post written by: Marc Chernoff

30 Books I’m Glad I Read Before 30

30 Books I Am Glad I Read Before 30

In various ways, these 30 books convey some of the philosophy of how Angel and I live our lives.  I honestly credit a fraction of who I am today to each title.  Thus, they have indirectly influenced much of what I write about on this site.  A medley of both fiction and nonfiction, these great reads challenged my internal status quo, opening my mind to new ideas and opportunities, and together they gave me a basic framework for living, loving, learning and working successfully.

If you haven’t read these books yet, I highly recommend doing so.  They will enrich your library and your life.

  1. Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert – Gilbert, a Harvard professor of psychology has studied happiness for decades, and he shares scientific findings that just might change the way you look at the world.  His primary goal is to persuade you into accepting the fact that happiness is not really what or where you imagined it would be.  This is my favorite book on happiness by a long shot.
  2. The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck – Pretty much the granddaddy of all self-improvement books, it’s easily one of the best nonfiction works I’ve ever read.  By melding love, science and spirituality into a primer for personal growth, Peck guides the reader through lessons on delaying gratification, accepting responsibility for decisions, dedicating oneself to truth and reality, and creating a balanced lifestyle.
  3. Getting Things Done by David Allen – The ultimate ‘organize your life’ book.  Allen’s ideas and processes are for all those people who are overwhelmed with too many things to do, too little time to do them, and a general sense of unease that something important is being missed.  The primary goal of this book is to teach you how to effectively get your ‘to-do inbox’ to empty.
  4. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey – Covey presents a principle-centered approach for solving personal and professional problems by delivering a step-by-step guide for living with integrity and honesty and adapting to the inevitable change life brings us everyday.  It’s a must-read.
  5. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand – This novel is an explanation of what has been and always will be at the core of America’s prosperity: freedom and capitalism.  It should be required reading for every American.  All 1,069 pages are worthwhile.  Hands down, Atlas Shrugged is one of the best, most influential books I’ve ever read.
  6. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho – More parable than novel, ‘The Alchemist’ uses the story of young shepherd Santiago’s search for his personal legend as an allegory for everyman’s struggle to break from the comfortable confines of conformity and pursue his life dreams.  Along the way, of course, our young everyman is beset by numerous setbacks, testing his resolve and forcing him to become attuned to the Soul of the World in order to survive.  By paying attention to the details in the world around him, which serve as omens guiding him towards his goal, young Santiago becomes an alchemist in his own right, spinning unfavorable circumstances into riches.  I’ve read this tale a few times now and it always provides priceless inspiration.
  7. Walden by Henry David Thoreau – Thoreau spent two years, two months and two days writing this book in a secluded cabin near the banks of Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts.  This is a story about being truly free from the pressures of society.  The book can speak for itself: “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.”
  8. The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz – Schwartz gives the reader useful, proactive steps for achieving success.  He presents a clear-cut program for getting the most out of your job, marriage, family life and other relationships.  In doing so, he proves that you don’t need to be an intellectual or have innate talent to attain great success and satisfaction in life.
  9. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely – Looks at the reasons so many of us continuously make irrational decisions on a daily basis.  It’s a scientific but easily readable and unquestionably insightful look at why we do what we do on a daily basis, and why we never change our ways even though we often ‘know better.’
  10. The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss – Ferris challenges us to evaluate our perspective on the cost and availability of our dreams, and he teaches us that hard work isn’t very hard when you love what you’re doing.  Although there’s certainly some pages of self promotion within, Ferris provides invaluable tips to help us remain aligned with our goals, set expectations on our terms, and eliminate unnecessary time-sinks while increasing our overall effectiveness.
  11. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie – Easily one of the best and most popular books on people-skills ever written.  Carnegie uses his adept storytelling skills to illustrate how to be successful by making the most of human relations.
  12. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse – A short, powerful novel about the importance of life experiences as they relate to approaching an understanding of self, happiness and attaining enlightenment.
  13. 1984 by George Orwell – 1984 still holds chief significance nearly 60 years after it was written in 1949.  It’s widely acclaimed for its haunting vision of an all-knowing government which uses pervasive, 24/7 surveillance tactics to manipulate all citizens of the populace.  In today’s world of continuous online connectivity, Orwell’s visions hit pretty close to home.
  14. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Set in the Jazz Age of the roaring 20’s, this book unravels a cautionary tale of the American dream.  Specifically, the reader learns that a few good friends are far more important that a zillion acquaintances, and the drive created from the desire to have something is more valuable than actually having it.
  15. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck – Steinbeck’s deeply touching tale about the survival of displaced families desperately searching for work in a nation stuck by depression will never cease to be relevant.
  16. The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason – The best book on money management ever written.  Although only 145 pages, this book is packed to the brim with powerful, life changing information.  I’ve read it three times and I still pull new pearls of wisdom out of it.  Babylon should be mandatory reading beginning at the grade school level, then again in college, and should be given as a gift right along with a college diploma.
  17. Quitter by Jon Acuff – If you’re looking for an honest account of what it’s like to make the transition from your day job to your dream job, this book is for you.  The author doesn’t sugarcoat the journey or convince you that it’s worth making stupid decisions now that you’ll pay for later.  He stays grounded in reality while inspiring you to truly connect with the things you’re passionate about, and he gives you hope and a plan for getting yourself there.
  18. The Success Principles by Jack Canfield and Janet Switzer – The creator of the ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ series reveals secrets to success with sixty-four timeless principles packed into this one book.  Sixty-four principles may seem like a lot, but each receives a concise, easy-to-digest chapter that challenges readers to risk creating their lives exactly as they want them.  This is easily one of the most practical books I’ve ever read on achieving your dreams.
  19. The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz – Faced with too many options or decisions in your life?  We feel worse when we have too many options.  This book will make you feel better and change the way you look at them.  Schwartz discusses people making difficult decisions about jobs, families, where to live, whether to have children, how to spend recreational time, choosing colleges, etc.  He talks about why making these decisions today is much harder than it was thirty years ago, and he offers many practical suggestions for how to address decision-making so that it creates less stress and more happiness.
  20. The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman – Unfortunately, the title may limit the market to business people, but the truth is we are all in the business of managing and selling ourselves no matter what our occupation.  What makes this book warrant such a strong statement is the fact that it’s a comprehensive synthesis of all of the concepts you need to know to understand business inside and out.  There are no complex models to learn or outdated theories to memorize just to get marks or pass exams.  What you get is a clear, comprehensive set of ‘rules of thumb’ for any possible scenario you might encounter in running a business (or just your life in general).
  21. The Art of War by Sun Tzu – One of the oldest books on military strategy in the world.  It’s easily the most successful written work on the mechanics of general strategy and business tactics.
  22. The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowieckiv – Great examples of how groups of diverse people acting independently are smarter than any one person in the group.  This is one of the most entertaining and intellectually engaging books I’ve come across in a long while.  The author has a gift for making complex ideas accessible, and he has a wonderful eye for the telling anecdote.  The material within has huge implications for management, markets, decision-making and more.
  23. The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz – The authors worked with the best athletes and executives for years and found that the best ones knew how to push themselves, then recuperate, push, recuperate, and so forth.  Take this same approach to your emotional, mental, physical, and even spiritual life, and it’s a powerful metaphor.  Think of sprints, not marathons.  Be fully in whatever you’re in, then give time to recuperate.  But push further each time, past your comfort zone, like a good exercise plan.
  24. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath – An easy to read psychology book about real ways to make change last – both personal and organizational.  So many powerful insights, based on fact not theory.  Inspiring counterintuitive stories of huge organizational change against all odds.  Highly recommended for people in all walks of life.
  25. The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz – I have read so many books promising joy in my life, yet I have read none as simple and practical as that of ‘The Four Agreements.’  This book is a beautiful instruction guide to achieve a life of freedom and happiness.  The author teaches four lifestyle commitments which can transform life into the realization of your own personal dream.  Simply put, this small book has made profound positive changes in my life.
  26. Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt – The chapters are short, the prose is easy to follow and the logic is compelling.  I’ve never seriously studied economics in my life, yet I had no trouble following the reasoning in this book.  This is a must read for anyone who wants to understand basic economics and the keys to widespread prosperity in the long run.
  27. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki – It is unfortunate that in America, arguably the greatest nation in the free world, few people including those with high incomes understand the value of investing and the proper use of money strategies.  You can live off your income, but you can’t get wealthy off your income.  True wealth is the result of using principles described in this book.  This is a classic, must read for everyone.
  28. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – This novel is hilarious and depicts some pretty insightful observations about life, people, and the world in general.  Under it all, it’s an enjoyable read that will leave you yearning for more.  If you don’t like science fiction, it doesn’t matter; read this book just for the laughs.  The most amazing thing about Adams’ humor is the fact that everyone seems to get it.
  29. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – The themes within primarily involve racial injustice and the destruction of human innocence.  The author also addresses issues of class, courage, compassion, and gender roles in the American Deep South.  It’s simply a classic piece of our American history that depicts racism and prejudice, childhood innocence, and the perseverance of a man who risked it all to stand up for what he believed in.
  30. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey – The plot followers a sane man that, due to a brush with the law, opts for being committed in a mental asylum rather than be incarcerated with hard labor.  Upon his entry into the secluded world of the asylum, he strips all the barriers formed and starts laying his own rules, in his own way.  This leads to problems with the head honcho of the place.  The rollercoaster that the protagonist takes the inmates through finally leads them to realize the ultimate goal.  That man, no matter the situation, can always hold his destiny in his hands.

What are your favorite books?  How did they change your life?  Leave us a comment below and let us know.

Photo by: Katie Harris

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  • The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander. You will love Rule Number 6!

  • Great list.

    For me, as far as finance books go, I love “The Millionaire Next Door.” For the self-improvement genre, I gotta go with, “The Power of Now.” And for novels, “The Color Purple.”

  • Illusions by Richard Bach is one that I read every few years and have given as a gift many times.

  • Tao Teh Ching by Lao Tzu, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius & The Art of War. All are worth referencing over and over.

  • A book that really changed my life was Tuesdays with Morrie. I read it every few years and love it even more after every reading.

  • Jonothan livingston Seagull by Richard Bach for inspiration
    Atlas Shrugged/Fountain head for objectivity

    Reading Atlas Shrugged changed the way i understand helping others.

    Reading Richard Bach is simply filling purpose in every moment we live…i have gifted this small book to many of my freinds…. over last 10 years.

  • That’s a fantastic list, full of life-changing books.

    When I read atlas shrugged in college, it really opened my eyes and resonated with me.
    I can remember being in 8th grade and being asked if I would be willing to lower my grade on an exam (I had a 100) in order to fit into the grading curve and allow others to have a better grade. The teacher asked me in front of the entire class and I looked him in the eye and told him no because I had earned that grade. I told him he could raise the grade of the others, but not decrease mine. He was shocked that I would be so selfish and then made me feel wrong for standing up for myself.

    That’s just a small, but telling anecdote that shows the way that society portrays people who are successful, confident, strong-willed, and self-interested. It villanizes these people, even though these are the humans that will invent great things, build great companies, and solve the problems of the future.

    For me, atlas shrugged was the first book I had ever read that impacted me so strongly. Its a must read for everyone, as it will build your confidence and give your a strong sense of identity, allow you to believe in yourself and your ability to impact the world.

  • I absolutely love reading your lists! Thanks a million for writing this, I’ll definitely check out at least a few of these books that I haven’t read.

    “Hands down, Atlas Shrugged is one of the best, most influential books I’ve ever read” - I wholeheartedly agree with you, this book is incredible. “The Fountainhead” is also brilliant.

  • I agree with Zayac, ‘The Power of Now’ is life changing and I often refer to it. I also think that ‘Get Out While You Can - Escape the Rat Race’ by George Marshall is an interesting read, placing a different perspective on the world of work. I love ‘The Great Gatsby’, it remains one of my favourite fiction books, although I have recently enjoyed ‘Norwegian Wood’ by Haruki Murakami.

    Thanks for all the suggestions - I now have a good reading list for the winter months!

  • Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

    How to keep the absurdities of life in perspective!

  • Inspiration – Mere Christianity – I love the logic of C S Lewis
    Novel – Jane Eyre – the depth of the feelings of the characters and the integrity that they have

    But these other 30 books will be on list to read – the reasons given were enough

  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. This book so expanded my thoughts about spirituality and relationships when I first read it in my teens that 45+ years later, I am still being guided by its principles.

  • Financial Peace Revisited by Dave Ramsey (on your list, most comparable to Kiyosaki–I personally don’t care for Kiyosaki’s book, as that guy’s got some shady history. Google him and John T. Reed to see what I mean).

    I would also say The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, although I think I took some of the wrong lessons away from it on first reading it at age 18.

    Finally, Tom Peters’s “Re-Imagine!” I don’t know how much of it I’ve directly applied to my life, but it got me excited about business, projects, branding, and career issues in a way that no previous book has, and that in turn has lead to all sorts of interesting opportunities and reading.

  • Great list. I would add The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It was a kick in the pants and made me look at all the excuses I made for not writing. I now write successfully, but I periodically pull out this book and read the highlights. Love your blog btw.~~Dee

  • A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, by Julian Barnes.

    Also, just about anything by Jeanette Winterson. Sexing the Cherry, Written on the Body, Art & Lies, The Stone Gods, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit…

    These books will change the way you love the people and the world around you.

  • Awesome list. Many of them are mine favorites as well.
    Personally i found these books very powerful:
    1. Personal MBA- Josh Kaufman
    2. The four hour work week- Tim Ferriss
    3. First break all the rules- Marcus Buckingham
    4. The magic of thinking big- David Schwartz
    5. Linchpin and Tribes- Seth Godin
    It’s amazing to see though you keep reading so many genres of books most of your recent writing belongs to philosophical and Personal development. I think you better get focused in those field than wondering by reading books from other category. You need to get stronger at which you are strong. If you are interested read “Now, discover your strength” or “Strength finder”.

  • I have ‘Good to Great’ on my list of books I am glad I read! I am adding several of yours to my wish list, thank you!!

  • “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron was a great read for me and helped me on my creative path.

  • Dune by Frank Herbert - it taught me the futility of fear, when I read it as a shy teenager, I suddenly realized how insignificant most of my fears where, and how they held me back.

  • ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ and ‘Shantaram’..
    Made me think deeper into myself and into what really counts in life…

  • I love this book:
    Fear is Power (by Anthony Gunn)
    If you guys enjoy motivational books, I would recommend this.


  • Essays of Francis Bacon
    How to Think Like Einstein by Scott Thorpe

  • I found ‘1984′, ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’, ‘The Martian Chronicles’ and ‘Fahrenheit 451′ to be great reads. I would recommend these novels to everyone who wants to gain insight into the human condition.

  • I liked quite a few of your choices, Atlas Shrugged, The Road Less Traveled, How to Win Friends… and would add ‘Happiness is a Serious Problem’ by Dennis Prager and ‘Give War a Chance’ and ‘Eat the Rich,’ both by P.J. O’Rourke, the latter on Economics.

  • It looks like an awesome list! Thanks for all your amazing, insightful posts, I always look forward to them :) Can’t wait to read one of these books during the holidays.

  • The Art of Racing in the Rain is one of my favorites! :)

  • Great list.
    I need to get ‘The Road less Traveled’.
    Others have recommended that one to me too.

  • If you liked/loved Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead when you were young read it again when you are older. You may find your understanding of life and society deepens and you change your mind about Rand and her philosophy. I did.

    Whatever your thoughts are on self-determination remember this: History helps us understand that when the divide between the haves and have nots gets too large in a society it always has a massive destabilizing effect.

    Also, no matter how much we believe (or want) it to be otherwise: Not everyone starts with the same capacity for success, and even those who do have that capacity are just one heartbeat away from slipping into misfortune through no fault of their own. Car accident, market crash, victim of crime, divorce, war, heart attack…whatever.

    Even if you are very, very smart and work very, very hard and do everything right, and want success with all your heart, believe in yourself and your capabilities, etc. — you can still fail.

    If you’re in a race to the finish line and your brother falls and cracks his head open — do you continue racing for your own personal glory and wealth? Or do you reach down and help your brother, stop the bleeding and then continue on and take second, or third place instead? Or maybe not finish at all. Maybe you get nothing but you help a fellow human being.

    If you finish the race, you’re a Rand person. If you help your brother you’re not.

    Are you unwilling to share a piece of your pie because it’s YOUR pie and you worked for it and the person you have to share it with doesn’t deserve it? Or you’ll have plenty of pie, and you ARE willing to share but ONLY with someone you determine as worthy? Yep, you’re a Randie.

    Not judging here — just saying that’s how I see it now that I am in my fifties. Loved the book when I was in my twenties.

  • Sarah’s Key - it stole a piece of my heart and soul, about the true cruelties of this world.

  • Robin,

    I understand your point, but I would say that regardless of whether you finish the race or help your brother, you are doing it out of self interest and thus, you are a Rand person.

    I like Rand because she encourages people to embrace and understand their own self interest, and use their abilities to make the world a better place.

    Giving your time and money to help others is still self-interested, just in a backwards kind of way. People do it because it aligns with their values and makes them feel good. It addresses another need for them other than their need for power, wealth, or significance.

    I will say though, that not all giving is good. When people are continuosly provided for, in a wide-scale altruistic manner, it harms them in the long run because they become reliant on it, expect it, and don’t learn to help themselves. They can never provide for themselves or others, or feel the satisfaction that comes along with doing so.

    That said, there are many other important books and ideas out there, other than Atlas Shrugged. However, reading it will definitely make you think.

  • I share Robin’s outlook. Atlas Shrugged became my bible at university but over the next two decades I had growing concern over the extremeness and polarisation of her characters, described in powerful emotive rhetoric not in keeping with her underlying philosophy of Objectivism.

    According to one source, Atlas Shrugged was the most read book in America in the last century after the Bible and was greatly influential. But the historical context of this novel needs to be understood - it was written by a young Jewish-Russian girl escaping a flawed socialist system and taking to an extreme the ideals of capitalism.

    The works she produced were brilliant, insightful and inspiring. She clearly demonstrated the transition from “Dependence” to “Independence” (in Covey language) but what she failed to progress to was an understanding “Interdependence”.

    And it’s this interdependence - mutual co-operation, understanding, respect and tolerance that I believe our (shared) world is more in need of today. I wonder how her philosophy may have changed if she’d reversed her decision not to have children.

    As for the rest of the reading list, I’ve read and loved half of them. My favourite on that list is Siddhartha and this month my eldest child is reading me Hitchhikers Guide in the evenings after supper. My personal favourite remains Asterix though. Closely followed by Tintin & Calvin. Which reminds me…

  • The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander - Benjamin Zander is the conductor of The Boston Philharmonic and is well known for his orchestra’s passionate performances. Rosamund Stone Zander is an executive coach, family therapist, and private practitioner who brings enormous psychological perspective to enhancing human behavior. This is a fascinating book in which they alternate as voices in sharing principles and examples in the form of compelling stories.

  • Great list, Marc!

    I’ve read many on your list and will look into several I’ve missed.

    Two I would recommend are:

    1. Another Covey masterpiece: Principle-Centered Leadership (First Things First by the same author is also excellent)

    2. Man’s Search for Meaning: a book by Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl who developed logotherapy, a form of psychoanalysis that emphasizes the role of finding meaning in trials.

  • Here are a few nonfiction books that attempt to challenge our western worldview and open up our minds to the realities that exist elsewhere. Some that I have found influential:

    Globalization and its Discontents by Joseph Stiglitz

    The Moral Economy of the Peasant by James Scott

    The Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano

    Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity In Rwanda by Romeo Dallaire

  • Lao Tzu: the Tao te Ching.
    Tim Ferris: the Science of Liberty-best book I have read yet about why America works.
    Flannery O’Connor: A Good Man Is Hard To Find: short stories about how people put others down to elevate themselves.

    Great list..

  • Doesn’t anyone blush anymore by Manis Friedman; incredible book that has changed the lives of thousands…MUST read

  • I can never get enough book recommendations and while there are lots of top books here I’ve read (The Alchemist and Siddhartha are favourites) there are many I haven’t so thank you. I’ll start with Walden which sounds great.

    For all you writers I recommend Bird by Bird by Anne Lammott, a brilliant combo of writing tips, personal development and wonderful storytelling.

  • The Genius in All of Us by David Shenk.

    It’s a brilliant piece of reliable research on how human intelligence works, and how our genes and our upbringing both work together to influence our degree of intelligence. VERY well-documented research.

  • Crime and Punishment
    Moby Dick
    I think I’m reading the other “big one” now:
    The Book That Made Your World- Mangalwadi

  • I’ve read many on your list, and I agree with most of your recommendations.

    I’d add:
    Autobiography of a Yogi
    100 Years of Solitude
    2001 a Space Odyssey
    The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings (duh!)
    The World According to Garp

    Thanks for the list!

  • I’ve read 8 of these, and The Art of War is the next one I intend to read. Thank you for this thoughtful book list.

  • The power of one. That book inspired me so.

  • The irony of Atlas Shrugged seems unfortunately lost on modern society. The truly gifted and ambitious will rise to the top, regardless of any hindrance. It’s the reverse that the parasitic and pathetic are now kings in our age. Their trust-funds and entitlement buoy them to heights that are absurdly beyond their capacity. Then their failures rain down on those left behind. Excellent.

  • Great list! I will catch up on the ones I haven’t read. But add…..Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore. I read it at least once a year to remind me of its important message.

  • I read a book recently that I wish I read in my younger years. Woman Vs Womaniser by Jc Johnson what an eye-opener

  • So many books so little time.

    I thought I was doing well, I have read half the books in your list, but then I went through the comments.

    There are just too many great books to read, thanks Marc, and thanks to all your commenters.

  • Love reading your lists- and this one was one of the best…but I have to add- anything by Jonathan Livingston Seagull…so many of those books taught me..and I am sure others..about dreaming, living life, and living it on your terms..setting your course and going for it all! Now- I am off to check out a few of those books on your lists I have not read…(and I’m past 30 so hope they can still help!)…Have a great day!!

  • Steinbeck’s East of Eden has tremendous insight on people and their differences. Dickens’ A Christmas Carol should be read every year in order to realize that people matter more than any possessions. Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage provides insight that we sometimes lie to others as well as ourselves but we can overcome that with forgiveness, yet without forgetting the lesson. It’s also a masterpiece of writing using symbolism and metaphors. Graham Greene’s Monseignour Quixote is artwork regarding respect and meaningful conversations.

  • I think it is a great list. I have already read:
    Getting Things Done
    The Alchemist
    The 4-Hour Workweek
    and I have already bought (but not read yet)
    The Personal MBA
    Rich Dad, Poor Dad

    I am 29…I have a whole year to read the rest of them!
    As far as business books, I recommend you the “REWORK”. I am currently reading it and it is quite revolutionary!
    Thank you for sharing with us.

  • “Ishmael”, “the story of B”, and “my Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn. Enough said.

  • Stephen King is a King! Most of his books are amazing. Everyone should read at least one of them.

  • My old professor didn’t teach from textbooks but from some of the books listed above! He changed my life. He also has a book of his own, “What do you Think?” by George Stern. I suggested it

  • Second to “Ishmael” and the rest of Quinn’s books. They are #1-#4 for me, with “Tao of Pooh” coming in a close fifth

  • the man in search of meaning - viktor frank

  • The Little Prince ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

  • Definitely Anthem by Ayn Rand! I agree with a lot of the books on your list too, especially The Four Agreements. I had to read that in college this semester, and it was phenomenal.

  • I had a half dozen and bought the rest to give my 2 sons (23 & 26) for Christmas. The books are packed in a large box for them to open…with the list placed on top. I am hoping they will leave them here, in a bookcase, and consider it a lending library so they can take and return as desired. This list has created many conversations with acquaintances. Thank you.

  • Alex Haley’s Roots, along with the Autobiography of Malcolm X would make this list incredible. Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Talents is a life changer too.

  • Great list - besides Ayn Rand, as some have mentioned above. Self improvement is a wonderful goal - but in the world as we know it, the virtues of selfishness - as extolled in her “Objectivism” - is something the world can do without.

    As far as works of fiction, Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men, The Border Trilogy, The Road) makes the spirit soar with his prose, dark though some of it is.

  • I’m so surprised that there are no Malcolm Gladwell books on this list. “The Tipping Point” is a stunning look at how products, ideas, movements, etc. get started and how they “tip” - the idea of Mavens and Connectors and how they move in society and influence our culture is fascinating.

    His other book - The Outliers - is a more objective look at what other people have been discussing in this thread regarding Rand, capitalism, self-made citizens and overly reliant ones.

    The idea that no one is completely self-made is examined thoroughly with real-life examples and research into family history. Somewhere in the history of your life, someone helped you - outright or inadvertently - and this has made a difference in your successes. Great book.

    Also, having read both Anthem and 1984, but not Atlas Shrugged, I want to point out that Animal Farm is probably a book that suits all groups, as it more about the institution of governance and power, and how we are predisposed to continue the corrupt cycles, regardless of political party, initial intent, etc.

  • I agree Animal farm should be read along with 1984.

    The Shock |Doctrine by Naomi Kline and The End of Work by Jeremy Rifkin, The Social Contract and Discourses by Jean-Jaque Rousseau,

    Winner Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class,” by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson

    And as mentined above Globalization and its Discontents by Joseph Stiglitz

    The Moral Economy of the Peasant by James Scott

    The Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano

    Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity In Rwanda by Romeo Dallaire

  • Dear Marc, my 18 year old daughter sent me a link to your blog 2 days ago. I have read almost everything on it and wrote down your list of 30 books plus the other ones recommended by others on your site, thank you all. I have read a handful of the recommended books and as an aspiring writer, will derive great help from this list. Be anointed further. Lebogang

  • Thanks for the wonderful list. I will try to finish this list before the year’s end.

  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankel.

    Quick read that allows you to appreciate every day and realize what is important in life.

  • “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson should be on everyone’s reading list.

  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is a very inspirational book for people who want to learn how to harness their creativity. I read it every couple of years and it may be my favorite book. She has also written a couple other non-fiction books that are memoir-ish but fall easily into the “inspiration for positive living” category. She is a big proponent of living honestly and with integrity, and being true to oneself.

  • Good list of books. For my list I’d add: Chez Moi, The Marriage Artist, Just Kids, The Glass Castle, Born Under A Million Shadows, The Bone Woman, On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Water for Elephants, In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars.

  • I would add “You Can Win” by Shiv Khera.

  • I would like to suggest the book, “A tree grows in Brooklyn.”

  • Reposition Yourself by TD Jakes is a great read and also one I wish I read before I was 30.

  • I would recommend “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, Changed My life.

  • I am a fan of Walden myself, the only issue is that I find it more and more difficult to get the kids interested in these books.

  • My favorite on this list are the Alchemist and The Richest Man in Babylon

    All these books are great I would also mention:

    Awaken the Giant Within
    As a Man Thinketh
    Acres of Diamonds

  • I like the book Walden, and I think that the philosophies espoused by Thoreau are important, but few people know that he was not nearly as isolated as the ideas he examined might lead one to believe. The cabin he lived in was one that was located on the back end of the parcel of land that his parents home was located. Also he was seen frequently in a local pub in Concord. Some people jokingly state that for a tome written about isolation, Thoreau was about as isolated as a kid pitching a pup tent in his parents backyard. Other than that misconception the book is great as is your list…There are several books on here that clearly warrant some consideration on my part.

  • I would highly recommend: I Have One Question - by author, Hayden Dane. This brief e-book has changed my life! It lead me to find true happiness in a relationship.

  • Great list! I can’t believe that no one has mentioned Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. One of my all time favorites.

  • Great book recommendations! Many thanks for sharing…

    Cheers, Monce

  • Road to Serfdom - If you liked Atlas Shrugged. And I would recommend, The Original Argument- The Federalists’. This translates the Federalist Papers into present day English.

  • One of my favorites is also Les Miserables because it shows how we can change and be redeemed. Another influential book for my family was The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey which teaches getting out of debt and financial security.

  • That is a powerful list of books.

    I would add:
    1. Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” For the way it shifted my thinking around money.
    2. Don Miguel Ruiz’s other book, “The Mastery of Love” For how it shifted my whole perception of intimate relationships.
    3. Dr Sue Johnson’s “Hold Me Tight” Because it was part of what saved my marriage.
    4. Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth” for the level of consciousness it has inspired in me.

  • I support the addition of Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” to this list. It describes how positive work can translate into material riches.

  • The Shack is by far the best book I’ve ever read.

  • I like most of the books listed. Out of the 30 listed, I have only read The 7 Habits of highly effective people, Rich Dad, Poor Dad and now I’m in the middle of Atlas Shrugged. Another influential book that the list should include is ‘WHO MOVED MY CHEESE’ in my opinion any reader could find herself/himself in one of the four characters depicted in it, and will help to examine oneself.

  • How wonderful to StumbleUpon this list! Have read more than I thought, and found many more books to read and consider. While well over 30, life, happiness, surprises and learning never stops. Thank you all… may your lives all be joyful.

  • You don’t know what you’re missing not reading the Harry Potter series.. Greatest book series ever. Thank you J.K. Rowling! :)

  • Great list! I like many of the books listed. And Stephen King is, for me, a big author that could be added to the list.

  • Just found this site, great job!!! (thanks lifehacker) Excellent book list! I have only read about ten of them, and I turn 30 in less than six weeks… So I better get cracking!! My definite 31 is A People’s History of the US by Howard Zinn. Perspective change: rethinking everything learned about history… ever.

    Keep up the Great work!

  • I have read several of your books on your list, but many of them, long ago, in High School as mandatory reading.
    The two that stand out so strongly in my mind though were introduced to me years ago by my father while I was still young.
    The first, One Thousand Beautiful things, introduced me to great poems and short stories and was/is still one of my favorite books.
    The other is Our Natural World by Hal Borland. A collection of stories of the land and wildlife of America as seen and described by writers since the country’s discovery. Both of these books have a special place on my bookshelf… along with a 1937 copy of the Wizard of Oz. :-)

  • Catcher in the Rye by Salinger, Perks of Being a Wallflower by Chbosky, Notes from the Underground by Dostoevsky

  • Sarah, great suggestion on Illusions by Richard Bach…I gave this to my husband when we were dating, over 25 years ago and just recently read it again. I love this book.
    Robin, I agree with you; Atlas Shrugged is a totally different read at 50 vs 25. Now, I believe in social justice despite the inability of those who simply cannot or will not contribute as I may be able to.
    I would like to add “The Prophet” by Khalil Gibran and bless my (all girl Catholic) H.S. Math teacher for taking the time before each class to read a section to us. Nothing I learned in Math has resonated so deeply with me as this book and her willingness to share it with us.

  • The book “The Power of Intention”, Dr. Wayne Dyer changed my life so profoundly I can’t begin to explain how much its influenced me and my friends around me. My life has been propelled in a manner of which I can’t begin to predict. I read the book consistantly and have substituted meaningless absurb music for listening to Dyer’s audio books.

  • Love a good book list and many great ones mentioned here. I’m with those that find the unbridled individualism in Ann Rand a bit suspect.
    So many wonderful books, don’t worry if you haven’t got to them before 30. Just keep reading.
    10 of my favorites I can think of now off the top of my head.

    Animal Farm George Orwell
    A Fortunate Life

  • Some great books here, I would endorse
    The Alchemist
    Animal Farm
    100 Years in Solitude
    History of Nearly Everything in 10 1/2 Chapters
    Brave New World

    but I can think of my most influential not mentioned so far

    I Ching - wonderful text to filter ones issues and questions about life through
    A Fortunate Life.
    A Very Easy Death. Simone de Bouvoir
    The Passion. Jeanette Winterson
    The Trial. Franz Kafka
    Shakasta. Doris Lessing
    A Suitable Boy. Vikram Seth
    The Dance of Intimacy.

  • A started “my journey” by reading: Women Who Run With the Wolves - Clarissa Pinkola Estés

    Thank you.


  • The most perspective changing book that I have read until now is “The Power of Kindness” by Pierro Ferrucci. I find every statement true, and while I’ve tried to be kind to others the best I could, this book cleared up a lot of misconceptions and mistakes I was making. Heck, even the Dalai Lama read it and wrote a foreword.

  • The User’s Manual For the Human Experience by Michael W. Dean, is a book I wish I had read (or had been written) when I was 18. It is a fantastic read and shows you how to deal with life on YOUR terms.

  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, was recommended to me by a good friend. I have found that as an invaluable resource for all things time management related.

  • I would love to suggest my recently released book “The Swiss Cheese Theory of Life” by 2 psychotherapists (myself and a co - author) with a combined 70 years of counseling experience offering the ten most important tips to get through life’s holes without getting stuck in them!

  • Wonderful list and the additions via comments. I have read 60-70% of all listed and agree with many. A Man’s Search for Meaning by Frankl was epic, as was Shaking Hands with the Devil by Dellaire.

    I would add;

    Think on these things - by Krishnamurti
    I read it at age 26 and am still in awe of his observations.

  • I’m now 26 and have only read 4 of those. 26 more now added to my future reads!

  • Reading over other comments, I’d also support “Think and Grow Rich” being added. A great book and in tune with several of the others in this series.

  • I really liked - Think & Grow Rich or See You At The Top.

  • Dee (dee aka nonna)
    March 26th, 2012 at 10:35 am

    You have assemblied a great list of books. I do believe I have read them all….some after I turned 30. Each one of these books gave me the message that I needed as I read it, but the book that had the greatest impace, at the time, was A Road Less Traveled. It changed me in ways that is very hard to describe.

  • The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Would be my #1 right before Stephen Covey.

  • The Power of One is an incredibly powerful novel that warrants mention as well. Excellent list!

  • The only book I would remove is the book by the irrational lunatic posing as a legitimate philosopher, Ayn Rand. That woman had so many screws lose it is ridiculous. Objectivism redefines terms in a ridiculous ways, such as altruism. It is one of the most ridiculous and thoroughly refuted “philosophies” in the world of academia. Other than that, great list.

  • I would add to How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie. It is often sold with How to Win Friends and Influence People but not always and it is a very, very good read.

  • A great list-I have read 4 of them and I am aged 23 :D.. We currently write a positivity blog ourselves and it is these type of books which further entrench our thought process and will enable us to delve further into the realm of happiness :D ..Thanks!! Zara Xx

  • Fantastic list, I have read 3 of them and just turned 23. Gonna get stuck in to some more asap!!

  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower. This book changed my perspective on life.

  • Ah The Art of War! I have been wanting to read this forever, and forgot about it. This list reminded me of it. Thanks!

  • Rich dad poor dad is the book which inspired me the most amongst some of these books.

  • Conversations With God (all of them) By: Neal Donald Walsh

  • I give many of these books as graduation presents for our college students. Thanks for other suggestions. My addition would be “Dreams of Love and Fateful Encounters”, the Power of Romantic Passion by Ethel S. Person, M.D. A very insightful book and great analysis about the longing for perfect love. About that powerful, creative force in all of us…beautifully written. I read it before my second marriage, which well could have been my first marriage had I found this book and matured a little with its insights.

  • How about Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? In my opinion it is one of the best contemporary American philosophy books. Plus it’s a fun, interesting, and above all, easy read.

  • I have read a few of these books and they have helped me become a better person. “How to Win Friends and Influence People” is a must read.

  • A book that I think really influenced my thinking is “The Tipping Point” by Malcom Gladwell. It shows how little everyday occurances can greatly influence not only your life, but the whole world!

  • Back to the library for me. This is a great list. I know that the more that I have read book like these, the better that I am able to improve and succeed. Thanks for sharing!

  • There are so many books here I’ve never even thought of reading! I’ve only read a few of them, such as The Grapes of Wrath and To Kill a Mockingbird, and haven’t heard of many others on your list.

    If there were any books on your list I’d buy today, they’d definitely be The Art of War and The 4-Hour Workweek. Those two stood out to me most out of all the others. Thank you!

  • All great books but maybe i failed to see this book if anyone has mentioned it. ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Bryne

  • Thank you for your top 30 list. Enjoyed reading the other recommendations also.

    My top non-fiction/metaphysical/selfhelp:

    -Nature of Personal Reality - Jane Roberts
    -Resurrection and Power of Awareness, both by Neville
    -3 Magic Words - U.S. Andersen
    -Message of a Master by John McDonald
    - Power of Now by Tolle
    -War of Art by Stephen Pressfield (this is the common denominator type of self help - a book that everyone one the planet should read)


    The Dark Tower series by Stephen King
    Talisman by S. King

  • All great reads! I would add:
    Isaac Asimov’s I, ROBOT. If you are an aspiring writer and a student of life, be sure to read,
    “Starting from Scratch” by Rita Mae Brown.

    Thanks for all your marvelous suggestions.
    I could recommend many more but, you’ll find
    them as you go. One suggestion. Always carry two books with you. One to read and one to write notes.
    …Robert Louis Stevenson.

  • Great list. The biggest impact on my life came from Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. I read it as a teenager, and the alienation it described really reached me at the time.

  • Great list! I would add the hunger games by Suzanne Collins to it. I love them! I read them almost every few months!

  • Great List.
    Looking forward to read Atlas Shrugged.
    The FountainHead is a great read too.
    This along with Shantaram are really close to my heart.
    Changed the way I used perceive things.

    Happy reading to all!

  • WOW! I really enjoyed this blog and all of the comments and book recommendations. Thank you!

  • The Shack by Wm. Paul Young is inspirational !!!!

  • Harry Potter

  • heres a list
    1.the clay marble by minfong ho
    2. anne rice the diary of a young girl
    3. night by elie weisel
    4. acheron by sherrilyn kenyon
    my favorite books!

  • “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert Pirsig

  • Greatest salesman in the world and 7 habits of highly effective people

  • Thanks Marc, great list! There is about 10 on the list I have read (or have on my shelf to read), and while there are many great books out there the theme of self improvement pops up in your list, So I would agree with a few others that books to consider reading would include:
    - Think & grow Rich
    - Acres of Diamonds
    - As A Man Thinkith
    - The Common Denominator of Success
    - Anything by Eckart Tolle

  • The alchemist was the best book i have ever read. Funny enough the second best book i have ever read is : Horten Hears a Who by Dr.Suess. Teaches kindness, compassion and that nobody is to big for life.

  • It is very interesting to go through the wonderful list of great books. I am proud to have read most of them. There are many more others similar to these listed ones, and books really fabricate us.

  • One of the best books I have read was Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment by Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D.

    Yes, that’s a very long title. As a psychology major this book intrigued me. Seligman says that each person has a range of happiness and the book teaches you to live in the higher part of that range. It is a fairly easy read and very interesting. It really made me start thinking. I would recommend this for anyone, especially pessimists.

  • Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Breakfast of Champions’ was life changing for me. (well really, anything he wrote is amazing.) “Breakfast of Champions” is a satirical look on American life with illustrations. (Who doesn’t love illustrations?) If you don’t laugh, or feel a deep connection to Vonnegut as a writer or his many interesting characters, after reading this book - I worry for you.

  • I strongly recommend a small self-help book called “Targets: How to Set Goals for Yourself and Reach Them” by Leon Tec, M.D. — especially if you are the sort of person subject to procrastination and drift.

  • “Stumbling on happiness” was one of my favorite books as well.

    “Why men dont listen and women cant read maps” changed my way of living in terms of relationships with the opposite gender.

  • Great post. I love and have read about half of your favorites as well.

  • Wow, amazing list indeed. “Think and grow rich’ by Napoleon Hill is on my list.

  • Fun list. I’m glad you have a mix of fiction and non-fiction. Though, in my case, for every book I’m glad that I read before 30, there’s one that I *wish* I had read as well! What about you?

  • AWESOME list. I would also add Richard Branson- like a virgin - but you have named about 10 of my favorites :)

  • Some of my all-time favorite books in this list, and many more I haven’t read. I’ll have to bookmark this page for the next time I’m passing my local library.

  • Great list! I would definitely add “Awaken the Giant Within” by Anthony Robbins. My opinion is that Robbins writes really good stuff, and if you are into self-growth, then you should check Robbins work out.

  • I’ll add: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

  • A good list of books and a great read :) I’ve read only 5 books on the list,

    - The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,
    - The 4-Hour Workweek,
    - How to Win Friends and Influence People,
    - The Art of War, The Power of Full Engagement,
    - and Rich Dad, Poor Dad.

    Plused watched, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” not shore is that counts. Will be reading a few more.

  • For men: “The Way of the Superior Man”.
    For women: “It’s A Guy Thing”.
    Both by David Deida.
    Couples should read both.
    Two phenomenal books on true masculinity and femininity in a chaotic and confused world.

  • I have to agree with Stephen Covey’s book. I read it twice and plan on reading it again.
    Surprisingly, Russell Simmons has came out with something called “Super Rich” which I am finding to be very interesting.

  • Recently read “The Dalai Lama’s Cat” by David Michie and found it to be a beautiful and inspiring introduction to the Buddhist way of thinking.

  • My favorite book ever: The Alchemist

  • Don’t be discouraged to begin reading these if you have already past 30 years of age. These are great to read at any age, as at any age one can do great things.

  • These are exactly the type of books that I like to read, another book I have heard good things about is “The Art of Speed Reading People” by Paul Tieger which I have just ordered.

  • All I need to know I learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum and all his other books :). Opens your mind to see the joys and pleasures in the simplest things in life, and how to walk through life being the best you can be by shinning light on different perspectives of things…my favourite part in the book is the creation of crayola bombs, for when there is unstability, instead of fighting we use all that energy in creating :)

  • What a treat! Look at all the comments filled with suggestions for more great reads…how lucky are we to have an endless sea of inspirational books?

  • Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching

  • The Millionaire Fastlane. This book really altered the way I spend my free time and made me appreciate my free time more.

  • Thanks, going to amazon for walden…

  • “Way of the peaceful warrior” - add that to your list. Great list.

  • Journey to Ixlan…Carlos Castanada
    Future Shock …Alvin Toffler
    The Age of the Spiritual Machines…Ray Kurzweil
    Who Moved My Cheese..S. Johnson
    A History of Time…Steven Hawking
    Broccas Brain…Carl Sagan
    Nightmares and Dreamscapes…Steven King
    Parallel Universes… Fred Allan Wolf
    Time Enough for Love…Robert Heinlein

  • Thanks for this wonderful list of books. I’m in my early 20’s and hope to get through most of the books you’ve listed. Also, the books others have recommended. Thank you for this. :)

  • Great List.
    I also recommend Twelve Universal Laws of Success by Herbert Harris.

  • I will recommend “Proof of Heaven” a different & excellent must read.

  • Great list of books, many of which I have read..many I have not. As I approach 2x 30, I am starting to appreciate these (and other) tomes of knowledge better.

    I agree that Atlas Shrugged should be REQUIRED reading for everyone. It reads like a modern day newspaper. Ayn Rand must have had a crystal ball.

  • Thanks for sharing this wonderful list of books with us. Time to get some good reading done. :)


  • I believe you should read On The Road by Jack Kerouac before you turn 40.

  • I want to offer an alternate view on Atlas Shrugged. I think it’s a boiled down childish view of how the world works, though it’s concealed with the mask of faux-complexity.

  • You are Here by Thich Nhat Hanh

  • How can you forget to include The Alchemist to this list? I’ll add it for you.

  • Of course, there are lots of great books missing from the list, but the choice is worthy and I read the titles with a moment’s ego attack wondering if (or, being positive) when one of my titles appeared on such a collection. I shall have to stumble less and write more.

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