I never used to read. In fact, I was the kid in high school that would rely solely on Spark Notes and friends to help me B.S. my way through a book report.
Then the summer of 2017 I picked up the book "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari after my brother raved about it. That book was a wake-up call for me. I had an epiphany moment where I realized, “Holy smokes! There is so much good information in books!” (duh!) and from that moment on I’ve been reading voraciously, finishing a book every week or two.
Reading has helped me improve my focus and tame ADD—I’ve found that the act of getting distracted when reading and then refocusing on the book has had profound effects on my ability to concentrate. It's expanded my mind and has helped me gain new ideas for work and life. I’ve been inspired by some of the world’s greatest leaders to become a better, more generous, person.
Aside from daily exercise, reading every day is the best habit I’ve ever developed.
I hope that one of my Top 5 book recommendations inspires you to read more in the new year...
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Solider, by Ishmael Beah
This is a tragic story of a young boy who was enlisted into brutal civil war in Sierra Leone. It’s a super graphic and honest account of his story. He had to witness the mutilation and murder of his family and neighbors, was then forced into the war, addicted to drugs, and trained to become a teenage killing machine.
Ishmael’s story will forever help me realize how privileged I am to be born where I was, when I was, and it’s helped me realize that my problems seem mundane versus what other people are going through or have gone through. I now feel more grateful and aware of recent world history after reading this book. You’ll find that you’ll complain a lot less when you’re done with it.
Red Notice: A true story of high finance, murder, and one man’s fight for justice, by Bill Browder
This book is more than just the true crime thriller that it sounds like, it’s actually a super important history of the fall of the USSR and the rise of modern Russia through the eyes of a corruption busting American investor.
It reveals the story of how Putin got to power and how the US and EU decided to place sanctions on Russia for crimes against humanity. This book will have you punching the air for justice, and jaw dropped thinking, “this can’t be real”.
Educated: A memoir, by Tara Westover
If you want a book that will take you through an emotional whirlwind, then this is it. You wouldn’t believe what this girl had to go through growing up in a hyper religious mormon household run by a bi-polar father preparing for judgment day.
In this book you’ll realize how brainwashing other people’s beliefs can be on someone when that’s all they’ve ever known. After reading this book, you’ll resolve to think for yourself and decide to build your own philosophy of how to live life.
Great By Choice: Uncertainty, chaos, and luck—why some thrive despite them all, by Jim Collins
Jim Collins is perhaps the best business researcher in the world. His other books "Good to Great" and "Built to Last” sit on my top shelf as well for best books I’ve ever read. In this book he uses data and science to debunk some commonly held beliefs like “the most innovative company will always win” and “move fast or get left behind”.
Even if you have no interest in business, this book will teach you to be a better leader and better goal setter. It’ll show you through data what the worlds greatest leaders share in common on the pursuit of achievement.
The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, by Scott Galloway
These four companies have become such a huge part of our lives that they have a scary amount of power over us, without you even knowing about it. Imagine this, if Facebook wanted a certain president elected, all they’d have to do is send a notification reminding people to vote to people from only one political party and that would decide the election results.
This book also pulls the curtain on how Apple is the worlds most crooked tax evader, Amazon is the biggest job destroyer ever, and Google is the new God—instead of looking up to the sky and asking the Lord, we look down to our cellphones and ask Google. Galloway will change the way you perceive these companies, he’ll expose their secrets, and he’ll make it clear that Capitalism will have to change in the near future as Big Data becomes the most valuable resource in the world.