I was cleaning up my email inbox one day and stumbled on an email from one of my favourite authors, Ryan Holiday. Now, Ryan is a voracious reader and can read 3-5 books a week if he wants to. And in this email he mentions “quake reading”. Here’s how Ryan defines quake reading:
My reading was much different when I was younger. I would more likely intensively engage with some important book totally full of new ideas. Hayek. Parfit. Plato. And so on. There just aren’t books like that left for me anymore. So I read many more, to learn bits, but haven’t in years experienced a “view quake.” That is sad, to me at least, but I don’t know how to avoid how that has turned out. So enjoy your best reading years while you can!
An important note: These books were quake books for me because they were the right books at the right time. So here’s what to do: Pick a book out that interests you or that you think speaks to a thorny problem you’re facing right now, get the book and read it – you never know how it might change your life.
Here’s the list, organized into fun categories:
How I Got Started with Personal Development
My mom bought me The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, Sean Covey (the teen counterpart to Stephen Covey’s book) when I was like 10, way before I was a teen. This book taught me so much about being proactive about my life, about having goals and about how to listen to people. It made such an impact me that I even wrote a poem about back in the sixth grade. (The poem sucked though.)
Do Hard Things, Alex and Brett Harris pushed me to do uncomfortable tasks as a teenager. It taught me to expect more from myself than just keeping my room clean and doing my homework. This book led me to learning university-level calculus at 16, continuing my swimming career when I didn’t feel like it and reading big books that expanded my mind.
How to Crush Each Life Stage (Before You Even Get to Them)
How to Become a Straight A Student, So Good They Can’t Ignore You and Deep Work, all by Cal Newport have got to be some of the most influential books on my, by far. The first one systematized my studying and, yes, I did get straight A’s after applying what I read. So Good and Deep Work go hand-in-hand: The former debunks the myth that to be love your job, all you have to do is “find your passion”, and the latter shows you exactly what you should do to do work you love.
Mastery, Robert Greene was a great read as a precursor to Deep Work. It showed me a systematic way to become better at whatever work I choose to do – and how it’s the same method that has been passed on for generations.
The Art of Learning, Josh Waitzkin is an amazing book Tim Ferriss recommended. When I read it, it was like someone had jumped into my head and crystallized all my ideas on learning and how I worked into words. If you want to learn what it takes to become world-class at something, then this book is for you.
Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell showed me that I could be anything I wanted to be, as long as I was willing to put in the time and effort to do it. This book taught me to focus on the process and to enjoy the minute details of deliberate practice. These two lessons are invaluable to succeed in this competitive time where everyone tells you that you can’t do it unless you were born smart/athletic/brilliant.
How to Master the Mental Game
No Limits, Michael Phelps and Mind Gym helped push me past my mental failures and weaknesses as a competitive swimmer. Now, the mental lessons from these books transformed me from someone who was afraid of pain and failure to someone who embraces challenges and competition.
The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday served as my induction into Stoic philosophy. The lessons from this book helped me embrace hardship, while maintaining the positive outlook that I have today. I used to be afraid of obstacles because there was a possibility of failure. These days, I welcome challenges, as a way to test my mettle and become a stronger person.
Seth Godin’s little book The Dip reminded me that everything starts out easy and that I have to keep going when times get tough.
Ryan Holiday’s Ego is the Enemy taught me to never stay still when things are going my way.
How to Become A People-Person
How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie changed the way I interacted with people, just as The Charisma Myth, Olivia Fox Cabane became the catalyst for me to come into my own personality – and become comfortable in my own skin.
How I Figured out this Christian Thing
Seeing and Savouring Jesus Christ, John Piper was the first theological book I read. As someone who was born in a Christian family, I had taken Jesus Christ for granted up till that point. When I read this book, I gained a new appreciation for Jesus as God who became man.
Every Good Endeavour, Tim Keller clarified to me what the Bible teaches about work. This book formed the foundation for how I approach work these days – that no task is too menial or too dirty for me to do. The task must be done, all the same.
The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer was gifted to me by a friend. It’s a small, profound book that opened my eyes and my heart to what it really means to look for God and find Him.
Radical, David Platt was the book that literally pushed me out the door to tell others about the life-changing decision I’d made to follow Christ. If not for this book, I would totally have left out all the Christian books in this list because I would have been afraid of the backlash I’d get for talking about my faith.
Books That Don’t Fit in Any of the other Categories
Rich Dad Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki is on this list, not because it’s the best book I’d ever read, but because it was my first quake book ever. It opened my eyes to the world of entrepreneurship and passive income.
That’s quite a list and you don’t have to read every single thing I read. Again, the right book only becomes a quake book when it is read at the right time.
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