Looking for the next good read? Here are some books that are not only a good read, but will be helpful in navigating this sprawling, lovely mess called life. Everything here is either scientifically validated, based on non-magical time-tested ideas, or expert insight.
The Effective Executive
The Effective Executive is most certainly a business book. But it also happens to be the best book out there on the vague but essential concept of “getting your act together.”
Managing your time. Knowing what’s important. Setting priorities. Being productive. Learning to focus. Making good decisions. These are skills usually associated with a career but each one of them is also critical when it comes to family, relationships and just having a good life.
I put this book first deliberately. Getting your act together is another one of those things everyone praises and nobody explains how to actually do. Read this book first and you might actually get around to reading the other books before you’re distracted by something shiny.
Everyone says “timing is everything,” but they sure don’t act like it.
Dan Pink has crafted a very enjoyable read, but it’s also a reference book of sorts you’ll come back to as different situations arise. It’s loaded with information on the best time to do almost anything — when during the day is the best time to get work done, but also when in your life is the best time to get hitched.
Bookstores have an entire “how to” section but not a “when to” section. This book covers a very important topic that few others ever touch. If “timing is everything,” then this book is essential reading.
ACT Made Simple
What didn’t high school teach me? How to deal with troublesome thoughts and feelings. Few people would say that emotional health is unimportant. Yet school doesn’t teach it and there is no mental equivalent of an annual physical. Got problems in your head? Well, if it gets really, really serious you can pay through the nose for therapy. Short of that, tough noogies.
ACT is a scientifically-validated mindfulness technique and this workbook makes it something anyone can learn to use on their own.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
This book is one of the most accessible ways to learn about some of the core (non-religious) takeaways from Buddhism. If you want the lowdown on some ancient ideas about how to live a good life, presented in a fun, conversational tone, this is the book.
The CBT Toolbox
If ACT and mindfulness can teach you a more effective overall system for handling troublesome thoughts and feelings, CBT is a more tactical weapon for dealing with specific psychological issues like fears, anxieties, depression, or stress.
Again, these are problems we all struggle with, but we’re never taught an effective method for coping with them. Productivity and relationship advice isn’t very useful if you struggle to get out of bed in the morning due to worry or sadness.
Derived from work by the ancient Stoics, CBT is the most scientifically-validated form of psychological treatment available. This workbook is step-by-step, easy to use and presented in a simple, straightforward format.
The Obstacle is the Way
Some people are going to say, “You should have just recommended Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.” No, actually. No, I shouldn’t have. Meditation was a notebook Aurelius kept for himself and was never really meant to be read by others. And it reads like it wasn’t. While it’s filled with brilliant insights, it’s not the best overall introduction to Stoicism for modern readers unfamiliar with the central tenets of the philosophy. This is.
Triumphs of Experience
What makes a good life? Most people would just speculate, cite one-off examples, perhaps reference a personal religious doctrine — or just shrug. But shouldn’t we have at least some scientific answers to this question by now?
Actually, we do.
The Grant Study has followed a group of men for their entire adult lives. It has tracked them for over 75 years. What factors make for a good life? How does personality, marriage, children, career, friends, and lifestyle contribute to fulfillment over the course of decades?
Most studies last weeks or months. The Grant Study is still going on. It’s one of the most illuminating glimpses into what makes life meaningful.