The 8 Books that Changed my Life

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So a little disclaimer from the get-go; I rarely ever “read” books, I usually just listen to audiobooks and have made listening a habit since the 5th grade.

I like the flexibility of audiobooks: I can be driving, walking, biking, running, cleaning, fixing, or any monotonous task and be “reading”.

It’s funny, I used to walk around my town and listen to audiobooks, and now when I walk by that same path I recollect what I listened to at that location. I’ll turn a corner and all of a sudden reminisce on Harry shoving his wand up a troll’s nose or see Ender as he freezes his knees to claim victory over his enemies.

 

The 8 books that have made a massive impact on my life

Ender’s Game

This is my favorite fiction book. It was not just a great read, it honestly made me feel like I was getting smarter with every page I read. It taught me leadership skills, strategy, and how to think critically.
Basically, the book is set in the future and tells a story about a super-smart 12-year-old who is drafted into a military academy and trained to be the next commanding general should the Formics (an alien race) ever attack again.
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Way of the Peaceful Warrior

There is something mysterious and magical about this book. The most important lesson it taught me is to always be in the present moment – to stop wishing to relive the past or constantly dream of the future, but to cherish and embrace this present moment we find ourselves in. The book presents a whole life philosophy, and I believe my life has been made better by it.
The book takes you on a journey through the college years of the author, Dan Millman, and how he encounters his life mentor, Socrates, who begins to teach him how to live life as a “peaceful warrior.”

Born to Run

(Somehow this book found its way in this list … and it deserves to be here, so I left it.)
This book inspired me to begin trusting in the strength of my physical body. It got me to start running barefoot and really think about what incredible creations our bodies are that have been perfectly adapted to live and handle anything we encounter in our natural environment.
This book got me to question everything that society had led me to believe was normal. I began asking myself whether things were actually necessary or just marketed as essential to our lives. I would think about our prehistoric ancestors and how they got through life, and about animals and how theirs bodies handled their environments. My mind would dwell on questions like: How did cavemen get by without shoes, toothbrushes, diapers, toilet paper, medicine, etc.? Was it even all necessary? Are these only necessary now because of the new conditions that we as humans have introduced into our own lives?
So a quick synopsis: the book starts out with the unveiling of the author’s running pains and injuries which lead him to research a Mexican tribe of runners that would run for hundreds of miles at a stretch with nothing but the thinnest sandals all the while never getting hurt. It’s a wild adventure and a fascinating read.

Some quotes I loved:

  • “You live up to your own expectations”
  • “Make friends with pain and you will never be alone.”
  • “Who’s more committed to winning after all predator or prey. After the lion can come to hunt another day, but one mistake from the antelope and he’s gone.”
  • “Let us live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.”
  • “Beyond the very extremes of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own. Sources of strength we never taxed at all because we never passed through that obstruction.” 
  • “Bricolage, the concept that less is more. The best solution is the most elegant. Why add something if you’re born with everything you need.” 
  • “You support an area it gets weaker. Use it extensively it gets stronger. Run barefoot and you don’t have all those problems.”
  • “The cure for cancer is a change to a healthy lifestyle.”
  • “Human distance running is a blend of strategy and skill perfected and demands a brain-body connection that no other animal is capable of.”
  • “Humans have a mind-body conflict. A body built for performance but a brain that’s always conserving. The brain is always trying to conserve your energy. We live in a culture that sees extreme exercise as crazy. Why fire up the machine if you don’t have too. Sitting around was a luxury, only recently have we come up with the technology to make lazing around a way of life. We’ve taken our hunter gatherer body and dropped it into an alien world.”

 

Stargirl

This book is very special to me. Growing up, there were many times I felt I didn’t fit in and I found solace in this book and truly loved the story.

The book follows Stargirl, a middle-schooler who just moved into a small town in Arkansas. She is bold and embraces her quirky, odd, original nature. This doesn’t go over too well with her new school and with those that are just following the status quo. I always wished I could be like Stargirl and just embrace the true me with no concern of the thoughts of others – fearless and limitless.

 

The Five Love Languages

This book is powerful. If I were ruler of the world, I would decree it a mandatory read for anyone of marital age. My wife and I read this book every year in October – we feel the lessons in it are that important.

We’ve read a number of relationship books, but none are as succinct and impacting as this one. Filled with case studies and different strategies, it will teach you how to build/repair a beautiful relationship with your spouse.

The main takeaway from this book is that people feel love in different ways and if you want to truly love someone, you need to do so in a language that they understand. It also stresses that not fulfilling someone’s primary love language whether it be quality time, acts or service, touch, words of affirmation, or gifts can be detrimental to a relationship.

If you haven’t already, please read this book. It’s only four hours long (in audiobook form) and will change your life.

 

The 4 Hour Workweek

This book is for anyone who is not satisfied with their 9-5 work life. The book shows you how to excel at work and be super productive, whereby you can land yourself more freedom and liberties with your time, since no manager will want to mess with an A+ employee. The book also explores entrepreneurial endeavors you can start during those free hours you’ve now gained and how to eventually escape the corporate rat race altogether.

I read this book prior to starting my full-time job as a mechanical engineer and I feel it really pushed me to improve my output and productivity right from the get-go. This gave me a lot of confidence in my job and a sense of being “highly valued” at my workplace.

This book dives into a lot of topics that I am very interested in: starting a business, automating your businesses, improving productivity, getting things done, becoming more effective, working less and getting more done in less time.

 

Outwitting the Devil

The history of this book really intrigued me. It was written nearly 70 years ago by Napoleon Hill. Hill’s wife begged him not to publish it as she felt it would be too controversial a book. So it has sat dormant all these years only to be published a few years ago.

In the book, Hill somehow manages to capture the Devil and force him to give an interview. The Devil is left with no other option than to answer Hill’s questions, which then reveal all his devilish tricks to ensnare humanity and keep people from successfully reaching their true potential and destiny in life.

The Book expands on these 7 principles to attain spiritual, mental, and physical freedom:

  1. Definiteness of purpose
  2. Mastery over self
  3. Learning from adversity
  4. Controlling environmental influence (association)
  5. Time (giving permanency to positive habit and developing wisdom
  6. Harmony (acting with definiteness of purpose to become the dominating influence in your own mental, spiritual, and physical environment)
  7. Caution (thinking through your plan before you act)

 

Millionaire next door

I still can’t decide between this book and “The Richest Man in Babylon” as my favorite finance book, but this one I read first so it’s a little more memorable.

My biggest takeaway from this book was the notion of offensive and defensive finances. Offensive finances are the money you bring in – for most people that are just their salary. Defensive finances are how you spend your money. If you have the best offense and no defense you save no money. You need both offense and defense to play a good financial game.

This book shares some fascinating statistics on millionaires and their lifestyles. The book sheds light on the fact that the typical millionaire is not who you would typically think of. They are not lavishly spending their money, buying expensive fancy cars, and going on shopping sprees. The book talks about the characteristics, principles, and attributes that millionaires embody and is quite an interesting read.

 

The Six Point Plan for Happy Healthy Children

I have read a couple of parenting books, but all have been hogwash except this one. I feel this author’s philosophies and parenting are spot on.

One main point he brings home is that kids are not the leaders of the family and should not be catered to as such; nor do they want to be. Instead, kids want to be led and told what to do.

He describes the ideal parenting style as a “benevolent dictatorship” and I couldn’t agree more. It’s a very quick read – you could finish the book in an afternoon – but it can change your life and that of your families forever.

 

List of all the Books I’ve read:

The Stars indicate my rating for the books.
* – Didn’t like it
** – It was okay
*** – Good Book
**** – Great book, definitely recommend it
***** – Everyone should read this book!

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"Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind." - Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

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Conclusion

I never felt I was born a genius or particularly gifted in intelligence. But I am positive that the habit of reading (or listening to) books has vastly improved my mind and critical thinking. I attribute a large majority of my success to my habit of listening to audiobooks.

I feel my life is constantly uplifted and inspired by books. There is so much value added to my life from the books I read and although I gain a lot from each book, it is the overall habit of continually reading and taking in new information and lessons that has made the biggest impact on my life.

If anyone has any book recommendations, please leave a comment below. I would love to hear other people’s ‘Top 8 Books’!

4 thoughts on “The 8 Books that Changed my Life

  1. Thanks for the reaching out to me SKB; here is a c+p from my email:

    Regarding a list of life-altering books, even though I’ve read quite a bit, I haven’t really put much thought into it. As you probably know, a good chunk of my book reading is fiction/sci-fi/fantasy, which some would consider escapist (though I partially disagree), and those books don’t really lend themselves to getting on these sorts of lists. On the flip side of things, I also enjoy reading a lot of heavy non-fiction like philosophy, history, and more recently, domestic and foreign policy. However, it’s hard to figure out the good or even correct texts in these non-exact sciences. Although they reflect human nature quite well, they also reflect the contradictions and imperfections of humanity.

    So, my list of life-altering books is quite short:

    1. DP: provides basis of my worldview

    2. Fundamentals of Unification thought (by Sang Hun Lee):
    It’s kind of outdated (part of the fight against communism era), but provided the impetus to understand the DP. It gave me the first example of rationally studying the DP rather than treating it as dogma or engaging in surface level ‘easy’ studying of the DP and calling it a day. Specifically, even though it trumps the bible, the DP is very vague on some matters and handwaves quite a bit (e.g. much of the discussion on providence of restoration – so far, my understanding is that the DP provides a recipe for social/moral evolution, but coached in religious terminology. Also, what is the philosophical justification for the things outlined in the principle of creation? the process of the fall? etc.) and neglects to provide concrete examples of applications (e.g. Do the ends justify the means? How should the government be structured? What power should governments hold vs. the private citizen? Are social programs good? Taxes? How do you resolve territorial disputes? Foreign interventions? etc.).

    3. The philosophy of science (rationalism + empiricism) as a general methodology
    Yes, this is cheating, but I don’t have a single book that changed things. It’s more of an entire worldview/culture of thought that changed my worldview. Ultimately, even if you have certain moral convictions and theories about how the world works (from the DP), one must figure out how to think and justify your beliefs. And if your understanding is incorrect, unjustifiable, or incomplete, you better correct it by putting a lot more thought into the problem. I haven’t found a more convincing way of reasoning than that provided by philosophy and science. Fits in nicely with the whole uniting the external with the internal thing: the perfect philosophy should be a perfect union of religious/moral thought given by the DP with the secular world of science.

    I think I’ve consumed every other bit of knowledge I’ve encountered in my life through the lens I’ve crafted using the 3 things above. So, although there might be many other books that were interesting or thought provoking (off the top of my head: Speaker for the Dead, The Darkness that Comes Before, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Fire Upon the Deep, most recently: On China) I don’t think they really changed my life. They all just extended the course I was already on by exposing me to new instances of the same philosophy [if you take the time to unpack the DP + cross reference and bolster with traditional philosophy, there is a lot in there].

    I guess that sort of reflects in my reading choices. I don’t particularly enjoy ‘moderate’ non-fiction like self-help books, or books that sensationalize serious or academic topics. For my personal growth, I prefer to digest either the unvarnished truth (history, news), intellectual analysis of the former (academia, philosophy), or thought experiments (from academia, or fiction). I’d rather spend my time getting the highest quality information and analysis, than settle for diluted versions.

    Of course, entertainment is in its own category, but if you’re going to go for entertainment, I prefer going all out into the realm of sci-fi and fantasy rather than settling for the dry and old classics, or fiction closer to reality. The basic stories and themes you’re going to read are going to be recycled anyway – may as well go for the stuff with the most freedom to experiment and explore.

    Regarding the list you created, I can’t really comment much, since our areas of literary (or intellectual?) enjoyment don’t seem to overlap that much. I will say that Ender’s Game was great, but after maturing, I’ve found Speaker for the Dead to be better. Ender’s Game is a great coming of age story, but Speaker for the Dead is a great ’embracing the other’ story, which seems more relevant as I get older.

    To sum up: I’m a boring guy who mostly reads escapist literature. Also, I like philosophy and science/policy papers. Hopefully, this was somewhat interesting to read. If not, well, I thought it was a nice exercise in articulating my rationale for the reading choices I make. I can’t seem to remember where I read this, but there’s a text/article out there that claims the act of writing is fundamental to giving structure to your beliefs and arguments – giving you a chance to self-analyze the pillars holding up your convictions. I don’t know how true it is, and I’ve never really tested it (not even with a journal or diary), but it seems to be a reasonable justification for writing (I guess blogging in your case), even without an audience.

  2. Seung Kook
    I’ve read 85 of the books on your list. Les Miserables is better than 3 stars. The count of Monte Cristo is also better than you gave it. You should challenge gone with the Wind. It’s a 50 hour audio I think Roots is 30 hours. There’s also the author Conn Iggulden his books on Ghenghis Khan and the Mongols is great reading. I liked all the Phillip Pullman books.

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