The 18 Books That Changed My Life

The 18 Books That Changed My Life

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 share with others)

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

Takeaways from my 18 favorite books:

7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen Covey

Stephen Covey book

  • 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

Nice Girls book

  • 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

The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less - Barry Schwartz

Paradox of Choice book

  • 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: The Psychology of Persuasion, Revised Edition - Robert B. Cialdini

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

The Ultimate Sales Machine: Turbocharge Your Business with Relentless Focus on 12 Key Strategies - Chet HolmesUltimate Sales Machine

The Power of Full Engagement - Jim Loehr and Tony SchwartzPower of Full Engagement

  • 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: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long - David RockDavid Rock book

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

Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships - Christopher RyanSex at Dawn book

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

The Celestine Prophecy: An Adventure - James RedfieldCelestine Prophecy

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

Purple Cow, New Edition: Transform Your Business by Being RemarkablePurple Cow

  • Only the unique get remembered

Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers - Seth GodinSeth Godin

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

Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business - Danny MeyerSetting the Table

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

The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership - Bill WalshBill 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: Why We Eat More Than We ThinkMIndless Eating

  • 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: A Spiritual Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Women, Work, and Sexual Desire (20th Anniversary Edition) - David DeidaDavid Deida

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

Women Who Love Too Much: When You Keep Wishing and Hoping He'll Change - Robin Norwood

Love too Much book
  • Love yourself first and you can be loved

The Fountainhead - Ayn RandFountainhead

  • Healthy selfishness is a great thing

These books reflect a full life, not just business.

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105 responses to “The 18 Books That Changed My Life”

John Otto
January 15, 2015 at 11:28 pm

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.

Charles Crawford
January 10, 2015 at 4:48 pm

Wow, these books are amazing. I'm going to order them all from Amazon right now.

cathy brennan
January 8, 2015 at 10:21 am

You had me at whiskey, but lost me again with Ayn Rand. There is no such thing as "healthy selfishness" in a civilized society.

Dean Rittenhouse
September 27, 2017 at 1:09 pm

Hi Cathy, I agree completely. A lot of young people have been misled by The Fountainhead. Worst book ever written and by a totally broken person.

Marsha from
January 3, 2015 at 9:39 pm

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.

December 7, 2014 at 12:57 pm

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.

October 30, 2014 at 7:27 pm

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.... 😉

Michael Vogel
October 17, 2014 at 9:48 pm

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!

October 10, 2014 at 1:06 am

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.

Vlad Vilenski
September 16, 2014 at 10:31 am

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.

December 19, 2018 at 7:31 pm

Hey mate, check out "can't hurt me" by David Goggins. I'd suggest checking out the Audible version. Can always get a refund that way if its not up your alley too.

Laura Brown
August 30, 2014 at 8:18 am

The bomb! Thanks 😀

Jesse Best
August 24, 2014 at 11:39 pm

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!?

Simon Thompson
August 13, 2014 at 6:04 pm

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

August 10, 2014 at 6:34 pm

Hi Noah. Really admiring your great work and help for people. You are a great inspiration. Love from Pakistan

August 9, 2014 at 10:23 pm

Try "The Art Of Contrary Thinking" by Humphrey B. Neill

It's a game changer!

August 7, 2014 at 10:40 am

Really great list you have here... I have read most of these books as well and they have impacted my life in a positive way!

Pete Davis
July 24, 2014 at 12:52 am

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.

Joe Smith
July 22, 2014 at 2:41 pm

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.

July 20, 2014 at 11:15 am

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.

Christine Jones
July 10, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Noah, ever read The 4 hour workweek by Tim Ferris? Changed my life!!

Ian Anderson
March 18, 2014 at 11:36 pm

We have a few books in common Noah and if you liked The Celestine Prophecy, maybe you'd like The Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman?

March 12, 2014 at 7:35 am

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,..

Jeremy Hall
March 8, 2014 at 11:53 am

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.

March 7, 2014 at 3:13 pm

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.

February 13, 2014 at 10:24 pm

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 🙂

Jey Pandian
February 3, 2014 at 9:23 am

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.


January 24, 2014 at 7:12 am

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

Dean Rittenhouse
September 27, 2017 at 1:14 pm

The Magic of Thinking Big changed my life! Read on! 🙂

January 4, 2014 at 1:38 pm

BTW, if you haven't downloaded Goodreads for your phone then you are missing out. I use it every time someone suggests a book for me to read.

January 4, 2014 at 1:35 pm

Purple Cow is awesome. I am currently reading Meatball Sundae. Seth Godin is the shit.

December 5, 2013 at 6:01 am

Noah are fucking you with me? There are 17 books on your list, not 18.

Couple on there I will definitely read.


December 3, 2013 at 12:20 pm

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.

December 3, 2013 at 10:23 am

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

November 11, 2013 at 2:57 pm

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!

aaron p
November 7, 2013 at 2:44 am

Is it wrong that I've just gone through and reserved all of these available through the local library system?

October 29, 2013 at 6:18 am

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.

Pete Bruce
October 20, 2013 at 8:14 am

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.

Lise Damkjaer
October 3, 2013 at 1:13 am

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

Kurt Frankenberg
September 13, 2013 at 6:20 am

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,


September 9, 2013 at 3:00 pm

"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!

Paul Jun
September 9, 2013 at 11:44 am

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.

Greg Wilson
April 15, 2015 at 10:31 pm

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.

Kedar Mhaswade
September 6, 2013 at 4:44 am


First timer here. Great list! More enlightening was the short & sweet criterion you applied for a book to become part of this list.

Pat Johnston
August 27, 2013 at 9:20 pm

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

Rick Fletcher
August 1, 2013 at 1:31 pm

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.

Alan Reeves
July 27, 2013 at 3:51 pm

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...

Michael Taylor
July 26, 2013 at 1:10 am

Everything I've read by Godin is good stuff.

Have you read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho? It's on my list, but I haven't dug into it, yet.

Noah Kagan
July 26, 2013 at 5:53 am

Alchemist and Siddartha are both short and solid books. Definitely recommend.

Pranav Desai
July 19, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Thanks for sharing the list!

I'd recommend The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

- Pranav Desai

matt cartagena
July 19, 2013 at 2:06 pm

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.


Noah Kagan
July 19, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Thanks for the recommendation.

Added it to the wishlist.

Jay Soriano
July 19, 2013 at 1:53 pm


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?

March 9, 2017 at 6:48 pm

Try the Blinkist app for top notch summaries of most of these books - then if you like what you see/ hear, you can purchase the book. That's what I do.

sergio sancho
July 19, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Flow by Mihali csezmihali

Noah Kagan
July 19, 2013 at 1:33 pm

This book is great but I'm finding it hard to get through...

Nathaniel Eliason
October 12, 2014 at 8:54 pm

Check out "The Rise of Superman" by Steven Kotler. He covers most of the important high-level points from Flow in a more interesting format.

Chris Altamirano
July 19, 2013 at 12:48 pm

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!

Sean Oliver
July 18, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Thanks for sharing. I've now got more books to add to my list.