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7 Inspiring Books You Must Read

Reading Boy In Old Boat

She told me to turn off the light.

It was 8pm and it was time to sleep according to the adult’s house rules. These were non-negotiable. My desire and passion for reading that I had discovered after mastering “the cat sat on the mat” sentence at the age of five, made this a cruel and arbitrary time.

And a seven year old’s passionate response…

…”But I want to keep reading“.

Despite protestations and mumblings, the light switch was flicked to the off position. First battle lost. The adults (sometimes referred to as my parents) had all the fun. But they didn’t count on my patience that was driven by an inherited trait of passionate persistence.

As the house went silent I grabbed my bedside lamp and positioned it under the bedcovers so that an orbiting spy satellite would have trouble knowing what I was doing. Parents score zero and child chalks up a win.

This was the start of a reading habit that has sometimes bordered on obsessive.

Glimpses of genius

Inspirational books are your access to the best minds in the world. From creativity, to business and marketing and beyond. They distill the essence of what often is a life of learning into a few pages. It is where you will discover ideas, tactics and habits that are the seeds to success.

A great book is one that reveals the ideas with clarity. They expose the genius but don’t hide it in dross and words that don’t matter. Often the best books are the short books.

It’s also what you do with those concepts that will define you.

Self publishing doesn’t need permission

Some of us may want to not just read but write. Today you do not need to beg for permission to publish a book. You can write it in a word document, send it to your designer (that you found on Freelancer) to create a great looking cover and then upload it to Amazon.

You are now an author!

New age writers and authors are taking advantage of that and building a lifestyle and businesses based on their creative output.

But you must keep in mind that becoming a good or even a great writer requires practice and also that means reading and more reading. Steven King said that  “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.

Great ideas do not emerge from a vacuum.

It’s a new age and you need to reinvent yourself

In an age of video, multimedia and digital innovation the book and the business landscape has evolved. You can read books on tablets, book readers and even your smart phone. You can gain ideas that were made public just a few seconds after the author hit the publish button on their blog.

In a digital age that changes every day, the role of books, blog posts and self-education are more vital than ever. We cannot rely on just the wisdom of the last century or even a decade that has just passed. We need to continue to hunt down the new ideas and innovations that are driving an ever changing world.

Here are some inspiring books to read that are woven into my creativity, business and marketing habits.

1. Elon Musk: Tesla SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

In this book, veteran technology journalist Ashlee Vance provides the first inside look into the extraordinary life and times of Silicon Valley’s most audacious entrepreneur. Written with exclusive access to Musk, his family and friends, the book traces the entrepreneur’s journey from a rough upbringing in South Africa to the pinnacle of the global business world.

Vance spent over 40 hours in conversation with Musk and interviewed close to 300 people to tell the tumultuous stories of Musk’s world-changing companies: PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX and SolarCity, and to characterize a man who has renewed American industry and sparked new levels of innovation while making plenty of enemies along the way.

My key lessons from this book are the three vital ingredients that all successful people have. An appetite for hard work, passion and a higher purpose that is not about money. It’s what you need if you want to change to world or make a dent in the universe.

Sorry…I forgot one other lesson.  Dare to dream big.


2. The One Thing

This inspirational book by Gary Keller reveals the power of focusing on your “one thing”.  His New York Times bestselling books have sold more than 2 million copies.

He also reveals the “One” thing that made Keller Williams Realty, Inc., one of the largest real estate companies in the world. What was that? It was writing a book that positioned him and his company as the authority in real estate in the USA.

In The ONE Thing, you’ll also learn productivity tips such as:

  • Cut through the clutter
  • Achieve better results in less time
  • Build momentum toward your goal
  • Dial down the stress

 One thing book cover image


3. Steal like an an Artist

Creativity and genius is sometimes thought of as being that one insight or flash of inspiration that appears from nowhere. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In this this very insightful book by Austin Kleon explains that you don’t need to be a genius, you just need to be yourself.

That’s the message from Austin, a young writer and artist who knows that creativity is everywhere, creativity is for everyone. A manifesto for the digital age, Steal Like an Artist is a guide whose positive message, graphic look and illustrations, exercises, and examples will put readers directly in touch with their artistic side.


4. Now, Discover Your Strengths

The biggest challenge for all of us is discovering what your mission on this planet is.  That is often the journey of a lifetime.

It also means working on your strengths but many of us don’t know what they are.

Or how to find them.

Unfortunately, most of us have little sense of our talents and strengths, much less the ability to build our lives around them. Instead, guided by our parents, by our teachers, by our managers, and by psychology’s fascination with pathology, we become experts in our weaknesses and spend our lives trying to repair these flaws, while our strengths lie dormant and neglected.

Marcus Buckingham, (who was also coauthor of the national bestseller First, Break All the Rules), and Donald O. Clifton, have created a revolutionary program to help readers identify their talents, build them into strengths, and enjoy consistent, near-perfect performance. At the heart of the book is the Internet-based StrengthsFinder Profile, the product of a 25-year, multimillion-dollar effort to identify the most prevalent human strengths.

This book comes with free access to the web based “Strength Finder Test” that you will find very revealing. I know I did.

Now Discover Your Strengths book cover


5. The Lean Startup: How Relentless Change Creates Radically Successful Businesses

The digital age has turned almost every aspect of our world on its head. This extends to our personal lives and how we do business.

Rather than wasting time creating elaborate business plans, The Lean Startup offers entrepreneurs – in companies of all sizes – a way to test their vision continuously, to adapt and adjust before it’s too late. The author Eric Ries provides a scientific approach to creating and managing successful startups in an age when companies need to innovate more than ever.

I found this a great book to challenge my thinking and grow my business.

The Lean Startup

6. Insanely Simple: The Obsession that Drives Apple’s Success

This book by Ken Seagall caught my attention after reading Steve Jobs’ biography by Walter Isaacson while travelling by train through Italy. After that 630 page exposure to the mind of a genius, I became a bit of a Steve Jobs fanboy. So finding out more about the person that has redefined our world was tempting.

To Steve Jobs, simplicity was a religion. It was also a weapon. Simplicity isn’t just a design principle at Apple—it’s a value that permeates every level of the organization. The obsession with simplicity is what separates Apple from other technology companies. It’s what helped Apple recover from near death in 1997 to become the most valuable company on Earth in 2011.

What does this book cover?

  • Think Minimal: Distilling choices to a minimum brings clarity to a company and its customers—as Jobs proved when he replaced over twenty product models with a lineup of four.
  • Think Small: Swearing allegiance to the concept of “small groups of smart people” raises both morale and productivity.
  • Think Motion: Keeping project teams in constant motion focuses creative thinking on well-defined goals and minimizes distractions.
  • Think Iconic: Using a simple, powerful image to symbolize the benefit of a product or idea creates a deeper impression in the minds of customers.

Put it on your reading list! Insanely simple Ken-Segall-book cover

7. Do the Work

This short but powerful and inspiring book by Steven Pressfield was revealing about a problem that  many of us have. Having a lot of great ideas but not doing the work. This book led to me adopting the Mantra “Done is better than perfect”.

It also helps answer questions such as:

  • Could you be getting in your way of producing great work?
  • Have you started a project but never finished?
  • Would you like to do work that matters, but don’t know where to start?

So the answer is Do the Work, a manifesto by bestselling author Steven Pressfield, that will show you that it’s not about better ideas, it’s about actually doing the work.  Do the Work is a weapon against Resistance – a tool that will help you take action and successfully ship projects out the door.

Do the work Book Cover

Over to you

Books are great and reading them is fun. You can gain many great ideas that are inspiring, motivating and lead to many conversations.

But if you don’t take the key lessons and start the work then nothing happens. I hope this list of the best inspirational books will help you get started.

Over to you.


  • Rog42

    Influence by Cialdini
    The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
    Presenting to Win by Jerry Weissman

    All worth adding to the library 🙂

  • Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for the book list. I’ve been seeing The Lean Startup at the bookstore. Maybe it’s time to finally pick it up!

  • Lovely list Jeff. Really glad to say that I’ve read Books 1 and 5. The remaining 5 books in this list have been added to my To-Be-Read for 2016.

    I would like to contribute to the above list by adding 15 more books if that’s okay 🙂

    15 Books that will make you more intelligent in 2016

  • Great list Jeff 🙂

    Checkout a list of Top 10 Best Digital Marketing Books To Make You A Game Changer http://lenro.co/blog/top-10-best-digital-marketing-books/

  • I have read “The One Thing” and “The Lean Startup.”

    Both of the books are awesome. Adding other books in the bucket list to read them soon.

    Thanks Jeff.

  • Mihail Yordanov

    Great collection! I’ve seen 2 of these books but i never had the chance to buy them. Don’t know if you read Attitude is everything, but i find this book to be one of my top 10 books.

    Any way, have to go and check the rest of the books in the post 🙂

    Thanks for sharing

  • Deborah Starling

    I think starting the new year right is so rewarding so I am definitely looking for some inspirational reading. My number one most motivational and inspirational book of 2015 was “Leading for Results” by Joan Bragar (http://bostonleadership.com/). It is a short and easy to implement read that goes over five essential leadership practices that the author has found to be key in her 25 years in the leadership development business. The book lays out a clear program to help aspiring leaders find their purpose, pursue it, and learn from that pursuit. I like that the book feels like a mini leadership program in itself and that there are exercises provided at the end of each chapter so you can apply what you’ve learned to your specific job/position. It is so easy to believe that leadership and management are the same thing but this book shows you what it means to be a true leader and not just a manager. Happy 2016!

  • Awesome collection I really like it.

  • Great list. Honored to see The ONE Thing included with some of my favorites. I have a stack of Steven Pressfield books in my office just to give to folks who drop by…

  • Deborah Starling

    I love an inspirational memoir or nonfiction read. I think you need to consider “Real Men Wear Beige” by Don Alfredano. It is a memoir that reads like fiction and the author provides an eye-opening look at state prison and the criminal justice system. I was hooked from the start and the author shares his feelings, his fears, and his many life changing experiences in a truly inspirational way. Check out the website for more info about the book – http://realmenwearbeige.com/

  • Leanne Howard Kenney

    The best book I read Is Lions Don’t Need to Roar by D.A. Benton. It’s a book about negotiating that teaches one how to use leadership and personal presence to stand out, fit in and move ahead. It’s an old book, published in 1992 — I believe an update came out in 2001 — but if it’s still in print it’s worth searching it out.

  • Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for the book list. Please update the list if you another useful book.

  • An incredible list! Elon Musk’ biography is a personal favourite of mine, after all he is an incredibly complex individual who have save some nuggets of business insight. We recently put together a list on 10 blogs every marketing leader should read at https://agencyscouts.co.uk/2017/09/blogs-marketing-leaders-read-on-commute/. I trust the community here will benefit from some business and marketing insights!