41 Books Every Ambitious Person Needs To Read

In no particular order…

1. The War Of Art, by Steven Pressfield

Perhaps one of the greatest books on overcoming obstacles in creative work is this one by Steven Pressfield. In it, he identifies Resistance as the latent enemy that cripples your productivity. Short, but powerful reflections on how to break through.

2. The Art Of War, by Sun Tzu.

From external battles to internal battles. This book continues to find its way onto many “must-read” lists for timeless nature. The psychological and strategic lessons that are crucial for winning a war before the battle begins are applicable for the many daily battles you encounter.

3. David And Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell.

In his trademark fashion, Gladwell peels back the layers and allows you to see the deeper mechanics behind the social phenomena. This provocative book takes a completely different angle to one of the greatest stories ever told- David & Goliath. He causes readers to rethink their own weaknesses and turn them into strengths.

 4. Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius.

“Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what’s left and live it properly.” It is hard to find thoughts as lucid as those from the 2nd century Emperor of Rome. Timeless wisdom  from the school of Stoic philosophy.

5. Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss.

The genius of profound simplicity, Dr. Seuss with his trademark prose speaks to all ages with this wise graduation send-off. Walking through life’s inevitable ups and downs, this book is an uncomplicated prescription for any ambitious soul.

6. Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott.

An essential book for writers. Lamotte’s incredibly entertaining style helps not only writers but all artist overcome those devilish writer’s blocks and gives a practical structure for effective writing. Be prepared to be interrupted by laughter.

7. The Art Of Learning, by Josh Waitzkin.

Josh Waitzkin is a grand master chess player turned champion martial artist. He breaks down the secrets to inter-disciplinary learning as he shares his own personal experiences. A book on dissecting the learning process.

8. Quiet, by Susan Cain.

With at least one-third of people describing themselves as introverts, this book is helpful for breaking the misconception that only assertive social butterflies succeed in life. Susan includes plenty of case studies to challenge some of todays unhealthy views on personality and gives a liberating voice to the ambitious introvert.

9. Awaken The Giant Within, by Anthony Robbins.

When it comes to breaking through the obstacles that hold back your peak performance, it is impossible to ignore the work of Tony Robbins. Based on much of his personal experience- going from 30K to a million dollars in one year, Robbins takes your through the crucial steps for success.

10. The 4-Hour Chef, by Tim Ferriss.

Tim Ferriss has fast become the ‘go-to guy’ when it comes to productivity, accelerated learning and life hacks. In this book he gives his 4-step method of speed learning: Deconstruct, Selection, Sequence, Stakes. His latest book is a comprehensive coverage of what he also touches on in his earlier books, The 4 Hour Work Week and The 4 Hour Body.

11. Think And Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill.

Although the title points to success in wealth, the books covers many other aspects of life. Along with the facets of mindset, Hill gives some interesting insight into the ability to channel sexual urges toward success.

 12. The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Achor.

A great book on how to use positive psychology to fuel success and performance at work. Shawn Achor has over a decade of experience researching and overturning conventional wisdom on success and happiness. Three great highlights: The Tetris Effect– how to identify and seize opportunities; The Zorro Circle– channeling efforts; Social Investment– how to network.

 13. Sometimes You Win- Sometimes You Learn, by John C. Maxwell.

The repeat New York Times bestselling author with almost fifty years of leadership experience gives eleven elements that distinguish a learner from a successful learner. He points out that there is a huge difference between experience, and an evaluated experience.

 14. The Power Of Intention, by Wayne W. Dyer.

As modern physics would also affirm, the correlation between your thoughts and matter are more mysterious than you realize. Dr. Wayne Dyer introduces readers to the invisible power of intention- of the human mind and how it affects your reality.

 15. Screw It, Let’s Do It: Lessons In Life, by Richard Branson.

Business can often seem like a narrow pursuit after profits, but the larger-than-life entrepreneur Richard Branson shares about the holistic approach and attitude that made his brand Virgin the success that it is. This autobiographical book takes you behind the scenes into the mind of a pioneer.

16. Outliers: The Story Of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell.

In his incredibly intriguing and captivating style, Gladwell peels back the layers of success to show that there is far more to making it to the top than we realize. What does it really take to be a master in any field?

 17. Things That Matter, by Charles Krauthammer.

Krauthammer was named by the Financial Times as America’s most influential commentator. While you may not agree with his views on politics and life in general, this book is a great tool for reflecting on why you believe what you believe.

18. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou.

An inspirational, autobiographical, and poetic piece from a woman who endured a tumultuous upbringing. A word of warning, it is a graphic book that deals with some ‘taboo’ subjects to the extent that it has been banned from numerous schools. The book will certainly instill a deeper appreciation for what you may have previous taken for granted.

19. Mastery, by Robert Greene.

Initially intrigued with the insight from Machiavelli’s The Prince, Robert Greene has devoted much of his writing career to the studying strategies of success. Mastery includes a historical delve into the lives of some of the greatest figures in order to present a modern day construction of how to master life.

20. The Icarus Deception, by Seth Godin.

The moral of the ancient story of Icarus gets turned on its head by Godin. Rather than play it safe, Godin challenges readers to find courage and break out of conformity and our own personal comfort zones.

21. Choose Yourself, by James Altucher.

An incredibly successful entrepreneur who has started and run more than 20 companies, Altucher has also had his fair share of disasters. Learning from his failures he gives insight into the changing landscape of modern society and how the strength of the ‘middle-man’ is waning. Rather than relying on tradition structures for getting ahead, the author appeals for the reader to “choose yourself.”

22. Nothing To Lose, Everything To Gain, by Ryan Blair.

A great rags to riches story; Ryan Balir went from being a gang member to multimillionaire entrepreneur. He shares very practical lessons on how he started his very first company and his continued work since.

23. The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, by Mike Michalowicz.

Getting started can be extremely overwhelming, particularly when most folks have absolutely no experience. The founder of three multimillion dollar companies gives raw advice on how to become successful when you are indeed starting with nothing.

24. Mojo, by Marshall Goldsmith.

How do you recreate that moment of greatness where the whole world is impacted by your powerful and positive contribution? That is exactly what Goldsmith, a top executive coach teaches in this book.

25. Getting Things Done, by David Allen.

A perennial favorite by David Allen. One of the most successful corporate coaches, Allen’s book is described by Time Magazine as, “the definitive business self-help book of the decade.”A great tip from this book is the two-minute rule: if there is any task that takes less than two minutes to finish, then drop whatever it is that you are doing and finish that task.

26. Secrets Of The Millionaire Mind, by T. Harv Eker.

Do not be misled by the title into thinking that this is another shallow get-rich book. Eker does a great job in breaking down all the elements that come together to create a successful life- overturning how your environment and upbringing may have negatively shaped you.

27. The Power Of Habit, by Charles Duhigg.

Get an insight into what makes a good habit and a bad habit. Charles Duhigg breaks down the stages of building habits: cue, routine, reward. Success is very much dependent upon what your daily habits are. Create better habits and understand why we do the things we do in work and life.

28. Rich Dad Poor Dad, by Robert T. Kiyosaki.

The title of the book is drawn from two real life fathers that Robert had- his biological father, who was highly educated but poor, and the father of Robert’s best friend- an eighth grade drop out who became a millionaire. Kiyosaki takes a strong stance on defining what is a true asset versus a liability, and challenges readers to do the same.

29. Made To Stick, by Chip Heath & Dan Heath.

Hard work can be futile if you are not working smart. This book will teach you about what sets a winning brand apart from the rest. Be productive but also stand out from the crowd.

30. What To Say When You Talk To Yourself, by Shad Helmstetter.

That voice in your head can make all the difference in terms of how successful you are. Shad Helmstetter teaches you to become mindful of negative thoughts that are holding you back and replace them with with the productive and positive self-talk you need.

31. See You At The Top, by Zig Ziglar.

A classic by the great Zig Ziglar. Learn how to turn “lemons into lemonade” in this book. If you have gone through some difficulties recently, Zig gives some great advice along with a healthy all-round approach to success and being productive.

32. Willpower Instinct, by Kelly McGonigal.

Procrastination and lack of self-discipline are the greatest enemies of productivity and success. Dr. Kelly McGonigal is a professor at Stanford University where she teaches on many subject including self-discipline. She gives great insight into our willpower, and lack thereof through a psychological lens. Great practical chapter lessons also.

33. Invisible Influence, by Kevin Hogan.

There are so many subliminal effects at play that may be holding you back from making progress. It may simply be the color of your room that is making you lazy. Uncover and tackle some of the hidden influences at work.

35. The First 20 Hours: How To Learn Anything…Fast! by Josh Kaufman.

Josh Kaufman unpacks his 4 step method to rapidly learning any skill. He teaches the importance of making pre-commitments to 20 hours of practice as a psychological tool for getting over that early plateau of learning.

36. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, by Gary Vaynerchuck.

Gary Vaynerchuck is dominating the online marketing world and he gives the secrets to making huge progress. He give an incredible amount of case studies showing what practices are the most productive for online work. A great book for anyone looking to focus on the online world.

37. Your Creative Brain, by Shelley Carson.

Dr Shelley Carson from Harvard gives 7 steps to maximize imagination, productivity, and innovation in your life. She explains that creative brains are developed and trained, and breaks down the creativity process to allow you brain to function at its creative best.

38. The Compound Effect, by Darren Hardy.

Being the publisher of Success Magazine, Darren Hardy ought to know a thing or two about being productive and successful. In this book he highlights the accumulative effect of daily chipping away at your goal.

39. The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle.

Journalist Daniel Coyle takes readers through 9 different case studies from sports teams to music academies uncovering the truth behind talent. Rather than a gift it is a product of hard work and productivity.

40. Train You Brain For Success, Roger Seip.

This book includes a phenomenal section on developing your memory and speed reading. The ability to read and remember well are crucial for being successful.

41. How To Become A Straight-A Student, Cal Newport.

Cal Newport teaches some unconventional paths and strategies to getting high grades through some more refined strategies. Rather than always cramming, he gives effective methods that can be applied to those outside a school setting also.

8 Replies to “41 Books Every Ambitious Person Needs To Read”

  1. Hi Jeremy! Ah, you’re right! And The Celestine Prophecy, definitely great additions. Thanks for contributing.

  2. Thanks for picking that up and letting me know Nick! Wishing you all the best mate!

  3. I’d love to see one of Alan Watts’ books included here, he has brought he biggest positive mental shift to my life (mostly by watching his YouTube videos as opposed to reading)! Great list however, thanks!

  4. Thanks Gary! I’ve been reading more of Watt’s recently and completely agree—his work brings about a profound mental shift. I am working on expanding the list and Watt’s will definitely be included. Thanks for your comment!

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