This is for my children when they’re old enough to read them and benefit from them, and when they decide to take an interest in the advice of their boring old man, however I’d recommend this list to anyone no matter their stage in life.
What book should you read next? Well, what problem are you trying to solve right now? That said, there are some eternal problems in life such as interpersonal relationships and the search for financial stability and fulfilment which these books help navigate.
I’ve added a note to each explaining why you should read it, and when you might want to make it a priority. I’ve also put them in an order that I think would be sensible; with the most foundational first (personal growth) followed by more wealth and lifestyle focussed volumes.
- The 7 habits of highly effective people; Stephen Covey
- Why? It’s important to know you can change who you are and be a better person, and know how to do so. You can be better with relationships and those around you. This book is an inspiration in personal growth.
- When to read: as a young adult, and again when you’re older and wiser. Or right now if you’re already both of those.
- Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
- Why? Our society teaches all the wrong lessons around guilt, shame and vulnerability. Our default responses to that are self-destructive. Brené shows us how to be brave enough to accept the challenges of life without hurting others to protect ourselves. The difference between guilt (“I did something that was wrong and regret it”) and shame (“I’m a bad person”) is often misunderstood or ignored entirely. When you think clearly about this it becomes clear that guilt is good and shame is bad.
- When to read: As early as you can, and maybe again if you find yourself falling into the traps of self-shaming, shaming others or not having the courage to do hard things for fear of failure.
- Nonviolent Communication; Marshall Rosenberg
- Why? Somewhat surprisingly perhaps the calm and empathic approach to communication is superior; but that’s easier said than done with our brains evolved for times gone by.
- When to read: As soon as you argue with someone and wonder what it achieved or it cost you dearly. Ideally before that happens.
- Bonds That Make Us Free; C. Terry Warner
- Why? Yes, it’s another book on dealing with people. The truth is it’s not them it’s you; but the good new is that you have the power to change what’s wrong. It turns out that dealing with people is important, and is foundational in all walks of life.
- When to read: As soon as you can, and then probably every decade after that.
- So good they can’t ignore you; Cal Newport
- Why? Don’t believe the hype at work, people hire for your real skills and what you can do for them. More details and foundational career advice for any path you choose lie within.
- When to read: Probably before your first or second job, but better late than never. If you’ve retired rich before you read this then maybe don’t bother!
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying; Marie Kondo
- Why? Because too much stuff ironically makes you less happy. Go figure. A practical guide to a calming and tidy house/room/boat/mansion/office from someone a little obsessed with tidy.
- When to read: When you’re fed up hearing me complain your room’s a mess. Or later on when you realise why I complained about it but don’t really know how to fix it.
- 48 Laws of Power; Robert Greene
- Why? Sadly the world is not the cuddly, friendly, fair and equitable world some people seem to think they can wish into existence by will power and singing alone. There are plenty of good things, but the hard truths about raw underlying human nature are best understood so you can deal with them if you need to. I trust you are a good human being who will only use some of the darker knowledge in here for good and personal survival.
- When to read: I hesitate to say early because used without experience this knowledge will get you into more trouble than it gets you out of. That said, earlier the better but don’t rush into using it, just observe the people around quietly with this new knowledge for the next few years at least.
Money and work
- Rich dad, poor dad; Robert T. Kiyosaki
- Why? Money isn’t everything, but not having it will make you miserable. And the thing that will make you poor beyond anything else is your mindset and financial education. Read this to learn what the people who never seem to work do and why they never seem to run out of money.
- When to read: As soon as your bank account hits zero for the first time, and any time you are annoyed that you still have that sucky job you hate but can’t escape from (happens to us all I think).
- Think and Grow Rich; Napoleon Hill
- Why? More money will let you solve more problems, have more freedom, help more people, and live your best life. But it’s not that easy to know where to start without a role model and a plan. Good practical guidance in here. Time will tell if I make good use of it myself.
- When to read: After the first few years of plying a trade perhaps, but don’t leave it too long.
- The 4-Hour Work Week; Tim Ferris
- Why? Working for someone else 9-5 isn’t the only way to make a living. This book might age when it comes to tactics, but the inspirational vision of another way of life is timeless.
- When to read: Whenever you’ve had enough of a job. Or maybe if you just want to dream, or travel.
- The Road Less Stupid; Keith J. Cunningham
- Why? Whatever money and success you achieve, it’s very easy to throw it all away again by doing dumb things that seemed like a good idea. This is a straight-talking guide to not doing that. Contains important lesson about protecting against downside risk (i.e. a small chance you lose everything) when chasing upside risk (i.e. a chance to be much richer etc). Unmitigated downside risk has the power to destroy everything you’ve worked for.
- When to read: Sooner rather than later, especially if you’re feeling a bit ambitious.
The meaning of life, evolution and religion
- The Blind Watchmaker; Richard Dawkins
- Why? Evolution if often poorly understood. As the foundation of our existence and behaviours this to me is a must read to truly understand life. For me it answers the question of “what is the point in life”; ironically there is no point really, but that is more freeing than some deity with odd morals. Just know that you can know the raw mechanics and still live a full, happy and meaningful life; helping all those around you.
- When to read: Whenever you have some time. Kinda background knowledge for life.
- The God Delusion; Richard Dawkins
- Why? God is all around us in the many people’s of the world. His name(s) are often used to manipulate and exploit, and play power games. You and I can probably do nothing about this (and it’s dangerous territory to tread in, I’m surprised Dawkins is still alive), however I think the knowledge is an important piece of the complex puzzle that is humanity. Once you’ve read this, don’t judge those who believe for whatever reason, you will not change them and you will only cause hurt.
- When to read: Whenever you have time, any time you are considering the meaning and truth of religion, and any time you want to be able to discuss the topic with more useful information.
Children of your own
- Pregnancy For Men
- Why? Nothing can prepare you for this experience, and men are an anxious side-show. This book helped me cope, and even occasionally be useful.
- When to read: As soon as you think you’ll have a kid on the way, don’t leave it till the due date or you’ll miss the pre-natal stuff.
- How to talk so Kids Will listen
- Why? Nothing about communicating well is natural or obvious. It takes work and understanding, and undoing cultural failings. This series is one of the best, kindest works out there, and helped me immensely.
- When to read: When your kids are starting to talk.
- Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers
- Why? Culture is teaching us to ignore our parents with devastating consequences for all involved. It turns out “attachment” is the key, and when it goes wrong nothing you do will work.
- When to read: When your kids are 4+ years old.
Personally I like the audiobook format, and at time of writing a yearly subscription to Audible was good value for getting easy access to the content, and a narration from the author or a good speaker makes for a more memorable experience.
Beyond this list, check the best-seller lists for whatever subject you wish to excel at. There’s no point learning the hard way when you can learn from someone who has. Even in this digital age books still pack a tremendous punch; the result of someone pouring 20+ years of their experience into something you can read in a week is like liquid gold. I also have recorded a lot of my personal reading list on GoodReads.
To my little people who will soon be bigger than me in every way, love you 💕️👊️, Diddy x
P.S. If you’re reading this and you’re not my kid, well I love you too for being the lovely human I know you are.