The books below are all non-fiction books that truly have had an impact on my life. They are all guide books, in one way or another, and have influenced the way that I operate and communicate in this world. If non-fiction is your thing, you might enjoy these reads over your summer vacation.
1) Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
by David Allen
It’s certainly not the sexiest book in the world. Hell, it’s certainly not the sexiest book on this list. But in Getting Things Done, David Allen presents a valuable and important set of organizational tools to help clean up the clutter from your life. GTD is considered by many entrepreneurs and executives to be one of the most effective and indispensable methods for getting your life in order. I’ve always been a list maker, but this book is a guide on how to make the right lists. Ever since I read this book, and deployed its principals in my workflow (both at work, school, and home), my coworkers have remarked on how clean my inbox always is, and how organized my work has become. If you feel like your to-do list is too unwieldy and cumbersome, this book is a great introduction to the art of streamlined productivity. There is something to be learned by everyone from a high school student to a CEO.
2) Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
by Greg McKeown
My friend, Michael recommended Essentialism to me. The book is more of a philosophical doctrine for the chronically busy than a standard ‘self improvement’ book. It serves as a miraculous antidote for all of the stress and compulsion to ‘do everything’ that so many of us face. The book teaches readers how to focus their time in the areas of their work that have the most impact, and to politely steer away from the mentality that causes us to say ‘yes’ to every single task. Indeed, the book is an insightful journey in the art of saying ‘no’, and teaches readers to canonically simplify their lives. This book contradicts the Getting Things Done philosophies a bit because it encourages the reader to avoid the simple, low-impact tasks of life in lieu of more important and strategic choices, rather than filing them in some highly-architected task management system. But, hopefully I’ve been able to find a balance between these two worlds, and Essentialism provides powerful advice for anybody facing tough choices in prioritization.
3) Introducing NLP: Neuro-Linguistic Programming
by Joseph O’Connor
This might seem like an odd choice, but Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a pseudo-science that has dramatically improved the way that I approach business and social scenarios with confidence and success. NLP is an approach to communication that focuses on the link, hardwired in our brains, between language and behaviors. In that way, this book is more of a toolkit than a textbook. It presents the reader with new processes and patterns to help make them a more effective, confident communicator. NLP is no more or less real than traditional hypnotherapy, and both probably work simply by virtue of practitioners’ belief. While some of the book may be a bit exaggerated in its efficacy, I have certainly gathered some tools from this book that I use on a daily basis. NLP has helped me to become more perceptive and clairvoyant in life, as well as enhancing my ability to call upon strength and confidence in character whenever it’s needed. Even for a chronic skeptic like myself, there are certainly some useful tools buried in this book.
4) The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
by Michael Pollan
We are what we eat, and The Omnivore’s Dilemma asks (and answers) some hard questions about the origins and production of the food we consume every day. It’s not easy to write a book that mixes objective science with cautionary wisdom, especially in the earnest and clearheaded way that Michael Pollan writes. The book is honest, and sometimes a little frightening. The author dives deep in to the flow of food from farm to table, and the disconcerting places it travels in between. Pollan presents a wake-up call for readers as a loud, convincing plea for a reboot of our food and agriculture industry. But, he does it with a certain sincere and entertaining approach that touches on the entire ecosystem; from organic farms in Virginia to Saudi Arabian oil importers. This book truly made me reconsider the history of every item on my plate, and it provides a strong argument for change. This book is informative instead of preachy, well-researched instead of radical, and I think it’s a necessary prerequisite for every human who picks up a fork.
5) On the Road: The Original Scroll
by Jack Kerouac
For me, the end-all of counterculture doctrines; On the Road is as iconic as it is raw. The entire book was written as a single manuscript on Jack Kerouac’s typewriter over a period of three weeks; no paragraphs, just a wild stream of consciousness. Some say Kerouac wrote it on a Benzedrine binge, others say just coffee. But either way, it is a true story of friendship, freedom, love, and the pursuit of every pleasure in the world. I read the book right around the time I graduated from college, and it sparked a transition in my life. It wasn’t long before I had bought my RV, took some solo road-trips, and begun volunteering at the Heron. I even made a pretty significant job transition. I’m not suggesting that On the Road will scramble your personality, but Kerouac’s infamous manifesto is the embodiment of twenty-something wanderlust and rejection of a constrained life. It’s the essential credo for any transition period in life, and it certainly influenced my sense of adventure.