Top 23 Books to Spark Your Life
Anyone who knows me — or, thanks to my wife, has seen my color-coordinated personal library via Zoom — knows that I love books. I like the ability to download books from Kindle and Apple’s iBookstore. However, I’m old school and love hardcover books with carefully designed book covers.
Reading is so important in acquiring knowledge. The older I become, the more I realize what I don’t know, and I make it an imperative to read on a daily basis. I am not asking you to give me a badge or trophy for reading. I want to encourage you to challenge those in your sphere of influence to read.
According to the Barbara Bush Foundation, here in the United States of America, 130 million adults struggle to read basic sentences – which makes it difficult or impossible to navigate everyday life. In fact, they’ve found that 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. struggle to read basic sentences. If literacy skills increase by just 1 percent, there’s a $240 billion potential boost in the U.S. economy.
Okay, I know you get the point. I’ve curated a list of books that I’ve read over the last year that challenged me. I still continue to refer to them. Here are my favorites, which are a mix of personal development, leadership and business acumen, trauma, and sleep. Please share your feedback on any of them. I would love to know what you are reading as well.
Influence Is Your Superpower: The Science of Winning Hearts, Sparking Change, and Making Good Things Happen, by Zoe Chance
I first met Dr. Chance at an association event where she was the featured speaker. Needless to say, this Yale assistant professor was riveting to listen to. When you pick up her book it will not disappoint. My biggest takeaways were understanding deep listening and her “Life-Changing Magic of a Simple Frame.” It’s narrated by her, and if you love audio books, you will enjoy the warmth in her voice.
Win When They Say You Won’t: Break Through Barriers and Keep Leveling Up Your Success, by Daphne E. Jones
I love this book for so many reasons. First of all, Daphne is brilliant! She has 30-plus years of experience in general management and senior executive-level roles at IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Hospira, and General Electric. Currently, she serves on three major Fortune 500 boards. This is the book that I wish I had read years ago when I was climbing the ladder at Disney. Her EDIT (Envision, Design, Iterate, and Transform) methodology is a simple framework that can be applied to your personal or professional life.
The Adventures of a Real-Life Cable Guy, by Dan Armstrong
We were introduced at a mastermind event that was organized by our mutual friend – Kyle Wilson. This is an incredible story of honesty, hard work, and humility, along with lessons that you can apply wherever you are in life.
The Power of One More: The Ultimate Guide to Happiness and Success, by Ed Mylett
I listened to this book two times on my morning walks. I ordered copies for our entire family and told them that I would pay them to read it. This book is simple, with actionable takeaways. His insight into the movie The Matrix will shift your thinking in how you see yourself.
The Prepared Leader: Emerge from Any Crisis More Resilient Than Before, Erika H. James & Lynn Perry Wooten
I love this book for so many reasons. First of all, Erika H. James is dean of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and the first Black person to lead the business school. Lynn Perry Wooten is president of Simmons University, an institution with a rich tradition of empowering women-centered leaders and social-justice champions.
This book is a roadmap on how to be an effective leader in a hyper-connected world. It encapsulates more than two decades of the authors’ research to convey how it has positioned them to navigate through the distinct challenges of today and tomorrow. Their insights have implications for every leader in every industry and every worker at every level.
Greenlights, by Matthew McConaughey
Get this book via Audible or Spotify. It’s as if he pulls up a seat next to you with a bucket of warm buttery popcorn and tells you his life story. You will have an entire new respect for his depth, transparency, gut honesty, humor, and teachable moments.
How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, by Katy Milkman
I was writing a new book and my editor suggested that I read Katy’s book. WOW… I am so glad that he did. The research is mind blowing. As a professor at The Wharton School of Business, she demystifies how to think about change through a fresh lens.
The Psychology of Winner: Ten Qualities of a Total Winner, by Dr. Denis Waitley
This is a classic book by one of the fathers of the personal development/personal achievement movement. Dr. Waitley is almost 90 years of age and when you sit with him, his mind is as sharp as a brand-new knife. This is one book that you will want to reference for the rest of your life.
You’ve Been Chosen: Thriving Through the Unexpected, by Cynt Marshall
If you’ve watched Shark Tank, then you know that Mark Cuban is very selective about the investments he makes. Well, one of his best investments was hiring Cynt Marshall to be CEO of the Dallas Mavericks. She is the first Black female in the history of the National Basketball Association. She teaches powerful lessons on how to search for peace, avoid distractions, and what to do when life doesn’t follow the plan.
Adrift: America in 100 Charts, by Scott Galloway
I have a confession to make. I binge listen to Pivot, a podcast that Scott cohosts with Kara Swisher. I do not agree with some of their worldviews, nevertheless I walk away with a better understanding of domestic and global issues. Scott is a kind human being who is wicked smart, and reading this book is a must. The research is simple, straightforward, and staggering.
32 Ways to Be a Champion in Business, by Earvin “Magic” Johnson
This book is one of my favorites. Magic Johnson was a beast on the court. However, off the court, he has taken the game of business into a new stratosphere. Go inside the mind of a legend and understand how to win at life and business.
Walt’s Apprentice: Keeping the Disney Dream Alive, by Dick Nunis
As a former cast member, I love this book for obvious reasons. There are many books written about Disney. This one really captures the mind of Walt from someone who worked directly for him. The wisdom, wit, and real-world applications are timely in light of Disney’s continual evolution.
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, by James Clear
A friend suggested this book. I am so glad they did. I had to relisten to the first chapter three times. It was that rich and really invited me to think differently. I know you will enjoy it as well.
The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture, by Gabor Mate, MD, and Daniel Mate
My dear friend Dan Valha invited me to attend a Global Exchange Event where the opening speaker was Dr. Mate. I was blown away and had to get his book right away. This book has helped me understand some of the trauma in my past life. If you know anyone who wants to put the pieces of the puzzle of their life together, then I highly recommend this book.
Blind Spot: The Global Rise of Unhappiness and How Leaders Missed It, by Jon Clifton, CEO of Gallup
In 2006, Gallup began conducting global research on subjective well-being (happiness). After 15 years of tracking, the number of people living their best lives has more than doubled, while the number of people living their worst lives has more than quadrupled. They state that leaders are not familiar with the growing divide between the haves and have-nots of a great life. This is called well-being inequality.
The Six Conversations: Pathways to Connecting in an Age of Isolation and Incivility, by Heather Holleman
I stumbled upon this book while listening to a podcast. Needless to say, I downloaded the book right away. The foreword is written by Gary Chapman (The 5 Love Languages) and this book has already influenced how I start conversations, listen during conversations, and gave me the best questions to ask during a conversation. Communication is everything, and this book will stretch you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
The Gap and The Gain: The High Achievers’ Guide to Happiness, Confidence, and Success, by Dan Sullivan, with Dr. Benjamin Hardy
I had several friends tell me about this book. It’s a game-changer. One of my biggest takeaways is how to train your brain to see GAINS and how to always measure backwards. I know a book is really good when I have to slow down and reread or relisten to what is resonating with me in that moment. That becomes the key takeaway from the book.
Leading with Kindness: How Good People Consistently Get Superior Results, by William F. Baker and Michael O’Malley
The editor for a new book that I am writing suggested that I pick up a copy of this book. I fell in love with the research and rigor that was applied to this virtuous topic, which can at best feel light and doesn’t fit into business at all. One of the key sections is that kindness is not about likability. Nor is kindness weakness. This book identifies six ingredients of kindness – compassion, integrity, gratitude, authenticity, humility, and humor – none of which might readily spring to mind when envisioning the archetypal business leader.
Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, by Matthew Walker
One of my greatest challenges over the last few years is sleeping more than 4-5 hours per night. If you struggle with sleep, then I suggest this book. After understanding the science and importance behind sleep, I started averaging about 6 hours of sleep at least three nights per week. My goal is graduate to 7 hours for at least four nights per week.
White Fright: The Sexual Panic at the Heart of America’s Racist History, by Jane Dailey
First of all, please note that Jane is an associate professor of American history in the history department and at the Law School at the University of Chicago. Her undergrad degree is from Yale University and she has a PhD from Princeton University. I stumbled upon this book while at Barnes & Noble. I was stunned by her research and analysis.
What the 1% Know: How Everyday People Use Real Estate to Build Wealth, by Robert Sayre
Another friend of mine suggested this book and I read it in one setting. Powerful and actionable.
Cash Uncomplicated: A New Mindset to Building Wealth, by Aaron Nannini
Aaron is the real deal. He teaches why you shouldn’t compare yourself to the Joneses, because the Joneses might be broke. He breaks down so much in this book, which will simplify how you think about money in a fresh way.
Vibrate Higher Daily: Live Your Power, by Lalah Delia
This book is profound and powerful. She says, “We become conduits by using our light, voice, and unique gifts to channel empowering healing energies that counterbalance the ways the world is being misled, wounded, emotionally triggered, torn apart, and underserved.” I have highlighted this book, dogged pages, and continue to reference it. Thank you, Kyle Wilson, for giving me this book as a gift. WOW…it truly spoke to the core of my soul.
I know I said 23 books. However, I had to give you just two more…
Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why it Matters, and What to Do About It, byRichard V. Reeves
This book stopped me in my tracks. I downloaded it from audible and have listened to it three times. Please do yourself a favor and make this book a part of your book club right away. His research is spot on and his recommendations are very timely. I’ve heard about the crisis that is happening with men around the world. After listening to this book, it clicked. As a father, son, brother, cousin, and nephew, I will have to step up even more.
Ignite the Power of Women in Your Life – A Guide for Men
I know what you are thinking. Women don’t need their power ignited. However, they do need men to respect them. Men, there are things I want you to know, and I took the liberty to say it for you. Women, there are things that men are dealing with silently that they don’t say to you. So I decided to take one for the team and say what’s uncomfortable and true. There’s a six-week e-course based on a book for individuals and businesses.
Ok, that’s all for now.