10 books that you should have read by now

I am not a fan of novels. Perhaps it due to the fact that as an intellectually curious engineer, novels do not usually provide the needed mental stimulation. It might also be because I do not like dull feeling of having to live vicariously in someone else’s imagined story. While novels did occupy many stretches of breaks and boredom in college, what I observed over the years of reading them is that I hardly ever learned anything from most of them. More unsettling is the fact that most of these novels were quickly forgettable and provided neither substance nor value in my life. As entertained as I would have been following the completion of yet another best seller, the saddening low moments of unfulfilled mental craving usually overtook the short lived fulfillment.

So after a reassessment of my mental well being, I made a radical decision that forever changed my life. Ten year ago, I decided to stop reading novels and instead focus on motivational, informative and thought-provoking books. Up until then, I always though that I had everything figured out; that I somehow possessed an innate ability to always make the best and wise choices in life. When life threw me certain curve balls that required a deeper understanding of new subject matters such as investments,  relationships, human interaction or business development, I always felt that I lacked the necessary tools in my arsenal to execute the task at hand with relative ease. However with a carefully chosen reading list, I have improved my knowledge immensely by focusing on areas in my life that I wanted to enhance.  That reading list has been as vast as it has been diverse, encompassing topics ranging from the origin of the species to career change.  Of all the books I read, the following contributed the most to my overall Weltanschauung, taught me how to relate to people and above all,  enabled me to better utilize my time and my abilities.

10. The Alchemist

It is fitting that I begin this list with a novel-like book. Originally published in 1988, The Alchemist is an inspiring novel by Paulo Coelhos which has managed to gather a devoted following around the world.  The Alchemist is a story about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids.  Along the way he meets several people including an alchemist, who all point him to the direction of his quest. None of them actually know where the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way.  However,  what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transformation power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.

9. The Essential Gandhi

The Essential Gandhi introduces the reader to Gandhi’s thoughts on politics, spirituality, poverty, suffering, love, non-violence, civil disobedience, and his own life. The pieces collected here, with explanatory head-notes by Gandhi’s biographer Louis Fischer, offer the clearest, most thorough portrait of one of the greatest spiritual leaders the world has known.

8. How To Win Friends and Influence People

How to Win Friends and Influence People is just as useful today as it was when it was first published in 1937.  The book’s author, Dale Carnegie had an understanding of human nature.  According to Carnegie, financial success is due to 15% professional knowledge and 85% due to “the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse enthusiasm among people.” The book teaches these skills through the underlying principles of dealing with people so that they feel important and appreciated.

7. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

The seven priceless nuggets of habits contained in this bestselling  book are packed with wisdom and insights that provide a focal point on an approach to  obtaining personal and interpersonal effectiveness. With penetrating insights and pointed anecdotes, Covey reveals a step-by-step pathway for living with fairness, integrity, honesty, and human dignity — principles that give us the security to adapt to change and the wisdom and power to take advantage of the opportunities that change creates.

6. The Slight Edge

The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson prompts the reader to reassess how they utilize their time.  The book answers this simple question: Why is it that some people make dream after dream come true, while others just continue dreaming and spend their lives building dreams for someone else? The answer is simple, successful people have figured our the slight edge principle.  The Slight Edge thus provides a clear blueprint which shows you how to create powerful results from the daily tasks you do.

5. Think and Grow Rich

If you are interested learning from individuals who have been very successful, Think and Grow Rich is just the book for you.  The text on Think and Grow Rich is founded on Hill’s earlier work The Law of Success, which is a culmination of more than twenty years of research made possible by Hill’s close association with a large number of individuals who achieved great wealth during their lifetimes. Think and Grow Rich is a timeless classic and should be read by students of business, people with entrepreneurial spirit, and anybody who is interested in furthering their lives and reaching their goals.

4. Greatest Salesman in the World

Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino is a short book which offers a wealth of advice on being better at sales.  As engineers we rarely see the need know how to sell. However, selling is not just about selling a physical good or a service, we often have to sell ourselves and our ideas. According to Mandino, to be a good salesman you must believe in yourself and the work you are doing.

3. Who Moved My Cheese?

Who Moved My Cheese? is a simple parable that reveals profound truths about change. It is an amusing and enlightening story of four characters who live in a “Maze” and look for “Cheese” to nourish them and make them happy.

2. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

The Last Lecture is book born out of a lecture given by Randy Pausch titled ‘Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams’.   A very sentimental book given that at the time of the lecture, Pausch had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Despite the circumstances, Pausch’s lecture at its heart is a guide on how to live;  it offers advice on how to fight for what you want and achieve your dreams.

1. The Richest Man in Babylon

Given its small size and wide application in our daily lives, the book certainly qualifies as a must for any serious reader. Written in the same parable format as The Greatest Salesman in the World, The Richest Man in Babylon tells the tale of  Arkad, the richest man of Babylon, achieved his wealth as well as tales of slaves buying their freedom and achieving their own wealth. The book teaches the primary principles of paying yourself first and living within your means.


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  1. I’m amazed! not any book on ones total life! – but only a small part of it: and not a part that one might necessarily want to remember: is this the way to the knowledge that would be required to out due our dependence on the media?

  2. Excellent list of books, some I have read, others not.

    As a registered engineer in 3 states, I am appalled/ amused by the author’s assumption that novels do not provide mental stimulation , nor opportunities for learning. Choose better novels.

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