There is no better return on your investment of time or money than books. Tony Robbins often tells that he began his career by reading 700 books in 7 years. Warren Buffet is a voracious reader. Studies show that the average CEO reads 1 or more books per month.

Why do so many high performers read? Because for a few dollars and a few hours of your time, you can learn from the foremost experts in the world on any subject you can imagine.

Just like an investment pays interest, the knowledge from books that you read will inform future decisions, improve your state of mind, and will give you a better life as long as you live. It is the best investment of money or time that you can make.

Below are the 8 books that gave me the best return on my time and money.

The Great Eight

AS A MAN THINKETH- JAMES ALLEN

As A Man Thinketh Book

“Men do not attract that which they want, but, that which they are”

Summary: James Allen’s classic is the perfect place to start your journey. This classic essay reveals that, if you wish to do better, you must first become better. Better thoughts and a better mindset will lead you to a better life and better accomplishments.

Why It’s Important: This book serves as an inspiration and foundation for all the remaining 7 books. This book makes you realize the true value of investing in yourself and all that it can lead to. Not only is this book great, but, it’s old enough that the ebook is free! Get it now and read it. It’s a very fast read that you can easily finish in an afternoon.

The Four-Hour Workweek – Tim Ferriss 

4-Hour Work Week Book

“Being efficient without regard to effectiveness is the default. What you do is infinitely more important than how you do it.”

Summary: I’ve read dozens of books and articles on productivity and time management. This was the first book that made me think completely differently about both. Tim got me thinking about my time in a more effective way and made me see new possibilities. Contrary to the title, this book actually helped me figure out how to have many more productive hours in the week rather than less. As an added bonus, I learned how to be happier in the time that I have.

Why It’s Important: This book will break the 40-hour per week mindset. It will also get you focused on possibilities and results rather than time spent.

In-Depth Summary: See my 5 Takeaways from The 4-Hour Work Week in this post.

The War of Art – Steven Pressfield

The War of Art Book

“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”

Summary: This book is ostensibly for those doing “creative” work. But, it’s really for anyone who has a serious interest in starting anything new – a business, a book, a new career path, a new hobby. This book is specifically for those who want to do something new but feel something holding them back. Pressfield names that feeling Resistance and gives us the tools to overcome it.

Why it’s important: If you want a fulfilling life that doesn’t end with regrets, at some point you are going to have to overcome fears and anxieties – what Pressfield calls Resistance. No one wants to end up on a hospital bed saying “I always wish I had tried (insert dream here)”. Pressfield gives you the mental tools to push through those blocks and barriers and gets you ready to take on the world.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You – Cal Newport

So Good They Can't Ignore You Book

“Stop focusing on these little details; focus instead on getting better.”

Summary: This book completely changed my mind about both how we create successful careers, and, more importantly, how we create happy lives. Newport puts forward several compelling new angles on both happiness and success in the book that can’t be given justice in this small space.

Why It’s Important: This book will make you realize that “pursuing your passion” could be disastrous for success & happiness. When you finish this book, you will have a different view on career paths and success.

Meditations – Marcus Aurelius

Meditations Book

“Keep hold of this alone and remember it: Each of us lives only now, this brief instant. The rest has been lived already, or is impossible to see.”

Summary: I have found no better antidote for feelings of stress, overwhelm, or fear than the musings of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. This book has become a cornerstone of stress management for everyone from Fortune 500 CEO’s to NFL head coaches and players.

Why It’s Important: If you are reading this, you are probably the kind of person who is ambitious. The dark side of this great trait is that we put a lot of pressure and stress on ourselves. Aurelius, the last “good” Roman Emperor, faced extraordinary pressures that he was able to combat with his outlook contained in this book. As an added bonus, Aurelius’ thousand-year old writings make us realize the commonality of human feelings and problems across the centuries.

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl

Man's Search for Meaning Book

“One should not search for an abstract meaning of life. Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.”

Summary: The book is about exactly what it sounds like – finding the meaning of our lives and achieving a sense of fulfillment. Frankl’s experience in Nazi conentration camps take up the first half of the book. This account combined with Frankl’s expertise in psychology, make for a fast and fascinating read.

Why It’s Important: This book will leave you inspired and ready to tackle anything that might pass for a challenge in the modern world. Frankl experienced the unthinkable and came out stronger.

The 5 Love Languages – Gary Chapman

5 Love Languages Book

“The object of love is not getting something you want but doing something for the well-being of the one you love.”

Summary: Chapman’s book completely changed how I view not only romantic relationships but also family relationships and friendships. Chapman holds that we each have a “love language”, which is our means of expressing and receiving love. Chapman holds that most relationship problems come from a disconnect in the language “spoken” by us and our partner. The core concept is simple and the book is a fast, easy read.This book could improve your close relationships with your partner and family a great deal if you take its lessons to heart.

Why It’s Important: A number of studies show that our relationship with our significant other has a huge impact on our lives and our success. So why don’t we study more about how to improve this part of our lives? A well rounded person absolutely should invest some of their time into thinking about this area and making it all that it can be.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – Robert Cialdini

Influence Psychology of Persuasion Book

“It is vital that we clearly recognize this about the principles of persuasion: They make us terribly vulnerable to anyone who knows how they work.”

Summary: This book is sometimes cited as being the book that most frequently appears on the reading lists of the most successful people in the world. There is a good reason for this reputation: this book is phenomenal. The book not only teaches you to persuade others, but, more importantly, helps protect you from the worst kinds of persuasion used by others.

Why It’s Important: If this book saves you from just one bad decision caused by someone else’s persuasion, it will pay for itself 10x or more. And, of course, if you need to persuade someone else, there is no better resource than Cialdini. If you are in leadership, if you need to market something, if you need to convince a boss to use your idea, if you want to persuade yours kids to have better behavior – read this book.

A Well-Rounded Foundation for Success

This list is built to equally equip both the woman who’s dream is to one day be President of the United States and the man who’s dream is simply to work alone and code software.

Depending on your path in life, there are a great number of books on specific disciplines that you may wish to read – books on management, leadership, art, politics, science. These 8 books I feel give anyone me a solid beginning “foundation of success”. On top of these 8 books, you can build whatever kind of specialties suit you.

I would like to note that I have come to strongly believe that developing “personal” skills and insights and being a well-rounded human are critical to professional success. Ryan Holiday summed up this important truth in his book, Ego is The Enemy, as follows:

“Perfecting the personal regularly leads to success as a professional, but, rarely the other way around.”

Finished the books?

Let me know what you think about the books by dropping me a line in the comments below or emailing me at trey@justabitbettereverday.com.

Did I leave out your favorite book?

I’m always looking for new great reads, please let me know about your favorite book in the comments below.