“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
I receive a lot of emails from readers asking for recommendations on great books that further explore the topics that we explore here on the blog, and find myself referring to these amazing books over and over again that have seriously influenced my perspectives and understandings on life, happiness, leadership and more.
So today, I want to introduce you to hand-selected some of my favorite books that I think you’ll love as much as I do.
All of these books have made important appearances in my life, especially over the last five years, and have been really significant in my personal growth.
I hope you enjoy them!
1. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
The Power of Now was recommended to me by a friend during a tough time when I was still in college.
It truly inspired me to awaken to an incredibly new sense of who I truly was, and who I truly was not. It settled my active and wildly racing mind amid insecurities, fears, and sadness, and returned me to a purer state of Being: one that allowed me to really see nature, and goodness, and love.
While it is especially potent for quieting that “voice” within and helping us to instead living in the present moment, The Power of Now is a very powerful guide to spiritual realization and gaining a refreshingly new perspective on things.
2. The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama and Dr. Howard Cutler
An absolutely wonderful, inspiring and thought-provoking book, The Art of Happiness strives to answer the timeless and perennial question, “How do we find happiness?”
The uniqueness of The Art of Happiness is that it bridges significant gaps in traditional “Western” psychiatric thinking and ancient eastern Buddhist philosophy in brilliant and unifying ways.
Remarkably, modern science proves many ancient Buddhist principles and concepts and supports truly healthy and positive mental-emotional living.
The Dalai Lama’s words radiate off of the page and provides the reader with a wonderful sense for the simple nature of happiness and how to achieve it. The Art of Happiness is truly a wonderful and inspiring read that bolstered my inner strength, confidence in others, and belief in the human species!
3. Tao Te Ching by Lao-Tsu (translated by Stephen Mitchell)
The Tao Te Ching has been one of the most influential and formative books I’ve ever come by in my life. Roughly translated to, “The Book of the Way,” the Tao Te Ching inspired the Taoist school of spiritual thought and details the path to oneness with all life in the universe through concepts like by embracing openness, self-realization, and living in accordance with the Tao or “the Way.”
Embrace this work if you’d like a deeper perspective on the universe, life, and finding your path.
4. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
Out of all of Gladwell’s groundbreaking and internationally best-selling books, I most often hear people say that Blink was their least favorite. However, it was one of my favorite books of all time.
From split-second snap reactions, subconscious thoughts and much more about how the mind and thinking really occurs, Blink explains the science in Gladwell’s enticing storytelling style behind instances in time that flash before our eyes.
Blink sheds remarkable insight and cutting-edge science on the workings of the brain: quiet and subliminal processes that we don’t ordinary notice and often take completely for granted.
Simply put, Blink is an excellent book for helping to understand the powerful workings of the human brain.
5. The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World by the Dalai Lama and Dr. Howard Cutler
The long-awaited sequel to The Art of Happiness, almost two decades later comes The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World, which even more deeply explores the question of finding happiness amid all of the global conflicts, wars and pain that greeted the 21st century.
Unlike the first book in the series, The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World comes after the dawn of the “Positive Psychology” school of thought that has swept the scientific world since the mid-1990s.
The sequel is written with brand new, cutting-edge science and fresh perspectives that wildly reinforce many previous beliefs about the healthy effects of happiness, developing inner resiliency with positive emotions, and how to re-create senses of community in our neighborhoods and cities that will help cure some of the world’s many ailments.
If you want your mind blown in remarkable ways, check out one of my all- time favorite books, The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World!
6. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Walden is one of Henry David Thoreau’s most popular works. I’ve made a point to get out to Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts several times to read, write and hike — what a gorgeous and inspiring place!
In Thoreau’s own words,
“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die Discover that I had not lived.”
7. Inspiration: Your Ultimate Calling by Dr. Wayne Dyer
Wayne Dyer is a best-selling author of some 28 books and an incredible spiritual teacher. Inspiration is one of his more recent works, and it resonated strongly with me. I received Inspirationon audiobook as a gift, and it was lovely to listen to in my car.
Dyer teaches you how to live “in spirit” and how to live in harmony with everyone and everything. In Inspiration, he speaks from many personal experiences, especially on being a parent, which adds rich layers of very unique lessons that make you feel like Dyer is really speaking to you, personally.
8. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist is a globally-renowned novel by best-selling author Paulo Coelho.
This simple tale is powerful in its advocacy of pursuing dreams and fulfilling one’s calling in life. The writing is gorgeous and fluid, and its messages are noble. I’d highly recommend this for a needed boost in inspiration and motivation, any day!
9. ChiRunning by Danny Dreyer
As I’ve mentioned recently in a previous blog post, ChiRunning is school of practice for distance runners that incorporates the principles of T’ai Chi into stronger, healthier running form.
Never much of a runner, I gave ChiRunning a whirl, especially for my admiration of T’ai Chi.
I found the application of several simple principles in ChiRunning to vastly improve my form and my mental mindset when running — I now enjoy running, and run upwards of three or four times a week with no pain whatsoever.
10. Ordinary Men by Christopher M. Browning
Out of this book list, Ordinary Men is a far different, much darker and more disturbing one: a factual recount of the atrocities of the Jewish Holocaust during World War II.
It is, however, an important and mind-blowing book for its vital analysis of how “ordinary men” — regular human beings — were responsible for the Nazi atrocities and mass murders we are today so familiar with.
Ordinary Men sheds light on the psychological aspects of indifference and “following orders” and reveals how regular people are capable of absolute horrors — it’s an important, albeit sobering story of a human reality that we need to always remember.
11. Essays and Poems by Ralph Waldo Emerson
I feel a special connection to the life and writing of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
As one of the foremost early American writers and transcendentalists, an advocate of individualism and nonconformity, and a major proponent of self-reliance — a major cornerstone of my own philosophical growth and happiness.
This connection of essays and poems of Emerson’s will give you a deep understanding of his life and perspectives, and since you don’t need to read them in any chronological order you’ll be able to bounce around in the book to find your favorites.
12. The Life You Were Born to Live by Dan Millman
The Life You Were Born to Live presents Dan Millman’s decades’ old Life-Purpose System, which he describes as a modern method of finding new meaning in life based upon perceived weaknesses, birth date, and personality traits to guide you toward a more purposeful direction.
The Life You Were Born to Live inspired my own growth and understanding of my personal weaknesses and inspired a post on DaveUrsillo.com called X’s On The Map: How to Find and Unearth Our Spiritual Gold
13. Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom
Tuesdays With Morrie, the surprise best-seller by sports columnist and reporter Mitch Albom, is a very moving, humbling and powerful book.
Recounting the real-life experience between Albom and and old friend who was facing his own mortality, Tuesdays With Morrie offers a wonderful perspective on life, emphases the importance of genuine human relationships and reminds you not to take anything — especially your health — for granted.
14. Excuses Begone! by Dr. Wayne Dyer
What excuses are holding you back in life, from pursuing your dreams and achieving your goals? And more importantly, how to you escape and overturn your excuses? And how does your Ego affect these behaviors?
Wayne Dyer’s latest book Excuses Begone! is perhaps his most personal, light-hearted, and fun.
I don’t consider myself a big “excuse-maker,” but Excuses Begone! — which I listened to on audio book after, actually, randomly catching a PBS presentation on the new book — really helped me overturn some unhealthy, quiet and habituated patterns of thought about things like making money, achieving goals and more.
15. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by James Collins and Jerry Porras
Build to Last is a revolutionary business book that examines the commonly shared traits between some of the most well-known, successful and visionary companies in recent history like Sony, Ford and more.
Surprisingly, these companies share the same foundations of success: build upon lasting values, strong and healthy internal cultures, competitive spirits that nurture dissent and conflicting opinions, and more.
Although I read Build to Last for a Masters course, I found it extremely applicable to personal leadership and my Lead Without Followers philosophy!