prove to be Giorgio Vasari’s most lasting monument; and this speaks volumes of the importance of the work; because, you see, Vasari, like most of the people he wrote about, was also an accomplished architect and painter.

The list of the Old Masters whose lives are concisely recounted by Vasari is too long to be included in a short review, but, let’s just say that if he’s an Italian and an artist with some fame before 1568 – you’ll definitely find his biography here.

Interspersed – why, of course! – with some entertaining gossip and a notorious lie or two.

#3. “The Life of Samuel Johnson” by James Boswell

The Life of Samuel Johnson SummaryConsidered by most historians “the first modern biography” in the English language, “The Life of Samuel Johnson” is hailed by many as the greatest biography ever written.

A colossal work of almost 2,000 pages, the book combines three things that seem prerequisite for the greatest of biographies. Namely: a fascinating man, a religiously devoted close friend of his, and an exceptionally capable diarist.

Of course, the first of these three descriptions refers to Dr. Samuel Johnson, “arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history”. The foremost English critic of his time, Johnson was also a genius lexicographer who singlehandedly wrote one of the best dictionaries of the English language. And he did it in merely eight years!

The latter two are accounts of James Boswell, a Scottish writer whose name has become a common noun, with the meaning “an assiduous and devoted admirer, student, and recorder of another’s words and deeds.”

We dare you to find a best biographies booklist where you won’t find this one. And ours will certainly not be the exception.

#4. “Eminent Victorians” by Lytton Strachey

Eminent Victorians SummaryAnother classic – and another group biography!

Lytton Strachey was one of the founding members of the Bloomsbury Group, an intellectual clique which existed during the first half of the 20th century, and which, in terms of its unconventionality, sexual freedom, and sheer creativity, may have no parallel whatsoever in all of human history.

In fact, their behavior may seem scandalous even today; and their ideas are still widely studied and admired.

Written during the years of the First World War, “Eminent Victorians” was such a sensation that brought Strachey instant fame. The book deals with the lives and deeds of four Victorian figures (Cardinal Manning, Florence Nightingale, Thomas Arnold, and General Gordon) considered epitomes of moral virtue before the book; but, not after.

That’s, in fact, why the book is praised so much even a century after it was first published. Because, if James Boswell’s biography was a work of devotion, Lytton Strachey’s was a work of irreverence.

And the best of today’s biographies have a little of each.

#5. “James Joyce” by Richard Ellmann

James Joyce SummaryIf you know Richard Ellmann only by his works, you’ll probably never guess that he’s an American, let alone the son of a Jewish Romanian and a Ukrainian immigrant.

Why, you ask?

Because, basically everything he ever wrote was either an essay, a critical study, or a classic biography on one of the three most eminent Irish writers of the modern age, Oscar Wilde, William Butler Years, and James Joyce.

The biography of the one listed last – simply titled “James Joyce” – has been described by Anthony Burgess as “the greatest literary biography of the century.”

Written over a period of ten years and over 800 pages long in its final revision, the book is a fresh, earnest, and critically penetrative insight into the mind and the work of possibly the most influential writer of the 20th century.

But, also – just so you don’t feel too diminished in comparison – a man with many flaws and some pretty strange sexual fetishes.

#6. “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank

The Diary of a Young Girl SummaryPossibly the most famous autobiography, “The Diary of a Young Girl” is also one of the most gut-wrenching and heartbreaking stories ever put on paper.

It’s a book you certainly already know all too intimately to require a list of accolades as evidence for its place here. But, even so, in the face of so much stubborn historical revisionism, we feel obliged to at least link a few inclusions of Anne Frank’s “Diary” among the top books of the 20th century, whether they come by way of a nation-wide UK survey, New York Public Library’s estimations, or the general world public’s ratings.

There’s really no need to delve into the story here. Not because you probably already know it, but because It’s not a good idea to summarize something as fragile and nightmarish as “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

And because it’s the book everybody should reread in its entirety from time to time. So as we never forget how cruel humans can be to other humans. And, maybe, some day in the future, learn to be somewhat better to each other.

#7. “Night” by Elie Wiesel

Night SummaryNo, it’s still not the right time to rise above the depths of despair. Anne Frank’s “Diary” may be the most famous book on the subject, but it’s only one of many. And we wanted to be just to the victims and witnesses of one of the most horrifying events in human history; since, destiny, obviously, wasn’t.

And, according to Elie Wiesel, a Romanian-born American Jewish writer, God wasn’t as well. In “Night,” a severely abridged version of an almost 900-pages-long manuscript in Yiddish, he writes about his experiences as a prisoner in Auschwitz and Buchenwald, during the last two years of the Second World War.

Born in 1928 and barely half a year older than Anne Frank, Wiesel – later a Nobel Peace Prize winner – was just fifteen when he and his family were deported to Auschwitz. There, among many other things, he became a father to his father, who was, in turn, reduced to childlike helplessness in the face of this tremendous adversity.

His father, just like the rest of his family, died. Wiesel survived. To tell his story.

#8. “Hitler: A Biography” by Ian Kershaw

Hitler SummaryAnd the man most people hold responsible for the death of Anne Frank and Elie Wiesel’s family?

Adolf Hitler, Nazi Germany’s dictator during the Second World War.

Fascinating for all the wrong reasons, the Führer has inspired so many books that Wikipedia has a separate article about them. However, at least in the English-speaking world, many would probably agree that Sir Ian Kershaw is the foremost expert on Hitler and Nazi Germany. And that his “Hitler: A Biography” is the definitive one-volume account of his life.

The book is, in fact, a compilation of few other books that include “Hitler” in their titles and that Kershaw wrote during a period of almost four decades. “New York Times” described it as “superb”; and Niall Ferguson called it “magisterial”.

Over 1,000 pages long and breathtakingly remarkable from start to finish, “Hitler” is also fully illustrated, including over 150 wartime photographs and 8 more than useful maps. You’ve guessed it: a must-read.

#9. “Churchill: A Life” by Martin Gilbert

Churchill SummaryAnother biography written by a person exceptional enough to be knighted about a man with as many chivalric orders as you’ll ever see put next to a name. And it’s only natural that we follow up Sir Ian Kershaw’s account of Hitler with Sir Martin Gilbert’s biography of his nemesis, Churchill.

A prolific author of nearly 90 books, Gilbert is deservedly most famous today for his eight-volume biography of Sir Winston Churchill, expectedly voted the Greatest Briton in history in a 2002 BBC poll.

But, just like in the case of #8, we don’t want to bother you with such an epic – although, people say it’s more than worth it – so we list here “Churchill: A Life,” the boiled-down version of the complete chronologically broken-down biography.

It’s still gigantic (1,000 pages), but, it’s about one of the giants of the 20th century. However, it’s so dramatic and intimate, and so vividly written, that you won’t be able to put it down.

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#10. “Einstein: His Life and Universe” by Walter Isaacson

Einstein SummaryOf course, there are always good things happening around; and this seems even truer in the case of the worst atrocities.

So, while politicians and soldiers were struggling to save what they could from the world they had senselessly plunged into two ravishing wars beforehand, scientists and artists were silently trying to change our whole perception of it – and, with it, ourselves as well.

Albert Einstein, a German-born theoretical physicist, is widely held to have been the man who spearheaded the most groundbreaking scientific revolution of the 20th century. His theory of relativity challenged basically everything we knew about the world. And, just like in the case of Boswell, transformed Albert’s surname into a common noun.

Its meaning is, of course, “genius.”

What made him one is the question the acclaimed 2008 biography by Walter Isaacson tries to answer. And, in a way, it does – in Isaacson’s clear and witty style we have grown to love so much over the years.

#11. “A Moveable Feast” by Ernest Hemingway

A Moveable Feast SummaryOne of the most widely read and as widely loved American authors of the 20th century, Ernest Hemingway, didn’t live to see his Paris memoir “A Moveable Feast” published and showered with praises by literary critics and general readers alike.

As it’s already known, he shot himself in the summer of 1961, some three years before his fourth wife Mary Hemingway allowed the publication of his manuscripts.

And, boy, what a great service she did to everyone enamored with Hemingway or Paris. Not to mention modernist literature or the roaring twenties!

Detailing his time as an expatriate in France between the two World Wars, this memoir is basically a who’s who in the world of Anglo-American emigrants. On its pages, you’ll find everyone from Joyce and Stein to Picasso and Pound; and, of course, most famously, the Fitzgeralds.

Need we add – there’s also a lot of brew and brawls, and even more scandal and extravagance. And, oh, such gems as hair-growing contest with Gertrude Stein and, well, a different kind of measuring contest with Fitzgerald.

We’ll leave it to you to find out more about it.

#12. “King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero” by David Remnick

King of the World SummaryAmerican journalist David Remnick won a Pulitzer Prize two decades ago for “Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire,” his wonderful historically accurate (and eye-witnessed) account of the fall of the USSR. And in view of this achievement, “King of the World,” written five years later, has remained somewhat in the shadow.

Which is a pity, because, as Tim Lewis writes, it may be the best sports biography one can find. The subject is worthy of such description: Muhammed Ali, both a boxing legend and a larger-than-life political activist.

King of the World” is actually about the year – and the fight – when we can retrospectively deduce that it all started. As Remnick shows, when Cassius Clay entered the ring with Sonny Liston on a February night in 1964, most people thought of the fight as “a matchup between a Muslim punk and a terrifying thug.”

But once he left the ring, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Ali was not merely the new heavyweight champion. He was something more: “a new kind of black man.”

One that was about to fly out of its prison cell.

#13. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings SummaryAnd five years later, as Ali was fighting his four-year-long battle against the system which forcefully tried to draft him for a war he didn’t want to participate in, the African American poet Maya Angelou published the first part of her seven autobiographies, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

Detailing her life from the age of three to the age of sixteen, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” is Maya Angelou’s deeply disturbing, and yet profoundly inspiring coming-of-age narrative. It illustrates, in captivatingly lyrical language, the traumatic effects which racism and sexism can leave on a black American girl growing up in Arkansas, and the power of poetry which can, nevertheless, provide a reason to stay alive and move on.

Angelou’s friend James Baldwin described it best; and we feel an obligation to quote him. “’I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ he wrote, “liberates the reader into life simply because Maya Angelou confronts her own life with such a moving wonder, such a luminous dignity.”

#14. “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs SummaryThere are probably few people who can be considered icons of the 21st century as much as Steve Jobs, the co-founder and CEO of Apple Inc. And there is not one biography of his life comparable to the one Jobs ordered himself.

Written by Walter Isaacson, “Steve Jobs” is based on more than forty interviews given by Jobs himself, and hundreds made by Isaacson with at least as many members of his closest and somewhat distant social circles. In addition, Isaacson had an “unprecedented” access to Jobs’ life; and a promise by the man himself that his interviewees will speak to him earnestly.

In fact, Jobs was a gentleman enough to waive his right to read the book before its publication; and that finally happened merely 19 days after Steve Jobs decided to, well, log off.

The book was turned into a film in 2015. And just as the book, it also received rave reviews.

#15. “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer

Into the Wild SummaryThe last book on our list was adapted into a movie as well. Both are good – but, as usually, we prefer the book.

Written by American writer and mountaineer Jon Krakauer and published in 1996, “Into the Wild” chronicles the life and travels of Christopher McCandless who, after graduating from Emory University in 1990, decided to donate all of his money to charity, to change his name into Alexander Supertramp, and spend the rest of his life living as a hiker and traveler.

After a two-year journey across North America, he renounced even the remaining few of his earthly possessions. And started living as simply as possible – off the land. Unfortunately, merely four months later, hunters found his decomposing body. Based on its condition, they concluded that he died of starvation.

“Into the Wild” tries to understand the logic behind McCandless’ choices. But it doesn’t shy away from giving us a heartbreaking portrayal of a  profoundly enigmatic person. Mesmerizing.

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Top Management Books

The discipline of management is “one of the greatest social innovations of modern times”. In fact, the idea of managing processes is so ubiquitous and pervasive, that Peter Drucker, “the founder of modern management,” considers managers nothing short of the present and future torchbearers of ethics and morality.

You can read why he thinks that in our review of one of the two books we included in our top management books list. We believe that the other thirteen are as important and famous, as influential and eye-opening.

And we don’t want to lose you another second of your time before we introduce our picks for the 15 best management books in history.

#1. “The Principles of Scientific Management” by Frederick Winslow Taylor

The Principles of Scientific Management SummaryIn 1913, V. I. Lenin, the man who would go on to start a bloody revolution four years later, wrote in “Pravda” that “the most widely discussed topic today in Europe, and to some extent in Russia, is the ‘system’ of the American engineer, Frederick Taylor.”

What Lenin was referring to was a 1911 monograph titled “The Principles of Scientific Management,” a highly influential work during the period of the Progressive Era (1890-1920), written by a man whose life mission was improving industrial efficiency, Frederic Winslow Taylor.

Even though the essay expounds theories which would grow obsolete in the meantime, generally the book’s influence is highly regarded even in the 21st century. In fact, in 2001, the 137 Fellows of the Academy of Management voted it the most influential management book ever written.

And some of its main ideas are still hotly and commonly debated. Such as the suggestion that shorter workdays may still increase productivity. What do you think?

#2. “The Functions of the Executive” by Chester Barnard

The Functions of the Executive SummaryDuring the same Academy of Management survey which voted “The Principles of Scientific Management” the most influential management work in history, Chester Irving Barnard’s 1938 classic “The Functions of the Executive” came in second.

Considered “the first paradigmatic statement of the management discipline,” “The Functions of the Executive” presents “a theory of organization and cooperation,” much in the same manner as Taylor. However, the big difference between them is that Barnard didn’t want to merely prescribe principles; he wanted to study those already practiced and compare them to each other to discover the best practice.

Divided into four parts and eighteen chapters, Barnard’s book is a somewhat difficult read. Just looking at the titles of the parts is enough. The first one, for example, is called “Preliminary Considerations Concerning Cooperative Systems”; the last one: “The Functions of Organizations in Cooperative Systems.”

However, have no doubts whatsoever that, in this case, looking past the “atrocious” style is more than worth it.

#3. “The Essential Drucker” by Peter Drucker

The Essential Drucker SummaryBorn in the Austro-Hungarian Empire few years before it dissolved, Peter Drucker, “the most influential and widely read authority on modern organizations,” had the invaluable privilege to be raised in a household where intellectuals, scientists, and leaders regularly met to discuss their views and ideas.

If you’re wondering about their names and reputations, just have a look at our top economics booklist: any Austrian you’ll find there (and there are few), Peter Drucker personally knew even as a child.

In the final Academy of Management list of most influential books, Drucker’s 1954 “The Practice of Management” was listed third and called a “seminal contribution” to the field. However, for our list, we opted for two different books, even though, really, Drucker is so omnipresent that we’ll always stand by our recent estimation that he is “as important to companies, as oxygen is crucial for our survival.”

The Essential Drucker” is a carefully compiled collection of the 26 most important writings by Drucker, and, as such, is an essential read for every manager.

#4. “Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices” by Peter Drucker

Management SummaryIf you’ve studied management at almost any university, the chances are this was one of the first – if not the first – book you were assigned as a compulsory read.

Originally published in 1973, “Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices” is still the best management manual almost half a century later. And it’s so all-encompassing and diligently organized that it’s difficult to see how any other book can take its place.

Developed and written during a period of over three decades, “Management” draws heavily on Peter Drucker’s experience as a management professor and consultant to government agencies, and large and small businesses. In fact, you can consider this book a distillate of his life. There’s everything here! From basic management tasks to best management practices.

But, don’t ignore Drucker’s pleas for business ethics either. “In modern society,” he writes, “there is no other leadership group but managers. If the managers of our major institutions, and especially of business, do not take responsibility for the common good, no one else can or will.”

#5. “What Management Is: How It Works and Why It Is Everyone’s Business” By Joan Magretta

What Management Is SummaryThe blurb to “What Management Is” may sound a bit pretentious, but, trust us, it exaggerates nothing. “Not since Peter Drucker’s great work of the 1950s and 1960s,” it says at one point, “has there been a comparable effort to present the work of management as a coherent whole, to take stock of the current state of play, and to write about it thoughtfully for readers of all backgrounds.”

And when it says “all backgrounds” – trust us yet again – it really means so! At no more than 256 pages, Joan Magretta has managed to achieve a rare feat. Namely, to write a book which may attract the interest of both novices and experienced managers; teaching the former the basics and providing the latter with encyclopedically organized body of knowledge.

The beginners will additionally love the simplicity with which Magretta explains complex management ideas; and, even more, the clear, concise, and straight-to-the-point style. As “The Econimist” review put it best: “a rare animal: a management book that is lucid, interesting and honest.”

#6. “First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently” by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

First, Break All the Rules SummaryIn 2011, “Time Magazine” made a list of “The 25 Most Influential Business Management Books.” We bet few would have been surprised to see there Marcus Buckingham’s and Curt Coffman’s brilliant “First, Break All the Rules.”

Published by Gallup, the book is based on the largest management survey ever undertaken, encompassing 80,000 interviewed managers from over 400 successful companies. Buckingham and Coffman asked each of the managers 12 simple questions; then they thoroughly studied the answers. The results are staggering: almost none of the old management techniques actually work in practice.

What does work?

Well, first of all, treating employees like individuals capable of doing seriously difficult work; and focusing on their strengths rather than their weakness; however, all the while not believing that with training everyone can do what he or she sets his or her mind to.

It seems that setting specific outcomes works; but – believe it or not – refraining from setting specific processes does as well. Disregarding the golden rule – is the golden rule.

And much, much more.

#7. “Now, Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton

Now, Discover Your Strengths SummarySo much more, in fact, that Marcus Buckingham went on to write another work, a companion-piece to “First, Break All the Rules”. This time with a new co-author – American psychologist Donald O. Clifton, – but using the very same methodology. And, based on the titles, we have a feeling that this one’s was in preparation even before the first one was published.

We already featured “Now, Discover Your Strengths” in our top motivational books, but we think it belongs here as well. Based on a gargantuan survey by The Gallup Organization, the book quantifies the answers 1.7 million interviewees gave to several questions, and deduces the 34 distinct “talent themes” (or traits), the combinations of which can best describe an individual’s uniqueness.

And after helping each reader to find his specific strengths – via Gallup’s strengthfinder.com online resource – “Now, Discover Your Strengths” offers many practical advices on how to advance and employ them.

Updated as “Strengths Finder 2.0” in the meantime, this book can teach managers to get the best out of their employees, and employees get the best out of themselves.

#8. “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t” by James C. Collins

Good to Great SummaryIn our microsummary, we described “Good to Great” as “one of the best management books to ever see the light of day. So, obviously enough, we include it in our list of top management books in history.

Published in 2001, “Good to Great” tries to answer the question why some good companies succeed in becoming great, while others simply fail making the leap mentioned in the title. And, just like our two previous books on this list, “Good to Great” is not merely a theoretical exposé, but is based on an expansive 5-year study.

But, then again, if you know anything about its author, Jim Collins, you would have known that from the start.

Ultra-successful book and selling more the 4 million copies, “Good to Great” compares eleven great companies to their merely good counterparts (e.g. Philip Morris             vs. R. J. Reynolds) and discovers seven characteristics which the former had and the latter didn’t.

And let’s face it: who wouldn’t want to know them?

#9. “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras

Built to Last Summary“Good to Great” was published in 2011 and, as we wrote above, received enormous amounts of attention. However, it wasn’t without a precedent: by that time, in fact, Jim Collins would have already made his name as one of the leaders in the field with “Built to Last.”

Originally published in 1994, “Built to Last” is, once again, based on a wide-ranging six-year research project at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Its two main goals – in its authors’ words – were ““to identify underlying characteristics are common to highly visionary companies” and “to effectively communicate findings so they can influence management.”

And “Built to Last” lives up to both of these high expectations.

By carefully studying the ideas and the practice of 18 widely admired companies founded before 1950, “Built to Last” provides valuable insights into the management habits of these great companies and deduces what made them so exceptional by comparing them to their top competitors.

Defining and seminal, “Built to Last” lives up to its title.

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#10. “In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies” by Thomas Peters and Robert H. Waterman

In Search of Excellence SummaryPublished in 1982, “In Search of Excellence,” brought Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr. so much attention that even though it was their debut book they quickly got nation-wide coverage and some flattering epithets of the “business guru” kind.

Three decades later, it’s obvious that the initial evaluations were correct. “In Search of Excellence” is still considered a management manual.

Started as a study of 62 businesses, it ended up as a thorough analysis of the management practices in the 43 best-run companies in the United States. By carefully examining the available data, Peters and Waterman discovered that the companies which succeed share eight common characteristics.

And “In Search of Excellence,” they dedicate a chapter to each. Unsurprisingly, in the meantime, these eight traits have become basic principles of management.

Dubbed the “Greatest Business Book of All Time” by “Bloomsbury UK,” “In Search of Excellence” is the fourth best-selling management book in history, trailing only Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and the books at #4 and #8 on this list.

#11. “Competing for the Future” by Gary Hamel, C. K. Prahalad

Competing for the Future SummarySoon after its publication, in a review for “Washington Post,” Steven Pearlstein wrote that “if there is room for only one management book on your reading shelf each year”, “Competing for the Future” is his 1996 choice. “Business Week” backed Pearlstein’s decision, claiming that it’s “one of the year’s best management books.”

Exciting and profoundly valuable, “Competing for the Future” is written by two renowned thinkers on strategy, Gary Hamel and Coimbatore Krishnarao Prahalad. And it strives to give “would-be revolutionaries” the tools to challenge “the protectors of the past.

As any book written for rebels, it challenges many of the notions about management prevalent at the day; if you think that most of them are commonsensical now – well, you owe it to Hamel’s and Prahalad’s expertise.

And you certainly do think that strategic planning is a continuous process and that it is something that has to encompass the whole organization, and not just some sectors, right?

#12. “Six Thinking Hats: An Essential Approach to Business Management” by Edward De Bono

Six Thinking Hats SummaryYou can really argue that Edward de Bono is one of the most famous exports from the tiny island nation of Malta. Psychologist, philosopher, physician, and inventor, he is the man who invented the concept of lateral thinking, i.e. solving problems creatively.

And “Six Thinking Hats” is the book where he first proposed the idea.

Published in 1985, “Six Thinking Hats” devised a thinking system which strives to eradicate the most serious problem of thinking: confusion. De Bono demonstrates that confusion stems from the fact that we’re never thinking clearly, or, rather, that we’re always using many aspects of our being to think.

So, he suggests a role-playing method which clarifies how thinking works, by splitting the process into its six comprising elements.

The red hat is the emotional one, while the white one shows interest in facts only; the black one is the devil’s advocate, while the yellow is the optimistic hat; finally, the green hat is the hat of creativity, and the blue one – the hat of the manager.

Employed by many companies even today, de Bono’s three-decades-old tool has proved a lasting success!

#13. “The Great Game of Business: The Only Sensible Way to Run a Company” by Jack Stack

The Great Game of Business SummaryThis is a book about an inspirational story.

Springfield Remanufacturing Corporation was founded in 1983 by 13 employees of International Harvester. In an attempt to save 119 jobs, they decided to buy the part of the company which rebuilt truck engines. How? With $100,000 of their own money. And about $8.9 million in loans!

Led by Jack Stack, the employees turned the things around, and the initial stock price of $0.10 in 1983 had increased by almost 2,000 times and was worth over $199 per share in 2015.

And we still haven’t gotten to the most interesting part of the story! You see, Jack Stack had neither experience nor an idea how to manage a company!

So, how did he do it?

The Great Game of Business” explains what he did in detail, introducing to the world the fairly new concept of “open-book management.” Its main premise, especially in view of capitalistic doctrines, is staggeringly innovative.

Namely, Springfield Remanufacturing is not managed by one person, but by everybody. In other words, everyone has his or her say on each financial decision and all company matters.

And – well – somehow it works brilliantly!

#14. “Out of the Crisis” by W. Edwards Deming

Out of the Crisis SummaryOriginally published by MIT Center for Advanced Engineering in 1982 as “Quality, Productivity, and Competitive Position,” this W. Edwards Deming’s classic was republished in 1986 under its much more friendly current title, “Out of Crisis.”

The book, included in both “Time Magazine’s” “and Academy of Management’s” lists of top 25 most influential management books in history, is widely credited with introducing the concept of Total quality management, even though Deming never actually uses the term in the book.

However, he does offer 14 key principles to managers which articulate TQM in both simple and still operational manner.

Ranging from ideas about the necessity of improving constantly and forever to suggestions that breaking down barriers between departments is a must, from calls to put an end to inspections to requests to drive out fear from the workplace, “Out of the Crisis” has transformed many companies in the past four decades.

And will certainly transform you once you find the time to read it.

#15. “The One Minute Manager: The Quickest Way to Increase Your Own Prosperity” by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson

The One Minute Manager SummaryThe subtitle of this book – “the quickest way to increase your own prosperity” – seems like an understatement when compared to the title – “The One Minute Manager.”

Of course, those who expect to become good managers in one minute expect a bit much. But, even they might be absolutely flabbergasted by the fact that Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson need no more than a hundred pages to expound upon a simple management concept which ended up influencing thousands of companies.

And especially by the main premise of the book: one minute to a manager may be an exaggeration, but three minutes is just about right!

A sleeper hit in the 1980s, “The One Minute Manager” is, in fact, a fable explicating a management-by-objectives type of managing which is based around the idea an effective manager sets one-minute goals, and sets aside one minute for praising and one minute for reprimanding his employees.

A business bestseller ever since its publication, “The One Minute Manager” is, both literally and metaphorically, a small wonder.

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Top Marketing Books

If you’re living in the 21st century, you are probably already aware of the fact that marketing is not merely an academic discipline, but also a part of everyone’s life. The world is so profoundly polluted with information and media campaigns, that there’s no way your product will ever reach your target audience if you don’t find a way to market it properly.

And, yes, that includes you as well. After all – you do have a CV, don’t you?

Because of this, numerous books on the subject have been authored and published during the past century. We wanted to help you get oriented, so we chose the 15 top marketing books. And we firmly believe that few of them are not merely for CEOs and CMOs.

They are for everybody. The best marketing books are yours!

#1. “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds” by Charles Mackay

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds SummaryYou’ve got to know your audience, eh?

Well, when it comes to market psychology, chances are you’ve never even heard of the best book on the subject.

Published in 1841, Charles Mackay’s “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds” is a gargantuan two-volume masterpiece on crowd psychology, focusing on how irrational aspects of human behavior – such as fear and greed – drive people “to suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit.”

Divided into three parts (“National Delusions,” “Peculiar Follies,” and “Philosophical Delusions”) the book debunks both ancient and then-contemporary follies as diverse as alchemy and duels, haunted houses and fortune-telling.

However, the most lauded pages of “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds” are its three chapters focusing on economic bubbles.

Given the cryptocurrency mania raging around, something tells us that you’ll do yourself a great favor if you read them attentively.

#2. “Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant” by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne

Blue Ocean Strategy Summary“An eye for an eye,” Mahatma Gandhi supposedly said once, “eventually leaves the whole world blind.” Well, W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne think pretty much the same is true for the market world as well.

Battling for a market share and a competitive advantage claims their international bestseller “Blue Ocean Strategy,” results in “a bloody red ocean of rivals fighting over a shrinking profit pool.” And they have all the evidence to prove this!

In writing this book, they conducted a meta-study covering over 150 strategic movies, 30 industries and 100 years. And their conclusions?

That it’s much smarter to find the unchartered territories, instead of warring over the settled ones. Lasting success, they claim, stems from using innovation and marketing to create “blue oceans” of space. There you’ll be able to swim for at least a decade – before the inevitable coming of the piranhas.

#3. “Marketing 4.0: Moving from Traditional to Digital” by Philip Kotler, Hermawan Kartajaya, Iwan Setiawan

Marketing 4.0 SummaryThere’s a reason why Philip Kotler is celebrated by many as the leading scholar of modern marketing. And the reason is over 60 different marketing books, almost each of which has grown to become a classic reference.

And, really, we could have included many of them in our list. “Principles of Marketing,” “Marketing Management,” and “Kotler on Marketing” especially. In the end, we settled for “Marketing 4.0,” because it seemed to us that it’s the most relevant for the digital age.

In fact, that’s the premise of the book: to introduce the reader to next-generation marketing. Traditional doesn’t work anymore – or, at least, it doesn’t work as well as it used to. Now, there are easier ways to reach your customers, and some of them are much more efficient.

“Marketing 4.0” goes over your current options, critically analyzing all of their aspects, and teaching you how to anticipate the next phase of marketing and prepare for the consumer of tomorrow.

#4. “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind: How to Be Seen and Heard in the Overcrowded Marketplace” by Al Ries and Jack Trout

Positioning Summary“Positioning is not what you do to a product,” says this ageless marketing classic which invented the term back in 1981, “positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect.”

And if you’re in the advertising business, you know exactly what advertising gurus Al Ries and Jack Trout are trying to say. For more than few decades, the world is largely a terrain where the media strive to create consent and where half-truths and lies have inspired skepticism in most of the general population.

So, what are you supposed to do to reach your consumer? Featuring numerous case studies and many more practically sound pieces of advice, “Positioning” teaches you how to use your strengths and the weaknesses of your competitors to find a proper place for your product – on the shelves of your consumers’ minds.

Ries and Trout would later go on to write four more books, the last of which, “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing,” we warmly recommend.

#5. “Guerilla Marketing: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business” by Jay Conrad Levinson

Guerrilla Marketing SummaryBefore Jay Conrad Levinson and his 1984 marketing classic “Guerilla Marketing” – in which, by the way, he coined the term – there was no such thing as organized small business advertising.

Marketing was expensive enough to be considered the stuff of huge corporations, and entrepreneurs had no choice but to watch their startups being slowly crushed by aggressive marketing.

However, Jay Conrad Levinson showed novices the way out!

Thirty years later, his concepts and ideas have given birth to many other books on the topic (most of them written by Levinson himself), but, even so, it’s still fascinating how prophetic the original work is!

Before it became fashionable to use the Internet to market your products, Levinson understood its power and, in the latest editions of this book, offers many tips and tricks on how to use even the most ignored aspects of it to claim a part of the market share.

Moreover, it seems like he knew about “viral marketing” way before we saw it happening!

#6. “Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers” by Seth Godin

Permission Marketing SummaryWe really like Seth Godin. And I guess most of you do too: he is both au fait and trendy, innovative and enjoyable. Yes – that was our way of telling you that the next three books on this list are Godin’s, “the ultimate entrepreneur for the Information Age.”

We’re starting off with “Permission Marketing,” his 1999 book which introduced the world to the concept. In a nutshell, it is a radically different approach than the traditional you’ve already grown to hate.

Seth Godin calls this type of marketing “interruption marketing,” because, as he rightly claims, it’s based on the premise of interrupting some of your favorite pastimes (watching a movie, eating a dinner) with an unannounced marketing message designed to attract your attention (TV commercial, telemarketer’s call).

Permission marketing is something entirely different. The main idea is – talk to the ones who are already interested. And, in the long run, you’ll make a name for yourself.

#7. “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable” by Seth Godin

Purple Cow Summary“Purple Cow” came four years and as many books after “Permission Marketing.” However, we think that it can be rightly considered its direct follow-up.

Once again, Seth Godin starts where very few advertisers would want to. Namely, with the commonsense notion that people don’t like to be bombarded with commercials. However, nowadays, they seem to have no choice, since ads are wherever they turn. So, they are willingly trying to avoid it as much as possible.

So, where does this put you, an honest marketer with a job to hold onto?

Let us quote him directly: “Your one chance for success is to be remarkable.”

In other words: a) to have a remarkable product to market; and b) to market it in a remarkable way. Out-of-the-box thinking has all but become a norm in the meantime. So – sorry to break you the news – it’s getting ever more difficult to find a good marketing strategy.

“Purple Cow” will certainly help you get inspired.

#8. “All Marketers Are Liars: The Underground Classic That Explains How Marketing Really Works – and Why Authenticity Is the Best Marketing of All” by Seth Godin

Seth GodinAll Marketers Are Liars Summary’s final entry on our list has possibly the most interesting title: “All Marketers Are Liars.” And the sun rises in the morning! Ha – tell us something new Seth!

And, of course, Godin does exactly that.

Starting from sabotaging the title itself: “I wasn’t being completely truthful with you when I named this book,” he writes. “Marketers aren’t liars. They are just storytellers…”

And that’s exactly the point of his book. In Godin’s opinion, marketers are merely telling stories which are neither lies, nor truths. They are – truthful stories which, in time, become true. Because, people believe in what they want to believe, and because once they convince themselves to believe into something, that something becomes “a self-fulfilling truth.”

So, spend some time with Godin and learn how to find the right stories for your product. Because lies are too transparent in the age of the Internet.

And, because, after all, the truth is that $5,000 wine is not that much tastier than $100 one.

#9. “Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content” by Ann Handley

Everybody Writes SummaryFor some reason, we really like to sing the title of this book to the tune of R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts”! If that was Ann Handley’s idea, then it would be a very good thing to buy this book right away and spend some time studying it!

Everybody Writes” is not only the title, but also the basic premise of Ann Handley’s bestseller. If a century ago, the market didn’t allow for many writers or publishers, with the advent of the Internet almost everybody has become both!

Because, if you have a website or a blog – even though you don’t see yourself as a writer or a publisher – news flash: you are. And if you’re selling something (and, as we have told you before, you most certainly are), you need to perfect your writing skills asap!

And from grammar to storytelling to advanced tips and tricks – “Everybody Writes” is the way to go. Guerilla marketing all the way, baby!

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#10. “Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing” by Harry Beckwith

Selling the Invisible SummaryIf you don’t know Harvey Mackay, we’ve hyperlinked his name so you can check him out. And the reason why we’re mentioning him here is because he says that if he could have only one book on marketing, that book would be “Selling the Invisible,” Harry Beckwith’s extraordinarily accessible guide to the secrets of modern marketing.

“Selling the Invisible” is an entertaining attempt to give you all the useful insights on service marketing, which, obviously, is something reasonably different from product marketing. However, as Beckwith beautifully explains, services are also sold. But, in their case – for one – building strong relationships with your client seem like something even more essential.

Written in a style that would make you crave for a sequel or at least an additional chapter in some future edition, “Selling the Invisible” offers a wealth of applicable information, and few bits of advice you’ll never forget.

Here’s one we really like: “Don’t charge by the hour. Charge by the years.”

#11. “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More” by Chris Anderson

The Long Tail Summary“The Long Tail,” writes Reed Hastings, Netflix’s CEO, “belongs on the shelf between ‘The Tipping Point’ and ‘Freakonomics.’” Quite a company – but also quite deservedly. “The Long Tail” was – and even a decade after its original publication still is – a paradigm-shifter.

The basic premise of the book was already expounded in a 2004 article Chris Anderson wrote for “Wired” magazine, where he worked as the editor-in-chief. Before the article and this book, companies believed that it was best to develop their marketing strategies around few high demand products which promised large returns.

However, Anderson noticed that, in fact, the Internet effectively ended the age of the “hit,” blockbuster products, guiding us to an atomized future where the product “misses” of the past have become “niche products.”

Ultimately, Anderson believes – and he has Amazon, Apple, and Yahoo! to back him up – that you’ll be better off selling small quantities of a large number of items, than hoping to sell large quantities of a small number of popular products.

#12. “Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy” by Martin Lindstrom

Buyology SummaryIf you haven’t heard of him by now, Martin Lindstrom is a renowned Danish author. His innovative and extensively researched books have made him both a household name in the marketing world. In addition, they earned him a place at the “Time 100 Most Influential People” list.

Two of them stand out: “Small Data: The Tiny Holes That Uncover Huge Trends” and “Buyology.” We could have listed either one of them, really, but we opted for the groundbreaking second one.

Based on a three-year-long neuromarketing study on over 2,000 people, “Buyology” tries to uncover the hidden patterns behind our buying decisions. And it does so in such a convincing way that many companies have admitted to completely changing their marketing strategies based on Lindstrom’s findings.

Because Lindstrom all but proves that Charles Mackay (see #1) was right from the start! As a species, we are still deeply irrational and buy products because they trigger some ancient parts of our brains.

Just think of the power!

#13. “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World” by Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary VaynerchukJab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook Summary is a Belarusian-born American entrepreneur. He became famous as a wine critic who turned his 3-million-dollars-worth family business into a company worth over $60 million. However, he followed that up with a career in digital and social media marketing – and he earned even more fame.

“Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” was published only five years ago by Harper Collins; however, it has already become somewhat of a digital marketing classic. Understandably so, if you take into consideration the depth and the breadth of the actual experience it’s based on, and its entertaining, street-smart style.

The book is a step-by-step solution for all of your social media marketing headaches, detailing Vaynerchuk’s attempts at building the right strategy in the past, both the failures and the successful ones.

So, you can learn what to do, and what not to – while preparing for the culmination of your marketing campaign (the jabs) and just before dealing the final blow (the right hook)!

#14. “Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers” by Geoffrey A. Moore

Crossing the Chasm SummaryRecently described as “still the bible for entrepreneurial marketing 15 years later,” “Crossing the Chasm” is a 1991 book by organizational theorist Geoffrey Moore, whose primary focus is the how-tos of bringing high tech products to progressively larger markets.

Currently in its updated third edition, “Crossing the Chasm” argues that the marketing strategy of every new technological product must take into consideration the Technology Adoption Life Cycle. And it always moves from the innovators through the early adopters and the early and late majority to the laggards.

The chasm of the title refers to the enormous space between the early adopters and the laggards, i.e., the people who usually follow closely the innovators and those who always come last. And this is the challenge for the marketers: to narrow down this chasm.

“Crossing the Chasm” gives the best tips and tricks on how.

#15. “Confessions of An Advertising Man” by David Ogilvy

Confessions of An Advertising Man SummaryThe founder of Ogilvy & Mather and a larger-than-life advertising tycoon, David Mackenzie Ogilvy is considered to be one of the fathers of modern advertising. His reputation is such that “Confessions of an Advertising Man” is a required reading in numerous advertising classes in the United States.

Split into eleven chapters, “Confessions of An Advertising Man” is actually an amusing book-length advert for Ogilvy & Mather, covering almost every single question you might be interested in asking him.

In the beginning, Ogilvy explains the hows of managing an advertising agency, before embarking on an experience-based elucidation on topics such as how to get and keep clients, how to build great campaigns and make good television commercials, and how to write a potent copy.

Concerning the latter, he devotedly follows almost each of his advices throughout the whole book. And, you know what? Half a century after he wrote this book, so does the whole world.

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Top Inspiring Books

Unfortunately, we’ve all been there. 

Suddenly, something happens, and out of nowhere, our perfect little lives start to crumble. Or – maybe, even worse – even though the thing that happens isn’t too earthshattering at first glance, it opens up our eyes to the unfulfilled life we’ve led up to that moment.

And at moments like that, we need some inspiration. To take back things from our loss or reimagine ourselves in more happier versions of us.

Here are 15 of the best inspirational books which can certainly work as your guides on your personal journey to fulfillment. Embark on it as soon as possible.

And stay inspired.

#1. “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist Summary“The Alchemist” was published in 1988. Three decades later, it’s still widely read and widely beloved.

An international bestseller, the book has been translated into almost half of the world languages, and it has made Brazilian author Paulo Coelho a global superstar.

A profound and poignant narrative, “The Alchemist” is an inspiring novella which tells the story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy. Santiago believes that he has dreamt a dream of significance; a dream which should help him find a big treasure somewhere around the Egyptian pyramids.

And, indeed, the dream turns out to be prophetic. But not in the way Santiago expects it to be. Nor in the way, you, the spellbound reader, would be able to anticipate at the beginning.

Let’s just say, for the time being, that the greatest treasures, though immaterial, are much weightier than all the gold and money in the world.

#2. “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch

The Last Lecture SummaryIn September 2007, Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was invited to take participation in “The Last Lecture” series of talks. Little did the organizers know that, in the case of Pausch, the series’ title was not merely a metaphor.

Namely, just one month before that, Pausch was given a terminal diagnosis. And he knew that he had no more than half a year left on this planet.

Now, you’d expect a beautiful and touching lecture from such a person. But, you wouldn’t expect an optimistic, upbeat one-hour talk labeled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” and viewed by 20 million people on YouTube.

“The Last Lecture” is the book version of this talk. It’s longer and even more fascinating. So much so, in fact, that it has become part of many school curricula.

And for many good reasons.

#3. “Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny!” by Tony Robbins

Tony RobbinsAwaken the Giant Within Summary is a name which has grown to be synonymous with “motivational speaker.” Watch any of his videos on YouTube, and you’ll see why! Sometimes, one wonders if he’s right in what he’s saying or is he merely so convincing that the things come true afterward.

Either way, he does his job well enough that many people see him as something of a personal guru and guide. And with religious devotion, might we add.

“Awaken the Giant Within” is an enormous book, both in terms of its influence and in terms of its sheer length. It’s almost 600 pages – so there’s a lot to take away from it!

If it was a novel, the subtitle would have been a spoiler. Because, “Awaken the Giant Within” is a step-by-step program of self-mastery, aiming to teach you the whys, and the hows of your life.

And, of course, the how-tos of making it better.

#4. “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach

Jonathan Livingston Seagull Summary“Jonathan Livingston Seagull” was published in 1970 to rave reviews from the general public. Just like its main character, the book quickly soared to the top of “The New York Times Bestseller” list, and it remained there for the next 38 weeks.

And even half a century later, it is still lovingly cherished and highly ranked.

Originally a three-part novella (Richard Bach added a fourth part in the 2013 edition), “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” tells the story of the seagull from the title. A non-conformist, he ignores his daily duties and passionately tries to learn to fly. As a result, he is banished from his community, but he is unwavering in his determination to be the best flier there ever was.

Soon, the tables turn, and Jonathan Livingston Seagull learns that he was “a one-in-a-million bird” from the very beginning.

You may be too. And this book may show you why.

#5. “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne

The Secret SummaryWhen Rhonda Byrne’s father died in 2004, depression took over her life. She wasn’t able to do her job as an executive producer for Australian television the same way as before. She wasn’t even capable of functioning properly in her day to day activities. Her life, as she says, collapsed around her.

And that’s when she started reading. Soon enough, she discovered “The Secret.”

Even though the reception of the book may suggest some groundbreaking findings, Rhonda Byrne claims that she, in fact, isn’t saying anything new. She’s merely demonstrating how the secret is something every great person from history knew and employed in his or her life. Plato, Shakespeare, Newton, Beethoven, Edison, Einstein – practically anyone you can think of!

Of course, Rhonda Byrne doesn’t stop there. She makes the secret much simpler and explains how you can use it, whether you want to earn more money, be in a better relationship or live a healthier life.

You want to learn the secret? Read the book!

#6. “Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Great Lessons” by Mitch Albom

Tuesdays with Morrie SummaryIn 1995, Mitch Albom was a popular sports columnist for the “Detroit Free Press,” when a friend of his told him about Morrie Schwartz’s then-recent interview on ABC News’ “Nightline.” He watched the interview. And he was devastated.

You see, Morrie Schwartz, a sociology professor at Brandeis University, was Albom’s most beloved college teacher. Unfortunately, Albom stopped keeping in touch about a decade and a half before the TV interview. And what did he learn from it?

That Schwartz was suffering from ALS, a terminal disease, the one Stephen Hawking is suffering as well. So, he decided to reconnect with his old teacher. And, soon enough, he started visiting him every Tuesday, for discussions about life and death.

You know – for the last lectures.

Word of mouth made “Tuesdays with Morrie” – published after Schwartz’s death – a global phenomenon. It became one of the top selling memoirs ever and was translated into 45 languages.

And, finally, Oprah Winfrey produced a movie which won four Emmys in 1999!

#7. “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars SummaryThere’s something about near-death experiences that makes life worth living. And there’s something about other people’s stories concerning the lessons they took out from it that can inspire us to live better and more fulfilled lives.

And John Green, unfortunately, heard many of them. In fact, that’s what inspired him to become an author. He originally wanted to become a priest, but while working in a hospital with children suffering from life-threatening diseases, he decided that there’s another way he wanted to reach people.

And that’s what his beloved sixth novel, “The Fault in Our Stars,” did – both as a book and, later, as an award-winning film. The story is about two teenagers afflicted with terminal diseases, meeting and falling in love while attending a support group.

But, it’s also so much more! It’s a book about triumphing over the pain and the suffering, a tear-jerker about courage and the ultimate heartbreaks. Utterly beautiful.

#8. “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The Little Prince SummaryIf you thought it’s astonishing that the first book on our list has been so far translated into half of the world languages, you’ll probably never believe us if we told you that this little classic is translated in practically all of them!

Selling about 2 million copies each year, “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is probably the 4th best-selling book ever written. And it was voted the best 20th-century book in the French language!

A poetic novella, “The Little Prince,” is a children’s book about adults. It tells the story of a pilot stranded in the desert who meet the eponymous prince, a visitor from a tiny asteroid. And through him, he learns of the absurdities of our ways.

And how beautiful life can be even if its whole point is cultivating a rare rose.

#9. “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson

Who Moved My Cheese SummaryNowadays, it’s quite difficult to understand the impact “Who Moved My Cheese” – a 32-page scantily illustrated motivational fable – had on the business world when it first appeared two decades ago.

Spending almost a year on “Publishers Weekly’s” bestseller list, it managed to sell almost 30 million copies worldwide, and earn numerous accolades, before being turned into a cartoon and becoming the subject of many parodies.

It tells the story of four characters, two mice (Sniff and Scurry) and two little people (Hem and Haw). They all live in a maze and are in a constant pursuit for cheese. However, they have a different way of finding it, and, moreover, keeping it once they do locate it.

Halfway down the story, the reader realizes that the mice will be fine. And that it’s the people who have to be a bit more organized and less afraid.

And that’s where “the writings on the wall” come in handy.

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#10. “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran

The Prophet SummaryOne of the most beloved modern poets, Kahlil Gibran, was born in Bsharri, then the Ottoman Empire, modern-day Lebanon. His family emigrated to the United States when he was young. It was there that he started learning art and literature. And it was there that he became the originator of the inspirational fiction genre.

Written in English, “The Prophet,” a small volume consisting of 26 prose poems, was originally published in 1923 and has never been out of print. Its style and philosophical depth have made it a perennial favorite and a popular gift.

The frame narrative of “The Prophet” is fairly simple. Almustafa, the prophet from the title, is stopped by a group of people before boarding a ship which should carry him home. The people ask him questions, and Almustafa’s answers are the 26 prose poems we mentioned.

The topics covered are as many, and range from love and marriage to freedom and time, to religion and death. And you’ll know more about each of them.

#11. “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: A Fable About Fulfilling Your Dreams & Reaching Your Destiny” by Robin Sharma

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari SummaryJust like many of the motivational writers you’ve grown to love, Robin Sharma worked an ordinary job (a litigation lawyer), before deciding that he’s much more interested in techniques for self-perfection.

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” isn’t his first book (it’s his second), but it is the one which retells his personal story in a most inspiring manner. The book is a motivational business fable and is basically a conversation between two friends, Julian and John.

The former (a fictional version of Sharma himself) was a successful trial lawyer, before experiencing a heart attack while arguing his case in court. Fortunately, as he explains, this heart attack would turn out to be one of the best things that could have happened to him.

Because it would initiate a spiritual journey that would enable him to finally live a life of passion and purpose.

#12. “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” by Don Miguel Ruiz

The Four Agreements SummaryIn Don Miguel Ruiz, we have once again a man utterly transformed by a near-death experience. And once again, a writer whose lessons will subsequently transform you because of it.

Already a successful surgeon, Ruiz decided to become a shaman’s apprentice after barely surviving a serious car accident. Afterward, he spent few years exploring the Toltec wisdom and mind-elevating techniques.

His debut book, “The Four Agreements” is the best introduction to what he ultimately learned.

Advocating absolute freedom and living-in-the-moment mentality, “The Four Agreements” explores a fourfold code: “be impeccable with your word,” “don’t take anything personally,” “don’t make assumptions,” and “always do your best.”

A decade later, Ruiz will team up with his son to add a 5th agreement: “be skeptical, but learn to listen.” And that’s another fairly inspirational book.

#13. “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” by Brené Brown

The Gifts of Imperfection SummaryA research professor at the University of Houston, Brené Brown made a name for herself when in June 2010 she gave a talk at TED Houston, titled “The Power of Vulnerability.” Still one of the most viewed TED talks in history, it would form the basis of her next book, “Daring Greatly,” already featured in our top 15 self-help book list.

And, really, both there and here, we could have included almost any of Brown’s eight books, and we wouldn’t have made a mistake. They are all inspirational, down-to-earth, caring, and hopeful.

“The Gifts of Imperfection” maybe most of all. Featuring ten guideposts to tackle the pressure each of one faces on a daily basis, the book aims to help everybody by teaching him or her that he/she doesn’t need to be anything else than he/she already is – just to please people.

Because with courage, compassion, and connection – he/she can be happy in the face of every obstacle.

#14. “Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert

Eat Pray Love SummaryWe’ve already written about Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic.” However, here we’ve opted for her debut memoir, “Eat Pray Love;” not because of its status, but much more because of the way it has affected many people we know.

And because, well, not many books have been featured on two episodes of “The Oprah Winfrey Show”!

An autobiographical account, “Eat Pray Love” follows the eye-opening spiritual odyssey of a 31-year-old Elizabeth Gilbert. Trapped in an unhappy marriage, she decides to embark on a year-long journey around the world to gain some perspective.

And she gets – in three chapters! First, she eats and enjoys life in Italy for a period of four months; then, she spends three months praying in India; finally, she falls in love with a Brazilian businessman in Bali.

The book has it all. And you can also watch its 2010 movie adaptation. It received lukewarm reviews, but, then again, Julia Roberts is in it!

#15. “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy” by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

Option B SummaryTwo weeks after her beloved husband, David Goldberg, suddenly died, Sheryl Sandberg faced the unbearable task of having to prepare her child for a father/child activity. “I want Dave,” she cried. Her friend Adam Grant, a psychologist at Wharton, replied with some very wise words: “Option A is not available.”

The only thing Sheryl Sandberg – Facebook’s COO and the author of “Lean In,” a book we’ve featured in our top leadership books list – was left with was trying to make the best out of Option B: living without her husband.

And that certainly wasn’t an easy task. She was, as she writes herself, in a void, “a vast emptiness that fills your heart and lungs and restricts your ability to think or even breathe.”

And “Option B” is a book about everyone who feels that he’s not really living the life he’s supposed to be. Especially, if due to some life-shattering loss.

It’s a sort of “manual for resilience.” And it may just help you regain some joy and faith.

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Top History Books

“Those who cannot learn from history,” wrote Madrid-born American philosopher George Santayana, “are doomed to repeat it”. Unfortunately, the fact that history does repeat itself – as Marx wrote, “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce” – shows that we haven’t really heeded to Santayana’s words.

Or, to quote a famous quip by George Bernard Shaw: “We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.”

So, maybe, it’s time to change that. And what better way to do this, but by leafing through few of the best history books ever written.

Some are here for their historical value, others for the in-depth analysis of specific time periods or historical figures. Most, however (about a third) are extensive overviews of human history, from the beginning of time until today.

And are both funnier and more educational than you’d expect or even wish for! The best history books are all yours!

#1. “Histories” by Herodotus

Histories SummaryThey don’t call you “The Father of History” for nothing, do they?

Born sometime around 484 in Halicarnassus (then part of the Persian Empire) – as far as we know – Herodotus was the first man in history to have shown an interest for what we would now refer to as historiography. Namely, he didn’t merely want to learn and retell the stories of yore; he wanted to fact-check them as well.

And the result is “The Histories,” his only book and the first historiographical work in all of Western literature. At times both biased and over-the-top fantastical, it is nevertheless even more reliable than you’d expect.

Primarily focusing on the rise of the Persian Empire, and the origins of the Greco-Persian wars, “The Histories” is, far and above, the most important source on these matters. And both the general public and historians enjoy it and quote it two and a half millennia after its appearance.

#2. “History of the Peloponnesian War” by Thucydides

History of the Peloponnesian War SummaryHerodotus died about six years after the Ancient Greek world started a devastating quarter-of-a-century long war, which signaled not only an internal shift in power but also the end of Greece’s golden age.

We’re, of course, talking about the Peloponnesian War, fought between the Athens-led Delos league and the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta.

Most of the things you know about it come from an Ancient Athenian, named Thucydides, whose book, “History of the Peloponnesian War” is widely credited as the first scientific work of history.

You see, Thucydides wanted to be better than Herodotus in describing the historical events he personally witnessed and experienced, so he further developed the quite recent historical method. His rules: impartiality and evidence-based cause-and-effect analysis, free from any reference to divine interventions.

Because, as he was aware, his work was “not a piece of writing designed to meet the taste of an immediate public, but was done to last forever.”

2,500 years later, we can only admire his farsightedness.

#3. “Alexander the Great” by Philip Freeman

Alexander the Great SummaryThe Peloponnesian War brought about the economic collapse of the Ancient Greek city-states. The loser, Athens, was merely a shadow of its former glory, and the winner, Sparta, spent decades fighting with poverty and hunger.

And, as they say, “when two people quarrel, a third rejoices.”

In this case, the third was the small kingdom of Macedon, which in less than half a century, would grow to become one of the largest empires in history, almost exclusively owing to two remarkable monarchs, Philip II of Macedon and Alexander the Great.

Philip Freeman’s “Alexander the Great” is considered to be “the first authoritative biography of Alexander the Great written for a general audience.” A comprehensive introduction to his life and accomplishments, the book follows the rise and rise of the Macedonian king from its very beginning in Macedonia to his final demise at the ends of the earth.

And, for the absolute novices – it even includes an excellent little glossary at the end!

#4. “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” by Edward Gibbon

The Decline and Fall of the Roman EmpireAlexander’s empire was torn apart soon after his death. His descendants learned nothing from history. And, once again, the quarrel of many meant the blessing of one: Ancient Rome.

Obviously, you’ll easily find thousands of great books and movies about the glorious Roman years of Caesar and Augustus. However, not many focus on the decline of the Roman Empire.

And, by popular acclaim, none of them matches Edward Gibbon’s “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” a six-volume masterpiece which deservedly won Gibbon the name “the first modern historian of ancient Rome.”

Gigantic in both length and scope – it covers the period from 98 to 1590 – “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” became a model for later historians, both because of its heavy use of primary sources, and its secularizing tendency and tone.

Its enjoyably ironic and sumptuously aphoristic style has been unsurpassed to this day.

#5. “Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History” by Ibn Khaldun

Muqaddimah SummaryUnfortunately, more often than not, we tend to forget that civilization is not a Western phenomenon. And that, in fact, some of civilization’s most significant achievements have been made by people whose names you’ve probably never even heard of.

Arab historian Ibn Khaldun is one of these people. One of the most influential philosophers of the Middle Ages, his “Muqaddimah” (westernized as Ibn Khaldun’s “Prolegomena”) is such an important work that he deserves his place among history’s greatest solely on its merits.

Written in 1377, the book is the first known attempt by any human at writing a universal history. It’s also the first… On second thought, let’s look at Wikipedia’s description for a whole list of firsts.

Namely, Ibn Khaldun’s “Muqaddimah” is considered by some to be the first work dealing with the philosophy of history or the history of social sciences. It’s certainly the first to touch upon concepts such as demography, cultural history, economics, and even social Darwinism! Moreover, it’s also the first to take ecology and political history seriously.

Already quite a lot of reasons to read this book, right?

#6. “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany” by William L. Shirer

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich SummaryWilliam L. Shirer was originally a foreign correspondent for “Chicago Tribune,” before he became famous for his Berlin broadcasts for CBS. However, this fame would prove nothing compared to the one he’d earn after Simon & Schuster published his bestselling account of Nazi Germany, “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.”

Hailed by “The New York Times” as “one of the most important works of history of our time,” “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” is an extensive (more than 1,200 pages) history of modern Germany. And it chronicles the years between the birth of Adolf Hitler and the end of World War II (1889-1945).

Based on his personal memories, the Nuremberg trials and British Foreign Office reports, captured Nazi documents and the diaries of Joseph Goebbels, Franz Halder, and Galeazzo Ciano, “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” is the most popular history of one of the most notorious regimes in human history.

#7. “The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914–1991” by Eric Hobsbawm

The Age of Extremes SummaryBritish historian Eric Hobsbawm is widely considered to have been one of the greatest historians of the last two centuries. So much so, in fact, that his terse descriptions of both have become a staple in historiography: “the long 19th” and “the short 20th century.”

For our list, we opted for his book on the latter, “The Age of Extremes,” even though his trilogy about the former is equally lauded and respected. (Check it out! It consists of “The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789–1848”, “The Age of Capital: 1848–1875” and “The Age of Empire: 1875–1914.”)

The Age of Extremes” is a largely pessimistic historiographical work, detailing, in about 640 pages, the failures of capitalism, nationalism, and state socialism.

It’s also a scathing critique of post-war art, described by Hobsbawm as “a succession of manifestos of despair,” and a constant reminder that “If humanity is to have a recognizable future, it cannot be by prolonging the past or the present.”

And yet, even quarter of a century after its first publication, nothing has changed.

#8. “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution” by Walter Isaacson

The Innovators SummaryAnd now we move from the depths of the despair to the heights of hope!

“The Innovators” by Walter Isaacson features a decisively different tone, one that’s filled both with optimism and wonder at the mental capabilities of humans.

And how can it be any different?

The book is “a riveting, propulsive, and at times deeply moving” story of a host of figures who contributed to you being able to read this in your home, on a PC, via the Internet.

A more than a fascinating study of human progress and collaboration, “The Innovators” is divided into twelve chapters, ten of which cover different aspects of the digital revolution, framed by two dedicated to Ada Lovelace, the forgotten pioneer, the first computer programmer.

The main takeout: if politicians don’t want to learn from history, scientists may as well do. And, after all, they are our best shot at a more beautiful and humane future.

#9. “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn

A People's History of the United StatesIf you’re living in the United States, the chances are you already own this book. But, let’s face it, you knew this book would show up somewhere down this list, didn’t you?

A professor and a political scientist, a playwright and a social activist, Howard Zinn was, most of all, a historian writing with the voice – and in the name – of those who don’t get to write their histories. The small people, the marginalized ones.

You see, most historiographers (especially conservative ones) will tell you that “the history of the world is but the biography of great men” (Carlyle). Zinn would beg to differ. His history is the history of the factory workers, of the unfairly treated immigrants, of the working poor, of the African Americans.

Or, as he puts it himself, a history of “a striving, against corporate robber barons and war makers, to make [the American ideals] a reality.”

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#10. “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies” by Jared Diamond

Guns, Germs, and Steel SummaryJared Diamond is one of the last great polymaths and one of the most revered intellectuals of our age.

And, just as you would expect, his 1997 study “Guns, Germs, and Steel” is not merely historiographical, but as transdisciplinary as possible. Its original subtitle, as pretentious as it may seem, describes it best: “A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years.”

And Diamond delivers on the promise big time!

The main idea of the poetically titled “Guns, Germs, and Steel” is relatively simple. Namely to prove that Eurasian hegemony is not due to some inherent intellectual or biological advantages of Eurasians, but due to thousands of environmental and geographical circumstances, some of which can easily be deduced.

And the best thing is that not many people other than Diamond are able to argument such a thesis. Because, you see, when we said polymath at the beginning, we meant geographer, biologist, ecologist, and anthropologist.

And “Guns, Germs, and Steel” employs all of these sciences to tell of a pretty different history.

#11. “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens Summary“Sapiens” wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for “Guns, Germs, and Steel.”

In fact, Yuval Noah Harari, a modern Israeli historian, explicitly states that Jared Diamond’s masterpiece was by far the most profound inspiration on his book because it showed him that it was possible to “ask very big questions and answer them scientifically.”

So, he did pretty much the same in “Sapiens,” combining biology and history to rewrite the narrative of the most resilient human species, the homo sapiens.

Even though the book starts some 70,000 years ago with the Cognitive Revolution, Harari doesn’t forget to remind its readers that homo sapiens was only one of six different human species. In the second part of the book, he goes on describing the takeaways from the Agricultural Revolution, before breaking down the reasons for the Unification of Humankind and the history of the Scientific Revolution.

The book ends with a blood-curdling stream of visions of man’s future, the topic of Harari’s most recent book, “Homo Deus.”

#12. “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson

A Short History of Nearly Everything SummaryHave you ever felt like your high school science textbooks were mind-numbing and boring to death? Sure, you could blame it on your lack of interest for science – after all, you didn’t care for either protons or Napoleon. That is if you’re not beloved British writer Bill Bryson.

You see, by his own admission, before embarking on the beautiful journey that is “A Short History of Nearly Everything,” Bryson knew almost nothing about the universe and its history.

However, he was reasonably sure that there was nothing wrong with him. Science was great; to understand our history through it – even better. It was the textbooks: they weren’t fun enough, and they weren’t passionate – at all.

And that’s where “A Short History of Nearly Everything” comes in. It details everything from the Big Bang to the advent of civilization in an engaging, humorous, and layman language. You’ll feel ten times smarter after finishing this book.

And you’ll finish it in the blink of an eye!

#13. “The Evolution of Everything: How Small Things Transform the World” by Matt Ridley

The Evolution of Everything SummaryIn a letter sent to an Anglican bishop, Lord Acton wrote two sentences which are as widely misattributed as they are ignored: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men…”

Just like Howard Zinn, Matt Ridley – a British biologist with a Ph.D. in zoology – doesn’t believe in history being a string of biographies of the great men. But, he’s even more radical than Zinn. In his opinion, history (and, precisely, progress) is just something that happens!

And “The Evolution of Everything” is his attempt to test out his idea in sixteen different areas, ranging from physics and biology, through the economy and the education to the government and interpersonal moral.

It’s a book of fascinating breadth and depth. And even more interesting conclusions. Like, for example, the one that even though Einstein was a great guy, the theory of relativity would have been conceptualized even if he hadn’t existed; by, say, a certain Hendrik Lorentz.

Why? Well, because 23 different people invented the light bulb around the same time.

Just read the book. You’ll see what we’re talking about.

#14. “A History of the World in 6 Glasses: How Your Favorite Drinks Changed the World” by Tom Standage

A History of the World in 6 Glasses SummaryYou can split up the history of the world in periods or chapters – but in 6 glasses? Now, how would that look like? The simple answer is: as exciting as you would hope for and much more thorough than you would expect.

Tom Standage’s “A History of the World in 6 Glasses,” tells the story of the world – from the Stone Age to the 21st century – by carefully examining the history of six different beverages: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola. And the results are as magnificent as unexpected!

For example, beer contributed to the creation of civilization; so much so, in fact, that it’s described in the world’s oldest literary work “Gilgamesh” as “the drink of the civilized man.” Wine, on the other hand, was how the Greek cultural conquests came to be.

Spirits fueled the Age of Exploration, and the French Revolution started in a coffeehouse. Sandwich “tea” between “Boston” and “party” and you immediately get its significance.

And is there a better way to describe globalization than “Coca-Cola”?

#15. “The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World’s Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley” by Eric Weiner

The Geography of Genius SummaryEven as a wildcard, it’s somewhat strange that one of our top 15 history books is titled “The Geography of Genius.” But, the title is as accurate as it is misleading. Even though “A History of the World in 8 Genius Clusters” might have made a lot more sense.

Because, that’s how you can best sum up “The Geography of Genius” in 10 words or less. In it, respected journalist Eric Weiner sets off on a journey both around the world and throughout history to discover why some places, at specific points of time, started begetting geniuses, seemingly at will and in multitudes.

The places? Ancient Athens, Song Dynasty Hangzhou, Renaissance Florence, 18th century Edinburgh, 19th century Calcutta, Vienna of the 1900s (twice), and the Silicon Valley of today.

Walter Isaacson – see #8 above – describes this book most accurately when he says that it is “a charming mix of history and wisdom cloaked as a rollicking travelogue filled with colorful characters.” And Dan Gilbert, though not as stylish, is as truthful: “an intellectual odyssey, a traveler’s diary, and a comic novel all rolled into one. Smart, original, and utterly delightful.”

Now, dare we say: “genius”?

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Top Business Books

Wikipedia defines business as “an organization that provides goods and services for human needs.” It’s a simple definition for a complex set of processes, which encompass everything from an original idea, through an effective management structure to a maximizing-profits strategy.

And we have them all: the basics and the classics, the biographies and the big company histories, the why and wherefores of being an entrepreneur, a leader, and an investor, and the because of-s and the how-to-s of dealing with a crisis.

Consequently, it’s only natural that this list is a compilation of few other of our top books lists. But, we couldn’t resist to include few titles which – since we decided for a maximum of 15 of the best business books per list – we had no choice but to omit from our other booklists.

No need to buckle up: it’s going to be a lean ride!

#1. “The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to do About it” by Michael E. Gerber

The E-Myth Revisited SummaryIf you want to start your own company, this book is all but a prerequisite. It’s basically a step-by-step guide, including not only essential tips and tricks, but also, much more importantly, numerous don’ts and why the hell would you-s.

In the cult classic “The E-Myth Revisited,” Michael E. Gerber takes you on a virtual journey from the nugget of an idea to your first successful small business. The book is dived in three parts: “The E-Myth and American Small Business,” “The Turn-Key Revolution: A New View of Business,” and “Building a Small Business That Works!”

And each of these parts includes few chapters which will carefully lead you through all the phases of a successful small business. Specifically, you’ll progress from entrepreneurial infancy (the technician’s phase) through adolescent help-getting pleas and comfort-zone-wrecking acts to developing mature in-depth manuals for each of the necessary business strategies.

“The E-Myth Revisited” aims to transform the unpredictability of the business world into a surefire method for success. Absolutely essential.

#2. “The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers” by Ben Horowitz

The Hard Thing About Hard Things SummaryAnother business 101 classic.

Ben Horowitz is an American investor and businessman, a regular blogger, a co-founder of the venture capital giant Andreessen Horowitz, and an all-around Silicon Valley legend.

In “The Hard Thing About Hard Things,” he shares his experiences and real-world-proof expertise on how to establish and run a startup. And he focuses on what others leave out. “A lot of people talk about how great it is to start a business,” says the blurb on the back cover, “but only Ben Horowitz is brutally honest about how hard it is to run one.”

And that brutal honesty comes in the form of a highly readable experience-based volume, adorned with – well, this is a first one – rap lyrics!

After all, if one of our investment gurus, Mark Spitznagel, can consider Bob Dylan an economic prophet, why shouldn’t Horowitz epigraph his first chapter with DMX’s “Who We Be”?

You’ll find many of those scattered throughout “The Hard Thing About Hard Things.” Now, who would have known that you could teach business with rap and hip-hop?

(Mental note: read “The 50th Law”; just in case.)

#3. “Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.” by Ron Chernow

Titan SummaryMoving on from the fundamentals classics to the classic business biographies. And is there a better place to start other than with the ultimate biography of a person whose surname has become a synonym for “wealth”?

When he died in 1937, John D. Rockefeller Sr. fell just two years short of becoming a centenarian. But, what he left behind was a business empire of mythic proportions. In fact, at his peak, Rockefeller controlled almost nine tenths of the oil in the United States, and was worth about one fiftieth of the U.S. GDP.

In other words, he amassed a fortune four times bigger than Bill Gates!

Safe to say, Ron Chernow couldn’t have chosen a better subject for a biography. And, in writing “Titan,” he got an unprecedented access to Rockefeller’s private papers! Since you’ll definitely want to pick up this book now, let us prepare you appropriately, by taking you back to Rockefeller’s times:

“Rockefeller stripped to the bone as never before! Read all about it! Read all about it!”

#4. “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” by Ashlee Vance

Elon MuskElon Musk Summary has the magnetism of a Hollywood superstar. And he’s at the frontline of the mastermind minority which is currently designing your future.

Just think about it: can you imagine being privileged enough to follow Nikola Tesla’s Twitter account?

Unique and brilliant, Elon Musk has built an image which guarantees that any book dedicated on his life and endeavors will be an instant bestseller. Even better when it’s authored by Ashlee Vance, a celebrated business author and columnist.

His “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” doesn’t disappoint in the least. It is thoroughly researched and full of exclusive content. Elon Musk has warned that It’s not independently fact-checked, but has endorsed it as a great book, nevertheless.

And when the man himself says that it’s good – who are we to judge otherwise?

#5. “Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike” by Phil Knight

Shoe Dog Summary“Shoe Dog” is the safest bridge we could think of between the essential business biographies/memoirs of the day and the best histories of the top companies in the world.

Because, this one’s a book written by Phil Knight, the co-founder and chairman emeritus of “Nike,” your beloved footwear maker. And it’s not about the “Nike” you know, but about how the “Nike” you know came to be.

So, don’t expect to find here your Jordans and Jameses, your Woodses and Federers!

But, do expect to find how an ordinary Portland accountant tricked the Japanese conglomerate Onitsuka Co. to establish a small Tiger shoes reseller called Blue Ribbon Sports. And, of course, how that became “Nike” – together with the wonderful stories about the naming and the choosing of the swoosh logo!

It’s engagingly written, wonderfully structured and brimming with between-the-lines practical advice. The best kind, really.

#6. “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon” by Brad Stone

The Everything Store SummaryPhil Knight is the 28th richest person in the world. Jeff Bezos, the founder of the company this book is dedicated on, is the richest. And Wikipedia has compiled a list of few references which claim that he’s on a track to become the wealthiest person in history.

Yes, maybe even beating the guy at #3!

Born into a middle-class family in Albuquerque, Jeff Bezos had the idea of starting a business company which will deliver books via mail. That was back in 1994. Few years into the venture, Bezos was visionary enough to see that this Internet bookstore can become “The Everything Store.”

And, soon enough, it did.

In 2013, that’s the phrase Brad Stone, a lauded technology journalist, chose for the title of his book chronicling Amazon’s rise. And his account was so terrific that “Financial Times” bestowed “The Everything Store” with the 2013 best business book award.

And what’s more, getnugget.co presented it with the ultimate honor: a place on its top 15 business booklist.

#7. “Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal” by Nick Bilton

Hatching Twitter SummaryThe rise and rise of Amazon was largely a one-man show. The story of Twitter, on the other hand – as the subtitle of our choice states – was a multi-person drama of money, power, friendship and betrayal.

Really: they should make a TV series out of it! If it’s based on Nick Bilton’s account, we can guarantee you hours and hours of cliffhangers and shocks, excitement and twists.

Praised for its novel-like qualities and the breadth of the research, “Hatching Twitter” has it all!

From a project gone wrong to a casual idea gone right; from a fellowship of four hackers – Ev Williams, Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, and Noah Glass – to a startup with serious backup problems; and, finally, from constant inside power struggles to a multibillion-dollar business which has twice fired its founders.

Yes, we’ve read “Things a Little Bird Told Me,” Biz Stone’s take of the Twitter affairs. But, this one’s better.

#8. “Principles: Life and Work” by Ray Dalio

Principles SummaryWe really wanted to include this book in our top finance and investing books, but we didn’t really know which of those 15 books to drop. (Leave a comment if you do.)

So, we opted for a compromise, which meant that Ray Dalio’s “Principles” was one of the first books we wrote down under the “Top Business Books” title.

And here’s why.

In 1975, when Ray Dalio was merely 26, he founded an investment firm in his two-bedroom New York apartment. Today, at the age of 68, he is one of the 100 wealthiest people on this planet. And the firm, Bridgewater Associates, is probably the world’s largest hedge fund.

“Principles” is Dalio’s personal view on the matters. It includes hundreds of practical business lessons, all revolving around his three fundamental beliefs: “radical transparency,” “radical truth,” and “organizational dissent”.

Just like Dalio, “Principles” is unconventional and entertaining as hell. Where else, after all, would you find a suggestion to create trading “baseball cards” of your employees?

#9. “The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing” by Benjamin Graham

The Intelligent Investor SummaryWarren Buffet, the Oracle himself, says that “The Intelligent Investor” is “by far the best investing book ever written.” And that this book – and man, since he was his mentor – utterly “changed his life.”

Benjamin Graham is considered the father of “value investing.” And “The Intelligent Investor” is where he expounds his “value investing” philosophy most thoroughly and in a most readable manner. In fact, you can understand the gist of it by way of Graham’s favorite allegory, the one about Mr. Market.

There’s no need to describe it or delve in it further, because you have probably already heard it. Just like there’s probably no need to endorse “The Intelligent Investor” anymore than it already is by the first sentence of this review.

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#10. “Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street” by John Brooks

Business Adventures SummaryJohn Brooks died over quarter of a century ago, but his legacy as one of the best “New Yorker” contributors in history remains safe and sound to this day. Moreover, “Business Adventures,” his most popular book, is still considered one of the ultimate business classics.

As its subtitle implies, “Business Adventures” is an anthology of Brooks’ articles, a collection of twelve Wall Street stories. In principle, these cover much more monkey business, than actual business – but that’s exactly what makes them even more interesting.

In fact, we think that there’s no other book where you can read, side by side, a personal account of the rise of Xerox, and a behind-the-scenes narrative of the 1960s multi-million scandals at Ford and General Electric.

The reviews have our back: “Forbes” says it’s “vividly written,” and “Slate” calls it “superb.” But they all fade out in view of Bill Gates’ endorsement: “’Business Adventures’ remains the best business book I’ve ever read.”

#11. “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future” by Peter Thiel

Zero to One SummaryWhat Bill Gates says about “Business Adventures,” Derek Thompson, writing for “The Atlantic” says almost verbatim about Peter Thiel’s “Zero to One.” And he furnishes the accolade with a sentence which neatly describes the best aspect of the book: a “lucid and profound articulation of capitalism and success in the 21st century economy.”

Peter Thiel – if you happen to be living on some other planet –  is the co-founder of PayPal, the first outside investor in Facebook, and one of the richest people in the world.

And in “Zero to One” he shares some of his insights about how the greatest entrepreneurs (yes, we have featured this book on that list as well) make large leaps – not from 1 to 1.1, but from 0 to 1.

From time to time, the discussion is a bit more abstract and enigmatic than you’d expect. But, then again, one of Thiel’s main ideas is that the startups which succeed are founded on secrets.

#12. “Capital in the 21st Century” by Thomas Piketty

Capital in the 21st Century Summary“Financial Times” best business book for 2014 and a top 15 economics book ever, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” is one of the most sobering business books you’ll ever read. A little publishing miracle, its English translation is the most sought-after and purchased book ever published by the Harvard University Press.

Thomas Piketty examines data from twenty different countries, going back to the 18th century, in an attempt to understand better the relationship between wealth and inequality. His conclusions may revolutionize how you – or anyone else, for that matter – think about business.

First of all, even though Marx wasn’t completely right, he was much more spot-on concerning how capitalism works than most. And secondly, not fixing inequality is bad for everybody’s business – in the long run.

The solution, in Piketty’s opinion, is progressive taxation. For better or for worse, our best tool to eliminate inequality.

#13. “Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System – and Themselves” by Andrew Ross Sorkin

Too Big to Fail SummaryPiketty was as good an introduction to our crises section of this list as any. And “Too Big to Fail” is undoubtedly the book we’d like to start this section with.

When it was published in 2010, it won the 2010 Gerald Loeb award for best business book. Additionally, it was named “the best book of the year” by respectable publications such as “The Economist” and “The Business Week.” And, finally, it was either shortlisted or longlisted by almost all other periodicals and newspaper of note.

A thriller of blockbuster proportions, “Too Big to Fail” is the book you’d want to read if you want to find out what was happening during the 2007-8 financial crisis. You can also watch the award-winning HBO film if you’d like, but, if you ask us, you shouldn’t skip Andrew Ross Sorkin’s bestseller under any circumstances.

Greed, ego, fear, self-preservation instincts – the business world has never looked more similar to a jungle than here!

#14. “Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco” by Bryan Burrough and John Heylar

Barbarians at the Gate SummaryAnd one more book-turned-successful-movie about corporate greed you’ll swallow in a single bite, savoring its bitter-sweet taste for a fairly long period.

In “Barbarians at the Gate”, Bryan Burrough and John Heylar take you on a journey deep inside the belly of the whale. In their case, the whale is RJR Nabisco, a former American tobacco and food conglomerate, and the belly is its leveraged buyout, at the time the highest in history.

Out-of-date only at first glance, this is an amazingly honest and profound account of a world of power struggles and aggressive business strategies. One that probably happens all around us today, because – even though companies and owners change, people hardly ever do.

“The Chicago Tribune” in its review wrote that “it’s hard to imagine a better story…” And, even more importantly, it went on “…and it’s hard to imagine a better account.”

#15. “Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck –Why Some Thrive Despite Them All” by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen

Great by Choice SummaryWe guess that you probably expected to find Jim Collins’ other famous book on this list, but since you can find it among the top 15 leadership books we’ve carefully selected, we thought that it wouldn’t harm to opt for “Great by Choice” here.

As you might already know, “Good to Great” ploughed deep to find the reasons which made some good companies turn great, as opposed to others who remained mediocre. Well, “Great by Choice” is another deep-research-based study of similar kind, this time focusing on an even more interesting question. Namely, why do some companies thrive in crisis, while others descend into mayhem?

In “Great by Choice,” Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen reveal many reasons, while introducing one or two paradigm-shifters. And they prove that if you want a good business, you need to obsessively prepare for disaster, and never really care about exceeding your goals.

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Top Self Help Books

In 1859, Samuel Smiles, a little-known Scottish government reformer, published his second book, a haphazard manual for reaching your highest potential. For its title, he chose the unassuming “Self-Help”, adding “with Illustrations of Character and Conduct” as a subtitle.

Overnight, he became a celebrity, “a leading pundit and a much-consulted guru.” Little did he know that he had started both a genre and a revolution.

One and a half century later, it’s safe to say that self help books are all the rage. Whether they strive to help you become a millionaire or a happier person, they come by the dozens on a weekly basis. So, how would you know which are the best ones?

That’s where we come in! We’ve rummaged through our database, memory and tens of booklists to choose the best self help books. So, you can just start reading them!

#1. “How to Win Friends and Influence People: The Only Book You Need to Lead You to Success” by Dale Carnegie

How to Win Friends and Influence People SummarySamuel Smiles might have been the first one to write a self-help book, but Dale Carnegie was certainly the first one to take writing self-help books seriously and make it a full-time job.

Published in 1936, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” is a classic sold in over 30 million copies. The fact that it was recently included in “Time Magazine’s” top 20 of list of most influential books in history speaks volumes about its timelessness.

Read this book to learn the six ways to make people like you. And, while you’re there, have a look at the nine ways you can change them. Or, maybe, the twelve ways to convince them that you’re right!

Don’t worry: they’ll think that it was the other way around!

#2. “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill

Think and Grow Rich SummaryJust one year after Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” another book you’re probably already familiar with was making the rounds. It still is, almost a century after it was first published.

Inspired by a 1908 meeting with Andrew Carnegie, Napoleon Hill started a few-decades’ long investigation into the habits and philosophies of the rich and the successful.

His 1937 masterpiece, “Think and Grow Rich” is based on this research and the interviews he conducted over this period. And it’s essentially a 13-step philosophy of success.

The themes the book covers are the following ones: desire, faith, autosuggestion, specialized knowledge, imagination, organized planning, decision, persistence, power of the master mind, the mystery of sex transmutation, the subconscious mind, the brain, and the sixth sense.

Pervading throughout the book is the idea of the power of “positive thinking”. Which, as you may already know, is quite a popular genre nowadays by itself.

#3. “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change” by Stephen R. Covey

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People SummaryWe fast forward half a century to the first non-fiction book to sell more than one million copies of its audio version: “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” It’s one more self-help book focusing on success, and one of the many where there’s an exact number of life-changing actions you’re expected to take.

In this case, Stephen R. Covey opts for these seven habits: be proactive, begin with the end in mind, put first things first; think win-win, seek first to understand, then to be understood, synergize; sharpen the saw.

You may have noticed that we used two semicolons to organize Covey’s habits. Of course, there’s a reason why we did that. Namely, Covey thinks that the first three habits help develop your independence, while the second three furnish your interdependence skills. The final is the bridge.

Fifteen years later, Covey would add another habit to this list. And “The 8th Habit” was almost as popular as this chart-topper.

#4. “The Power of Now: An Incredible Masterpiece of Spiritual Enlightenment” by Eckhart Tolle

Eckhart TolleThe Power of Now Summary‘s The Power of Now” didn’t become an instant bestseller after its 1997 publication. But, after it was republished two years later, and endorsed by Oprah Winfrey and Meg Ryan in 2000, what was by that moment a word-of-mouth phenomenon, turned into one of the most sold and beloved self-improvement books in history.

The book blends psychology and spiritualism to give the old-age Zen Buddhist ideas a New-Age spin. And it seems that it does this in a brilliant manner since its philosophy resonates with readers from start to finish, from U.S. to Europe to Japan.

Its basic premise is the belief that, in order to be happy, you need to overcome your you’re your greatest enemy. You can do this through meditation and mindfulness, positive thinking and acceptance of suffering.

And you should start doing it as soon as you finish reading “The Power of Now.”

#5. “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch

The Last Lecture SummaryIf you had one last lecture to give before you died – what would that lecture be?

Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, didn’t need to imagine the answer to this question. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, he knew that he had barely few months left on this planet, when he was asked to talk at his alma mater.

The one-hour lecture, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” has been viewed by almost 20 million people at YouTube; but, really, should be watched by millions more. Because, it’s so upbeat and inspiring, so gentle and wisdom-infused, that we bet few – if any – will remain unaffected and untouched.

It’s the same with the book. Randy Pausch spent the last few months of his life writing it, so you know he had some important things to share with you.

And if that’s not enough, take this into consideration as well. Just few years after it was published, this book became part of the English 100 curriculum of many schools. There are just too many “because” to list them.

#6. “The Greatest Salesman in the World” by Og Mandino

The Greatest Salesman in the World SummaryOg Mandino was an unsuccessful insurance salesman on the brink of suicide, when his life was profoundly changed by a self-help book. So, he decided to help others in the same way.

In fact, “The Greatest Salesman in the World,” is sometimes subtitled in this manner. “You can change your life with the priceless wisdom of ten ancient scrolls handed down for thousands of years.”

Of course, the history of the scrolls is fictive, but their lessons are not.

They start with an awe-inspiring dictum: “I will form good habits and become their slave.” And the pronouncement is followed by two similar ones in the third and the fourth scroll: “I will persist until I succeed” and “I am Nature’s greatest miracle.”

Scattered around these mottos, there are few life-changing advices by Mandino. These are: “greet each day with love in your heart,” “live each day as if it were your last,” “laugh,” “master your emotions,” “multiply your value every day,” and “pray to god for guidance.”

Because, as he writes in the inspiring ninth, “all is worthless without action.”

#7. “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist Summary“The Alchemist” is actually a novel. But, probably, you already knew this, because – hey, who hasn’t read “The Alchemist”?

An international bestseller translated into 80 different languages, the book made Paulo Coelho a household name. Its lessons may be not as explicit as those of some other self-help books, but this makes them all the more profound and touching.

“The Alchemist” follows the journey of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy with a recurring dream he believes is prophetic. A Romani fortune-teller tells him that he’s right and that the dream prophesizes that he should discover a great treasure at the Egyptian pyramid.

That’s when the journey begins. Thousands of kilometers and few adventures later, it ends with an unforgettable lesson.

You may already know a part of it: “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

#8. “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers SummaryOne more book we’ve already featured in another list. (In this case, its’ the top psychology booklist: check it out if you haven’t)

But, who can blame us for including it in another? It’s one of those books about which people talk about over and over again, in many different contexts, about various of its aspects.

After all, there’s no other book in the world which compares Bill Gates to first-rate football players, or the Beatles to successful fighter pilots. And, we certainly haven’t encountered upon any which explains why Asians are math-wizards and why there are so many Jewiish lawyers.

Outliers” is the third of Malcolm Gladwell’s five “New York Times” bestsellers (if you didn’t know, he has published as many books!) And it’s his most applicable one.

Because, basically, it claims that success comes after 10,000 hours of practice. And he has a thousand stories to prove this.

#9. “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale

The Power of Positive Thinking SummaryNapoleon Hill may have initiated “the positive thinking” mindset, but it was Norman Vincent Peale’s “The Power of Positive Thinking” which actually started the revolution.

Published in 1952, the book remained on “The New York Times” bestseller list for over three and a half years, and inspired thousands of similar volumes. (Spoiler alert: we’ve featured the most famous two in this booklist; see above, at #8, and… well, you’ll figure it out yourself).

“The Power of Positive Thinking” basically claims that many of the things which happen in your life happen due to things you’re unable to control. What you actually can control is your reaction to them. And positive thinking is always the right way to go!

The book shares many practical bits of advice on how to eliminate negative thoughts and how to transform the alike energy into an outburst of positivity.

And, just like that, positive thoughts will make positive things happen.

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#10. “The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth” by M. Scott Peck

The Road Less Traveled Summary“Two roads diverged in the wood and I,” wrote America’s darling Robert Frost in 1916, “I took the one less traveled by; and that has made all the difference.”

The title of M. Scott Peck’s classic comes from Frost. Its content is an interesting mixture of original thought, psychological research, and Christian dogma. The last one is reserved for the last two of the four parts this book is divided in, and, in our opinion, it’s the first two parts which really make the case for including “The Road Less Traveled” in our list.

And those two talk about the virtues of discipline and love. Concerning the latter, M. Scott Peck tackles some of the most common misunderstandings and arguments for love being more of an ego-transcending action, rather than a passive feeling.

As for discipline, Peck advises everyone to practice delayed gratification and responsibility acceptance – as the surefire way to living a healthier and happier life.

#11. “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead” by Brené Brown

Brené BrownDaring Greatly Summary made her name in June 2010, when, at a TEDxHouston conference, she delivered one of the greatest TED speeches in history. The numbers tell only part of the whole story: with 30 million views, it’s the 4th most watched TED speech ever.

The rest of the story is in the speech itself: titled “The Power of Vulnerability,” it defends the counter-intuitive notion that living a better life goes hand in hand with embracing flaws and humiliation, shame and vulnerability.

That’s the meaning of the title of the longer and better researched version of this speech, “Daring Greatly.” It comes from a speech by Teddy Roosevelt, in which Roosevelt advises people to accept vulnerability by daring greatly.

And Brown shows the unlikely connection between vulnerability and courage. And that’s merely the beginning: it seems that vulnerable people are also more caring and happier.

#12. “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” by Don Miguel Ruiz

Don Miguel RuizThe Four Agreements Summary, Mexico’s “National Heirloom,” was born in the rural parts of the country as the youngest of 13 siblings.

A near-fatal car accident made him rethink his career as a surgeon. Soon, he became a shaman’s apprentice. “The Four Agreements” is based on his experiences during this period and, supposedly, on authentic Toltec spiritualism.

A spiritual descendant of Carlos Castaneda’s “The Teachings of Don Juan,” “The Four Agreements” is a book which advocates absolute freedom through a total annihilation of the ego. The eponymous four agreements are: “be impeccable with your word,” “don’t take anything personally,” “don’t make assumptions,” and “always do your best”.

Just like Covey (our #3), Don Miguel Ruiz will not resist to add a fifth agreement a decade later. It’s “Be skeptical, but learn to listen,” and we’ve written about it extensively.

#13. “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne

The Secret SummaryRhonda Byrne was an executive producer for television and led quite an ordinary life in Melbourne, Australia. But, when her father Ronald died in 2004, she became so depressed, that she was even thinking about suicide.

And just like Og Mandino – our #6 – she found new meaning in life after reading a self-help book; in her case, Wallace D. Wattles’ “The Science of Getting Rich.” Soon, she was deep into the “positive thinking” movement, and came to the conclusion that she had discovered one of the greatest secrets in history.

Soon after its publication in 2006, “The Secret” was met with overwhelmingly positive reaction from the general public. Even Oprah Winfrey said that its message was exactly the one she was trying to share with her viewers for over two decades.

And the secret?

Think positively and positive things will happen. And you can get everything you want in three steps: ask – believe – receive. It may seem too simple, but millions claim that it works.

#14. “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth

Grit SummaryYou may think that it’s talent which makes the difference between the successful and the not-so successful.

Well, Angela Duckworth claims that you are gravely mistaken. And she is an academic with a MacArthur Genius Fellowship and a Ph.D. in psychology, so maybe you should trust her more than your intuition.

In “Grit” she explains that the ones who succeed are not the most talented or the most capable ones; it’s the grittiest. And if you already know what is actually denoted by this superlative, you have Duckworth to thank: she made the word popular.

If not “grit” is, as the subtitle says, a combination of power and perseverance. Or, in layman’s terms, the thing which makes you get up the eighth time, after you’ve fallen seven times before.

This book is loaded with stories by people who’ve done that. And you can learn a lot by reading them.

#15. “The 48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene

The 48 Laws of Power SummaryYou can’t really consider a million-copies book neither a cult classic, nor a wildcard; but, analysts do the former and we’ll take our right to think the latter.

Published in 2000, “The 48 Laws of Power” is the debut book by Robert Greene, a life-long researcher into subjects such as seduction, strategy and power.

Drawing on the lives and worldview of figures as diverse as Machiavelli and Sun Tzu, Queen Elizabeth and Henry Kissinger, it lists – you’ve guessed it – 48 laws of power, together with examples of the laws being observed, transgressed, and reversed.

The book was an immediate success, especially in the prison inmates’ and hip hop community. So much so, in fact, that its semi-sequel was co-written by Greene and – wait for it… – 50 Cent! Because of the latter, it’s called “The 50th Law.”

We guess they didn’t care they skipped one.

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