This is my personal list of the best books and readings I’ve come across. My one superpower is the ability to read and comprehend books very quickly. [TL;DR, skip to the bottom where I have book lists by topic.]
In fact, by the time I finished high school I had read most of the classics of Western philosophy. This is not bragging! I was grounded a lot and I had time to myself. I read anything that was around. I read the dictionary. 1 I read a complete Brittanica encyclopedia set. I’ve read the bible . . . and many other religious texts. In college, as an English major I read most of the Norton Anthologies and dozens of classic novels.
None of this is impressive. However, something that might be is what I remember from them. I’m a deep reader, or what Mortimer Adler would call a syntopical reader. Because I’m an academic, I want to understand something well beyond the analytical level. Many years later, I can recall most of what I read in great detail. That’s one reason why I became an educator: I really love to teach others how to learn.
So as a self-appointed reading expert (well, I do hold a reading specialist certificate), on this page are books I’ve read at least once. If they made the list, that means there are probably many others I read that did not make the list. In some cases, it was excruciating to narrow down my top picks. I’ve read a lot, but I wanted to recommend what was actually useful beyond mere novelty or theory.
No book is perfect, but a well-selected one has a few good ideas. My selection process is minimal. Here’s what I look for:
- It’s so good, I want to buy it as a resource book or gift it to someone.
- It’s a text I’d use in college lectures, workshops, or my own writing.
- It’s well-written, highly quotable, and organized.
- It has a great argument or plot with plenty of supporting elements.
- It’s often revered by people I admire (not necessarily influencers).
- It really challenged my thoughts and emotions.
- It added value: ideas for fiction or practical action steps for non-fiction.
What matters most to me is their utility, not necessarily their commercial popularity.
When I have more time, I’ll add a footnote about each and include an affiliate link to the book so you can look at other reviews. 2 What I don’t believe I’ll do is provide book summaries. I hate those unless I’m forced to read a boring book for work. Summaries take all the joy and learning out of reading. My wish for you is quite the opposite.
Books By Life Roles
My book lists are arranged by my quirky classification system I call the 7 Key Roles. So whatever area of life you’re trying to improve right now, there is probably a key life role you’re fulfilling.
Identify the role first and click on the bold-faced heading for the books covering that topic. Happy reading!
The Scholar: academics + personal growth
The Producer: vocation/business + special projects
The Accountant: budgeting & financing + investing & saving
The Amorist: intimate/spiritual + friends/network
The Citizen: patriot + occupant
The Adventurer: travel + fun/entertainment/recreation
The Healer: physical health + mental health