all-time favorite books

ongoing list organized by genre for quick browsing


Overview

A developing collection of books which have most inspired me and a brief reason why. Feel free to skim the whole page or just pick your favorite genre:

I hope this list evolves and expands often! Help the cause by making a suggestion; I’d love to hear from you.


 

Coffee Table

One Year on a Bike
by Martijn Doolard
A journey from Amsterdam to Singapore with captivating photographs and journal entries. Reading this reminded me of the profound possibility and sense of serendipity in cross-continental cycling trips.

Creative Nature and Outdoor Photography
by Brenda Tharp
Stunning landscape imagery accompanied by fundamental photography techniques. This book provided easy access to expand my creative vision and motivate using my camera more often.

 

Ecology

Braiding Sweetgrass
by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Interweaving scientific and indigenous knowledge of nature with the goal of awakening a wider ecological consciousness. It prompted me to consider our reciprocal relationship with the world—and to cultivate ways I can give back.

 

Fiction

Dune
by Frank Herbert
An engrossing story of betrayal, conquest, and destiny. The imaginative intricacies of this book propelled my entry into fantasy novels. Denis Villeneuve's recent derivative film is also fantastic!

Siddartha
by Herman Hesse
Journey of a wealthy Indian Brahmin who leaves a life of privilege to seek fulfillment. I was intrigued by its synthesis of Eastern religion and Western individualism into a life containing very distinct chapters.

 

Health and Fitness

Becoming a Supple Leopard
by Kelly Starrett
Mobility frameworks and exercises for an active lifestyle. The lessons learned here were crucial for my mitigating injury in ultra-distance cycling, while I found the fundamental intuition of biomechanics immensely valuable.

 

Historical Biographies

A Promised Land
by Barack Obama
Intimate view into Obama's internal tension between his idealistic dreams for a better world and the practical limitations of political office. I was impressed by his compassionate poise while making high-stakes moral decisions.

Team of Rivals
by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Gripping account of Lincoln's character and empathy leading a contentious group of his talented political rivals through the Civil War. I found his extraordinary emotional intelligence and leadership skills very inspiring.

 

Memoirs

Man's Search for Meaning
by Victor Frankl
Riveting memoir of Nazi death camps and the ensuing lessons learned during Frankl's career as a psychiatrist. It was a striking demonstration of the human ability to choose how we experience life and define purpose, even amidst grueling circumstances.

When Breath
Becomes Air

by Paul Kalanithi
Reflections on the meaning of life from a neurosurgeon—who himself has advised hundreds of patients facing death—as he grapples with his own terminal diagnosis. I admired Kalanithi for seeking to focus on what truly matters amidst the distractions of a competitive career landscape.

 

Poetry

The Prophet
by Kahlil Gibran
A collection of potent poetic essays exploring fundamental human concepts such as work, marriage, and self-knowledge. Each poem is so short, it's easy to pop this book open for a contemplative nugget.

The Essential Rumi
by Rumi
Lyrical translations of the 13th-century Sufi Mystic. Rumi's abstract metaphors originate from an entirely different time and culture. Sometimes I sift through to find profound insight; other times I humbly miss the point—or come to accept that perhaps there isn't one.

 

Self-help

How to Win Friends
and Influence People

by Dale Carnegie
Fundamental, concise, and timeless advice for communication. It's helped me better co-exist and collaborate with people, both on a professional and personal level.

Make it Stick
by Peter Brown et al.
Principles of comprehension and memory supported by rigorous research plus tangible techniques for better learning. Much of this completely conflicted my original intuition. A must for any student or educator.

 

Social Psychology

The Righteous Mind
by Jonathan Haidt
Research examining moral intuition and its impact on the sociopolitical landscape—particularly relevant given today's individualized information streams. Personally, reading this enabled deeper understanding and empathy for people whose views seem so mind-bogglingly different from my own.

Think Again
by Adam Grant
The critical art of re-thinking one's engrained ideas and how that enhances progress both internally and with others. For me it emphasized how limited I'll be in shaping the world without remaining curious about it.

Sapiens
by Yuval Noah Harari
Wide-ranging account covering the entire timeline of our species and the formation of human societies. The perspetive here felt encouraging, as I'm generally concerned about our civilization's trajectory entering the digital age.

 

Spirituality

The Power of Now
by Eckhart Tolle
Thorough, tangible explanations of being present and how that enables a fulfilling life. This is often the first mindfulness book I recommend, as I found it very helpful that Tolle re-iterates the same points from different angles.

Be Here Now
by Ram Dass
Illustrative depictions of conscious experience to help shepherd a sense of the sacred into everyday existence. I really like how saliently Ram Dass reconciles the underlying spiritual connection between different religions.

 

Travel

The Caliph's House
by Tahir Shah
A Casablancan's quest to dispel haunted spirits, navigating Islamic traditions and African folklore. I read this while hitchhiking through Morocco; my experience was greatly enhanced by Shah's cultural curiosity and impeccable articulation of solo travel.