Ryan Holiday
Author of 'The Obstacle Is The Way' http://amzn.to/1jabcV1 . Media Columnist: New York Observer
82 recommendations

Recommendations by Ryan Holiday

Ask The Dust
book
by John Fante, Charles Bukowski

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This is the west coast’s Great Gatsby. Fante has benefited from some recognition–mostly thanks to Bukowski championing him in his later years–but because the book is about Los Angeles and not New York City, it is mostly forgotten. Better than Gatsby, it is a series. Bandini, the subject of the series, is a wonderful example of someone whose actual life is ruined by the fantasies in his head–every second he spends stuck up there is one he wastes and spoils in real life. He’s too caught up and delusional to see that his problems are his fault, that he’s vicious because he can’t live up to the impossible expectations they create, and that he could have everything he wants if he calmed down and lived in reality for a second. This is the series in order by my favorites: Ask the DuskDreams from Bunker HillWait Until Spring, Bandini and The Road to Los Angeles. (DO NOT watch the movie version of Ask to Dust, it is embarrassingly bad.)

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Letters from a Stoic (Penguin Classics)
book
by Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

After Marcus Aurelius, this is one of my favorite books. While Marcus wrote mainly for himself, Seneca had no trouble advising and aiding others. In fact, that was his job—he was Nero’s tutor, tasked with reducing the terrible impulses of a terrible man. His advice on grief, on wealth, on power, on religion, and on life are always there when you need them. Seneca’s letters are the best place to start, but the essays in On the Shortness of Life are excellent as well. You can draw a pretty straight line from Seneca to the essays of Montaigne (also read: How To Live, a biography of Montaigne) to the modern day writings of Nassim Nicholas Taleb (read: The Black SwanFooled By Randomness and The Bed of Procrustes).

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Life and Love from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed and Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott It was wonderful to read these two provocative books of essays by two incredibly wise and compassionate women. Cheryl Strayed, also the author of Wild, was the anonymous columnist behind the online column, Dear Sugar and boy, are we better off for it. This is not a random smattering of advice. This book contains some of the most cogent insights on life, pain, loss, love, success, youth that I have ever seen. I won’t belabor the point: read this book. Thank me later. Anne Lamott’s book is ostensibly about the art of writing, but really it too is about life and how to tackle the problems, temptations and opportunities life throws at us. Both will make you think and both made me a better person.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Life and Love from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed and Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott It was wonderful to read these two provocative books of essays by two incredibly wise and compassionate women. Cheryl Strayed, also the author of Wild, was the anonymous columnist behind the online column, Dear Sugar and boy, are we better off for it. This is not a random smattering of advice. This book contains some of the most cogent insights on life, pain, loss, love, success, youth that I have ever seen. I won’t belabor the point: read this book. Thank me later. Anne Lamott’s book is ostensibly about the art of writing, but really it too is about life and how to tackle the problems, temptations and opportunities life throws at us. Both will make you think and both made me a better person.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Plutarch's Lives
book
by Plutarch

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Clearly the master of this genre, Plutarch wrote biographies of famous Greeks and Romans around the year 100 AD. As always, I tend to default to the Penguin collections. I strongly recommend Plutarch’s Lives Vol. I & II,Essays, and The Makers of Rome: Nine Lives. His book On Sparta is also a collection of biographies (and aphorisms) from the famous Spartans. There is a reason that Shakespeare based many of his plays on Plutarch—not only are they well-written and exciting but they exhibit everything that is good and bad about the human condition. Greed, love, pain, hate, success, selflessness, leadership, stupidity—it’s all there.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Meditations: A New Translation
book
by Marcus Aurelius

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

To me, this is not only one of greatest books ever written but perhaps the only book of its kind. Just imagine: the private thoughts of the most powerful man in the world, admonishing himself on how to be better, more just, more immune to temptation, wiser. It is the definitive text on self-discipline, personal ethics, humility, self-actualization and strength. If you read it and aren’t profoundly changed by it, it’s probably because as Aurelius says “what doesn’t transmit light creates its own darkness.” You HAVE to read the Hays’s translation. If you end up loving Marcus, go get The Inner Citadel and Philosophy as a Way of Life by Pierre Hadot that studies the man (and men) behind the work. And if you want more on the topic, Marcus inspired my bookThe Obstacle is the Way.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

12 Years a Slave
book
by Solomon Northup

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This one won’t stay unknown for long as Brad Pitt’s doing a movie about it but please don’t let that scare you away. If there is one book you read about slavery in America, read this one. It’s the real story of a born freedman in the North who, as a traveling musician, was brought out of his home state on false pretenses in order to be captured, kidnapped, and transported South to be sold as a slave. It’s fucking harrowing and written lucidly and articulately by the person who experienced it. For 12 years, he was a slave–and not some border-state slave, but a bayou slave in the deep South. He was cut off from his family and his freedom, and even among the slaves he was different. He couldn’t tell anyone he could read and write, he couldn’t even tell anyone that he was formerly free because they threatened to kill him if he did. This book is just as good as Frederick Douglass’ memoir and I think illustrates the horrors of slavery in a much more undeniable way.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Why Don't We Learn from History?
book
by B. H. Liddell Hart, Giles Laurén

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

I recommend ALL of Hart’s books, from Strategy to Why Don’t We Learn From History to his excellent biographies of strategic geniuses like William T. Sherman.

Like Greene, Hart has the ability to communicate and explain timeless truths about strategy and power. Reading one of his books is the equivalent of reading many other primary texts because he so expertly synthesizes and communicates what lies within them. He is also eminently quotable–which makes the lessons that much easier to recall. For instance, he reduced Sherman down to a simple line: Attack along the line of least expectation, and tactically along the line of least resistance.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

I recommend ALL of Hart’s books, from Strategy to Why Don’t We Learn From History to his excellent biographies of strategic geniuses like William T. Sherman.

Like Greene, Hart has the ability to communicate and explain timeless truths about strategy and power. Reading one of his books is the equivalent of reading many other primary texts because he so expertly synthesizes and communicates what lies within them. He is also eminently quotable–which makes the lessons that much easier to recall. For instance, he reduced Sherman down to a simple line: Attack along the line of least expectation, and tactically along the line of least resistance.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son by George Horace Lorimer and Letters to His Son by Lord Chesterfield These two books of letters are great—I wish my father had written me stuff this good. The first book is the (supposedly) preserved correspondence between Old Gorgon Graham, a self-made millionaire in Chicago, and his son who is coming of age and entering the family business. The letters date back to the 1890s but feel like they could have been written in any era. Honest. Genuine.Packed with good advice. Chesterfield wrote his letters to his illegitimate son, tutoring him on how to learn, how to think, how to act, how to deal with important people. I don’t agree with all his advice but most of it is great.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son by George Horace Lorimer and Letters to His Son by Lord Chesterfield These two books of letters are great—I wish my father had written me stuff this good. The first book is the (supposedly) preserved correspondence between Old Gorgon Graham, a self-made millionaire in Chicago, and his son who is coming of age and entering the family business. The letters date back to the 1890s but feel like they could have been written in any era. Honest. Genuine.Packed with good advice. Chesterfield wrote his letters to his illegitimate son, tutoring him on how to learn, how to think, how to act, how to deal with important people. I don’t agree with all his advice but most of it is great.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Asylum
book
by William Seabrook, Joe Ollmann

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

In 1934, William Seabrook was one of the most famous journalists in the world. He was also an alcoholic. But there was no treatment for his disease. So he checked himself into an insane asylum. There, from the perspective of a travel writer, he described his own journey through this strange and foreign place. Today, you can’t read a page in the book without seeing him bump, unknowingly, into the basic principles of 12-step groups and then thwarted by well meaning doctors (like the one who decides he’s cured and can start drinking again). On a regular basis, he says things so clear, so self-aware that you’re stunned an addict could have written it–shocked that this book isn’t a classic American text. Yet all his books are out of print and hard to find. Two of my copies are first editions from 1931 and 1942. It breaks your heart to know that just a few years or decades later, his options (and outcome) would have been so very different (he eventually died of an opium overdose).

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

What Makes Sammy Run?
book
by Budd Schulberg

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Budd Schulberg’s (who wrote the screenplay for On the Waterfront) whole trilogy is amazing and each captures a different historical era. His first, What Makes Sammy Run? is Ari Gold before Ari Gold existed–purportedly based on Samuel Goldwyn (of MGM) and Darryl Zanuck. His next book, The Harder They Fall is about boxing and loosely based on the Primo Carnera scandal. All you need to know about Schulberg’s writing is captured in this quote from his obituary: “It’s the writer’s responsibility to stand up against that power. The writers are really almost the only ones, except for very honest politicians, who can make any dent on that system. I tried to do that. And that’s affected me my whole life.” Fiction can do that, and sometimes it does it even better than non-fiction.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

The Harder They Fall
book
by Budd Schulberg

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Budd Schulberg’s (who wrote the screenplay for On the Waterfront) whole trilogy is amazing and each captures a different historical era. His first, What Makes Sammy Run? is Ari Gold before Ari Gold existed–purportedly based on Samuel Goldwyn (of MGM) and Darryl Zanuck. His next book, The Harder They Fall is about boxing and loosely based on the Primo Carnera scandal. All you need to know about Schulberg’s writing is captured in this quote from his obituary: “It’s the writer’s responsibility to stand up against that power. The writers are really almost the only ones, except for very honest politicians, who can make any dent on that system. I tried to do that. And that’s affected me my whole life.” Fiction can do that, and sometimes it does it even better than non-fiction.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

What a book. It’s not as good as What Makes Sammy Runbut it’s so damn good. “A boy can be two, three, four potential people,” Duddy’s uncle tells him, “but a man is only one. He murders the others.” Which potential person will you be? Which part of you will you allow to rule? The part that betrays your friends, family, principles to achieve success? Or are there other priorities?

Some other novels I like: Civil War Stories by Ambrose Bierce,Company K by William March and Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

A few years ago, I read The Education of a Coach, a book about Bill Belichick which influenced me immensely (coincidentally, the Patriots have also read my book and were influenced by it). Anyway, I have been chasing that high ever since. Bill Walsh’s book certainly met that high standard. Even if you’ve never watched a down of football, you’ll get something out of this book. Walsh took the 49ers from the worst team in football to the Super Bowl in less than 3 years. How? Not with a grand vision or pure ambition, but with what he called the Standard of Performance. That is: How to practice. How to dress. How to hold the ball. Where to be on a play down the very inch. Which skills mattered for each position. How much effort to give. By upholding these standards—whatever they happen to be for your chosen craft—success will take care of itself.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Holy shit, this book is good. Just holy shit. Even if it was just the main narrative—the chase to kill a man-eating Tiger in Siberia in post-communist Russia—it would be worth reading, but it is so much more than that. The author explains the Russian psyche, the psyche of man vs predator, the psyches of primitive peoples and animals, in such a masterful way that you’re shocked to find 1) that he knows this, and 2) that he fit it all into this readable and relatively short book. The story is nuts: a tiger starts killing people in Russia and a team is sent to kill it (Russia is so fucked up, they already have a team for this). At one point, the tiger is cornered and leaps to attack the team leader…and in mid-air the soldier’s rifle goes into the tigers open jaws and down his throat all the way to the stock, killing the tiger at the last possible second. Wow. (His other bookThe Golden Spruce is also great)

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

This book is a work of art. It is like The Tiger-good. A diver (whose life principles we can all learn from) and a ship captain find the wreck of an unknown German U-Boat in 1991…on the coast of New Jersey. That’s a thing? Apparently. And they spend the next five years diving the wreck 230+ feet underwater until they identify it. This book is narrative nonfiction writing at its finest. Please read.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

thought I knew about Theodore Roosevelt. This book opens with him stranded in the Amazon jungle begging his son to let him kill himself so he wouldn’t be a burden on their exploring party any longer. And then it gets better from there. I mean, did you know he is credited with being the first to chart and navigate a totally unknown river as long as the Nile? And that he did that after he was President, just for fun? I’m not sure I need to explain much else, but if you needed more convincing, I will say that Candice Millard who wrote Destiny of the Republic (which I highly recommend) wrote this too and it’s better than her last book. Not only is there a bunch of great history and drama here, it shows a human side of Roosevelt I had not understood before.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Babbitt
book
by Sinclair Lewis

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

I don’t think there was anyone in the 1920s who would have believed that this book would be completely forgotten. By all accounts, it was destined to be a classic critical novel of the American Dream. You can’t read anything about the ’20s and ’30s that doesn’t comment on Babbitt (sold 130,000 copies its first year, HL Mencken loved it, it won Lewis a Nobel Prize). Calling someone a “Babbitt” was considered an insult and the phrase became a constant topic of conversation in the media and literature. Yet, here we are 80-90 years later: you’ve probably never heard of the term or the book. Perhaps it’s because the biting satire of American suburban middle class life cuts deeper now than it did then. It doesn’t matter if the book is old, it’s still very funny and at its core, a critique of conformity and what Thoreau called the “life of quiet desperation.”

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

The Man Without a Country
book
by Edward Everett Hale

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Patriotism is not a concept that gets a lot of love today. But this essay/book makes you think a little. Released in 1863 during the height of the Civil War, the plot’s simple: an innocent man caught up in Aaron Burr’s treasonous conspiracy stands trial for his actions. When asked to address the judge, he bitterly remarks that he wishes to be done with the United States forever. So the judge grants his wish as a punishment–he’s sentenced to live the rest of his life in a cabin aboard ships in the US Navy’s foreign fleet, and no sailor is to ever mention the US to him again. He dies many years later, an old man like Rip Van Winkle, unsure of the changing world around him. For those with some understanding of historical, you’ll enjoy the meta-fiction of it, for those that haven’t it is still a very good look into early America.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Sherman: Soldier, Realist, American
book
by B. H. Liddell Hart

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This was someone I knew little about before I read the book, and by the end of it found myself referencing and thinking of him constantly. It is equal parts due to the greatness of the man himself and to Hart’s vivid and engrossing portrait. I almost feel like I have lost something not having known this of him my whole life. There is a stunningly profound quote from Hart in the book that I’ll paraphrase here that defines his genius: Sherman’s success was rooted in his grasp that the way to success is strategically along the line of least expectation and tactically along the line of least resistance. It is that kind of thinking that immediately displaces any preceding notions about Sherman’s reputation as a general or a legend. All these myths belies his strategic acumen, his mastery of terrain and his deep understanding of statesmanship and politics. There is much to learn from the man and this biographer—who himself was a great strategist and mind.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

50 plus years old, this is a story that more than stands the test of time. Sir Ernest Shackleton makes his daring attempt to cross Antarctic continent but his crew and boat are trapped in the ice flows. What follows are 600 days of harrowing survival, first from the elements, then from hunger, then from the sea as he makes a daring attempt in a small lifeboat to reach land 650 miles away, then again as he struggles over land and mountains to bring relief to his men. And when he finally arrives with it, Shackleton simply boards them on the boat and returns home as if nothing had happened. He was an immensely brave man in the midst of terrible adversity and we see this so clearly in a book based on the remarkable diaries of his men. He never quit, never seemed to despair. This book (and his life) were living proof of his family motto: “Fortitudine vincimus” (By endurance we conquer).

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

I know this will offend many strategy purists, but for most audiences I recommend these two books only with a pretty strong disclaimer.

While both are clearly full of strategic wisdom, they are hard to separate from their respective eras and brands of warfare. As budding strategists in business and in life, most of us are really looking for advice that can help us with our own problems. The reality is that Napoleonic warfare does not exactly have its equivalents in today’s society.

On the other hand, Sun-Tzu is so aphoristic that it’s hard to say what is concrete advice and what is just common sense. But the books are so convincing that you might still end up leaving thinking that they can be easily applied. So, again, check these books out if you’re really interested, but I think some of the other books are much better places to start.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

On War (Penguin Classics)
book
by Carl von Clausewitz

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

I know this will offend many strategy purists, but for most audiences I recommend these two books only with a pretty strong disclaimer.

While both are clearly full of strategic wisdom, they are hard to separate from their respective eras and brands of warfare. As budding strategists in business and in life, most of us are really looking for advice that can help us with our own problems. The reality is that Napoleonic warfare does not exactly have its equivalents in today’s society.

On the other hand, Sun-Tzu is so aphoristic that it’s hard to say what is concrete advice and what is just common sense. But the books are so convincing that you might still end up leaving thinking that they can be easily applied. So, again, check these books out if you’re really interested, but I think some of the other books are much better places to start.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

My Life and Battles: By Jack Johnson
book
by Jack Johnson, Christopher Rivers

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This is the lost and translated book that came out of a series of pieces Johnson–perhaps the greatest boxer who ever lived–wrote for a French newspaper in 1911. It’s not very long but it is full of really interesting strategies and anecdotes. You get the sense that he was an incredibly intelligent and sensitive man–clearly had a thirst for drama and attention. Who knows what place he would occupy in our culture and history had he not been taken down so thoroughly by racism and genuinely evil people? But despite all that, he was always smiling. As Jack London put it after Johnson’s most famous fight: “No one understands him, this man who smiles. Well, the story of the fight is the story of a smile. If ever a man won by nothing more fatiguing than a smile, Johnson won today.”

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

The 48 Laws of Power
book
by Robert Greene

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

There is no living writer (or person) who has been more influential to me thanRobert Greene. I met him when I was 19 years old and he’s shaped me as a person, as a writer, as a thinker. You MUST read his books. His work on power and strategy are critical for anyone trying to accomplish anything. In life, power is force we are constantly bumping up against. People have power of over us, we seek power ourselves that we might be free enough and influential enough to accomplish our goals—so we must understand where power comes from, how it works and how to get it. But pure power is meaningless. It must be joined to mastery and purpose. So read his book Masteryso that you can figure your life’s task and how to dedicate yourself to it.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Of course, I am biased because I trained under Robert. But if I had not, these books still would have given me a priceless education (as they have for millions of other people).

Robert is a crack researcher and storyteller – he has a profound ability to explain timeless truths through story and example. You can read the classics and not always understand the lessons. But if you read Robert’s books, I promise you will leave not just with actionable lessons but an indelible sense of what to do in many trying and confusion situations. Also the extra benefit of reading Robert is that you get mini-bios of strategic geniuses like Napoleon, Edison, Machiavelli, Caesar, Cortez, and others.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Mastery
book
by Robert Greene

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

There is no living writer (or person) who has been more influential to me thanRobert Greene. I met him when I was 19 years old and he’s shaped me as a person, as a writer, as a thinker. You MUST read his books. His work on power and strategy are critical for anyone trying to accomplish anything. In life, power is force we are constantly bumping up against. People have power of over us, we seek power ourselves that we might be free enough and influential enough to accomplish our goals—so we must understand where power comes from, how it works and how to get it. But pure power is meaningless. It must be joined to mastery and purpose. So read his book Masteryso that you can figure your life’s task and how to dedicate yourself to it.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

The Prince (Penguin Classics)
book
by Niccolo Machiavelli

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Of course, this is a must read. Machiavelli is one of those figures and writers who is tragically overrated and underrated at the same time. Unfortunately that means that many people who read him miss the point and other people avoid him and miss out altogether. Take Machiavelli slow, and really read him. Also understand the man behind the book–not just as a masterful writer but a man who withstood heinous torture and exile with barely a whimper.

Machiavelli is a glimpse into a time when power was literal and out for public viewing–when he talks about making an example of someone, he doesn’t mean calling them out, he means putting their head on a pike. Don’t let that scare you because we’re not as far from that world as we’d like to think. Deny that at your own peril.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This might feel like a weird book to include, but I think it presents another side of strategy that is too often forgotten.

It’s not always about bold actors and strategic thrusts. Sometimes strategy is about subtle influence. Sometimes it is framing and small tweaks that change behavior.

We can have big aims, but get there with little moves. This book has excellent examples of that kind of thinking and how it is changing politics, government and business. My favorite example is about the bumblebee that they started putting on urinals–which drastically reduced the amount of spray and spillage because it changed where men aimed when they peed. It’s not exactly the coolest strategy but it solved a problem. So we can learn from it.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Basically a friend and peer of Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Raphael Titian and all the other great minds of the Renaissance sat down in 1550 and wrote biographical sketches of the people he knew or had influenced him. Unless you have a degree in Art History it’s unlikely that anyone pushed this book at you and that’s a shame. Because these great men were not just artist, they were masters of the political and social worlds they lived in. There are so many great lessons about craft and psychology within this book. The best part? It was written by someone who actually knew what he was talking about, not some art snob or critic, but an actual artist and architect of equal stature to the people he was documenting.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

The Moviegoer
book
by Walker Percy

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

The Moviegoer is exactly the novel that every young kid stuck in their own head needs to read. The main character—who lives in New Orleans just a few blocks from where I lived—is so in love with the artificiality of movies that he has trouble living his actual life. The Moviegoer—it is like a good Catcher in the Rye but for adults. Just a perfect book. An equal cautionary tale: The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

In terms of business/economics, this is one of the more important books I’ve read in a long time. I even keep a framed passage from it on my wall (it also inspired the apiece of writing I am proud of). Cowen’s books have always been thought provoking, but this one changes how you see the future and help explain real pain points in our new economy–both good and bad. Although much of what Cowen proposes will be uncomfortable, he has a tone that borders on cheerful. I think that’s what makes this so convincing and so eye opening. A hollowing out is coming and you’ve got to prepare yourself (and our institutions) as best you can.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

It took me 15 days to read all 1,165 pages of this monstrosity that chronicles the rise of Robert Moses. I was 20 years old. It was one of the most magnificent books I’ve ever read. Moses built just about every other major modern construction project in New York City. The public couldn’t stop him, the mayor couldn’t stop him, the governor couldn’t stop him, and only once could the President of the United States stop him. But ultimately, you know where the cliché must take us. Robert Moses was an asshole. He may have had more brain, more drive, more strategy than other men, but he did not have more compassion. And ultimately power turned him into something monstrous.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Man's Search for Meaning
book
by Viktor E. Frankl

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Frankl is one of the most profound modern thinkers on meaning and purpose. His contribution was to change the question from the vague philosophy of “What is the meaning of life?” to man being asked and forced to answer with his actions. He looks at how we find purpose by dedicating ourselves to a cause, learning to love and finding a meaning to our suffering. His other two books on the topic, Will To Meaning and Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning have gems in them as well.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

The 33 Strategies of War
book
by Robert Greene

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Of course, I am biased because I trained under Robert. But if I had not, these books still would have given me a priceless education (as they have for millions of other people).

Robert is a crack researcher and storyteller – he has a profound ability to explain timeless truths through story and example. You can read the classics and not always understand the lessons. But if you read Robert’s books, I promise you will leave not just with actionable lessons but an indelible sense of what to do in many trying and confusion situations. Also the extra benefit of reading Robert is that you get mini-bios of strategic geniuses like Napoleon, Edison, Machiavelli, Caesar, Cortez, and others.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Washington: A Life
book
by Ron Chernow

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

I just finished this book and, goddamn, Washington’s status as an icon shamefully understates his genius as a strategist.

The man had an impeccable intuition for timing, for gestures, for politics, for the moment to strike, not just on the battlefield but in relationships, in office and in his private life.

We must study Washington not only for his nearly unbelievable military victory over a superior British Army, but also for his strategic vision which quite literally was responsible for many of the most enduring American institutions and practices.

I admit this book is long, but it is so good. It is packed with illustrative examples, analysis and stories. Read it.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

These two books are the two best books of political thinking and theater from both the left and the right.

Regardless of ideologies, both are experts in influencing and leading public perception through image and words. It actually matters whether we’re talking about illegal immigrants or undocumented workers, or whether we describe the problem as climate change or global warming.

Strategists need to understand the power of language and framing–it doesn’t matter how right you are, if you lose this battle it can be impossible to rally people to your cause. Read both these books.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

These two books are the two best books of political thinking and theater from both the left and the right.

Regardless of ideologies, both are experts in influencing and leading public perception through image and words. It actually matters whether we’re talking about illegal immigrants or undocumented workers, or whether we describe the problem as climate change or global warming.

Strategists need to understand the power of language and framing–it doesn’t matter how right you are, if you lose this battle it can be impossible to rally people to your cause. Read both these books.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

I don’t have a lot of modern books on this list, but this is an excellent one.

We tend to wrongly think that strategy is about coming up with a genius plan and then committing to it. In fact, this is often a recipe for disaster, particularly in business.

Though success often requires a total investment in a particular strategy, this is also the recipe for extreme failure. It’s a paradox.

Michael Raynor’s book has important thoughts on this inherent paradox as well as approaches for mitigating and avoiding it.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

The book has sold something like 5 million copies in Japan alone (an insane number). Totto-Chan is a special figure in modern Japanese culture—she is a celebrity on par with Oprah or Ellen, with a magazine, news show and exalted position to boot. The book describes a childhood in pre-WWII Japan as a poorly misunderstood girl who obviously suffered from attention disorders and excess energy. It wasn’t until she met a special school principal—unlike any I have ever heard of—who finally GOT her. And I mean understood and cared about and unconditionally supported her in a way that both inspires me and makes me deeply jealous. If only all of us could be so lucky…

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This book is a work of art. It is like The Tiger-good. A diver (whose life principles we can all learn from) and a ship captain find the wreck of an unknown German U-Boat in 1991…on the coast of New Jersey. That’s a thing? Apparently. And they spend the next five years diving the wreck 230+ feet underwater until they identify it. This book is narrative nonfiction writing at its finest. Please read.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Hunger (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics)
book
by Knut Hamsun, Sverre Lyngstad

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

A dark and moving first-person narrative, about the conflicting drives for self-preservation and self-immolation inside all of us. Hunger is about a writer who is starving himself. He cannot write because he is starving and cannot eat because writing is how he makes his living. It’s a vicious cycle and the book is a first-person descent into it. Strangely modern for being published in 1890 and ultimately inspired a lot of great stream-of-consciousness writing since (but influence goes unacknowledged because Knut was a Nazi sympathizer)

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Death Be Not Proud (P.S.)
book
by John J. Gunther

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Written in 1949 by the famous journalist John Gunther about his death of his son–a genius–at 17 from a brain tumor, this book is deeply moving and profound. Every young person will be awed by this young boy who knows he will die too soon and struggles to do it with dignity and purpose. Midway through the book, Johnny writes what he calls the Unbeliever’s Prayer. It’s good enough to be from Epictetus or Montaigne–and he was fucking 16 when he wrote it. It’s reading the book for that alone.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Phil Jackson is a master strategist and leader. You don’t win 13 championships in multiple cities if you’re not.

What’s interesting about Jackson’s approach is how eastern it is–he guides by giving up control, he leads by encouraging other leaders, he favors movement over resistance. He has articulated these concepts in an incredibly accessible way in his most recent book and I strongly suggest everyone read it.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

The Book of Five Rings
book
by Miyamoto Musashi

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Musashi was a different kind of strategist, which is why his book is so important. Most of us won’t find ourselves leading armies anytime soon. As a swordsman, Musashi fought mostly by himself, for himself. His strategic wisdom, therefore, is mostly internal. It’s about the mindset, the discipline, and the perception necessary to win in life or death situations. He tells you how to outthink and outmove your enemies. He tells you how to fend for yourself. And isn’t that precisely what so many of us need help with everyday?

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This is probably the definitive beginner text on evolutionary psychology and one of the easiest to get into. It’s a little depressing at first, realizing how ruthless many of our so called “good” feelings are. But then you realize that truth is better than ignorance, and you emerge seeing the world as it truly is for the first time. Also, a similar read is Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters, which is more of a Q&A approach to the subject and has contemporary edge.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

One of the better books on evolutionary biology that focuses almost entirely on the biological and psychological differences between men and women. It’s written by a journalist (who cites scientists) so it’s easy to read if you’re not studied in the field. If you want to get into evolutionary psychology–which you totally should–this is a good starting point because it covers all the basics. Essentially, it discusses how men and women have benefited evolutionarily through different behaviors and strengths so it would only make sense that they would have developed into two very different entities.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This book – of a long forgotten war – really functions as a biography and strategic analysis of some of the greatest minds in the history of war. We have Pericles, Brasidas, Alcibiades and many others.

The anecdotes and the stories in this book are timeless. If you make your way all the way through it, I promise you will not forget it. Because the war was so long, involved so many different countries and was so varied (sea, land, siege, politics), it basically covers every type of situation you can think of.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Fragments
book
by Heraclitus

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

While most of the other practical philosophy recommendations I’m making are bent towards hard, practical advice, Heraclitus might seem a bit poetic. But those beautiful lines are really the same direct advice and timeless, perspective-changing observations as the others. “Try in vain with empty talk / to separate the essences of things / and say how each thing truly is.” “Applicants for wisdom / do what I have done: / inquire within.” “Character is fate.” “What eyes witness / ears believe on hearsay.” “The crops are sold / for money spent on food.”

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

John Dillinger was played by Johnny Depp. Most people know who he was–mostly because he died in a hail of bullets. But they forget that the other Public Enemy #1 at the time was Alvin Karpis and he didn’t die. In fact, he lived up until the 1980s. Just enough time to do a couple decades at Alcatraz with guys like Al Capone. During a temporary transfer to an alternate prison, Karpis met a young weirdo named Charlie Manson and taught him how to play guitar.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Measure of My Days
book
by Florida Scott-Maxwell

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

The daily notes of a strong but dying woman (born 1883, written in 1968) watching her life slowly leave her and wind to a close. The wisdom in this thing is amazing and the fact that most people have no idea exists–and basically wait until the end of their life to start thinking about all this is very sad to me. Also I love her generation–alive during the time of Wyatt Earp yet lived to see man land on the moon. What an insane period of history.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Xenophon, like Plato, was a student of Socrates. For whatever reason, his work is not nearly as famous, even though it is far more applicable. Unlike Plato, Xenophon studied people. His greatest book is about the latter, it’s the best biography written of Cyrus the Great (aka the father of human rights). There are so many great lessons in here and I wish more people would read it. Machiavelli learned them, as this book inspired The Prince.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Company K (Library Alabama Classics)
book
by William March, Philip D. Beidler

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Far and away the best book ever written about WWI. Better than All Quiet on the Western Front or Goodbye to All That or any of the other classics. But that’s the problem–WWI was awful, perhaps the most awful thing of the 21st century. And this book is forgotten precisely because it portrays the war and its pointlessness too realistically. We want to know, but we don’t really want to know.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Essays and Aphorisms
book
by Arthur Schopenhauer

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Schopenhauer is a brilliant composer of quick thoughts that will help us with our problems. His work was often concerned with the “will”–our inner drives and power. “For that which is otherwise quite indigestible, all affliction, vexation, loss, grief, time alone digests.” But he also talks about surprisingly current issues: “Newspapers are the second hand of history”–and that the hand is often broken or malfunctioning. And of course, the timeless as well: “Hope is the confusion of the desire for a thing for its probability.”

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

A friend and peer of Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Raphael Titian and all the other great minds of theRenaissance sat down in 1550 and wrote biographical sketches of the people he knew or had influenced him. What I like about this book is that the profiles are not about statesmen or generals but artists. There are so many great lessons about craft and psychology within this book. The best part? It was written by someone who actually knew what he was talking about, not some art snob or critic, but an actual artist and architect of equal stature to the people he was documenting.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

The Crack-Up
book
by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edmund Wilson

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

If you like Asylum, read The Crack Up, a book put together by Fitzgerald’s friend Edmund Wilson after his death. It is such an honest and self-aware compilation of someone hell-bent on their own destruction. At the same time, Fitzgerald’s notes and story ideas within the book make it undeniably clear what a genius he truly was. It’s a sad and moving but necessary read.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

If you end up loving Marcus (Aurelius), go get The Inner Citadel and Philosophy as a Way of Life by Pierre Hadot that studies the man (and men) behind the work. 

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Reveille for Radicals
book
by Saul Alinsky

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This is the 48 Laws of Power written in more of an idealist, activist tone. Alinsky was the liaison for many civil rights, union and student causes in the late 50’s and 60’s. He teaches how to implement your radical agenda without using radical tactics, how to disarm with words and media as opposed to arms and Utopian rhetoric.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This is the 48 Laws of Power written in more of an idealist, activist tone. Alinsky was the liaison for many civil rights, union and student causes in the late 50’s and 60’s. He teaches how to implement your radical agenda without using radical tactics, how to disarm with words and media as opposed to arms and Utopian rhetoric.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

The memoir of a professional gambler, fighter and criminal who rode the riverboats of the Mississippi and Red Rivers. It’s a true and vibrant snapshot of a period of American life that you can’t get anywhere else. Gun fights, brawls, cons–it’s all here. Fascinating, peculiar and very easy to read.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This book is the preserved correspondence between Old Gorgon Graham, a self-made millionaire in Chicago, and his son who is coming of age and entering the family business. The letters date back to the 1890s but feel like they could have been written in any era. Honest. Genuine. Packed with good advice.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

The title essay in this book is peerless and amazing. The rest of the essays, which talk about Haley’s unusual approach to psychotherapy are also quite good. If you’ve gone to therapy, are thinking about going to therapy, or know someone going to therapy, this book is a must-read.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

I found Rockefeller to be strangely stoic, incredibly resilient, and, despite his reputation as a robber baron, humble and compassionate. Most people get worse as they get successful, many more get worse as they age. In fact, Rockefeller began tithing his money with his first job and gave more of it away as he became successful. He grew more open-minded the older he became, more generous, more pious, more dedicated to making a difference.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits and Other Writings
book
by Visit Amazon's Philip A. Fisher Pagesearch resultsLearn about Author CentralPhilip A. Fisher, Kenneth L. Fisher

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This short essay from Plutarch is about an important strategic (and life) lesson. Our enemies and our obstacles are always teaching us. There is always some lesson or advantage we can derive from them. But we must make ourselves open to this. We must cultivate an attitude that welcomes these lessons rather than fights against them.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This short essay from Plutarch is about an important strategic (and life) lesson. Our enemies and our obstacles are always teaching us. There is always some lesson or advantage we can derive from them. But we must make ourselves open to this. We must cultivate an attitude that welcomes these lessons rather than fights against them.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Boyd was probably the greatest post-WWII military strategist; he developed the F-15 and F-16, revolutionized ground tactics in war and covertly designed the US battle plans for the Gulf War. He shunned wealth, fame, and power all to accomplish what he felt needed to be accomplished. Coram captures his essence in a way that no other author has touched.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

 A Syrian slave in the first century BC, Publius Syrus is a fountain of quick, helpful wisdom that you cannot help but recall and apply to your life. “Rivers are easiest to cross at their source.” “Want a great empire? Rule over yourself.” “Divide the fire and you will sooner put it out.”

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Fight Club: A Novel
book
by Chuck Palahniuk

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

I’m amazed how many young people haven’t read this book. Truly life-changing. This is the classic of my generation; it is the book that defines our age and ultimately, how to find meaning in it. It’s a cautionary tale too—about being too caught up in revolutionary ideas.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

The book sucked me in completely. Everyone I’ve recommended it to loves it.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

The Black Swan
book
by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph Over Adversity, 1822-1865
book
by Brooks D. Simpson Professor of History

Edison - A Biography
book
by Matthew Josephson

The Control of Nature
book
by John McPhee

Giving Good Weight
book
by John McPhee

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Why Ego is The Greatest Opponent to Your Creativity and Success (And How to Fight Back) by RyanHoliday

Ask The Dust
book
by John Fante, Charles Bukowski

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This is the west coast’s Great Gatsby. Fante has benefited from some recognition–mostly thanks to Bukowski championing him in his later years–but because the book is about Los Angeles and not New York City, it is mostly forgotten. Better than Gatsby, it is a series. Bandini, the subject of the series, is a wonderful example of someone whose actual life is ruined by the fantasies in his head–every second he spends stuck up there is one he wastes and spoils in real life. He’s too caught up and delusional to see that his problems are his fault, that he’s vicious because he can’t live up to the impossible expectations they create, and that he could have everything he wants if he calmed down and lived in reality for a second. This is the series in order by my favorites: Ask the DuskDreams from Bunker HillWait Until Spring, Bandini and The Road to Los Angeles. (DO NOT watch the movie version of Ask to Dust, it is embarrassingly bad.)

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Letters from a Stoic (Penguin Classics)
book
by Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

After Marcus Aurelius, this is one of my favorite books. While Marcus wrote mainly for himself, Seneca had no trouble advising and aiding others. In fact, that was his job—he was Nero’s tutor, tasked with reducing the terrible impulses of a terrible man. His advice on grief, on wealth, on power, on religion, and on life are always there when you need them. Seneca’s letters are the best place to start, but the essays in On the Shortness of Life are excellent as well. You can draw a pretty straight line from Seneca to the essays of Montaigne (also read: How To Live, a biography of Montaigne) to the modern day writings of Nassim Nicholas Taleb (read: The Black SwanFooled By Randomness and The Bed of Procrustes).

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Life and Love from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed and Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott It was wonderful to read these two provocative books of essays by two incredibly wise and compassionate women. Cheryl Strayed, also the author of Wild, was the anonymous columnist behind the online column, Dear Sugar and boy, are we better off for it. This is not a random smattering of advice. This book contains some of the most cogent insights on life, pain, loss, love, success, youth that I have ever seen. I won’t belabor the point: read this book. Thank me later. Anne Lamott’s book is ostensibly about the art of writing, but really it too is about life and how to tackle the problems, temptations and opportunities life throws at us. Both will make you think and both made me a better person.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Life and Love from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed and Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott It was wonderful to read these two provocative books of essays by two incredibly wise and compassionate women. Cheryl Strayed, also the author of Wild, was the anonymous columnist behind the online column, Dear Sugar and boy, are we better off for it. This is not a random smattering of advice. This book contains some of the most cogent insights on life, pain, loss, love, success, youth that I have ever seen. I won’t belabor the point: read this book. Thank me later. Anne Lamott’s book is ostensibly about the art of writing, but really it too is about life and how to tackle the problems, temptations and opportunities life throws at us. Both will make you think and both made me a better person.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Plutarch's Lives
book
by Plutarch

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Clearly the master of this genre, Plutarch wrote biographies of famous Greeks and Romans around the year 100 AD. As always, I tend to default to the Penguin collections. I strongly recommend Plutarch’s Lives Vol. I & II,Essays, and The Makers of Rome: Nine Lives. His book On Sparta is also a collection of biographies (and aphorisms) from the famous Spartans. There is a reason that Shakespeare based many of his plays on Plutarch—not only are they well-written and exciting but they exhibit everything that is good and bad about the human condition. Greed, love, pain, hate, success, selflessness, leadership, stupidity—it’s all there.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Meditations: A New Translation
book
by Marcus Aurelius

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

To me, this is not only one of greatest books ever written but perhaps the only book of its kind. Just imagine: the private thoughts of the most powerful man in the world, admonishing himself on how to be better, more just, more immune to temptation, wiser. It is the definitive text on self-discipline, personal ethics, humility, self-actualization and strength. If you read it and aren’t profoundly changed by it, it’s probably because as Aurelius says “what doesn’t transmit light creates its own darkness.” You HAVE to read the Hays’s translation. If you end up loving Marcus, go get The Inner Citadel and Philosophy as a Way of Life by Pierre Hadot that studies the man (and men) behind the work. And if you want more on the topic, Marcus inspired my bookThe Obstacle is the Way.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

12 Years a Slave
book
by Solomon Northup

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This one won’t stay unknown for long as Brad Pitt’s doing a movie about it but please don’t let that scare you away. If there is one book you read about slavery in America, read this one. It’s the real story of a born freedman in the North who, as a traveling musician, was brought out of his home state on false pretenses in order to be captured, kidnapped, and transported South to be sold as a slave. It’s fucking harrowing and written lucidly and articulately by the person who experienced it. For 12 years, he was a slave–and not some border-state slave, but a bayou slave in the deep South. He was cut off from his family and his freedom, and even among the slaves he was different. He couldn’t tell anyone he could read and write, he couldn’t even tell anyone that he was formerly free because they threatened to kill him if he did. This book is just as good as Frederick Douglass’ memoir and I think illustrates the horrors of slavery in a much more undeniable way.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Why Don't We Learn from History?
book
by B. H. Liddell Hart, Giles Laurén

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

I recommend ALL of Hart’s books, from Strategy to Why Don’t We Learn From History to his excellent biographies of strategic geniuses like William T. Sherman.

Like Greene, Hart has the ability to communicate and explain timeless truths about strategy and power. Reading one of his books is the equivalent of reading many other primary texts because he so expertly synthesizes and communicates what lies within them. He is also eminently quotable–which makes the lessons that much easier to recall. For instance, he reduced Sherman down to a simple line: Attack along the line of least expectation, and tactically along the line of least resistance.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

I recommend ALL of Hart’s books, from Strategy to Why Don’t We Learn From History to his excellent biographies of strategic geniuses like William T. Sherman.

Like Greene, Hart has the ability to communicate and explain timeless truths about strategy and power. Reading one of his books is the equivalent of reading many other primary texts because he so expertly synthesizes and communicates what lies within them. He is also eminently quotable–which makes the lessons that much easier to recall. For instance, he reduced Sherman down to a simple line: Attack along the line of least expectation, and tactically along the line of least resistance.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son by George Horace Lorimer and Letters to His Son by Lord Chesterfield These two books of letters are great—I wish my father had written me stuff this good. The first book is the (supposedly) preserved correspondence between Old Gorgon Graham, a self-made millionaire in Chicago, and his son who is coming of age and entering the family business. The letters date back to the 1890s but feel like they could have been written in any era. Honest. Genuine.Packed with good advice. Chesterfield wrote his letters to his illegitimate son, tutoring him on how to learn, how to think, how to act, how to deal with important people. I don’t agree with all his advice but most of it is great.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son by George Horace Lorimer and Letters to His Son by Lord Chesterfield These two books of letters are great—I wish my father had written me stuff this good. The first book is the (supposedly) preserved correspondence between Old Gorgon Graham, a self-made millionaire in Chicago, and his son who is coming of age and entering the family business. The letters date back to the 1890s but feel like they could have been written in any era. Honest. Genuine.Packed with good advice. Chesterfield wrote his letters to his illegitimate son, tutoring him on how to learn, how to think, how to act, how to deal with important people. I don’t agree with all his advice but most of it is great.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Asylum
book
by William Seabrook, Joe Ollmann

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

In 1934, William Seabrook was one of the most famous journalists in the world. He was also an alcoholic. But there was no treatment for his disease. So he checked himself into an insane asylum. There, from the perspective of a travel writer, he described his own journey through this strange and foreign place. Today, you can’t read a page in the book without seeing him bump, unknowingly, into the basic principles of 12-step groups and then thwarted by well meaning doctors (like the one who decides he’s cured and can start drinking again). On a regular basis, he says things so clear, so self-aware that you’re stunned an addict could have written it–shocked that this book isn’t a classic American text. Yet all his books are out of print and hard to find. Two of my copies are first editions from 1931 and 1942. It breaks your heart to know that just a few years or decades later, his options (and outcome) would have been so very different (he eventually died of an opium overdose).

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

What Makes Sammy Run?
book
by Budd Schulberg

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Budd Schulberg’s (who wrote the screenplay for On the Waterfront) whole trilogy is amazing and each captures a different historical era. His first, What Makes Sammy Run? is Ari Gold before Ari Gold existed–purportedly based on Samuel Goldwyn (of MGM) and Darryl Zanuck. His next book, The Harder They Fall is about boxing and loosely based on the Primo Carnera scandal. All you need to know about Schulberg’s writing is captured in this quote from his obituary: “It’s the writer’s responsibility to stand up against that power. The writers are really almost the only ones, except for very honest politicians, who can make any dent on that system. I tried to do that. And that’s affected me my whole life.” Fiction can do that, and sometimes it does it even better than non-fiction.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

The Harder They Fall
book
by Budd Schulberg

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Budd Schulberg’s (who wrote the screenplay for On the Waterfront) whole trilogy is amazing and each captures a different historical era. His first, What Makes Sammy Run? is Ari Gold before Ari Gold existed–purportedly based on Samuel Goldwyn (of MGM) and Darryl Zanuck. His next book, The Harder They Fall is about boxing and loosely based on the Primo Carnera scandal. All you need to know about Schulberg’s writing is captured in this quote from his obituary: “It’s the writer’s responsibility to stand up against that power. The writers are really almost the only ones, except for very honest politicians, who can make any dent on that system. I tried to do that. And that’s affected me my whole life.” Fiction can do that, and sometimes it does it even better than non-fiction.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

What a book. It’s not as good as What Makes Sammy Runbut it’s so damn good. “A boy can be two, three, four potential people,” Duddy’s uncle tells him, “but a man is only one. He murders the others.” Which potential person will you be? Which part of you will you allow to rule? The part that betrays your friends, family, principles to achieve success? Or are there other priorities?

Some other novels I like: Civil War Stories by Ambrose Bierce,Company K by William March and Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

A few years ago, I read The Education of a Coach, a book about Bill Belichick which influenced me immensely (coincidentally, the Patriots have also read my book and were influenced by it). Anyway, I have been chasing that high ever since. Bill Walsh’s book certainly met that high standard. Even if you’ve never watched a down of football, you’ll get something out of this book. Walsh took the 49ers from the worst team in football to the Super Bowl in less than 3 years. How? Not with a grand vision or pure ambition, but with what he called the Standard of Performance. That is: How to practice. How to dress. How to hold the ball. Where to be on a play down the very inch. Which skills mattered for each position. How much effort to give. By upholding these standards—whatever they happen to be for your chosen craft—success will take care of itself.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Holy shit, this book is good. Just holy shit. Even if it was just the main narrative—the chase to kill a man-eating Tiger in Siberia in post-communist Russia—it would be worth reading, but it is so much more than that. The author explains the Russian psyche, the psyche of man vs predator, the psyches of primitive peoples and animals, in such a masterful way that you’re shocked to find 1) that he knows this, and 2) that he fit it all into this readable and relatively short book. The story is nuts: a tiger starts killing people in Russia and a team is sent to kill it (Russia is so fucked up, they already have a team for this). At one point, the tiger is cornered and leaps to attack the team leader…and in mid-air the soldier’s rifle goes into the tigers open jaws and down his throat all the way to the stock, killing the tiger at the last possible second. Wow. (His other bookThe Golden Spruce is also great)

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

This book is a work of art. It is like The Tiger-good. A diver (whose life principles we can all learn from) and a ship captain find the wreck of an unknown German U-Boat in 1991…on the coast of New Jersey. That’s a thing? Apparently. And they spend the next five years diving the wreck 230+ feet underwater until they identify it. This book is narrative nonfiction writing at its finest. Please read.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

thought I knew about Theodore Roosevelt. This book opens with him stranded in the Amazon jungle begging his son to let him kill himself so he wouldn’t be a burden on their exploring party any longer. And then it gets better from there. I mean, did you know he is credited with being the first to chart and navigate a totally unknown river as long as the Nile? And that he did that after he was President, just for fun? I’m not sure I need to explain much else, but if you needed more convincing, I will say that Candice Millard who wrote Destiny of the Republic (which I highly recommend) wrote this too and it’s better than her last book. Not only is there a bunch of great history and drama here, it shows a human side of Roosevelt I had not understood before.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Babbitt
book
by Sinclair Lewis

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

I don’t think there was anyone in the 1920s who would have believed that this book would be completely forgotten. By all accounts, it was destined to be a classic critical novel of the American Dream. You can’t read anything about the ’20s and ’30s that doesn’t comment on Babbitt (sold 130,000 copies its first year, HL Mencken loved it, it won Lewis a Nobel Prize). Calling someone a “Babbitt” was considered an insult and the phrase became a constant topic of conversation in the media and literature. Yet, here we are 80-90 years later: you’ve probably never heard of the term or the book. Perhaps it’s because the biting satire of American suburban middle class life cuts deeper now than it did then. It doesn’t matter if the book is old, it’s still very funny and at its core, a critique of conformity and what Thoreau called the “life of quiet desperation.”

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

The Man Without a Country
book
by Edward Everett Hale

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Patriotism is not a concept that gets a lot of love today. But this essay/book makes you think a little. Released in 1863 during the height of the Civil War, the plot’s simple: an innocent man caught up in Aaron Burr’s treasonous conspiracy stands trial for his actions. When asked to address the judge, he bitterly remarks that he wishes to be done with the United States forever. So the judge grants his wish as a punishment–he’s sentenced to live the rest of his life in a cabin aboard ships in the US Navy’s foreign fleet, and no sailor is to ever mention the US to him again. He dies many years later, an old man like Rip Van Winkle, unsure of the changing world around him. For those with some understanding of historical, you’ll enjoy the meta-fiction of it, for those that haven’t it is still a very good look into early America.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Sherman: Soldier, Realist, American
book
by B. H. Liddell Hart

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This was someone I knew little about before I read the book, and by the end of it found myself referencing and thinking of him constantly. It is equal parts due to the greatness of the man himself and to Hart’s vivid and engrossing portrait. I almost feel like I have lost something not having known this of him my whole life. There is a stunningly profound quote from Hart in the book that I’ll paraphrase here that defines his genius: Sherman’s success was rooted in his grasp that the way to success is strategically along the line of least expectation and tactically along the line of least resistance. It is that kind of thinking that immediately displaces any preceding notions about Sherman’s reputation as a general or a legend. All these myths belies his strategic acumen, his mastery of terrain and his deep understanding of statesmanship and politics. There is much to learn from the man and this biographer—who himself was a great strategist and mind.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

50 plus years old, this is a story that more than stands the test of time. Sir Ernest Shackleton makes his daring attempt to cross Antarctic continent but his crew and boat are trapped in the ice flows. What follows are 600 days of harrowing survival, first from the elements, then from hunger, then from the sea as he makes a daring attempt in a small lifeboat to reach land 650 miles away, then again as he struggles over land and mountains to bring relief to his men. And when he finally arrives with it, Shackleton simply boards them on the boat and returns home as if nothing had happened. He was an immensely brave man in the midst of terrible adversity and we see this so clearly in a book based on the remarkable diaries of his men. He never quit, never seemed to despair. This book (and his life) were living proof of his family motto: “Fortitudine vincimus” (By endurance we conquer).

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

I know this will offend many strategy purists, but for most audiences I recommend these two books only with a pretty strong disclaimer.

While both are clearly full of strategic wisdom, they are hard to separate from their respective eras and brands of warfare. As budding strategists in business and in life, most of us are really looking for advice that can help us with our own problems. The reality is that Napoleonic warfare does not exactly have its equivalents in today’s society.

On the other hand, Sun-Tzu is so aphoristic that it’s hard to say what is concrete advice and what is just common sense. But the books are so convincing that you might still end up leaving thinking that they can be easily applied. So, again, check these books out if you’re really interested, but I think some of the other books are much better places to start.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

On War (Penguin Classics)
book
by Carl von Clausewitz

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

I know this will offend many strategy purists, but for most audiences I recommend these two books only with a pretty strong disclaimer.

While both are clearly full of strategic wisdom, they are hard to separate from their respective eras and brands of warfare. As budding strategists in business and in life, most of us are really looking for advice that can help us with our own problems. The reality is that Napoleonic warfare does not exactly have its equivalents in today’s society.

On the other hand, Sun-Tzu is so aphoristic that it’s hard to say what is concrete advice and what is just common sense. But the books are so convincing that you might still end up leaving thinking that they can be easily applied. So, again, check these books out if you’re really interested, but I think some of the other books are much better places to start.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

My Life and Battles: By Jack Johnson
book
by Jack Johnson, Christopher Rivers

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This is the lost and translated book that came out of a series of pieces Johnson–perhaps the greatest boxer who ever lived–wrote for a French newspaper in 1911. It’s not very long but it is full of really interesting strategies and anecdotes. You get the sense that he was an incredibly intelligent and sensitive man–clearly had a thirst for drama and attention. Who knows what place he would occupy in our culture and history had he not been taken down so thoroughly by racism and genuinely evil people? But despite all that, he was always smiling. As Jack London put it after Johnson’s most famous fight: “No one understands him, this man who smiles. Well, the story of the fight is the story of a smile. If ever a man won by nothing more fatiguing than a smile, Johnson won today.”

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

The 48 Laws of Power
book
by Robert Greene

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

There is no living writer (or person) who has been more influential to me thanRobert Greene. I met him when I was 19 years old and he’s shaped me as a person, as a writer, as a thinker. You MUST read his books. His work on power and strategy are critical for anyone trying to accomplish anything. In life, power is force we are constantly bumping up against. People have power of over us, we seek power ourselves that we might be free enough and influential enough to accomplish our goals—so we must understand where power comes from, how it works and how to get it. But pure power is meaningless. It must be joined to mastery and purpose. So read his book Masteryso that you can figure your life’s task and how to dedicate yourself to it.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Of course, I am biased because I trained under Robert. But if I had not, these books still would have given me a priceless education (as they have for millions of other people).

Robert is a crack researcher and storyteller – he has a profound ability to explain timeless truths through story and example. You can read the classics and not always understand the lessons. But if you read Robert’s books, I promise you will leave not just with actionable lessons but an indelible sense of what to do in many trying and confusion situations. Also the extra benefit of reading Robert is that you get mini-bios of strategic geniuses like Napoleon, Edison, Machiavelli, Caesar, Cortez, and others.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Mastery
book
by Robert Greene

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

There is no living writer (or person) who has been more influential to me thanRobert Greene. I met him when I was 19 years old and he’s shaped me as a person, as a writer, as a thinker. You MUST read his books. His work on power and strategy are critical for anyone trying to accomplish anything. In life, power is force we are constantly bumping up against. People have power of over us, we seek power ourselves that we might be free enough and influential enough to accomplish our goals—so we must understand where power comes from, how it works and how to get it. But pure power is meaningless. It must be joined to mastery and purpose. So read his book Masteryso that you can figure your life’s task and how to dedicate yourself to it.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

The Prince (Penguin Classics)
book
by Niccolo Machiavelli

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Of course, this is a must read. Machiavelli is one of those figures and writers who is tragically overrated and underrated at the same time. Unfortunately that means that many people who read him miss the point and other people avoid him and miss out altogether. Take Machiavelli slow, and really read him. Also understand the man behind the book–not just as a masterful writer but a man who withstood heinous torture and exile with barely a whimper.

Machiavelli is a glimpse into a time when power was literal and out for public viewing–when he talks about making an example of someone, he doesn’t mean calling them out, he means putting their head on a pike. Don’t let that scare you because we’re not as far from that world as we’d like to think. Deny that at your own peril.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This might feel like a weird book to include, but I think it presents another side of strategy that is too often forgotten.

It’s not always about bold actors and strategic thrusts. Sometimes strategy is about subtle influence. Sometimes it is framing and small tweaks that change behavior.

We can have big aims, but get there with little moves. This book has excellent examples of that kind of thinking and how it is changing politics, government and business. My favorite example is about the bumblebee that they started putting on urinals–which drastically reduced the amount of spray and spillage because it changed where men aimed when they peed. It’s not exactly the coolest strategy but it solved a problem. So we can learn from it.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Basically a friend and peer of Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Raphael Titian and all the other great minds of the Renaissance sat down in 1550 and wrote biographical sketches of the people he knew or had influenced him. Unless you have a degree in Art History it’s unlikely that anyone pushed this book at you and that’s a shame. Because these great men were not just artist, they were masters of the political and social worlds they lived in. There are so many great lessons about craft and psychology within this book. The best part? It was written by someone who actually knew what he was talking about, not some art snob or critic, but an actual artist and architect of equal stature to the people he was documenting.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

The Moviegoer
book
by Walker Percy

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

The Moviegoer is exactly the novel that every young kid stuck in their own head needs to read. The main character—who lives in New Orleans just a few blocks from where I lived—is so in love with the artificiality of movies that he has trouble living his actual life. The Moviegoer—it is like a good Catcher in the Rye but for adults. Just a perfect book. An equal cautionary tale: The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

In terms of business/economics, this is one of the more important books I’ve read in a long time. I even keep a framed passage from it on my wall (it also inspired the apiece of writing I am proud of). Cowen’s books have always been thought provoking, but this one changes how you see the future and help explain real pain points in our new economy–both good and bad. Although much of what Cowen proposes will be uncomfortable, he has a tone that borders on cheerful. I think that’s what makes this so convincing and so eye opening. A hollowing out is coming and you’ve got to prepare yourself (and our institutions) as best you can.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

It took me 15 days to read all 1,165 pages of this monstrosity that chronicles the rise of Robert Moses. I was 20 years old. It was one of the most magnificent books I’ve ever read. Moses built just about every other major modern construction project in New York City. The public couldn’t stop him, the mayor couldn’t stop him, the governor couldn’t stop him, and only once could the President of the United States stop him. But ultimately, you know where the cliché must take us. Robert Moses was an asshole. He may have had more brain, more drive, more strategy than other men, but he did not have more compassion. And ultimately power turned him into something monstrous.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Man's Search for Meaning
book
by Viktor E. Frankl

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Frankl is one of the most profound modern thinkers on meaning and purpose. His contribution was to change the question from the vague philosophy of “What is the meaning of life?” to man being asked and forced to answer with his actions. He looks at how we find purpose by dedicating ourselves to a cause, learning to love and finding a meaning to our suffering. His other two books on the topic, Will To Meaning and Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning have gems in them as well.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

The 33 Strategies of War
book
by Robert Greene

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Of course, I am biased because I trained under Robert. But if I had not, these books still would have given me a priceless education (as they have for millions of other people).

Robert is a crack researcher and storyteller – he has a profound ability to explain timeless truths through story and example. You can read the classics and not always understand the lessons. But if you read Robert’s books, I promise you will leave not just with actionable lessons but an indelible sense of what to do in many trying and confusion situations. Also the extra benefit of reading Robert is that you get mini-bios of strategic geniuses like Napoleon, Edison, Machiavelli, Caesar, Cortez, and others.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Washington: A Life
book
by Ron Chernow

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

I just finished this book and, goddamn, Washington’s status as an icon shamefully understates his genius as a strategist.

The man had an impeccable intuition for timing, for gestures, for politics, for the moment to strike, not just on the battlefield but in relationships, in office and in his private life.

We must study Washington not only for his nearly unbelievable military victory over a superior British Army, but also for his strategic vision which quite literally was responsible for many of the most enduring American institutions and practices.

I admit this book is long, but it is so good. It is packed with illustrative examples, analysis and stories. Read it.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

These two books are the two best books of political thinking and theater from both the left and the right.

Regardless of ideologies, both are experts in influencing and leading public perception through image and words. It actually matters whether we’re talking about illegal immigrants or undocumented workers, or whether we describe the problem as climate change or global warming.

Strategists need to understand the power of language and framing–it doesn’t matter how right you are, if you lose this battle it can be impossible to rally people to your cause. Read both these books.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

These two books are the two best books of political thinking and theater from both the left and the right.

Regardless of ideologies, both are experts in influencing and leading public perception through image and words. It actually matters whether we’re talking about illegal immigrants or undocumented workers, or whether we describe the problem as climate change or global warming.

Strategists need to understand the power of language and framing–it doesn’t matter how right you are, if you lose this battle it can be impossible to rally people to your cause. Read both these books.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

I don’t have a lot of modern books on this list, but this is an excellent one.

We tend to wrongly think that strategy is about coming up with a genius plan and then committing to it. In fact, this is often a recipe for disaster, particularly in business.

Though success often requires a total investment in a particular strategy, this is also the recipe for extreme failure. It’s a paradox.

Michael Raynor’s book has important thoughts on this inherent paradox as well as approaches for mitigating and avoiding it.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

The book has sold something like 5 million copies in Japan alone (an insane number). Totto-Chan is a special figure in modern Japanese culture—she is a celebrity on par with Oprah or Ellen, with a magazine, news show and exalted position to boot. The book describes a childhood in pre-WWII Japan as a poorly misunderstood girl who obviously suffered from attention disorders and excess energy. It wasn’t until she met a special school principal—unlike any I have ever heard of—who finally GOT her. And I mean understood and cared about and unconditionally supported her in a way that both inspires me and makes me deeply jealous. If only all of us could be so lucky…

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This book is a work of art. It is like The Tiger-good. A diver (whose life principles we can all learn from) and a ship captain find the wreck of an unknown German U-Boat in 1991…on the coast of New Jersey. That’s a thing? Apparently. And they spend the next five years diving the wreck 230+ feet underwater until they identify it. This book is narrative nonfiction writing at its finest. Please read.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Hunger (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics)
book
by Knut Hamsun, Sverre Lyngstad

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

A dark and moving first-person narrative, about the conflicting drives for self-preservation and self-immolation inside all of us. Hunger is about a writer who is starving himself. He cannot write because he is starving and cannot eat because writing is how he makes his living. It’s a vicious cycle and the book is a first-person descent into it. Strangely modern for being published in 1890 and ultimately inspired a lot of great stream-of-consciousness writing since (but influence goes unacknowledged because Knut was a Nazi sympathizer)

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Death Be Not Proud (P.S.)
book
by John J. Gunther

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Written in 1949 by the famous journalist John Gunther about his death of his son–a genius–at 17 from a brain tumor, this book is deeply moving and profound. Every young person will be awed by this young boy who knows he will die too soon and struggles to do it with dignity and purpose. Midway through the book, Johnny writes what he calls the Unbeliever’s Prayer. It’s good enough to be from Epictetus or Montaigne–and he was fucking 16 when he wrote it. It’s reading the book for that alone.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Phil Jackson is a master strategist and leader. You don’t win 13 championships in multiple cities if you’re not.

What’s interesting about Jackson’s approach is how eastern it is–he guides by giving up control, he leads by encouraging other leaders, he favors movement over resistance. He has articulated these concepts in an incredibly accessible way in his most recent book and I strongly suggest everyone read it.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

The Book of Five Rings
book
by Miyamoto Musashi

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Musashi was a different kind of strategist, which is why his book is so important. Most of us won’t find ourselves leading armies anytime soon. As a swordsman, Musashi fought mostly by himself, for himself. His strategic wisdom, therefore, is mostly internal. It’s about the mindset, the discipline, and the perception necessary to win in life or death situations. He tells you how to outthink and outmove your enemies. He tells you how to fend for yourself. And isn’t that precisely what so many of us need help with everyday?

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This is probably the definitive beginner text on evolutionary psychology and one of the easiest to get into. It’s a little depressing at first, realizing how ruthless many of our so called “good” feelings are. But then you realize that truth is better than ignorance, and you emerge seeing the world as it truly is for the first time. Also, a similar read is Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters, which is more of a Q&A approach to the subject and has contemporary edge.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

One of the better books on evolutionary biology that focuses almost entirely on the biological and psychological differences between men and women. It’s written by a journalist (who cites scientists) so it’s easy to read if you’re not studied in the field. If you want to get into evolutionary psychology–which you totally should–this is a good starting point because it covers all the basics. Essentially, it discusses how men and women have benefited evolutionarily through different behaviors and strengths so it would only make sense that they would have developed into two very different entities.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This book – of a long forgotten war – really functions as a biography and strategic analysis of some of the greatest minds in the history of war. We have Pericles, Brasidas, Alcibiades and many others.

The anecdotes and the stories in this book are timeless. If you make your way all the way through it, I promise you will not forget it. Because the war was so long, involved so many different countries and was so varied (sea, land, siege, politics), it basically covers every type of situation you can think of.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Fragments
book
by Heraclitus

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

While most of the other practical philosophy recommendations I’m making are bent towards hard, practical advice, Heraclitus might seem a bit poetic. But those beautiful lines are really the same direct advice and timeless, perspective-changing observations as the others. “Try in vain with empty talk / to separate the essences of things / and say how each thing truly is.” “Applicants for wisdom / do what I have done: / inquire within.” “Character is fate.” “What eyes witness / ears believe on hearsay.” “The crops are sold / for money spent on food.”

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

John Dillinger was played by Johnny Depp. Most people know who he was–mostly because he died in a hail of bullets. But they forget that the other Public Enemy #1 at the time was Alvin Karpis and he didn’t die. In fact, he lived up until the 1980s. Just enough time to do a couple decades at Alcatraz with guys like Al Capone. During a temporary transfer to an alternate prison, Karpis met a young weirdo named Charlie Manson and taught him how to play guitar.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Measure of My Days
book
by Florida Scott-Maxwell

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

The daily notes of a strong but dying woman (born 1883, written in 1968) watching her life slowly leave her and wind to a close. The wisdom in this thing is amazing and the fact that most people have no idea exists–and basically wait until the end of their life to start thinking about all this is very sad to me. Also I love her generation–alive during the time of Wyatt Earp yet lived to see man land on the moon. What an insane period of history.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Xenophon, like Plato, was a student of Socrates. For whatever reason, his work is not nearly as famous, even though it is far more applicable. Unlike Plato, Xenophon studied people. His greatest book is about the latter, it’s the best biography written of Cyrus the Great (aka the father of human rights). There are so many great lessons in here and I wish more people would read it. Machiavelli learned them, as this book inspired The Prince.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Company K (Library Alabama Classics)
book
by William March, Philip D. Beidler

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Far and away the best book ever written about WWI. Better than All Quiet on the Western Front or Goodbye to All That or any of the other classics. But that’s the problem–WWI was awful, perhaps the most awful thing of the 21st century. And this book is forgotten precisely because it portrays the war and its pointlessness too realistically. We want to know, but we don’t really want to know.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Essays and Aphorisms
book
by Arthur Schopenhauer

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Schopenhauer is a brilliant composer of quick thoughts that will help us with our problems. His work was often concerned with the “will”–our inner drives and power. “For that which is otherwise quite indigestible, all affliction, vexation, loss, grief, time alone digests.” But he also talks about surprisingly current issues: “Newspapers are the second hand of history”–and that the hand is often broken or malfunctioning. And of course, the timeless as well: “Hope is the confusion of the desire for a thing for its probability.”

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

A friend and peer of Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Raphael Titian and all the other great minds of theRenaissance sat down in 1550 and wrote biographical sketches of the people he knew or had influenced him. What I like about this book is that the profiles are not about statesmen or generals but artists. There are so many great lessons about craft and psychology within this book. The best part? It was written by someone who actually knew what he was talking about, not some art snob or critic, but an actual artist and architect of equal stature to the people he was documenting.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

The Crack-Up
book
by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edmund Wilson

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

If you like Asylum, read The Crack Up, a book put together by Fitzgerald’s friend Edmund Wilson after his death. It is such an honest and self-aware compilation of someone hell-bent on their own destruction. At the same time, Fitzgerald’s notes and story ideas within the book make it undeniably clear what a genius he truly was. It’s a sad and moving but necessary read.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

If you end up loving Marcus (Aurelius), go get The Inner Citadel and Philosophy as a Way of Life by Pierre Hadot that studies the man (and men) behind the work. 

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Reveille for Radicals
book
by Saul Alinsky

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This is the 48 Laws of Power written in more of an idealist, activist tone. Alinsky was the liaison for many civil rights, union and student causes in the late 50’s and 60’s. He teaches how to implement your radical agenda without using radical tactics, how to disarm with words and media as opposed to arms and Utopian rhetoric.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This is the 48 Laws of Power written in more of an idealist, activist tone. Alinsky was the liaison for many civil rights, union and student causes in the late 50’s and 60’s. He teaches how to implement your radical agenda without using radical tactics, how to disarm with words and media as opposed to arms and Utopian rhetoric.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

The memoir of a professional gambler, fighter and criminal who rode the riverboats of the Mississippi and Red Rivers. It’s a true and vibrant snapshot of a period of American life that you can’t get anywhere else. Gun fights, brawls, cons–it’s all here. Fascinating, peculiar and very easy to read.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This book is the preserved correspondence between Old Gorgon Graham, a self-made millionaire in Chicago, and his son who is coming of age and entering the family business. The letters date back to the 1890s but feel like they could have been written in any era. Honest. Genuine. Packed with good advice.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

The title essay in this book is peerless and amazing. The rest of the essays, which talk about Haley’s unusual approach to psychotherapy are also quite good. If you’ve gone to therapy, are thinking about going to therapy, or know someone going to therapy, this book is a must-read.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/07/24-books-youve-probably-never-heard-of-but-will-change-your-life/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

I found Rockefeller to be strangely stoic, incredibly resilient, and, despite his reputation as a robber baron, humble and compassionate. Most people get worse as they get successful, many more get worse as they age. In fact, Rockefeller began tithing his money with his first job and gave more of it away as he became successful. He grew more open-minded the older he became, more generous, more pious, more dedicated to making a difference.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits and Other Writings
book
by Visit Amazon's Philip A. Fisher Pagesearch resultsLearn about Author CentralPhilip A. Fisher, Kenneth L. Fisher

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This short essay from Plutarch is about an important strategic (and life) lesson. Our enemies and our obstacles are always teaching us. There is always some lesson or advantage we can derive from them. But we must make ourselves open to this. We must cultivate an attitude that welcomes these lessons rather than fights against them.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

This short essay from Plutarch is about an important strategic (and life) lesson. Our enemies and our obstacles are always teaching us. There is always some lesson or advantage we can derive from them. But we must make ourselves open to this. We must cultivate an attitude that welcomes these lessons rather than fights against them.

Ref: http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2014/01/24-books-to-hone-your-strategic-mind/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

Boyd was probably the greatest post-WWII military strategist; he developed the F-15 and F-16, revolutionized ground tactics in war and covertly designed the US battle plans for the Gulf War. He shunned wealth, fame, and power all to accomplish what he felt needed to be accomplished. Coram captures his essence in a way that no other author has touched.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

 A Syrian slave in the first century BC, Publius Syrus is a fountain of quick, helpful wisdom that you cannot help but recall and apply to your life. “Rivers are easiest to cross at their source.” “Want a great empire? Rule over yourself.” “Divide the fire and you will sooner put it out.”

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Fight Club: A Novel
book
by Chuck Palahniuk

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

I’m amazed how many young people haven’t read this book. Truly life-changing. This is the classic of my generation; it is the book that defines our age and ultimately, how to find meaning in it. It’s a cautionary tale too—about being too caught up in revolutionary ideas.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

Ryan Holiday 's Review:

The book sucked me in completely. Everyone I’ve recommended it to loves it.

Ref: http://ryanholiday.net/reading-list/

The Black Swan
book
by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph Over Adversity, 1822-1865
book
by Brooks D. Simpson Professor of History

Edison - A Biography
book
by Matthew Josephson

The Control of Nature
book
by John McPhee

Giving Good Weight
book
by John McPhee