The Raddest Reading List of All Time

Which book had a transformative impact on your life?

“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none, zero.” Charlie Munger

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The Rad Reads community is one groovy bunch. And we are blessed that they came together to crowdsource this amazing list of “transformative” books with a brief snippet describing its importance. (The bulleted list can be found here.)


Philosophy, Spirituality and Theology

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius — Indispensable to those who are doing stuff that matters, the Meditations teaches you how become anti-fragile by turning life into an experiential practiced art (direct from Rome’s greatest emperor-philosophers). (via Radhika Dirks)

Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle — It is the best place to begin an inquiry into what is a good life (not the good life). (via Janet Lee)

Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche— Reading Nietzsche as a 17 year old linebacker in Texas opened my eyes to the depth of philosophical thinking and transformed the rest of my life as I’ve now been driven by the passion of this pursuit for the next twenty years of my life. (via David Aron Levine)

Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche — This book will change your perspective on how you view human behavior as a whole as Nietzsche explains it succinctly as one’s will to power is the driver of all of one’s actions. (via Joe McCann)

Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton— Actually a single chapter “The Ethics of Elfland” — you should read this to remember what you are forgetting — what a magical fairytale world we live in. (via Maxwell Anderson)

What is Literature? by Jean Paul Sartre — This book changed how I understood communication and the role of language and rhetoric in society: constructing a message that is purposeful even while criticizing one’s own purposes, holding them to a high standard of relevance and meaning (political, social), understanding a communicator as a curator of words the space between which his reader/audience occupies like a field of magnetic energy between two poles, making effective communication the responsibility of the communicator, reminding us that telling unhappy stories is about shining light into the darkest corners of our selves and societies which is the only way either one can improve or grow. (via Philip Simon)

Walden by Henry David Thoreau — I read Walden when I was in 8th grade and I have always been struck by the clarity of its message, Thoreau’s uncompromising philosophy, his rejection of materialism, his ability to fight the herd and his individualism. (via Joseph Kusnan)

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell — A book I always return to in one way or another and Rad Readers should read it because it delineates the threads that connect us all: the threads of stories and the psychology of wanting to surmount the primal challenge of knowing oneself. (via Shana Mandel)

The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alain Watts — Hard for me to do a one liner about this, it’s a book whose argument unfolds as you read and changes your concept of existence. The concept of time and what actually exists totally blew my mind. (via Grant Harrell)

Love, Freedom, and Aloneness by Osho — The book is filled with wisdom and light, and it is an uncommon look at common yet under-discussed topics. (via Ryan Cahill)

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl — Frankl suffered through tragedy and horrible circumstances most of us can’t even fathom but persevered in a remarkable way and brilliantly explains that “man’s search for meaning may arouse inner tension rather than inner equilibrium…but precisely such tension is an indispensable prerequisite of mental health.” (via Sunil Arora)

How Proust can Change your Life by Alain de Botton — Through his writing, De Botton is able to express things that I am often thinking and feeling, but in ways that I couldn’t have articulated myself (certainly not as well as he could!). (via Josh Cherney)

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn— Here’s a book that tackles issues of modernity, religion, sustainability, and ethics, in a dialogue between an 800 pound telepathic gorilla and a deadbeat writer; it’s the book version of those profound all-nighter conversations you have as a freshman in college, which is to say, it isn’t for everyone. (via Dhruv Chopra)

The Dynamics of Faith by Paul Tillich— Tillich introduced me to the powerful concepts of ultimate concern and existential doubt. He wrote, “Where there is daring and courage, their is the possibility of failure. And in every act of faith this possibility is present. The risk must be taken.” Continues to resonate, inspire, and guide me as I grow, evolve and ask myself — “What is my ultimate concern?” (via Vincent Benjamin)

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle — This book dissolves angst and suffering by addressing the root cause, the egoic mind. The transformative message is desperately needed in our world of too frequent mass shootings and increasing clashes of cultures. (via Jerry Peters)

The Power of Now (A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment) by Eckhart Tolle — It is helping me to understand how my ego works and to move into a higher altitude regarding things which happen in my life. (via Ludovic Huraux)

Understanding that we are not our mind (or in Musk language — we’re not our software.) (via Patricia Georgiu)

Biographies and Autobiographies

The Power Broker by Robert Caro — Seminal examination of how the desire for power drove one of modern history’s more interesting characters, as well as a thorough history of how today’s New York City came to be. (via Matt Prince)

It is a fascinating study of how, even with the best of intentions on developing your inner self (which we all strive for), the best and most authentic test of your inner strength, moral compass, and ethics is countering very real selfishness and subterfuge in the world. (via John Jonson)

The Billionaire Who Wasn’t: How Chuck Feeney Secretly Made and Gave Away a Fortune by Conor O’Clery — Born from a modest background and serving in the Korean War, he had the clairvoyance to identify consumer-related globalization trends and founded Duty Free Stores. After selling the company to LVMH he actively sought to give away all of his fortune in a secretive and inconspicuous manner, pioneering the Giving while Living approach to philanthropy adopted by many of today’s billionaires (Gates, Buffett, Zuckerberg). An inspiring tale that one can achieve extreme success while and have tremendous impact in the world in a manner completely free of ego. (via Khe Hy)

The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA by James Watson — This first-hand account of one of the greatest discoveries in history shows just how normal momentous events can be — and how its OK to go for a bike ride or go to a movie, even while wrestling with a world-changing concept — all of which provides a nice grounding for any entrepreneur. (via Jesse Argon)

Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman by Richard Feynman— One of the most incredible minds in the last hundred+ years.. great read too, with many life lessons imo. Brilliant teacher, simple life philosophy — the original ‘just do it’ (or in his specific words, ‘there was nothing to it!’), shown more in action than in words here. (via William Minshew)

The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert Caro. It is the most in depth and penetrating character study I have ever read. (via Ali Rahimtula)

The Diamond Cutter by Michael Roach — An autobiographical account of building a successful business from scratch using Buddhist principles. Presents the compelling argument that following such tenants not only benefits us all in the work place, but actually leads to greater fulfillment and prosperity. Roach is a slightly controversial figure in the Buddhist community but he did found a highly successful diamond business and is recognized as a a pioneer in helping Westerners understand the Buddhist belief system. (via Sarah Berner)

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel J. Brown — Puts rowing and team effort in a whole different dimension. A fast yet immersive read, with a great combination of history, story telling and sports. (via Edgar Nehme and Nate Kirk)

Personal Development and Self-Awareness

Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson — It’s like an owner’s manual for the ego. (via Adam Grant)

The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin — Unblemished insight on the power of learning and concentration from a truly self-actualised human being, former child chess prodigy turned martial art champion. (via Kajal Sanghrajka)

The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer — If you have a type-a, planner, doer, goal-setting, control-seeking personality, this is an interesting story about what happened to someone who completely let go and surrendered to life (while still working hard). (via Lindsay Beck)

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown — An awesome book that teaches how to lead authentically and why its worth the effort. Lessons in here made me a better friend, leader, son… inspired me to be a more courageous and wholehearted human being (via Brad Lande)

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie — My father gave me his copy of this book when I was 18 and the advice in it is just as relevant and important today as it was when he originally bought it 50 years ago. I plan on passing my Dad’s copy of this book to my son when he turns 18. (via Steven Swain)

Give and Take by Adam Grant — The hidden secret to success that is overlooked by all. (via Tam Pham)

Mastery by Robert Greene — Rad Readers share traits of curiosity and exploration: this book provides an instructive roadmap and historical context for the paths that we are all (un)knowingly following. (via Atul Joshi)

How Will you Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen — The book is about defining purpose and executing it in your life by applying easy to understand “theories” to work and personal life in a business context. (via Kim Trautmann)

Christensen is known for his famous research published in his book The Innovator’s Dilemma. I found his latest book to be a quick and light read at (~175 pages) and full of inspiration and wisdom for achieving a fulfilling life through the lens of business strategy theory. This is a very light read and a great one for those millennials just starting (or thinking of) starting a family. (via James Elbaor)

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dwerk — Because we want to encourage ourselves, our children and our friends/colleagues to embrace life as a journey of learning rather than focusing on short-term “success.” (via Antonia Bowring)

Getting More: How you can Negotiate to Succeed in Work and in Life by Stuart Diamond — It’s about how one can achieve more in every situation by applying the right principles and psychology. (via RsocialmediaJ)

Ten Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management by Hryum Smith — it helped me codify meaning and purpose in my life into actionable steps (via John Kim)

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg — I bought this book because I wanted to understand what formulates habit and addictions in people while I was trying to build the consumer app. However, the book changed the way I think about my behavior. I think the idea of the book is very basic but when put in a framework, it makes sense: The clue -> the reward -> the routine. So now when I am coding late at night and I crave that sugar cookie, at least I understand that it is not hunger but it is the habit. (via Mohamed AlTantawy)

The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz — This book has shaped my thinking about how energy management more than time management is the currency to success and productivity. (via Rich Woo)

Linchpin: Are you Indispensable by Seth Godin — As “salesy” as that guy is, I love the message of that book. Belief in individual ability over any institutional structure. Pursuit of creativity in any line of work. (via Gerald Lam)

Business, Finance (and politics)

Small is Beautiful, E.F. Schumacher — Using elegant examples and combining accessible, breezy language with technical and economic sophistication (its subtitle is “Economics as if People Mattered”) Schumacher tackles the endo-structure of assumptions about where we situate power and decision-making in society, preaching a return to decentralized, community-driven governance, economic production and regulation, and constructively criticizing (that is, he shows concrete alternative approaches to) the “scale at all costs” approach to economics/capital and government by bringing attention to that approach’s environmental, psychic, spiritual, and social consequences. (via Philip Simon)

The Money Masters and Midas Touch by John Train — I read both around the same time. It opened my eyes to the world of investing and the idea that there were many different paths towards great and successful investing. These guys were my early heroes (I know, it’s sad) and I am amazed at what giants they all were, all self-made. (via Joseph Kusnan)

Nudge: Improving Decisions around Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard Thaler — An intersection of behavioral economics and public policy that identifies seemingly small policy changes with broad appeal across political ideology that can have a huge collective impact. (via Jason M)

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell — While many view outliers as the book that taught them the 10,000 rule, I believe it is the book that single handedly taught me how much of life was based on circumstance (when you were born, where you were born, what school your parents put you in (e.g. Bill Gates when to the second high school with a computer). (via Savneet Singh)

Time for Outrage: Indignez-Vous! by Stéphane Hessel — It’s a very short read but impactful and the self explanatory title. I’ve heard it’s a better read in French (but I can’t read French).

Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull — Good for anyone who has an entrepreneurial spirit, and cares about their workplace and unconventional leadership. (via Nate Kirk)

How to Fly a Horse by Kevin Ashton — inspiring book about creation as a 10,000 hour exercise, with a plethora of examples from throughout history (a thorough debunking of the ‘creativity as stroke of genius’ mindset which plagues humanity). As Mark Twain once said, “The bulk of all human utterances is plagiarism” (which, of course, applies to creation of ideas and not just words!) (via William Minshew)

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries — As an engineer I used to care very much about the details and if I am creating something it has to be perfect. When I started working on Agolo, it was clear to me that I should be leaner, faster and break things and the book helped a lot in that. (via Mohamed Altatwani)

Zero to One by Peter Thiel — While it’s not a definitive guide to success, it definitely helped me think through aspects and foundations of my business, ultimately giving me the clarity that it was time to take a step back and explore other options professionally. 0–1 is a very solid framework when creating a new company, and its offers serious a gut check to know if you’re in the right place in your existing business.


Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon— Pynchon’s preoccupation with the power structures that produce (and sustain, and profit from) technology, the introduction of a new or innovative storytelling technique every few pages — sneaking up on you unannounced, trusting you to be changed by the technique and so confident you will be — , his reflex for social justice, and the ambition to explain and engage all of western history through this lens continues to reverberate in my analyses about and relationship with the world. I return to his formulations often in my daily life. I have never looked at (or used) my native tongue the same way after reading this book, and I feel an intense pang of love anytime I invoke its name. (via Philip Simon)

If by Rudyard Kipling— Simply, I find it offers advice as to how to handle even difficult moments in life. Patience, Intellectual Honesty, Dealing With Loss (and gain), Golden Rule, Humility, etc. (via Eric Nelson)

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald — Illuminates some basic messages of life — its vicissitudes and capricious nature, the unrelenting march of time and change and the fact that the best times of your life can be cherished, but you cannot go back to them. As Nick Caraway says “You can’t repeat the past.” (via Paul Manley)

The Mandarins by Simone de Beauvoir — The themes of feminism, personal responsibility and existentialism are all ones close to my heart and she explores them in a fascinatingly personal way (the main characters are said to be autobiographical of herself, her longtime lover Sartre and Camus) it is a deeply serious book and I love it for that. (via Lexy Horowitz-Burdick)

Before the Law (parable to the Trial) by Franz Kafka — What has unfolded for me in the past weeks is the actual experience of this parable. To actually feel a gate disappear because you simply don’t see it anymore. And in that the knowing that when we evolve, and that we can evolve, limitation disappears through expanded awareness not ignorance or denial. And with this newness, suddenly, the gift of aging, and the presence in forgetting revealed. So fun. (via Elana Langer)

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card — The book touches upon tactical strategy, politics in big organizations, is the 2nd most recommended book by the military and I think the most entertaining book among the science fiction canon. (via Nikhil Kalghatgi)

Submission by Michel Houellebecq— Paris, 2022: the Muslim brotherhood wins the French presidential elections.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand — Like a shot of endorphins that allows you feel for the first time, the book crystalizes what it means to live a life that is pure to your intentions and in line with your motivations- be true to who you are, live your life, and live it to the best of your abilities; there is limited capacity for those without those values. (via Michael Zapata)

Life of Pi by Yann Martel— Religion defined in the 21st Century (via roger)

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho — I have given this book to loved ones going through a tough time and it has provided them with tremendous peace of mind and clarity. (via Sarah Berner)

Honorable Mentions

On the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks

Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow

Out of My Later Years by Albert Einstein

Personal History by Katharine Graham

America and the World Revolution by Arnold Toynbee

The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Joseph Haidt

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