The 18 Books that Changed my Life

September 20, 2012 - Get free updates of new posts here

A few months ago, I was drinking a Noah’s Mill whiskey (cute) with my good buddy Brian Balfour and talking about life….

During the conversation we got on the topic of books that changed our lives.

I want to share them with you. (Click to tweet and share with others)

I judge a book’s success if a year later I am still using at least 1 thing from the book.

My takeaways are what I still remember from the books, you may get even more out of these!

7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey

  • Begin with the end in mind
  • Relationships are like a bank account, you make deposits and withdrawals
  • Sharpening the saw, keep learning and improving your brain


Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office by Lois Frankel

  • Don’t let men shorten your name at the office
  • Don’t mother people at the office or you’ll be treated like a mother


Paradox of Choice – Barry Schwartz

  • At restaurants, close the menu after you find the 1 dish that you like
  • Choices can be evil. Being satisfied with things will make you so much happier than always going for the maximum.


Influence by Robert Cialdini

  • People can be influenced in their behaviors by many different tactics


Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes

  • This book has so many frigging tips I can’t even start. Get it.


The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr

  • It’s not about how much time you have in your day but how you allocate you energy
  • You need to allocate time for yourself to recharge
  • Spend time with people that give you more energy


Your Brain at Work by David Rock

  • Different ways to organize and prioritize your day to maximize productivity


Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan

  • Jealousy is a societal creation and great ways to be aware of why it happens


Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield

  • Nothing is coincidence
  • Fate is what you make of it. ie. go create your own luck


Purple Cow by Seth Godin

  • Only the unique get remembered


Permission Marketing by Seth Godin

  • No one wants your annoying ass marketing. Get their permission and deliver more than what they expect.


Setting the Table – Danny Meyer

  • Create an experience that is like nothing else
  • Be authentic to yourself
  • Treating the customers exceptionally is the differentiator in business


The Score Will Take Care of Itself by Bill Walsh

  • Focusing on doing the right processes and the outcome will take care of itself
  • Keep your lockers / desks clean and it’ll reflect in other parts of your life


Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink

  • Great hacks on ways to reduce calories instead of just trying new diet fads
  • Hide the food you don’t want to eat
  • Put out the portions of food you want instead of just eating from the bag
  • Using science / data to make decisions / impacts on our eating habits instead of opinions


The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida

  • Be conscious / present when you are interacting in life
  • Spend time with the people that are honest and make your life better


Women who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood

  • Love yourself first and you can be loved


The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

  • Healthy selfishness is a great thing.


These books reflect a full life, not just business.

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72 responses to “The 18 Books that Changed my Life

  1. Chris Altamirano Reply

    Some interesting selections in this list! Surprisingly I’ve never read any of Seth Godin’s books or have seen the Permission Marketing one. Definitely going to check those out!

  2. Jay Soriano Reply


    Great list. Somewhat surprisingly, I’ve only read one on the list (Mindless Eating). Since reading 17 books would take me a while, what’s the two or three that you recommend everyone start with today?

  3. matt cartagena Reply

    Noah – ever read Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger?

    I’m finding it epic for decision making / think clearly. Recommended by Tim Ferris and Derek Sivers and many others.


  4. Alan Reeves Reply

    Great list. The Ultimate Sales Machine is now on my list to read. I would recommend The Art of Possibility and The Invisible Gorilla. Too many great books, too little time…

  5. Rick Fletcher Reply

    That book called Flow (by Csezmihali)? It was hard to get through, but the colors on the 1st Edition Hardcover are amazing. Red, orange and bue, matched exactly. I copied them as the color scheme for my guest bedroom at my house. Stunning. Everything has a use.

  6. Pat Johnston Reply

    Hey Noah,
    Other than old Anne Rand, I didn’t see a lot of fiction on your list. Non-fiction is absolutely awesome, and a must for self improvement. Sometimes though, life’s lessons are absorbed rather than memorized, and I think its here that fiction has its place. So here are a few book titles you may also enjoy; fiction all, but life’s vivid colour written into each of them:

    The story of San Michel (out of print but still possible to find) on belief in oneself
    The razor’s edge (Sommerset Magham) on redemption
    The Far pavilions ( MM kaye) on self reliance
    The power of one (Bruce Courtney) on toughness
    Finding Forester (cant remember who wrote it) on compassion
    The 20 book series by Patrick O’Reilly starting with master and commander (A truly awesome series, a tomb about a great friendship)
    The sun also rises (Hemingway) on playing the hand your dealt
    the snow leopard (cant remember who wrote it but one of the best books I have ever read period – you’d like it noah, it is about a guy dealing with loss, and doing his best to get over it)((I think it was Peter Mathieson come to think of it))
    Surfing the Himalayas (Frederick Lenz) fun romp about Buddhism and mountain climbing
    Last of the Mohicans (cooper) great book about telling society of the day to fuck-off and do what is important for you and your family

    Happy reading, each of these books gave me something to remember.
    Keep writing Noah, and I’ll keep reading

  7. Paul Jun Reply

    My top 5:

    Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (Gregory Hays translation).

    Letters to a Stoic from Seneca.

    Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.

    War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

    Mastery by Robert Greene.

    1. Greg Wilson Reply

      EVERYONE should read Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. The world would be a far kinder and supportive place if everyone modified (even a little) their attitude to life and other people, as indicated in this book.

      The War of Art – read very recently: is very good

      Also Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

      Have to check out “From Darwin to Munger”. Very good suggestion. I am in process of getting to “Poor Charlie’s Almanack’ by Charlie Munger.

  8. Elenor Reply

    “Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan”

    Let me recommend you try:
    Sex at Dusk: Lifting the Shiny Wrapping from Sex at Dawn Paperback by Lynn Saxon

    She’s an actual anthropologist who points out all the misleading and incomplete bases for Chris Ryan’s … let’s call it “less than entirely accurate” book. I read the two in sequence — and what a fun ride! Ryan SEEMS so persuasive and accurate — and they you read Saxon and she points out where he has carefully picked the tiniest bits of what someone wrote to make a point that is the opposite of what the source actually wrote!

    SUPERB dismantling of Ryan’s … silliness? intentional misrepresenting? piss-poor “research”? Worth the read!

  9. Kurt Frankenberg Reply

    Rock on Noah. I have only five of them thar books you listed but I dig those five immensely. I’ll look into most of the rest of ’em.

    My recommendations? Four:

    The Holy Bible. Specifically, the book of Proverbs for business and life “not-so-common” sense.

    The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz.

    No list would be complete without Think and Grow Rich.

    The Robert Collier Letter Book, 1926. Copywriting before everyone knew copywriting was cool.

    Keep it real, bro! I’ll see you back on this blog some more.

    Keep Stepping,


  10. Lise Damkjaer Reply

    Nice list Noah!
    I would like to add…

    The camino by Shirley Maclaine – it’s fiction, but made me walk the camino in Spain

    FLOW – his name is Csikszentmihalyi – and you already know the sense of flow, where you are so deep into something, that you loose sense of time and place. You just have to do it more often…

    And of course the Tim Ferriss book: 4 hour work week – lots of tips

    And talking business and personal growth we also need:
    Presencing & Theory U by Otto Scharmer
    we really don’t need to work that hard.

    Lise, Copenhagen

  11. Pete Bruce Reply

    You should add My Losing Season by Pat Conroy to that list. A great story teller telling the story of his own life. Also puts how great our own lives are compared to others into perspective and teaches us the power of forgiveness.

  12. Clark Reply

    I really enjoyed The First 20 Hours by Josh Kaufman recently as well. Just to flip that 10,000 hour rule nonsense on its head and show how quickly you can pick up a skill with competence.

  13. Gennady Reply

    Thank you, Noah. I’ll add to my list. Some of the books confirm my conclusions developed through observations and thinking. Though with some of my conclusions I;d rather be wrong than right, call me a sucker for confirmation bias! 🙂

    My list in addition to a few books that you mentioned and leaving out all the Russian ones:

    The New Brain by Richard Restak Has a chapter (2?) that I require read of anyone that wants to master any skill.

    Charlie Wilson’s War (how to achieve seemingly impossible by doing what no one believes is possible and at the end realize that your victory short term is a huge loss long-term)

    Steve Jobs by Isaacson (I am dying to learn what he left unsaid: what Jobs suggested to Zuckerberg, Google boys, etc. about how to handle boards. Also, the story of Jobs refusing to give equity to one of his friends who was with him from day one, left lots of questions in my mind)

    Thank you again!

  14. Saskia Reply

    I love the list with the extractions that still stay with you. I feel the same about books. And will probably read at least 4 of your list. Thanks. xx Saskia from Germany

  15. Frank Reply

    Recent Great Read – Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath. Also love their first two books Made to Stick and Switch.

    Also, Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. The first chapter alone is well worth reading for any marketer or business person.

    Diet for a New America – by John Robbins Not a diet book, but a summation of enormous amounts of research on the impact of diet on health, personal energy, the environment and global issues. One of the best books I have ever read on any topic. A must read!

    I could list dozens or phenomenal books in a variety of categories, but will spare everyone for now.

  16. Patricia Reply

    Hum… Amazing how some of these books are standing right here by my side waiting to be read. All bought last month, back when I had no idea you were on Earth by this time. Now is even harder to figure which one is gonna be the next on the line… Fuck… ¬¬

    ps: the one in my hands at the moment is “The Magic of Thinking Big” by David J. Schwartz

    – be away of negative people
    – don’t let anyone who is negative steal your dreams
    – train your mind to get back at the flow stage whenever it seems to be going on the other way

    Not finished yet… But already good enough

  17. Jey Pandian Reply

    I have a tendency to select books by intuition. That being said, I’ve read a fair deal of these books and some I’ve acquired recently. I’m taking 3 from you: Score takes care of itself, Paradox, and possibly the Sales Machine.

    In exchange, I’ll share 3 that are holding me in good stead:

    1. Priceless by William Poundstone
    2. The Art of Profitability by Adrian Slywotzky
    3. The Profit Zone: How Strategic Business Design will lead you to tomorrow’s profits by Adrian Slywothzky and David J. Morrison.


  18. Mark Reply

    Hi there! Love your blog! Great post! I’m in the midst of reading the way of the superior man… you seem really aware and that you live your life in congruence with your purpose… I’m wondering what your favorite message from the way of the superior man is and why? Thanks in advance for your insight 🙂

  19. Nate Reply

    Love 7 Habits and Sex at Dawn. Just ordered Seth’s book. Positive thoughts about Ayn – love the way she captures what it feels like to take responsibility, overcome challenges and failure, and make a sale. Thanks for continuing to be Business Yoda.

  20. Jeremy Hall Reply

    I would recommend “The Idea Hunter” by Andy Boynton and Bill Fischer, “Social Business Excellence” by Vala Afshar and Brad Martin, “The Art of Learning” by Josh Waitzkin, and “Smart Thinking” by Art Markman.

  21. Dejan Reply

    ReWork by 37signals is the best book I’ve ever read. The whole book represents the philosophy of the company and their ideas on productivity, management and other stuff like hr, pr,..

  22. Chris Reply

    I’m reading “Borrowing Brilliance” right now and I like it a lot. It walks you through step-by-step to create ideas that you can use as business ideas. Check it out.

  23. Joe Smith Reply

    The only book on the list I’ve read is the 7 Habits by Stephen Covey, which is very good.

    However, the two books that have solidified their places as “must read” material for me are:
    1. Linchpin by Seth Godin
    2. The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

    I’ve read a lot of books (hardly any compared to some people, but more than most), and these two have done more than any others, far and away, to help me realize that 9-to-5’ing it is not a viable long-term option.

    BTW, thanks for AppSumo and Okdork.

  24. Pete Davis Reply

    Sex at Dawn… wow, what an unreal book. And I’m only at the first chapter. It has already backed up a ton of what I’ve learned and thought for years, extending beyond human sexuality and into areas such as money, financial markets and selling, all of which are, at their core, about sex.

    Thanks for reco, Noah. Absolutely brilliant.

  25. Simon Thompson Reply

    Wow, I’ve read quite a lot of them! One of my personal favourites is Why People Fail by a guy called Siimon Reynolds. I also love Robert Kiyosaki’s book series Rich Dad Poor Dad. Re-Work is good from the base camp guys. The One Minute manager is brilliant. What got you here Won’t get you there is also worth checking out TTFN

  26. Jesse Best Reply

    Currently reading and also listening to Permission Marketing and the 10x rule by Grant Cordone.
    Love the functionality of audiobooks for work etc, but cant help like feel I absorb the info much easier via a good book!
    Question-if you could work on a project with any of these authors-who would you pick to work with and why!?

  27. Vlad Vilenski Reply

    Thanks for the list Noah.

    2 great books I read last year and made big impact on me, and I would like to recommend to others are “The Linchpin” bet Seth Godin and “Choose Yourself!” a really great book by James Altucher.

  28. alchemistgeorge Reply

    I’m another big thumbs down on “Sex At Dawn”. Spend some time with google and you’ll see the extensive criticism, as well as the rebuttal volume. While I wish much of the book was true, as far as I can tell the book is mostly wishful thinking and sloppy scholarship.

  29. Michael Vogel Reply

    I bookmarked this page & will add to my reading list.
    Great list.

    Reading is the best way to improve & learn – people seem to forget that after leaving school. Certainly a lot of people I know think libraries are just for fiction storybooks.

    Do yourself a favour and visit the non-fiction section – that’s where you find the books like the ones in this list!

  30. Amy Reply

    I would also highly recommend: Launch by Jeff Walker, The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ Demarco, and What to Say When You Talk to Yourself by Dr. Shad Helmstetter. Really I could go on and on…. 😉

  31. Maria Reply

    Hi! Great list! Gladly few book in the list aren’t familiar to me 🙂 Many Seth Godin books are found in his website for free..He has some great speaches on youtube too.

  32. Marsha from Reply

    I loved Sex At Dawn. I know the selectiveness of the research has been trashed, but the main message I got from it was, “If your partner fancies someone else, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed or that they don’t love you enough. Stop freaking out and don’t end your relationship”. I think if most people in couples took that attitude, there would be much less grief (and far fewer divorces).

    If you’re still taking suggestions, I’d add “Difficult Conversations” by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton & Sheila Heen.
    They have a copy on the NASA Space Station, and at one point, it was required reading for everyone in the White House.
    It’s a total game-changer when it comes to relationships – and an easy, fun read.

  33. John Otto Reply

    Hi, I surely believe these books are really books of life changing.
    I haven’t read some of them, but the quotes have given me almost enough clue. Thanks for that.

  34. Harley Eblen Reply

    This list is AMAZING!!! So many books on here I never thought you’d be reading. I guess this post taught me that I should never make assumptions! I’m popping this list in Evernote and referring back to it for suggestions…

    Thanks Noah!

  35. Brad Holder Reply

    I just finished listening to you on @tferriss podcast. You mentioned personal finance books, but Tim took off in another direction before you had a chance to finish. What are the titles you had in mind?

  36. Deep Reply

    I think The Ultimate Sales Machine is gold! Ageless. Still valid even though sales models have changed so much since it was written.

  37. Juanika Freeman Reply

    Great post Noah. I have followed you and want to say that your marketing skills are amazing. Im learning so much from you and cant wait to take it to the next level. Thanks again!!

  38. Jane Berg Reply

    Two books that had added to my life are “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg and “Thrive” by Arianna Huffington. I recommend both of these books to men and women alike.

  39. Eliot Axelrod Reply

    Nice list – here are a few more:

    1. Peter Drucker – On Management – Still Reads like a Contemporary Book
    2. Herodutus – The History
    3. Norman MacClean – Young Men and Fire – a book about the Mann Gulch fire in 1949, that everybody in the tech industry should read

  40. Nick Reply

    Gee, for someone so into ‘reverse engineering’ and into being ahead of the pack in both mind and body, read Hamlet backwards, no kidding, to understand the ‘how to’ in ‘the readiness is all.’ The breakdown of how to achieve such a state reads like a Tim Ferriss analysis on how to achieve the perfect mindset for taking on anything life has to throw at you.

  41. Chris Humphrey Reply

    I rarely ever see anyone include The Fountainhead on their booklist and I am so glad you did, Noah. This could very well be my favorite read of all time (with the obvious exception to The Good Book) and I think anyone who takes pride in their work should read it. Thanks!

  42. Elise Lew Reply

    So many books have changed my thinking and impacted my life.

    When things fall apart – Pema Chodron (everyone should read this its a great guide of managing when massive transition happens in life and pulls the rug from under you)

    The Pursuit of Perfect – Tal Ben shahar (a must read for the perfectionists in the house)

    A Hidden Wholeness- Parker Palmer

    The Artists Way

  43. Mansal Denton Reply

    The Way of the Superior Man. That’s one of my all-time favorite books and (strangely), it’s the only one of your list that actually resonates with me. See some other goods ones in there, but none that really jump out.