Heartfelt Book Recommendations from Top Influencers and Visionaries

What was the last book you read that shook up your insides like a Mike Tyson uppercut to the midsection?

Every so often that one book comes along that speaks to you and rattles your soul. How can we continue to seek out and find the books that invigorate us?

Many book reviews are useless. Does it really matter what customer “bobo697” has to say in the customer review section on Amazon? Who is “bobo697” anyway?

I seek out book recommendations from the people who have made a dent in this universe of ours and continue to inspire and influence others while positively impacting society.

It’s not enough to just simply learn what’s on the bookshelves of the people that inspire us. Look for the book recommendations that go much deeper.

Tell me the reasons why the book impacted you the way it did. Tell me how the book changed your life. Tell me why the book was the single most inspiration behind the cause you started. Salman Khan for example, one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world, tells me why he credits four science fiction books, instead of his MIT and Harvard degrees, as planting the seed that sprouted the creation of a non-profit learning academy that provides a free, world class education to millions of people around the world.

The following influencers give us a taste of compelling, life altering and game changing book recommendations

Derek Sivers is an American entrepreneur, writer, programmer and founder of CD Baby, MuckWork and Wood Egg. Sivers has a full list of book recommendations and reviews over at

Sivers writes about two of his favorite books:

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what “Resistance” is. This book is about that. Read it.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

The opposite of every other book. Don’t try. Give up. Be wrong. Lower your standards. Stop believing in yourself. Follow the pain. And oh yeah, kill yourself. Each point is profoundly true, useful, and more powerful than the usual positivity. Succinct but surprisingly deep, I read it in one night, then read it again a month later.

Another shout-out for the The War of Art was given by the brilliant marketer, philosopher, author and entrepreneur, Seth Godin, who was quoted in Tools of Titans:

The War of Art is one of those books, at least for me when I finally was exposed to it, I said, ‘Why wasn’t I informed? Why did it take this long for this book to land on my desk? You need to be clear with yourself about what you are afraid of, why you are afraid, and whether you care enough to dance with that fear because it will never go away.

Peter Diamandis, international innovator and New York Times bestselling author who was named one of the world’s 50 greatest leaders by Fortune magazine, writes how his best ideas came from reading the following three books:

Three books have inspired me to take my moonshots and to try extraordinary things.

  1. The Man Who Sold The Moon by Robert Heinlein inspired Diamandis to start the Google Lunar XPRIZE and Planetary Resources.
  2. The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil was the inspiration behind the creation of Singularity University.
  3. The Spirit of St. Louis by Charles Lindbergh propelled Diamandis to launch the $10M Ansari XPRIZE.

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, describes the perfect novel:

The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Before reading it, I didn’t think a perfect novel was possible. I’m always interested in things that seem to be impossible but are then achieved. Like when you got to see the Cirque du Soleil. It seems it should be impossible for human bodies to do such things, yet they do them elegantly and beautifully and seemingly effortlessly. Or when you watch a master juggler doing things with a ball that you could have sworn were against the laws of physics if you hadn’t seen them with your own eyes. I am entranced by that: the idea of the impossible achieved.

Guy Kawasaki, the marketing genius who propelled Apple into superstardom with the marketing of the Macintosh computer in 1984, describes the one book that is a must read for everyone:

There are some books that are “must reads” for entrepreneurs; some for marketers; some for salespeople; and some for programmers. And then there are a handful that everyone should read. IMHO, one such book is Influence–Science and Practice by Dr. Robert Cialdini.

The following book recommendations were taken from Tim Ferriss’ latest encyclopedia of awesomeness Tools of Titans

Chris Young left his scientific doctoral work behind to become a chef in Seattle. The chef-scientist and co-founder of the online culinary school, Chefsteps, describes The Second Law by P.W. Atkins:

Book is just phenomenal, casual, infographic-laden read on how the world works from an energy perspective. I found it so incredibly useful in trying to understand how to do something, how to make something work, whether something’s even possible. It’s frequently my bullshit detector.

B.J. Novak, that dude from The Office who also happens to be a successful comedian, screenwriter, author and director, speaks highly about the The Oxford Book of Aphorisms by John Gross:

It contains the most brilliant one-liners in history. You can spend hours on a page, or you can just flip through it.

Cal Fussman, New York Times bestselling author, details why he gifts Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez to writers:

If you’ve never written a book and you’re going to tell somebody you want to write a great book, all right. Read this and know what a great book is.

Amanda Palmer, famous singer-songwriter and author of The Art of Asking (also an inspirational TED talk viewed more than 8 million times), talks about one of her favorite books:

One of my absolute favorite books of all time, because it changed my life, is a book called Dropping Ashes on the Buddha. I have given that book to probably 30 or 40 people, especially people who have told me that they are feeling kind of lost and /or depressed or directionless, or younger people who are at crazy crossroads in their life and need something to hang onto.

Additional book recommendations

Learn about the books that helped shape the careers of Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and Dropbox founder Drew Houston:
6 Books that Influenced Twitter Co-founder and Square CEO
6 Powerful Business Books that Schooled Dropbox’s Drew Houston on Startups

The book recommendations listed were given from visionaries who are pioneers in their given field. We learned how each book had a profound impact on the lives of each influencer. Learning what’s on the bookshelves of the people who influence and inspire us the most is another powerful resource we can add to our utility belt of knowledge to empower the mind.

What was the last book you read that transformed your mind and rocked your world?

Image by Transformer18

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