I have been reading a lot more lately, now that I have some spare time before the school year kicks up again. Later in another post I’ll create a list of books I have finished reading. For now, here are some books that have been influential to me so far in my life.
1. Thus spoke Zarathustra
I first read this when I was around 19 going on 20. Ii shook me to my very core. Nietzsche by himself is tough to understand without really getting into his work. You have to read his other books to even get what he’s talking about but even then you won’t really understand him until you understand his life and overall big picture of his philosophy. Anyways, this was the first book I read of his that introduced me to him and his philosophy and completely changed how I viewed myself, the world and everything I understood at the time. This book is the easiest of his to read but still fucking hard to understand, it’s packed full of references to the classics, the bible, other authors, metaphors, and poetry. He criticizes other philosophers, society, mainstream ideas of the time and puts forth his own philosophy all in the form of a story like a parable from the bible. Read this book, you won’t be the same after. Get the Clancy Martin translation, it reads far easier and provides an explanation in the back on what Nietzsche was referencing or talking about.
2. Fight Club
As a big fan of the movie, I had to read the book. This book shows the frustration young males of today feel with modern society. Like the movie, it centers on “Jack” the narrator, the friend he makes, Tyler Durden and the philosophy they begin to explore. I won’t ruin the story unless you’ve already seen the movie, but still. Read this book.
3. The 50th Law
This book by Robert Greene and 50 Cent is highly underrated by most people I know. It deals with the lessons that 50 learned while growing up hustling to survive from a young age. It’s main theme is fear and each individual lesson shows how to overcome it. A good book and one I highly recommend. In fact, I would say that you should read this one first then read the 48 laws to get a better grounding.
4. So Good They Can’t Ignore You
The main thing that is prevalent in our culture and society today is the idea of following your passion. That you should do what you love and the money will follow. This book not only debunks that prevailing godawful idea, but instead puts forth the idea that skills are what are actually important in finding work you love. I follow Cal Newport’s blog and his ideas and every time he writes a book, I make sure to read it. Get this book. Seriously.
5. Deep Work
Same goes for this one, this one is actually a follow up to So good they can’t ignore you but delves deeper into the concept of what he calls “deep work”. That intense concentration, without distraction, that produces remarkable work. He makes the case on why you should strive for deep work in our highly distracted age and how to go about implementing that in your own life. Like above, get this book. Like now.
6. On Machiavelli
Ok, this one is a little cheating because my main focus is The prince but On Machiavelli provides excerpts from The Prince and The Discourses. That’s why I recommend this one. It explains how and why Machiavelli wrote what he did by placing him in context in 15th Italy. It explains his work really well and when you get to the section on the prince and discourses you’ll understand it a whole lot better. I also recommend getting The Prince and The Discourses by themselves.
8. The Fountainhead/Atlas Shrugged
I first read The Fountainhead when I was 18 and it completely blew me away. It was so impressionable that I really considered becoming an Architect like Roark. After finishing it, I immediately went out and got her Magnum Opus, Atlas Shrugged. Whereas The Fountainhead deals with Architect Howard Roark, Atlas Shrugged deals with a group of individuals and in the bigger picture, the world. Both books espouse Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. Her books are good nonetheless and I recommend them. Just don’t start believing her philosophy without critically thinking about it first.
9. The Obstacle Is The Way
Oh man, what can I NOT say about this book. Ryan Holiday made a book for the ages when he wrote this one. In this one, he writes on the philosophy of Stoicism and gives historical examples that demonstrate the philosophy and exercises he is writing about. If you are stuck, need a clear assessment, a change in your life, or a problem you need to solve. This book will show you how to turn those obstacles into triumphs.
* As a freebie, I also recommend Ryan Holiday’s new book Ego Is The Enemy. I am currently reading it and it’s a knockout!
10. 48 Laws of Power
I saved the best for last. I first heard of Robert Greene and his work when I was first heading off to college at 18. I was immediately hooked. Like Machiavelli before him, Robert Greene shows us the timeless laws of power that everyone from Con-men to Heads of State have used since times passed. If you want power, to observe power, or defend yourself from those who use power; this book is for you.