One of my goals for 2013 is to read 50 books. I’m currently on book #32 (The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life) & #33 (Cloud Atlas), so I’m a little behind pace given we’re already in October. Whether or not I hasten the pace and hit my target, this is still the most books I’ve read in a single year — so I can’t beat myself up too much.

Instead of going into a deep dive of every book (my original intent), I’d like to share a quickly consumable list of my favorites to date. If you enjoy reading the genres I do, hopefully this list will give you some ideas for your next book.

[Side Note: These are not books published in 2013, just books I’ve read in 2013. Some of these are actually quite old.]

Self-Improvement & Personal Growth

The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield

Jack Canfield is best known for the inspiring Chicken Soup for the Soul series, which he co-founded with Mark Victor Hansen. But few may know that Canfield is an incredibly inspiring guy himself. This book is one of the most comprehensive guides to taking control of your life and growing into your potential. Highly recommended and one of my favorites so far this year.

The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz

This book from the late 1950s challenges you to think BIG, arguing that the majority of people have goals that are far too small. Its message is clear: be a big dreamer, set large goals, and don’t settle for mediocrity. An interesting anecdote: When he was but a measly assistant coach struggling in his life and career, Lou Holtz famously read this book and started making a list a huge, seemingly “unrealistic” goals he wanted to accomplish in his lifetime. The rest, as they say, is history. Holtz has since become a legendary Notre Dame coach and leader.

The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason

This is a powerful parable and simple ode to smart finances, set in the ridiculously wealthy ancient city of Babylon. With tips like “For each ten coins I put in, I spend but nine.” and “Men of action are favored by Good Luck,” this book teaches the simple secrets of accumulating wealth. Like many things, wealth begins with a mindset.

Psychology & Human Behavior

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

This book helped me own my introverted nature. Although I’m very social, I get my energy from being alone and enjoy getting lost in deep thoughts. Cain dissects the “extrovert ideal” that exists (at least in the western world) to make naturally introverted people feel like they need to convert to extroversion. Quiet empowers the introverted half of the human populated to be themselves, play to their strengths, and be proud. The squeaky wheel may get the grease, but maybe the quieter wheel is more competent. This book will resonate with anyone with introverted tendencies. (Thanks to Adele B. for the gift. I’ve passed it onward.)

The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck

This is a psychology book with a heavy spiritual bent. And I think it’s great. The author relates the journey of spiritual growth to a physical journey,  a reference I can easily relate to with my travels. Some of my biggest moments of personal growth and clarity — physically, emotionally, and spiritually — have been found along the less-traveled road I often find myself on (Thanks to Jennifer L. for the recommendation.)

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

The habits we develop as individuals can be our best friends, propelling us forward toward our goals. They can also be our worst enemies, dragging us downward like gravity to our detriment. But habits themselves are merely tools, indifferent to their affect, so learning to wield them is the ultimate challenge and opportunity. Through anecdotes, interviews, and years of research, The Power of Habit describes how habits are formed, how they can be changed, and why they’re so powerful.  I wrote an in-depth review of this book on GiveLiveExplore, found here. (Thanks to Margo Y. and Carla B. for the recommendation.)

Book Writing, Publishing & Selling

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

This is a classic in the books about writing books genre. After hearing it recommended for the gazillionth time by a gambit of respected authors, writers, and bloggers, I knew it was time to pick it up. It’s an inside look into King’s writing process, complete with nuggets of wisdom. Spoiler alert: There’s no secret bullet to becoming a ridiculously successful writer of good books. However, you can probably do it if you’re willing to put in the time, grit, and the occasional near-death experience.

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur. How to Publish a Book by Guy Kawasaki

APE was the first book I read on self-publishing, and so far it’s the most comprehensive and up-to-date book I’ve read on the topic. It acted as my bible as I published Tales of Iceland. I wrote an in-depth review of this book on GiveLiveExplore, found here.

Making a Killing on Kindle by Michael Alvear

This helped me master selling Tales of Iceland on Amazon, which accounts for the lion’s share of our books sales. Alvear uses his own experience in book publishing to write this comprehensive guide to understanding how Amazon works.

250 Things You Should Know About Writing by Chuck Wendig

Wendig curses more unnecessarily and uncomfortably than Markley ever could — and I love it. Disguised in snarky and foul humor are genuine gems of writing tips. Recommended for writers and those with an obscene sense of humor.


Your First 1000 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book by Tim Grahl

This is a very good primer and handbook on book and author marketing. Seeing that he’s helped launch several best-selling authors’ books, Grahl is clearly an expert in the space. While we’ve already sold over 1,000 copies of Tales of Iceland and the book contained less ‘a-ha’ moments for me than I hoped, I appreciated how it reiterated and confirmed some concepts I learned first-hand.

Business, Marketing, & Entrepreneurship

Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday

As a behind-the-scenes book marketer for successful authors (Tucker Max, Tim Ferriss, Robert Greene) and Director of Marketing at American Apparel, Holiday reveals the dark arts of online media. Using the history of American newspapers as an example, Holiday proves that surprisingly not much has changed  — media companies have always used our innate human desire for intriguing stories and headlines to attract eyeballs and sell papers.

Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising by Ryan Holiday

This is Holiday’s second book, so I guess I’m developing into a fan of his. Short and to the point, this book is an excellent introduction to the phenomenon that is Growth Hacking — and explains why marketers/sellers/entrepreneurs need to start thinking like a “growth hacker.” This book sparked plenty of new ideas for myself and my business pursuits.

The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? by Seth Godin

Whether we think we are artists or not, Godin suggests that all of us should act more like artists in our career, our pursuits, and in general, life. One of most powerful mantras in the book is that with any ambitious endeavor, we should be able to stand up proudly and announce this may fail. We hope it doesn’t. But it might. And that’s OK. This book is a nudge to pursue whatever weird project that makes you tick.

Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur’s Odyssey to Educate the World’s Children by John Wood

After a hyperactive corporate life working under Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, Wood decided to call it quits at Microsoft and pursue a deeper mission pulling at his heart strings: provide the world’s less fortunate a better opportunity to become educated. This simple but powerful book follows Wood’s journey to create Room To Read, a nonprofit that builds libraries (and stocks them with books) for schools in the developing world. (Thanks to Bill M. for giving me the book.)

Travel, Adventure & Random

Into the Wild by Jack Krakauer

This is one of the many classics I’ve had on my ‘to-read’ list for years. I finally finished it a month ago and it sung to me even more than I imagined it would. It’s one of my favorites so far this year. It was easy for me relate to McCandless, the Emory grad who decided to permanently leave society and the materialistic world in order to find deeper truths. While he took a much more extreme path to find truth (metaphorically, physically) than I did, I certainly “get” him. I also loved this movie.

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

This mid-1800s classic also resonated. McCandless (and Krakauer in describing McCandless’s journey in Into the Wild) read and quoted this book several times. There are parts that are so boring they’re funny (like Thoreau going on and on about winter woodland animals), but there are also some very deep Romanticism gems that make me love it. It’s free on Amazon Kindle or via The Gutenberg Project since it’s been over 70 years since Thoreau has passed.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Am I the first guy in the history of the world to put this book on his favorite list? Probably. And you know what, I don’t care! Gilbert had some very intense spiritual experiences during her year of travel that I can relate to on varying levels with my 7-month jaunt around Europe. So emasculate me, I liked the frickin’ book. But for good measure, I’ll make up for it with my next book suggestion.

The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists by Neil Strauss

This book was fun to read. It’s an eye-opening look inside the weird world of pick-up artistry. It’s as enlightening as it is kind of frightening and sad. The way Strauss describes his conflicting feelings moonlighting as a pick-up artist makes it surprisingly endearing, even as you witness socially awkward guys “game” supermodels and celebrities. I guess he mastered the art of seduction not only on women, but on readers as well.

Act Accordingly by Colin Wright

This philosophical book is so very short that you may be hard-pressed to call it a book. But what’s a “book” anyway? I can hear Wright challenging us now. And I wouldn’t expect anything less from the perpetual nomad, writer, entrepreneur, and self-professed minimalist. The section on the Icelandic word Lífspeki is my favorite and well worth the $2.99. (Lífspeki translates roughly to “the practical philosophy by which one lives their life.” This book made me realize that GiveLiveExplore is my Lifspeki.) This book is no longer than it needs to be and is a good introduction to Wright’s own Lífspeki.


The Gringo: A Memoir by J.Grigsby Crawford

I read this while living out the forthcoming Tales of Ecuador (which Stephen Markley is in the process of writing now). In this easy-to-read and entertaining memoir, Crawford tells about his experience living and traveling around Ecuador for two years with the Peace Corps. Markley and I diverted a section of our road trip to visit Chone, just because Crawford wrote about living there — that is, until the death threats became too serious for him to ignore, and decided to try his luck in another Ecuadorian location). Fun!

What are some of the best books you’ve read this year? Please share in the comments below.


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