1. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success | Carol Dweck
I was first given this book by my Teach For America, Program Director Michelle Abbs. And to be honest, with a cover like this one it wasn’t until months later that I even considered skimming its pages. The moment I did open the cover, however, I was unable to put the book down until I finished it.
Carol Dweck is a professor of Psychology at Stanford University. This book was written as the manifestation of years of research, reading, and life experiences. Every page felt like a slap across the face as Dweck challenged me to rethink everything from the meanings of my favorite childhood fables to how I define a healthy relationship.
When a friend asks me for a book recommendation, Mindset is always first on the list.
2. Outliers: The Story of Success | Malcolm Gladwell
If I were a life coach, I would make two books required reading: Mindset and Outliers. Both books challenge how we define success but go about it in very different ways. While Dweck analyzes the way successful and unsuccessful people think, in Outliers Gladwell considers the affects of outside forces: culture, geographic location, class, race, luck. Together, these two books provided me with a more holistic understanding my goals and my environment.
3. Einstein: His Life and Universe | Walter Isaacson
For many, Einstein stands as the image of intelligence, but very few have taken the time to investigate the differences between his life and the fictional anecdotes his genius has inspired. In Einstein: His Life and Universe, Walter Isaacson does just that.
When I picked up this book, I expected to finish it with a better understanding of Einstein’s success, but instead I was surprised to see the central role failure played throughout his life. From barely graduating from college, to toiling for thirteen years to land a job in the academy, this book is a beautiful narrative of passion and failure. For more thoughts on this great book, check out one of the blog posts it inspired: “5 Truths Einstein Taught Me About Intelligence.”
4. The Alchemist | Paulo Coelho
My dreams have always been something I stray away from discussing. It is one thing to have goals, or a five year plan, but to declare something a dream, is a serious commitment. The Alchemist is the story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to follow his dreams. The story follows his development into a person who understands the importance of taking on the risk of acting on one´s dreams. Though it has been years since I opened this book, Santiago’s narrative still encourages me to be honest with myself and act on my desires.
5. The Lean Startup | Eric Ries
Though Amazon describes this book from the perspective of entrepeurs and CEOs, I found it’s lessons much more applicable to everyone looking to “penetrate that fog of uncertainty ” by leveraging ”human creativity more effectively.”
At the core of this book is the call for us to be scientists. To hypothesize, experiment, and grow as we learn more from the world around us. Ries idea of “validated learning,” learning that is founded upon experimentation and data, provides a framework for his readers to waste less time developing detailed plans that rely on unforeseeable variables, and more time out there in the hot-mess of things experimenting, adapting, and growing.
6. The Art of War | Sun Tzu
Sun-Tzu’s The Art of War is an interesting book. Hailed by many generals, politicians, and CEOs as the key to success in battle, I was surprised to see from the beginning an emphasis on war, between nations, businesses, or people, as a last resort that should, when ever possible be avoided.
All-in-all this book challenged not only my understanding of conflict but also provided various strategies for overcoming a variety of obstacles from preparing for graduate applications to navigating an unhealthy work culture. I strongly recommend this book for the slow reflective types that love engaging with new paradigms.
What I love most about this list of great books is that it will never stop growing. I just finished The 4-Hour Workweek and it really rocked my ideas of work, retirement, time management, and career limitations. Has it changed my life? It is still too soon to say, but I´ll keep you posted on this or other books that do.