1. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
“No random actions; none not based on underlying principles.”
Note : I recommend you read Gregory Hays’s translation of this book. It makes an extremely different experience, and it’s free from tough academic language — free from the “thous” and “shalts”. Other translations sadly fall short.
It’s one amazing thing to read about a great leader. It’s more amazing to read writings from that leader himself. It’s even more amazing to read a modern translation of those writings.
Meditations is a collection of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius’s writings in his private diary. It’s a rich trove of advice on life and leadership that we can easily relate to and practice. It’s a pretty awesome feeling when you realize that a person of such immense power struggled just like anyone else to be the best person he could be, even if it means getting out of bed in the morning.
To live justly, to live in accordance with nature. The book has been a favorite of many great people over the centuries, including Theodore Roosevelt and contemporary entrepreneurs such as Ryan Holiday. Former President Bill Clinton also claimed that he rereads it every year.
2. 33 Strategies Of War by Robert Greene
“As in war, so in life.”
In this book, Robert Greene makes an interesting parable between war and life. You’re the leader, even if it means leading your own self. In war, there is no place for good intentions. Only objectivity. You judge by results and actions, not by goals and dreams.
The first part of the book is “Self-Directed Warfare”. Before you go to war, in business, in sports, in life — You need to be at war with yourself. You need to declare war on your naivete, your laziness, your lack of good judgment and such.
One of the most interesting strategies that stuck with me is Strategy 12 — Lose Battles But Win The War : The Grand Strategy. It teaches you to look at the big picture and not waste your energy and time on present battles that are pointless and unimportant in achieving your objective.
3. Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon
“Art is theft.” – Pablo Picasso
Actually, there are no really surprising secrets in this book. After all, they are written on the back here.
But it’s a really fun read, filled with many drawings and illustrations. And as simple as a book it is, it does make you think about those advice from time to time. And it helps, a lot. Give it a read.
4. On Writing by Stephen King
“Writing is telepathy.”
Even if you’re not interesting in writing, or if you’re not a Stephen King fan, it’s still a great book, because other than giving timeless advice on writing, it touches on the love of work, staying strong to your craft, being on the road to mastery, and also creativity. It is, as the title says, a memoir — So he talks a bit of his life, his childhood, and how he came about to the craft of writing. Stephen King doesn’t call it an autobiography, but a sort of curriculum vitae — What goes into the making of a writer.
5. Big Sur by Jack Kerouac
“People say ‘Oh well he’s drunk and happy let him sleep it off’ — The poor drunkard is *crying* — He’s crying for his mother and father and great brother and great friend, he’s crying for help.”
There’s always a kind of risk when it comes to recommending books, especially fiction. Because what for me is a great book may not mean as much for you. “No two persons ever read the same book”, as Edmund Wilson said best. In this case, you either like Kerouac or you don’t.
This book was a written at a time of his life when he was near breaking point after the publication of On The Road.
There are a lot of things said about Kerouac, much of them true. Kerouac was an alcoholic. But what I have always admired about him is his candor — He very honestly expressed his struggles with life, his beliefs, and his moments of disillusionment. It helps to understand what went on in his life, what he had to go through rather than simply passing judgment on not just him, but anyone. Very often it will lead to love, as you find yourself in the other person. Rarely does it ever lead to hate.
6. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
“Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird…Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy.”
You’ve probably heard of this book somewhere, or someone saying it’s a good book. True, true, true. It’s one of those books you have to read before you die. I think a lesson I remember from reading this book a long time ago is that children don’t judge others by their skin, or by any differences. Only adults do. As children we learned to do that from our folks. We can’t change that, but we can change how we will educate our children in the future. Racism or any form of discrimination is just disgusting. It’s an ugly thing.