The 25 Best Books that Changed My Life



“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” — Oscar Wilde

I read a lot of books.

By a lot, let’s say about 5 or more per week.

I read both fiction and non-fiction.  I read fiction slowly, in general.  Non-fiction, I read fast, and with an intent to learn.

A colleague asked me the question, “What are 25 Books that I read that changed my life?”  He followed with, “What are 10 Books I plan to read?”

Here are my answers to that first question …

25 Books that Changed My Life

  1. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – This book taught me to invest in myself, to work backwards from the end in mind, grow my sphere of influence, and adopt an abundance mindset.    There is always a way to carve out a bigger playground for everyone and find the win win.
  2. Awaken the Giant Within – This book taught me that life is the sum and the synthesis of your decisions.  It also taught me to control my mental/physical/emotional state, adopt empowering beliefs and metaphors, and change my language to change my results.
  3. Blue Ocean Strategy – This book taught me to really pay attention to what people want that might be very different than what the current market offers.   I love the idea of swimming in the blue ocean with the dolphins vs. fighting with sharks in the red ocean.  The example of how  Cirque Du Soleil used adult acrobats to disrupt the idea of a traditional circus with animals is forever burned in my mind.
  4. Crucial Conversations – this book taught me to value how creating safety and a shared pool of meeting create the backbone for trust and collaboration.
  5. Eat for Health – This book really taught me to focus on nutritional density as a way to guide eating habits and practices.   By focusing on nutritional density I could use nutrition to fight disease and promote wellness from within.   As Hippocrates put it, “The greatest medicine of all is teaching peole how not to need it.”
  6. Feeling Good – This book taught me real world proven practices for mental health and how to raise my frustation tolerance to create a new baseline level for happiness and better mood management.
  7. Go Put Your Strengths to Work – This book taught me to spend more time in my strengths and less time in my weaknesses to operate at a higher level.  After all, no Olympic athlete reached their goals by focusing on their weaknesses.  They play to their strengths to discover their personal greatness.
  8. Influence without Authority  – This book taught me how to learn the other person’s currency, to connect at the values, and collaborate around shared goals.  It also taught me that it’s not about your position of authority, it’s your position in the other person’s mind that ultimately determines how influential you really are.
  9. Leadership on the Line – This book taught me a simple framework for understanding whether a problem is a technical problem or an adaptive challenge.  It also taught me that the single most common source of leadership failure is treating adaptive challenges like technical problems to be solved.
  10. Money: Master the Game – This book taught me a whole new frame for looking at the big picture of money over a lifetime.  Really it taught me a strong foundation in terms of the mindset, skillset, and toolset of money mastery and how to play the game.
  11. Oh, the Places You’ll Go – This book taught me to own my future.   It taught me to really explore what’s possible in this life and to enjoy the journey, too.
  12. Patterns of High-Performance – This book taught me that high performance is a very personal thing and that we all have our own ways of achieving it.  And it can be totally weird and quirky.   And the worst thing we can do is throw our personal performance pattern away in an effort to conform or fit in.   This book taught me that the most important thing you can do for your career is discover what your personal pattern is for high performance.
  13. Principle-Centered Leadership – This book taught me to think in terms of principles rather than to try to figure out a rule for everything.   Principles make it easier to guide behaviors because they uplevel the idea.
  14. Screw It Let’s Do It – This book taught me to take more risks and try more things and to grow my confidence.   It ultimately taught me how it’s easy to miss out on life by playing it safe, and that the surefire way to live a life of regret is to miss all the windows of opportunity along the way out of fear or indecision or lack of faith in yourself.
  15. The 80/20 Individual – This book taught me to figure out where the high value activities really are that drive the most important results and to do more of that.    It taught me to really pay attention to when I start to run into diminishing returns so that I could invest my time and energy on more fruitful gains.
  16. The 8th Habit – This book taught me to find my voice and help others find theirs.   It’s a powerful framework for transcending from personal effectiveness to personal greatness.  It taught me that your voice is the most powerful instrument on the planet, and it’s amazing what it’s capable of when your nurture and support it.
  17. The Dip – This book taught me to quit better.   My original philosophy was to stick things out, but the trick is to know which things are worth sticking with.   This book helped me learn what to stick with, and what to quit.   Knowing when to move on is actually a skill you can learn.
  18. The Leadership Challenge – This book taught me 5 key leadership behaviors: model, inspire, challenge, enable, and encourage.   Looking back, it really was the key book to help me see how leadership is a habit that anyone can grow if they invest in the habits.
  19. The Little Engine That Could – This book taught me to never give up, especially on yourself.    If you think you can, you can, and if you think you can’t, you cant.   It also taught me that persistence pays off, if for no other reason, than because you didn’t let yourself down.   Letting yourself down is a slipper slope to lost motivation and a lack of self-confidence, which create a basin of self-loath.
  20. The Power of Full Engagement – This book taught me to focus on energy as the ultimate measure of what’s worth spending time on.   It also taught me to practice my energy renewal rituals and to really dig deep to learn how to recharge my batteries.
  21. The Tao of Jeet Kune Do – This book really taught me to learn from everything and appreciate different perspectives to extract the parts that I can use and make them my own.  It also taught me how a personal quest and ambition for life can be the basis for incredible personal transformation and achievement and set a new bar.
  22. The War of Art – This book taught me that creativity needs discipline to fully unleash it and to fully realize your potential.   It also taught me the power of showing up and trying, and don’t wait for lightning to strike.
  23. Unlimited Power – This book taught me the most advanced framework I know for deep personal development and inner engineering.   I’ve never seen a more actionable and insightful framework that explains how to leverage your nervous system to help you achieve your goals and realize your full potential and shatter limiting beliefs and limiting patterns.   It’s in a league of its own.
  24. Work from the Inside Out –  This book taught me how to figure out what you really want by going through a deep process of self-discovery.   It’s also a sharp reminder how wherever you go you bring yourself with you.
  25. Your Road Map for Success – This book taught me what personal success really means, how to dream big, how to adopt the right attitude, how to create better goals, and how to learn and grow while facing fear and failure along the way.

Happy reading and may the wisdom of the ages help you do great things in this life time.

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  1. Great lists! We’re on the same page—so to speak—re: many of the life changers. I’d have to add Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman as well as The Charge by Brendon Burchard—both of which I read about here at Sources of Insight:
    But most of all, J.D., it’s your very own Getting Results the Agile Way that’s been the big game changer for me:
    Thank you!!!

    • Great adds … Peaceful Warrior is truly an epic classic for mindful change.

      The Charge is also a great reminder to live, to love, and to matter with all your heart, and to do what makes you come alive.

      I live the Agile Way, and I think you were a big part of helping the book hit higher notes.

      Thank you,


  2. Fabulous list – many are life changers for me too. Agree with Jimmy May that “Getting Results the Agile Way” would be on my list of top 25 life changers for me.

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