I love books. Over the years, they’ve been my friend, ally, counsel, entertainer and teacher. I had the fantastic fortune to be raised in a household surrounded by books and reading. Nearly every weekend, I’d go to the local library, max out my library card and immerse myself. I’d say it’s up there with exercise in the most important activities in my life… But then again, I first got inspired to start working out reading Arnold Scharwzenegger’s autobiography, Total Recall. Books can encapsulate a human being’s life work – the opportunity to learn from that, to be effectively transported into their brain, is enormous.
Here are three I’ve either read or revisited recently:
- Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon
This book was one of the biggest influences in finally starting the ink. It demystifies the creative process, reminding the reader that no work exists in a vacuum. Everything follows what’s come before – you are part of an evergrowing story in your chosen discipline.
“Nothing is original.”
It’s short, actionable and extremely powerful. You’ll feel fired up to stop consuming, get your hands dirty and make something.
“It is better to take what does not long belong to you than to let it lie around neglected.”
- The Daily Stoic, by Ryan Holiday and Steve Hanselman
I’m familiar with Holiday’s previous work – The Obstacle is the Way was a particular favourite, my introduction to Stoicism. He’s an unusual bloke. Apprenticing under Robert Greene (of Mastery fame), and working with Tim Ferriss, he was appointed Director of Marketing at American Apparel by the age of 22.
He loves reading and writing, and has shifted his career in this direction in recent years (while maintaining strategic consulting work). The mixture of anecdotal evidence from his own vibrant career, historical examples and clearly stated Stoic principles make for excellent reading. I also love how he shares his process, like here, in this exhaustive blog post on how his book, Perennial Seller, was written. He’s not scared about revealing ‘the secret’ – because it’s doesn’t exist. It’s hard work and consistency. Ryan knows there’s no risk of anyone stealing the method. It still takes countless hours of research, synthesis and concerted effort to create something of value.
“If you find something very difficult to achieve yourself, don’t imagine it impossible – for anything possible and proper for another person can be achieved as easily by you.”
The Daily Stoic has become my bible. You may recognise some of the pages featured in the notes section of various essays on this blog. The book is split into four sections, reflecting the core principles of Stoicism. There’s a different meditation to consider every single day of the year from Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus or another Stoic thinker, complete with Ryan’s riff on the topic. It’s an incredibly powerful way to reset every morning, remember these critical lessons and put them into practice.
- The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell
One of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever come across. Gladwell has become synonymous with popular science, a field rife with copycats, sensationalists and those who pack out 300 pages with nonsense and fluff around one half decent idea. That is categorically not Gladwell. His work is inventive, creative and meticulously researched. I find it incredible the way he frames concepts, connects dots and constructs a narrative from the seemingly chaotic world around us. If I had one criticism, it’d be the feeling of worthlessness and idiocy that sets in when I compare my writing to his. But I don’t despair. I can only try and emulate Gladwell, learn from him, and focus on incremental improvement.
What are you waiting for? Get reading!
You can buy the aforementioned books here:
The idea for recommending books came when sketching my desk (don’t ask me how or why that happened)… so here’s the ‘note-taking’ process for this post: