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20 Books that are Unrequired Reading For the Skool of Life

The Colorful Library of an Interaction Designer (Juhan Sonin) / 20100423.7D.05887.P1 / SML
Photo Credit: See-ming Lee via Compfight

When you start most classes you get a syllabus, and on the front page there is usually a required reading list. Since there are no grades, tests, or term papers in the school of life, I decided to make an “unrequired reading list”. In the years I’ve been running this blog, I’ve read more books than I probably did the entire time I was in school and I actually read them out of choice. So, I thought I’d share them with you.


We’ve entered an age in which the gap between creativity and technology has been bridged. People are doing work that matters and tapping into their creativity like never before. We’ve all been given back our box of crayons and you can stop waiting for permission to be extraordinary.


I came across the work of Jonah Lehrer when I interviewed him for the Vistage podcast series (which I’m the host/producer of). His book Imagine is an in-depth look into the neuro science behind creativity. In this book you’ll see how famous artists, athletes and animators achieve at the level they do. Understanding how, why and when we have creative breakthroughs enables us to replicate them on a consistent basis.

2.Making Ideas Happen

If you like the content here, you’ll probably love The99Percent which is run by Scott Belksy, the author of this book. Ideas are great, but execution is what turns them into reality. I read this book a few days ago and my productivity has gone through the roof after I started using The Action Method.

3. Little Bets

This book by Peter Sims may be one of my all time favorites.  What do Pixar, Chris Rock, and other world class performers have in common? They fail fast and often. They take little risks, discard what doesn’t work, and keep what does. The end product you see is the result of lots of little bets.

4. The Accidental Creative

I had the good fortune to have Todd Henry as a guest on BlogcastFM. Creative brilliance occurs in a state of anarchy. This book will help you make order out of anarchy.



5. How to Get Rich

If you’ve walked through the magazine section of your Barnes and Noble than you’ve been exposed to the work of Felix Dennis whether you know it or not. The founder of Maxim Magazine and dozens of other publications shares his secrets to wealth in this blunt no nonsense guide.

6. Rework

Written by the founders 37 Signals, Rework is one of those books that will make you rethink the way you’re approaching you’re work. It will help you save time, make more money and not lose your mind while doing your best work.

7. The Art of Non-Conformity

Chris Guillebeau is kind of the poster child for living an unconventional life. His mission to visit every country in the world before he turned 35 has turned into a movement of people living their own amazing stories. This book is kind of a take off point for you to start changing the direction of your life.

8.The $100 Startup

Chris is one of those guys who has accomplished more in 3 years than many people do in a life time and now he’s on to a second book called the $100 Startup.  One of the best descriptions I heard was that it’s like a practical version of the 4 Hour Work Week. It’s full of real world examples of people who have turned a $100 investment into a viable business.

9. The Firestarter Sessions

Danielle Laporte is a force of nature who is really setting the world on fire. If you want to know more about her, listen to my recent interview with her. This book is a soul searching guide with tactical advice on how to find your calling.

10.  Business Stripped Bare

If you want the short version read my 14 Life and Business Lessons from Richard Branson. If you want the long version pick a copy of Business Stripped Bare. The Virgin founder is probably the billionaire who I most look up to.

11. Steve Jobs Biography

If you want a look into the inner workings of a man who was as crazy as he was brilliant, this book is a must. It will cause you to hold yourself to a higher standard. It will challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and you’ll see just how much you’re influenced by Apple every single day.

12. The E-Myth

For many first time entrepreneurs, they focus on all the wrong things. They try to do everything themselves. When you learn to outsource your weaknesses you grow rapidly. If you really want to understand the difference between working on your business and in your business, this book is a must read.



13. Tribes

If you want to start a movement, this book by Seth Godin is a must read. It’s been incredibly influential in my approach to growing the Skook of Life and BlogcastFM. You can watch Seth’s TED talk or you can pick up a copy of the book.

14. Launch

This book is really a step by step plan for your social media strategy. It’s jam packed with ideas and insights that will help you propel your online presence into the stratosphere.

15. Outliers

What do the most successful athletes, musicians and entrepreneurs in the world all have in common? They’ve worked at their craft for over 10,000 hours. In this incredibly fascinating book, Malcom Gladwell studies the most successful people in the world and how they ended up where they have in life. The stories of these outliers is fascinating

16. The Tipping Point

If you’re wondering what causes an idea to tip or spread, this book by Malcom Gladwell will show you how it’s done. Figuring out whether you are a maven, salesman or connector will be one of the most valuable things you can do for your career. The idea that 150 followers is all you really need was based on the ideas in the tipping point.

17. Unpopular

According to Erika Napoletano the middle of the road is where you get killed.  Her book Unpopular looks at how some of the most unique brands in the world have grown their businesses.

Self Help/Psychology


18. Click

Ever wonder what it is that makes us “click” with another person? Ori Braffman’s work might surprise you. Click will teach you about the essential factors that allow a connection to take place between people.

19.The Power of Your Story

Our interpretation of the world is based on the stories we tell. This book provides a powerful way to reframe the stories you tell and as a byproduct alter events of your life.

20. The Three Laws of Performance

This book is one of my personal favorites. It examines how  we can use language to alter performance and generate better results. Many of the concepts are based on The Landmark forum. If the idea of attending Landmark freaks you out, this book is a great introduction to their work.


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