Empower Your Curiosity

Regardless of how many miles you’ve put into your career (or life), there’s always more to learn.

Here is my ultimate reading list of books, e-newsletters, radio shows, movies, and more that I would recommend to help you develop the life and career you want. Think of this list as your ticket to obtaining your masters degree in life.

How I put together this list: I started this list with books that I have personally read and found of value. I also asked several friends and colleagues representing a range of backgrounds (economist, sociologist, editor, senior business executive, entrepreneur, etc.) for their recommendations as well.

I will be curating this list on an ongoing basis, so watch for new additions to this list in the days, weeks and months ahead. At the same time, I might drop some items on this list in favor of a better resource. If you have a suggestion for a resource that you think should be on this list, contact me at [email protected].

Important note: I have placed links to many of these books to either Amazon or Barnes & Noble for your convenience. These are not affiliate links and I am not compensated by anyone for these recommendations. I’m doing this because I think you really should read these books or check out the websites or newsletters recommended here.


Brain Pickings: An Inventory of the Meaningful Life, a blog by Maria Popova

The Browser, a subscription-based website delivering 5-6 pieces of incredible writing/articles curated by editor Robert Cottrell.


Here is a list of books I recommend to learn more about branding:

Strategic Brand Management, Kevin Keller

Living the Brand: How to Transform Every Member of Your Organization Into a Brand Champion, Nicholas Ind

“Brands aren’t just names on packages!”, interview with Charles Berger by Karl D. Speak

Corporate Religion: Building a Strong Company Through Personality and Corporate Soul, Jesper Kunde

Corporate Identity: Making Business Strategy Visible Through Design, Wally Olins

NTC’s Dictionary of Trade Name Origins, Adrian Bloom

Brand Inside Meets Brand Outside, Karl D. Speak and and Gilman Hanson

The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build and Accelerate Your Brand, Karen Leland

The Physics of Brand, Aaron Keller, Renee Marino, Dan Wallace

Positioning, Al Ries and Jack Trout


At its center, this blog is about creativity. Here are books to learn about the zen and art of creativity.

Words Without Music: A Memoir, Philip Glass – intriguing autobiography by one of my favorite composers.

Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils and Rewards of Artmaking, David Bayles and Ted Orland – highly recommended by my friend and artist, Sarah Stengle.

Please Pay Attention Please: Bruce Nauman’s Words, Bruce Nauman, edited by Janet Kraynak – thought-provoking commentary about art and creativity.

Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert – observations about the creative process, book writing, idea generation, failure and more.

Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla: Biography of a Genius, Marc Seifer – one of the most creative scientific minds of all time.

The Creative Peptalk Podcast, hosted by Andy J. Miller – a podcast designed to help creatives and artists make a living at what they love to do.

Personal Branding/Career Development and Planning

Here are a list of books that I recommend to learn more about how to brand yourself and how to develop you career. In this list, I’ve included books that speak to developing purpose in your life.

Be Your Own Brand: Achieve More of What You Want by Being More of Who You Are, Karl D. Speak and David McNally

Choose Yourself, James Altucher – well-known entrepreneur and blogger speaks in blunt terms about the future of work.

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel H. Pink

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown

Reinventing You, Dorie Clark – a thoughtful, practical approach to rethinking your career.

Strengths Finder 2.0, Tom Rath – see my interview with Alissa Daire Nelson on Stengths Finder.

What Color is Your Parachute 2017, Richard D. Bolles – a classic.

How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie – a classic.

Purpose-Driven Life

These are books I would recommend to develop your purpose in life, and to lead a more purpose-driven life.

The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch — the last lecture about how to live by Carnegie Mellon computer science professor Randy Pausch, before he died of cancer in 2008.

Life Reimagined: Discovering Your New Life Possibilities, Richard J. Leider and Alan M. Webber

The Power of Purpose: Find Meaning, Live Longer, Better, Richard Leider

The Power of Intention, Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

The Long Loneliness, Dorothy Day – a memoir by an icon in grassroots journalism who founded the Catholic Worker movement.

Seven-Story Mountain, Thomas Merton – memoir by Trappist monk about how his journey into the religious life.

The Impossible Will Take a Little While: Perseverance and Hope in Troubled Times, Paul Rogat Laub

Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in Challenging Times, Paul Rogat Laub

Career and Life Performance

Here is a list of books and other resources I would recommend to enhance your performance at work and in your day-to-day life.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, Adam Grant

How Full is Your Bucket? Positive Strategies for Work and Life, Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D.

Mastery, Robert Greene

The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich, Timothy Ferris – a complete re-think about how to manage one’s day-to-day life to become more productive and focused on doing what matters the most to you.

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie

The Power of Starting Something Stupid: How to Crush Fear, Make Dreams Happen, and Live Without Regret, Richie Norton

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, Stephen R. Covey

The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss

Goal Setting

Here are a list of books I would recommend to better understand how to set goals and how to achieve your goals:

The Magic of Thinking Big, David J. Schwartz, Ph.D. – written in the Madman era, this book describes how to change one’s mindset and think big.

The Magic Lamp: Goal Setting for People Who Hate Setting Goals, Keith Ellis

The Motivation Manifesto, Brendon Burchard

Creative Visualization: Use the Power of Your Imagination to Create What You Want in Life, Shakti Gawain – a practical how-to on how to practice visualization.

The Human Experience

Powerful books that will re-shape your thinking and give you context about being human.

Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl – psychologist and concentration camp survivor shares his observations about the concentration camp experience and how it relates to one’s meaning.

Between the World and Me, Ta Nehisi Coates – must reading about the African-American experience in the United States.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West, Dee Brown – this book will make you rethink the concept of Manifest Destiny.

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, Robert A. Caro – an examination of one of the most powerful men in New York City and about how power is wielded in the United States.

Slaughterhouse-Five: A Novel, Kurt Vonnegut – a classic.

The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien – a classic from a Minnesota author about the Vietnam experience.

Writing, Story Telling, Journalism, Reporting

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, Robert Zinsser

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott

Moth Radio Hour, NPR – weekly radio program offers incredible story telling by real people from everyday life.

The Elements of Style, William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White

The Associated Press Stylebook 2017

Fresh Air, NPR, hosted by Terry Gross – on this daily, hour-long radio program, Terry Gross demonstrates the art of conducting an interview.

All the President’s Men, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein – the story about the investigative journalism behind the Watergate scandal.


A big part of career and work success is developing a growth mindset that will help you take advantage of opportunities when they come along, and overcome the day-to-day challenges that can drain even the most resilient person.

Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World, Admiral William H. McRaven (Ret.)

Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill – an all-time classic, in this book, the author summarizes what he learns after interviewing 500 of the most successful people from America’s industrial age.

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Malcolm Gladwell

The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self, Alex Lickerman, M.D.

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be: The World’s Best Selling Book, Paul Arden

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.

See You At The Top, Zig Ziglar

Idea Generation and Innovation

I am a huge fan of books and other resources that expand my thinking about idea generation. Here are recommended books that will help you learn how to become an idea machine!

Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson

The Art of the Start 2.0, Guy Kawasaki

Innovation: The Five Disciplines for Creating What Customers Want, Curtis R. Carlson and William W. Wilmot

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, Adam Grant

The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail, Clayton M. Christensen

The Pursuit of Wow!, Tom Peters – a book brimming with energy from a top business consultant in search of powerful ideas in corporate America.

Business Management

Here are books I recommend for anyone who wants to learn how to manage a business better.

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, Eric Ries

Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business, Gino Wickman

Good to Great. Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t, Jim Collins

Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras

The Halo Effect: . . . and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers, Phil Rosenzweig

Harvard Business Review, magazine published by the Harvard Business School offering advice for business leaders.

The Economist, magazine offering business and economic news from a global perspective.


I believe that everyone needs to develop the mindset of a futurist to prepare for the waves of change and innovation that will impact our world and our respective cultures in the years and decades to come. Here are some recommendations to consider:

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, Yuval Noah Harari

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Jared Diamond, Ph.D.

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, Ashlee Vance

Future Shock, Alvin Toffler – a classic.

Future Smart: Managing the Game-Changing Trends that will Transform Your World, Jack Canton

The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Your Future, Kevin Kelly

Only Humans Need Apply: Winners and Losers in the Age of Smart Machines, Thomas H. Davenport and Julia Kirby

The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, Ray Kurzweil – when artificial intelligence starts to think for itself and starts teaching other machines how to learn.

Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations, Thomas L. Friedman

Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future, Joi Ito and Jeff Howe

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, Elizabeth Kolbert – focuses on climate change the series of extinction periods in Earth’s history.

Chasing Ice – documentary about the melting of the world’s glaciers and the implications for our future on planet Earth.


Ethics, Aristotle

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, Eric Metaxas


I recommend these books to develop yourself as a leader, and to challenge your thinking as a leader.

The Trust Edge, David Horsager – Minnesota author explains why trust is the one thing that business leaders should focus on to give their businesses a competitive edge.

Good People: The Only Leadership Decision that Really Matters, Anthony Than

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALS Lead and Win, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

South!: The Story of Ernest Shackleton’s Last Expedition, 1914-1917, Sir Ernest Shackleton

The Journals of Lewis and Clark, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark (edited by Bernard DeVoto)

Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk, Peter L. Bernstein – a book focused on probability and risk.

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, Michael Lewis – a book as much about baseball as it is about statistical analysis. Watch the movie, too.

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail–but Some Don’t, Nate Silver

The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki – New Yorker business columnist explores why large crowds are often “smarter” than an elite few.

Counselor, Ted Sorensen – a memoir by one of President John F. Kennedy’s closest advisors.

Marketing, Public Relations, Communications, Persuasion

Read these books to learn more about marketing, advertising, public relations, content marketing and social media.

Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing, Lee Odden

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk!, Al Ries and Jack Trout

Ogilvy on Advertising, David Ogilvy

The Art of Writing Advertising: Conversations With William Bernbach, Leo Burnett, George Gribbin, David Ogilvy, Rosser Reeves, Denis Higgins

The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual, Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, David Weinberger – a powerful book released at the beginning of the Internet age explaining how the Internet will change the marketplace.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert B. Cialdini

Crystallizing Public Opinion, Edward Bernays – published in 1923, this book by one of the pioneers of the public relations field still rings true in today’s social media age.

How to Write and Deliver a Speech, John Ott

Promoting Your Business, Brant Skogrand, APR — handy guide for small business owners about how to use public relations and media relations to promote your business. Well-written and to-the-point by a trusted PR professional.

Lead Generation

Ask: The Counterintuitive Online Formula to Discover Exactly What Your Customers Want to Buy…Create a Mass of Raving Fans…and Take Any Business to the Next Level, Ryan Levesque — great book about how to build an online sales funnel.


These books will show you how to strengthen your mind and your spirit through mindfulness.

Fear, Thich Nhat Hanh

The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh

Listening Point, Sigurd F. Olson

The Power of an Open Question, Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel

Thinking and Learning

Books I would recommend to develop your values, your understanding of quality, and how to think about thinking.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values, Robert Pirsig

The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance, Josh Waitzkin

Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds, Michael Lewis

Sales, Selling, Customer Service

I recommend these books for those who want to learn more about the art and science of selling and sales.

Endless Referrals: Network Your Everyday Contacts Into Sales, Bob Burg

Fanatical Prospecting, Jeb Blount

Go-Givers Sell More, Bob Burg and John David Mann

Never Eat Alone (and Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time), Keith Ferrazzi

The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success, Wayne Breitbarth

The Referral Engine, John Jantsch

The Social Media Sales Revolution: The New Rules for Finding Customers, Building Relationships, and Closing More Sales Through Online Networking, Landy Chase and Kevin Knebl

To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, Daniel H. Pink

Three Steps to Yes: The Gentle Art of Getting Your Way, Gene Bedell

Hey, I’m the Customer: Front Line Tips for Providing Superior Customer Service, Ron Willingham – a classic recommended by the best HVAC contractor I know who swears by it.


Understanding how our economy works is critical to being a better business person, much less, a more informed marketer or communicator.

Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes, Peter D. Schiff and Andrew J. Schiff

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, Nassim Nicholas Taleb

The Gray Rhino: How to Recognize and Act on the Obvious Dangers We Ignore, Michele Wucker

EconTalk, an economics podcast for daily life, hosted by Russ Roberts, an economist and a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

The Conversable Economist, an economics blog by economist Timothy Taylor, managing editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, a quarterly academic journal produced at Macalester College and published by the American Economic Association.

Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics, Richard H. Thaler

Money Management

For Richer, Not Poorer: The Money Book for Couples, Ruth L. Hayden – every couple should read this book – to learn how to talk about money with each other.

I Will Teach You To Be Rich, Ramit Sethi

The Intelligent Investor: The Classic Text on Value Investing, Benjamin Graham

The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy, Thomas J. Stanley, Ph.D., and William D. Danko, Ph.D. – this book helped me to understand that there are millionaires everywhere, including next door.

Time Management, Good Habits

How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life, Alan Lakein

Healthier Living

Younger Next Year, Chris Crowley and Dr. Henry Lodge

Thinner Next Year, Chris Crowley and Dr. Jennifer Sacheck

Science Fiction

I recommend these books to open your mind to future possibilities. Read carefully for how the authors think of society and culture in the future, and the relevance of these visions to our world today – and our near future.

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline

2001: A Space Odyssey (and 2010: Odyssey Two, and 2061: Odyssey Three), Arthur C. Clarke

Dune, Frank Herbert

1984, George Orwell

The Martian, Andy Weir

The Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

This is the Way the World Ends, James Morrow

Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein

The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury

Foundation, Isaac Asimov

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

The Time Machine, H. G. Wells

The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams