Looking for the perfect leadership, business, or personal development book to give as a gift this season? A gift for someone else, or something for yourself? Someone asked me the other day about my favorite books and a suggestion they could pick up for a friend this Christmas. The question got my wheels turning. Of all the books I’ve read and listened to, which ones are my favorites?
Here are my top fifteen picks…
It Takes What It Takes by Trevor Moawad – https://amzn.to/3uzBRUP
I talked about this book recently on my Grit Meets Growth podcast. In this book, Russell Wilson’s mindset coach Trevor Moawad introduces the concept of neutral thinking. Moawad shares the power of combining nonjudgmental and nonreactive thinking when encountering challenges. He also shares the truth that your past does not define your future – your past is not predictive. With that in mind, we should all change how we embrace challenges in life. When struggles arise, confront the negative thoughts and focus on what’s real and what you have power over. Then, make your moves from that space. Neutral thinking has helped me stay calm and focused through some tough situations, and I attribute that to this book.
Principles by Ray Dalio – https://amzn.to/2Wz1OaE
In Principles, Ray Dalio shares the lessons he’s learned over an impressive financial career leading Bridgewater Associates. Starting in his two-bedroom apartment, Dalio has led Bridgewater to its place as Fortune magazine’s fifth most important private company in America. In Principles, Dalio shares the principles he’s used to help him build and lead powerful teams. He also shared proven strategies for making decisions and building systems based on fact, not emotion. I’ve used two of his cornerstone concepts, radical truth and radical transparency, to help me grow professionally and personally.
The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann – https://amzn.to/3AWf8EV
Appropriate to its name, this book was given to me by a close friend and mentor. If you were to define the greatest secret to creating powerful relationships, what would it be? One word… Give. The Go-Giver tells the fictional story of a man named Joe who is trying desperately to climb the ladder and chase success. This could easily be my own story. Over the course of one week in this book, Joe’s motives shift from getting to giving – and so do his results. This book was a powerful reminder that focusing on others instead of self can be the catalyst for achieving everything we want.
The Success Principles by Jack Canfield – https://amzn.to/3ooaQ5E
Another close friend introduced me to this book, and I’ve read through it multiple times since. I will probably read this book at least once a year for the rest of my life. Canfield’s writing started me down the path of focusing on my true purpose in life, and he outlines some simple ways to explore one’s purpose and define it. Success Principles also made me realize that my subconscious thoughts have more power than I previously understood. By harnessing that power intentionally, I can create results that I never thought possible.
Atomic Habits by James Clear – https://amzn.to/3CVdEvg
The key takeaway for me from this book was the need to master the tiny behaviors that I repeat every day, and understanding that I can use those tiny, repeatable behaviors to create big shifts in my results. Clear’s ability to combine biology, psychology, and neuroscience as habit drivers is fantastic, and I came away realizing that I could put simple systems in place to help me achieve my goals more effectively. Today, I’ve based my morning and evening rituals on what I’ve learned in this book, and it has completely changed how I approach each day.
The Bucket List Book by Paul Batz and Mark Bergman – https://amzn.to/3uvo2Xy
This book was written by two men I know personally and admire very much, executive coach and speaker Paul Batz and inventor Mark Bergman. Before reading this book, I saw bucket lists and chasing the things on those lists as something reserved for old age. However, after reading what Batz and Bergman shared, I’ve made my bucket list a part of my life today. I am no longer waiting to approach life’s finish line to work on my bucket list. Instead, using aspirational thinking and by sharing my goals with those around me, I am working on my bucket list today and checking things off!
Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin – https://amzn.to/3ooaX14
I own everything in my life… the wins, the losses, the successes, and the failures. I even own the things that I would have previously labeled as outside of my control. Now, I own it all. In this book, retired Navy Seals Jocko Willink and Leif Babin walk through stories and examples of extreme ownership from the battlefield. Then they vividly connect those examples to real-world business and leadership examples. After reading this book, my perspective on the challenges I face in life changed radically. Instead of blaming others, I have taken extreme ownership over how I show up, react, and make decisions in everything I do.
Wild at Heart by John Eldredge – https://amzn.to/3B2xpAy
This one is specifically for the men. Wild at Heart changed my life and how I perceived being a Christian man, husband, father, and leader. As Eldredge puts it in the book, God designed men to live lives of adventure and risk – not merely settle into lives spent in cubicles, writing reports, and “getting through” the week. Many men have settled for the status quo and other peoples’ dreams and boundaries, not living life on their own terms. This was me, and Wild at Heart brought me back to God’s design for me as a man, giving me permission to be dangerous, passionate, alive, and free.
You Are Here by Jaime Taets – https://amzn.to/3uxsx3V
We all have moments in our lives when we feel stuck. You Are Here was released in 2021, written by my good friend, Jaime Taets. I brought it with me on a camping trip and spent my early mornings reading it by a campfire. It was a time when I was experiencing a restless spirit, and this book helped me define that stuck feeling, put it into words, and begin navigating what “unstuck” would feel like. It helped me explore my options, name my fears, and cut through some of the confusion I was facing. The result? This book helped me achieve new levels of clarity and boldness I would not have found without it.
Crazy Love by Francis Chan – https://amzn.to/3olwEPv
The book Crazy Love helped me break free from a life of spiritual complacency. It caught me years ago when I was claiming my Christianity but living a status quo life that was lukewarm at best. Chan, in his writing, reintroduced me to a God who is passionate about me and the relationship I have with Him. Beyond a list of to-do’s and boxes I need to check, God desires to have a real one-on-one relationship with me. Crazy Love reminded me of God’s crazy love for me and helped me reconnect with that love in a real way.
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill – https://amzn.to/3iopmqv
“Rich” can take a lot of different forms in our lives. Sometimes it shows up financially; sometimes, riches come to us in our relationships. Riches can come our way when we find our purpose and through the successes and achievements we create in life. Originally published in 1937, this book explores the common success habits that Napoleon Hill uncovered through years of interviews with Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and 500 others. What are the three keys to their success? Hill shares the power of combining a burning desire, a definite plan, and belief that you can. Combine that mindset with a mastermind group, and results will follow. Will follow, not might.
Start with Why by Simon Sinek – https://amzn.to/3DGHkgj
I first found Simon Sinek through one of the most popular TED Talks of all time, which led me to pick up this book. Start with Why explores how leaders can inspire their followers to take action and how brands can inspire emotional connection with their customers. In a time when “influence” is a word that can be tossed around carelessly, Sinek ties influence to purpose and explores how understanding and communicating our “why” can lead to greater success, increased innovation, and deeper relationships. His Golden Circle illustrates what this looks like and provides a simple framework for building why-centered and inspiring movements.
It’s Not About the Coffee by Howard Behar – https://amzn.to/3x39Y92
This is my most recent read and current favorite. It’s Not About the Coffee is a collection of insights and learnings from retired Starbucks exec Howard Behar. Recounting his experiences with Starbucks in the early days and as they expanded internationally, Behar shares what worked, what did not, and what they learned in the process. He covers topics like creating a winning culture, building trust, and leading teams. A favorite quote from the book that I have carried into my own leadership is, “Let the person who sweeps the floor pick the broom.”
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell – https://amzn.to/3F5JqYt
There was no way to create a list like this one and not include John Maxwell in it. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is a classic book that changed how I look at leadership and how I show up every day as a professional and personally. As Maxwell says, “If you follow these laws, people will follow you.” He’s right, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Maxwell has trained tens of thousands of leaders in Fortune 500 companies, governments, and universities.
The Bible by God – https://amzn.to/3mkUhoL
Over the years, I have spent countless hours reading books on leadership and personal development. The best are listed above, but over the past few years, I have been reminded repeatedly that the leadership and life principles in my Bible are trustworthy and proven. On my journey to creating a deeper life and becoming a stronger leader, my faith has become a cornerstone. My Bible has become my go-to above all other books when I need answers, wisdom, and guidance. Growing up, my Bible collected a lot of dust. Today, its pages are bent, torn, worn, and covered in notes, underlines, and starred passages.
Wisdom abounds, and it resides in the pages of books like the ones above. There are certainly great books that did not make this list. I’d love to hear from you… What’s the next great read I should get my hands on. Drop me a message at email@example.com with your suggestions for my 2022 reading list, and thank you for being part of the Depth Not Width community! – John
Ready for more?