Who are the five people you spend the most time in the company of?
I ask because according to the American business man and author Jim Rohn, you’re the average of these five people.
One great way to become a better writer, to become more creative and to improve your craft is to spend time in the company of your literary betters.
I spend as much free time as I can reading books and listening to audiobooks. This is how I come up with new ideas and (perhaps more importantly) figure out what I’m doing wrong.
In no particular order, I’ve gathered a list of great books about writing, creativity and productivity.
Each one of these has helped me in some way over the past few years.
This list of great books to read is far from exhaustive, but there are plenty of golden nuggets here.
Best Biographies and Memoirs
The Journals by John Cheever
The Night of the Gun by David Carr
Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson
Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited by Vladimir Nabokov
If I Die In a Combat Zone by Tim O’Brien
A Writer’s Diary (1918-1941) by Virginia Woolf
Autobiography of a Yogi (Self-Realization Fellowship) by Paramahansa Yogananda
The Trip to Echo Spring by Olivia Lang
Born To Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley by Alex Hayley
Just Kids by Patti Smith (Tip: get the audiobook to listen to Patti narrate her story)
Best Business Books
Business for Authors: How To Be an Author Entrepreneur by Joanna Penn
Choose Yourself: Be Happy, Make Millions, Live the Dream by James Altucher
The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk
ProBlogger: Secrets to Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett
Best Creativity Books
How To Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: 7 Easy Steps to Genius Everyday Michael J. Gelb
The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life by Twyla Tharp
The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyer
Made to Stick: Why some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battle by Steven Pressfield
Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work by Steven Pressfield
Shameless plug alert! I wrote a popular three-part series called the Power of Creativity.
Best Fiction Books
There are just too many great fiction books for me to list here, but the writers of these books taught me a few important lessons about the craft recently:
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Wool by Hugh Howie
The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis by Lydia Davis
Misery by Stephen King
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Where I’m Calling From: The Selected Stories by Raymond Carver
Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The BFG by Roald Dahl
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson and Ralph Steadman
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Rabbit, Run by John Updike (it’s a four-book series)
Best Marketing Books
The Ultimate Sales Letter: Attract New Customers. Boost your Sales by Dan S. Kennedy
Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us by Seth Godin
Launch: An Internet Million’s Secret by Formula by Jeff Walker
Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach
The Pleasures of the Damned: Selected Poems 1961-1993 by Charles Bukowski
Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996 by Seamus Heaney
The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot
The Poets’ Corner: The One-and-Only Poetry Book for the Whole Family by John Lithgow (I can’t recommend the audiobook enough, even Morgan Freeman makes an appearance!)
All of Us (collected poems) by Raymond Carver
Best Productivity Books
Getting Things Done: the Art of Stress-free Productivity by David Allen
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
The Pomodoro Technique by Francesco Cirillo
The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done by Peter F. Drucker
Best Self-Help Books
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
The Art of Zen Meditation by Howard Fast
Flourishing by Maureen Gaffney
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Guide by Shunryu Suzuki
The Novel Cure: An A to Z of Literary Remedies by Susan Elderkin, Ella Berthoud
How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Mindfulness in Plain English by Henepola Gunaratana
The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
Mastery by Robert Greene
Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh
A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William Irvine
Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss This also book belongs to several other categories including business and writing.
Best Storytelling Books
The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know by Shawn Coyne
Million Dollar Outlines by David Farland
Best Writing Books
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
I Never Metaphor I Didn’t Like by Dr. Mardy Grothe
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
The Boron Lettersby Gary Halbert (This book applies to business too).
How You Can Get Free Audiobooks
I love audiobooks.
I listen to them while exercising, driving and even while ironing.
It’s a great way to read more frequently and to devour even more great books.
Today, if you start a 30-day free trial with Audible, you get your first two audiobooks free.
Here’s the best part:
You can keep the two audiobooks, even if you cancel the trial.
Later on, if you buy a book, listen to it and don’t like it, Audible will refund you your money – no questions asked.
(I didn’t return any of the books on this list!)
Many of the books on this list are available on Audible too.
You can sign up here.
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