I enjoy reading and although I do consider it to be a productive hobby, I also treat it as a form of escapism similar to how people watch TV or play online games. At the time of writing, I have read over 160 books on my Kindle and have over 28 days’ worth of listening time on my Audible account.
In September 2020 I decided that I want to start to grow my physical book collection and work on filling up my bookshelf. As books take hours to read and with many of them being overrated, I wanted to make this post going over my favourite books and why I think they are worth reading.
Just like with most things, the best books for you to read are going to depend on your goals and what you want out of the book. I will offer a short explanation of what type of goals my recommended books match up with below to try to help you choose books to help you meet your goals. On top of this, there’s no point in just buying the books I recommend if you are never going to read them or will read them and then never implement any of the lessons from them either, taking action is key.
The books on this list are all on my tier one reading list and I try to either read or listen to the books at least once a year. I feel they offer the most value for anyone looking for book recommendations to help them in the blogging/business/self-improvement space and are well worth reading.
I have each of the books bullet-pointed below as well as a breakdown of each book below that:-
- Zero To One by Peter Thiel
- Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
- Atomic Habits by James Clear
- Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
- The Richest Man In Babylon by George S Clason
- The Art Of War by Sun Tzu
- Bounce by Matthew Syed
- Living With A SEAL by Jesse Itzler
Zero To One
Zero To One by Peter Thiel is without a doubt one of my favorite books that I have read to date. I have read the physical book, the kindle version of the book, and listened to it on Audible multiple times, and each time I seem to lock onto a new paragraph that I had previously missed that I feel provides value.
The book is intended for tech start-ups to help them get from step zero to one and potentially grow into a tech giant. Many of the lessons in the book can easily be applied to running a blogging or SEO based business with some of the lessons in the book going against what others tend to preach.
Peter Thiel is one of the original founders of PayPal and was with the team before Elon Musk and the X.com team merged into PayPal. Since selling PayPal to eBay for $1.5 billion back in 2002, he has gone on to run his own highly successful venture capital fund, Founders Fund as well as develop the highly successful big data analytics tech company Palantir.
He was the first outside investor into Facebook via his Founders Fund project and has also invested in a large number of other highly successful tech start-ups such as Airbnb, LinkedIn, Yelp, Spotify, SpaceX, and Quora amongst many others. The book shares many of the lessons that he has picked up over the years growing these companies on his way to becoming a billionaire.
Although I do read a large number of books and have done for many years, Zero To One was one of the first books that I read where I found it hard to put down due to enjoying it so much.
Who Is It Suitable For
Although my blog is focused on helping people grow their own blogging projects via the lessons that I have picked up along the way, Zero To One is a great read for anyone interested in business. There are a huge number of lessons that you are able to pick up from the book ranging from work ethic to hiring freelancers to general business management, remember your blog should be run as a business from as early as possible!
The above passage reminded me of two common situations that I see each and every month. The first is people chasing high competition, high search volume keywords for their blog articles where they have a very small, often no change of ranking and getting traffic. Although your blog article may offer tons of value, the competition of the keyword often means that noone will ever see it and if noone ever sees it, you are unable to earn from the article and capture some of the value you create.
The second is people reaching out about starting blogs in the gaming or coding niches. Although keyword competition can be lower in these niches meaning you actually get visitors, both gamers and coders are notorious for using ad blockers making it harder to actually earn from display ads on your blog and again failing to capture some value you create.
You can work with this quote by going with low search volume, low competition keywords that are underserved by other bloggers. This allows you to provide value and due to the keywords being low competition, you should be able to get visitors to your blog relatively easily and make money capturing some of the value for yourself.
Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson is another book that I struggled to put down once I first started reading it and if I remember correctly, I actually read it from start to finish within a few hours the first time I read it. The authors of the book are successful serial tech entrepreneurs and this book is a summary of the business principles that they use for their own successful businesses.
The book is laid out in a unique style of one page being dedicated to one principle to keep the fluff to an absolute minimum. Although the book has received some criticism because of this, I personally prefer it as there is no long drawn-out storytelling for a whole chapter with a couple of paragraphs of value at the end of the chapter.
The “share your by product” principal from Rework is actually the main reason that I decided to start putting more time and effort into this blog as well as keep my YouTube channel going into 2021 and beyond. Although my main focus is my blog portfolio that is not branded to me allowing me to easily sell it, I pick up a large number of tips and tricks along the way that may be beneficial to others that I turn into blog posts for this blog.
Who Is It Suitable For
Rework is an excellent book for anyone who is interestested in business, starting a business, or already has a business. Although there is some cross over with other business principal books, the speed that you are able to read through Rework due to its lack of stories and examples makes it my recommendation as it’s layout minimises wasted time.
I actually laughed out loud when I read the sentence above as I was working on trying to come up with a quick and easy way to make Pinterest pins to promote some of my blogs. Although in theory, diversifying traffic with Pinterest pins sounds like a great thing to do, it can take a surprising amount of time for a potentially minimal amount of traffic generated where the time could have been better spent elsewhere.
In blogging, there are an absolute ton of different tasks like this where I have wasted a lot more time than I should have as I failed to realized just how much time it would take to complete the tasks. As with most things though, this is a learning experience and the authors of Rework go on to say how they implemented time limits and if anyone tasks go over these limits, they have to get a fresh pair of eyes on the task to try workout if it is worth pursuing any longer.
Next up, we have Atomic Habits by James Clear that is my favourite book on habit manipulation. The book is packed with actionable tips and tricks to help you manipulate your own habits to help you become more productive. As with any other self-improvement method though, you have to actually implement the lessons within the book but unlike some other books on habit manipulation, you can pick and choose the strategies you wish to implement.
Just to quickly mention The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg as it is probably the most popular and frequently recommended book on habit manipulation at the time of writing. Although The Power Of Habit does offer great value if you are looking to manipulate your habits, I do feel that Atomic Habits is definitely the better book.
Charles Duhigg’s writing style is based around long, drawn out examples to get his point across. Personally, I feel the examples he uses in The Power Of Habit could be much shorter and easier to read while still getting his point across. James Clear focused on breezing through the examples in Atomic Habits to focus on offering value rather than telling a story and that is why it is my primary recommendation.
Who Is It Suitable For
Atomic Habits is a great book for anyone who wants to work on tweaking their own habits for marginal gains over a medium time frame that can end up resulting in huge change. Although there are books about changing habits out there that try the cold turkey all at once approach, I feel that small, gradual, consistant change will be the better option for the vast majority of people and that is what is preached in Atomic Habits.
I am a huge believer in both marginal gains and building positive feedback loops and the passage above shows how consistant small changes can end up in great change. Although it does take a surprising amount of time, effort, and dedicated to work on changing your habits, I feel it is definitely worth it.
I have a number of good friends who have tried their hands at blogging using the exact same method I use but after purchasing their domain name and hosting, they don’t actually take action. They go back to their old habits of watching TV, playing computer games, or stalking on social media for hours on end each day. They don’t even try to allocate a small portion of that time to generating content for their blogs that can potentially lead to a full-time income.
Next up we have Meditations wrote by Marcus Aurelius, one of the better Emperors of Rome. Meditations is actually a collection of different books wrote by Marcus Aurelius between 161 AD and 180 AD so due to their age, there are a large number of different translations and interpretations available.
The Gregory Hays version of Meditations seems to be regarded as being the best option at the time of writing. Rather than just translating the book, he has also interpreted parts of it to make it a much easier read. I also own the Penguin Classics version of Meditations and it really is hard work to get through it and their translation does not do the book justice.
Meditations is classed as one of the essential stoic philosophy texts along side No products found. and Letters from a Stoic by Seneca. As Stoicism is all about overcoming adversity, practicing self-control, applying logic where possible, and living up to your personal standard of ethics, it is not surprising that it is so popular with entrepreneurs.
Who Is It Suitable For
Stoicism is not for everyone but I feel Meditations can do a good job of hammering home how little most of the tasks people spend the majority of their time on actually matter. We live in a world where people post photographs of their meals on social media and delete the photograph if it doesn’t get a certain number of likes within a certain number of hours or waste hours reading gossip about a celebrity who doesn’t even know or care that they exist.
When it comes to the blogging and business side of things, Meditations cements the personal standards and work ethic of the author, the most powerful man in the world at the time. It also stresses that we are all going to die at some point, to accept it as there is no point in wasting time worrying about it, and to try and apply logic and not let our emotions take control of our actions.
Philosophy Or Mindset
One thing that I do quickly want to touch on for Meditations is that an argument can be made that philosophy is useless unless you have the mindset to live by the teachings and I totaly agree with this. I feel I am lucky to have been born with a mindset that is natually stoic in many areas making it easier to impliment many stoic teachings.
I know that the mindset and personality of many people will make implementing the teachings of Marcus Aurelius and the other Stoic philosophers harder but there are plenty of YouTube videos available to offer an insight into them prior to actually buying the book. I feel that the video summary of Meditations below is the best one currently available on YouTube and only takes a few minutes to watch.
I like the quote above as so many people, often unknowingly fill their life with negativity and gain happiness from others failing rather than their own achievements and accomplishments. Personally, I feel this is unhealthy and I doubt it’s down to chance that the rise in social media use also correlated to a rise in mental health issues. I think that a large number of people could benefit greatly from choosing to watch “people are awesome” videos on YouTube and taking inspiration and setting goals from what others have achieved rather than choosing to watch “fail compilation” videos and gaining happiness from the failure of others.
The Richest Man In Babylon
Although I have read a number of books about investing, The Richest Man In Babylon by George S Clason is definitely one of my favorites, especially for beginners. It makes it very easy to understand the basic concepts of investing that are rarely taught in schools to help you understand what you should be doing to both grow and maintain wealth.
As the book uses a psudo-story to get the points across that is set in Babylon, the language is a little strange at times and can be a little off putting at first. Once you get used to it thought, it is easy to keep with the flow of the book and understand what the author is trying to convey.
Who Is It Suitable For
Unfortunately, financial education is usually neglected by schools and many people leave school without even knowing the basic principles of investing. I think that The Richest Man In Babylon was the very first book on investing I read and it laid everything out in a way that was easy to understand that it got me started with investing as well as reading a number of other books on investing too.
Keep in mind that this is targeted towards those who are new to investing as the principles covered in the book are basic to help people grow their wealth at a steady rate with as little risk as possible. Another decent book, if you are new to investing but have credit card debt, is I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi as they cover ways to deal with existing debt too. If you are an intermediate to an experienced investor then both of these books will probably offer little to no value as you are not their target market.
The quote above is about taking investment advice about jewels from a brickmaker and not surprisingly, it doesn’t go too well. The point that I want to get across with this quote is that similar stuff happens all the time when it comes to blogging. I have noticed more and more people on forums, Reddit, and social media offering blogging or SEO advice to people but when asked, they freely admit that they haven’t even started blogging yet.
Over the years I have managed to build up good relationships with a number of link builders too and they are constantly being asked for SEO advice. Although some of them do have their own personal blogs that they rank and earn money from, many of them just have relationships with bloggers and their business is acquiring backlinks for their clients.
I also know someone who has never ranked a website in his life start an “SEO agency” and he charges local business around £500 per month while he does little to nothing and hopes for the best. I also have a friend who has his own successful SEO business where he gets large amounts of business from an Indian SEO company who in turn get the majority of their business as sub-contractors for SEO companies in the USA and UK. So the client thinks that the first stage SEO company are doing the work but it actually ends up being subcontracted or outsourced twice from there.
As there is no governing body in this industry for accreditation, it is very easy for people to pick-up a few industry-related terms, make a flashy sales graphic, use phrases like “on trend” and fake a few rank tracker/analytics screenshots to make a large amount of money. This is why it is important that you learn to actually work out if backlinks you outsource is valuable or not and if any freelanced content is plagiarised.
The book summary video blow goes over a few key points for The Richest Man In Babylon but if you are brand new to investing and building wealth then I feel there will be plenty more value in the book than in the video.
The Art Of War
Although The Art Of War by Sun Tzu is primarily a military strategy book, there are plenty of lessons that can be applied to blogging, business, and entrepreneurship with many highly successful business leaders having it on their recommended reading lists. Similar to Meditations covered above, The Art Of War can suffer from translation/interpretation issues due to having been wrote around 5 BC. I have the Harper Classics publication of the book and it reads fine but depending on your country, this particular version of the book can be difficult to source.
The Art Of War covers similar concepts to The 33 Strategies Of War by Robert Greene that is also one of my favourite books that I recommend people consider reading. As the Art Of War is more popular, shorter, and cheaper, I usually recommend people just start with the Art Of War and then if they enjoy it, read The 33 Strategies Of War.
Who Is It Suitable For
When I was serving in the Royal Air Force I can remember many of the junior officers saying that The Art Of War was recommended to them by their training teams while going through officer selection. As I touched on earlier, the book is still worth reading for anyone who is interested in business and entrepreneurship as there are many concepts that cross over with war and battle.
Although the quote above may seem basic, keyword research is one of the most important factors of blogging, especially when you are starting out and don’t have a budget for backlinking. Time and time again I see people who are brand new targeting keywords with their articles that they will never rank for and more experienced bloggers including myself are guilty of this too.
It is always enticing to try and push the limits of the keyword difficulty you target with your articles and I do recommend that you do push your limits to learn what you can and cant rank for using your methods. The trick is knowing what percentage of your articles should be targeting keywords you are confident in ranking for and what percentage should be using higher competition keywords to try develop your methods.
The video book summary of The Art Of War embedded below is my favourite one currently on YouTube and is worth checking out if you don’t plan on purchasing the book as it covers many of the core concepts.
Although I usually recommend Bounce by Matthew Syed to people as it is much shorter and easier to read, Mastery by Robert Greene is actually my favorite book covering the general concept of the 10,000-hour rule. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell is another popular book covering the same concept that I have read but I feel outliers is more drawn out with less value than the other two.
The general concept of the books is that many of the people who are viewed as overnight successes or as being at the top of their game have spent years training for it and failed hundreds if not thousands of times. The quote below gets the point across of how often even the most successful people fail.
Who Is It Suitable For
Many people seem to be terrified of failing and don’t seem to realise that what many people see as a failure is not actually a failure providing you identify lessons to be learned from it. Either of the three books do a solid job of getting this point across while also going into a number of different examples to help hammer the point home. If you have a fear of failing in your own businesses then either of the three books could help you realise just how common failure is.
All Practise Isn’t Equal
One of the main points of criticism for all three books is that their main concept is based around the 10,000-hour rule with many people saying Malcolm Gladwell misunderstood the research when writing Outliers. Peak by Anders Ericsson who actually did the research for the popular 10,000-hour rule concept is a good read as he goes into how 10,000 hours is just an arbitrary number that is easy to remember and that it is the quality of the practice, not the amount of time that is important.
I still think that Bounce is worth reading as it is a much shorter book than the other two and can help you realize just how much practice and “failure” is required to master anything. It is highly likely that just like me, you will have a massive number of set backs along your blogging journey and books covering this concept may help motivate you to keep going.
The quote above gets the point across that I touched on earlier. If you do fail at something, try to find the lessons in the failure and learn why the tasks didn’t go to plan. Blogging is a constant learning process, especially with Google releasing multiple algorithm updates each year that can change some of the rules we are used to playing by.
Living With A Seal
Living With A SEAL by Jesse Itzler is not only full of great lessons and examples of how even the most successful people can do well to get out of their comfort zone now and then but it is also hillarious. Jesse is an extremely successful entrepreneur and along with his wife, Sara Blakely who owns Spanx, they have a combined net worth of well over $1 Billion.
With Jesse wanting to get out of his comfort zone, he invites a Navy SEAL who at the time of publishing couldn’t be named due to his reserve service period but has now been confirmed to be David Goggins, author of Can't Hurt Me to live with him in the hope of shaking things up. The book then goes on to document the thirty days that David lived with Jesse and what they got upto.
Who Is It Suitable For
This book is a great read for anyone who feels stuck in their comfort zone. Although theres no need to go out and do the things Jesse and David got up to, it shows that no matter how comfortable of a life you have, it can always do you good to shake things up and push yourself. I am a huge fan of David Goggins and his outlook on life and find some of the stuff he gets up to hilarious but having the reactions of Jesse and his wife mixed in makes sure the book will make you laugh all the way through.
Although there are a ton of great quotes in the book, the above has to be my favourite. Even outside of blogging and business, people often make up excuses not to do a task that are just that, excuses. When you apply logic to the situation you can often see that the task is still doable and that the limitations or restrictions are minor issues that don’t prevent you from actually completing the task at hand.
Jesse Itzler appeared on the Joe Rogan Podcast a few years back and the video clip below from that episode goes over some of Jessies experiences while Goggins was living with him. Even if you don’t have plans to read the book, the clip can be worth checking out.