There’s a multitude of books out there – so many that it actually makes me kind of depressed – mostly because I’ll never have the time to read all the ones I want to.
And seeing as I’m not a massive fan of speed listening my way through Audible at 3 times the normal speed just to get another book under my belt, it seems I’m doomed to use my literary time wisely.
Which is why I created this post.
A large part of this site is dedicated to recommending the best books on any given subject.
Most of the time, those articles recommend five titles, which to me, seems like a good number to garner an initial understanding of a non-fiction topic and be introduced to a new genre of fiction.
In this post, I want to suggest the top book (singular) on any given topic, in my humble opinion.
So a curation of unmissables, in effect. Enjoy.
Best Books on…Well, Pretty Much Everything
The anxiety beast catches up with all of us from time to time. Unwinding Anxiety by Judson Brewer shows why this is the case. Think the happy trio of perfectionism, rumination, and self-judgment. Fortunately, there are techniques that can help. This is a topic that affects us all, so having strategies on hand when we begin to enter panic mode is essential.
“Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s troubles. It takes away today’s peace.” ― Judson Brewer
📚 See the best books on anxiety.
Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon is the winner in this category. I’m also a big fan of his blog, so make sure to check that out too. In Steal Like an Artist, the main assertion is that no work is completely original. All artists take inspiration from the world around them, mixing and matching inputs into a colorful collage, thereby creating something truly new and unique.
“You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life.”
― Austin Kleon
📚 See the best books on creativity.
Whether we like it or not, sometimes we actually have to converse with other humans. Obviously the better you can do this, the more successful you’ll probably be at this little thing called life. For some people, however, navigating choppy social waters proves intensely anxiety-provoking. That’s why it’s good to learn some techniques to help. Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson does just that, demonstrating how to understand, suspend judgment, speak truthfully and stay in dialogue, even when those interactions are difficult.
“The mistake most of us make in our crucial conversations is we believe that we have to choose between telling the truth and keeping a friend.”
― Kerry Patterson
📚 See the best books on communication.
One of my other arch-enemies is decision-making. To say I struggle to decide is sometimes an understatement. Fortunately, Chip and Dan Heath have written a pretty comprehensive book on the topic that allows me to identify my foibles in real-time. Investigating the science behind decision-making, the brothers provide an excellent overview of how to make better choices in an increasingly confusing world.
“Success emerges from the quality of the decisions we make and the quantity of luck we receive. We can’t control luck. But we can control the way we make choices.” ― Chip Heath
📚 See the best books on decision-making.
It’s become somewhat of a cliché to recommend James Clear’s Atomic Habits book, so I’m purposely not going to do that here – although it’s certainly worth a read and checking out my summary. Instead, I’ll suggest Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg, which contains a simple message – that you just need to start small and build from there. Want to begin with push-ups? Do one a day. I’m a simple man and that’s the kind of simple message I can support.
“In order to design successful habits and change your behaviors, you should do three things. Stop judging yourself. Take your aspirations and break them down into tiny behaviors. Embrace mistakes as discoveries and use them to move forward.” ― B.J. Fogg
📚 See the best books on habits.
Perhaps the master of crafting engaging pop-psychology books is Malcolm Gladwell. Although some critics levy the assertion that Gladwell forgoes rigorous scientific reporting to fit his intended narrative, he nonetheless presents a compelling case for the power of intuition and how our subconscious is constantly interpreting environmental cues from our environment before our brain has had time to catch up.
“There can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis.” ― Malcolm Gladwell
📚 See the best books on intuition.
Most books on meditation seem to revel in being completely obscure and esoteric, which is incredibly annoying if you’re simply trying to learn how to do the blasted thing. This is why I love this book – written in clear, concise language, it offers an evidence-based 8-week program, providing plain instructions for how to meditate. The book? Finding Peace in a Frantic World.
“We try so hard to be happy that we end up missing the most important parts of our lives and destroying the very peace that we were seeking” ― J. Mark G. Williams
📚 See the best books on meditation.
Zooming out from the technique of meditation, we have the overarching philosophy of mindfulness. Generally infusing your life with the act of paying attention to the present moment is considered to be a good thing, and therefore, one that I often try to do. Reading about the lives of far more successful people than me is a good way to do it.
📚 See the best books on mindfulness.
Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins is the ultimate pick me up and it certainly doesn’t pull any punches. If you need to blast victim mentality like a icy fore hose to the face, this is the book to do it. I now frequently find myself asking a question when the going gets tough – “What would Goggins do?”
“You are in danger of living a life so comfortable and soft, that you will die without ever realizing your true potential.” ― David Goggins
10. Personal Development
I’m not sure why this book resonated with me so much, but I loved The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson, which says that simple daily habits multiplied by time, through the magic power of compound interest = success. Make the right decision now, which will transform you into the right person later on. It really doesn’t get much simpler than that.
“The truth is, what you do matters. What you do today matters. What you do every day matters. Successful people just do the things that seem to make no difference in the act of doing them and they do them over and over and over until the compound effect kicks in.” ― Jeff Olson
📚 See the best books on personal development.
Along with overthinking, I frequently succumb to the urge to procrastinate. After numerous late nights in my formative years desperately scrambling to finish essays before deadlines, this affliction remains as stubborn as ever. Most of the time, the thing I’m putting off is the most difficult or complex project on my plate, that I simply can’t bear to start. Enter Eat That Frog by Bryan Tracy, which urges us to tackle our most feared undertaking first thing in the morning.
“If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.”
This is another way of saying that if you have two important tasks before you, start with the biggest, hardest, and most important task first.” ― Brian Tracy
📚 See the best books on procrastination.
I’m a big fan of no-nonsense talking, so I like Jocko Willink – he’s a man that makes his words matter. He also comes from a place of credibility, having led Navy SEAL teams in what I expect were some pretty tickly situations. So I have no doubt that his advice in Extreme Ownership translates well into civilian life. As with many other authors, you can also fins him waxing lyrical on his own platform – so I highly recommend giving his podcast a sweet little listen.
“Discipline equals freedom.” ― Jocko Willink
📚 See the best books on leadership.
If there’s a magic bullet I wish existed, it would be a panacea for overthinking, an affliction that overcomes me at the best of times. The Worry Trick is a book that illuminated the common cause for much of this mental rumination. Confronting our anxieties through methods such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, we can finally gain a semblance of control over our unruly minds.
“We will also do better when we can recognize the worry thoughts as signs of nervousness and anxiety, the same as an eye twitch or sweaty palms, rather than some important message about the future” ― David A. Carbonell
📚 See the best books on overthinking.
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is a book based on the research findings from John Gottman’s marriage clinic. Apparently, Gottman was able to predict the likelihood of couples remaining together with alarming accuracy after observing them interact for a mere matter of minutes. Scary stuff! And therefore, worth reading to see if we can improve our long-term relationships with the advice and exercises set forth.
“Friendship fuels the flames of romance because it offers the best protection against feeling adversarial toward your spouse.” ― John M. Gottman
📚 See the best books on relationships.
Personally, this has to be The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle – this book found me on a friend’s bookshelf at a particularly low ebb in life, and immediately resonated as if the author was speaking directly to me. While I was consumed with the problems and decisions to be made, this book made me step back focus on the present moment and gain the emotional objectivity needed to find the path forwards.
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.” ― Eckhart Tolle
📚 See the best books on spirituality.
This one has to be Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman – a relative juggernaut in the psychology space. Despite contention around aspects of the research presented in the book, his outline of System 1 and System 2 thinking is groundbreaking. Thinking well is a critical faculty and crucial to living a good life, so investing in this book is time well spent.
“Nothing in life is as important as you think it is, while you are thinking about it” ― Daniel Kahneman
📚 See the best books on critical thinking.
The Body Keeps the Score was a transformative read in this genre, and really opened my eyes to the potential after-the-fact impact of trauma. Initially intended as a guidebook for clinicians, this book has nonetheless become a favorite of the masses as it unpacks the underpinnings of the condition and hints at the strategies we can employ to overcome it. I particularly like the emphasis on somatic recommendations focusing on holistic mind-body integration.
“Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.” ― Bessel A. van der Kolk
📚 See the best books on trauma.
There you have it – some of the best books (mostly psychology orientated), that have impacted me significantly.
Sometimes you read a book just at the right time and it changes the trajectory of your life.
That’s why the hunt for these hidden gems never stops!
I’ll therefore be adding more suggestions to this ever-evolving list over time, so be sure to stop back sometime.