My 25 Favorite Books And A Short Story Of Why
1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
When I was 12, a group of friends and I all went to a small church for “youth group” at 6PM every Wednesday night. I don’t remember learning a thing about Jesus, but I do remember that they bought us Hungry Howies and built us boxes and ramps to skateboard on.
Eventually, the Youth Pastor got a job at a bigger church that probably finally gave him some income. There was a group of college students from Southeastern that interned there, and they didn’t want to stop the youth group, so they decided to lead it so we’d all have a place to stay out of trouble (at least one night a week).
The first night they led, they brought a big box of books. They said they didn’t have enough Bibles to give away, but their school had a box of leftover books, and it was How to Win Friends and Influence People.
I wasn’t very interested in reading the Bible at the time, but I was a big reader, so I took it home and read it. The book absolutely changed my life, how I communicate and how I treat people. It was the biggest positive influence in my life at the time, and I credit a lot of my success to it. Since then, I have read the book 2 or 3 more times.
2. Good to Great by Jim Collins
When I read this book, it was 2017 and my business was going into year 3. We had grown substantially from hard work, good marketing and a few good people. We had a mission statement and values, but I didn’t yet know how important those would be. I found Good to Great from researching the best business books and realized quickly how powerful Jim Collin’s research is.
This book catalyzed a major shift in how we view our companies’ mission and values, but it also helped us define our “Hedgehog Concept”, which is why I believe we are still around and growing in such a competitive market.
Since, I have been able to consult and coach other small businesses on the concepts I learned in Good to Great. If everyone would read this book and do what it teaches, then I probably wouldn’t be in the business of consulting.
3. Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras
I read this in the later part of 2019, and it’s actually the prequel to Good to Great. I honestly prefer the order in which I read them, but I would recommend starting with either one, then waiting some time and read the other. It was a great refresher for me and encouraged me to analyze how much we’ve stuck to what we created after reading Good to Great, and make any necessary changes.
They both have separate research, and you will gain a ton of insight into how certain companies create lasting success. If you’re a business nerd, this one is for you.
4. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
When people ask me what my favorite book or movie is – I say The Outsiders. It’s not my favorite in the way that I can watch it or read it all the time, but because of it’s value and impact on my life.
It tells a story of Ponyboy, a “greaser” from the other side of the tracks, who is far more complex and empathetic than all the guys around him. Despite how different he is, they are family and the world to him. Ponyboy has a rough upbringing and an even rougher story where he and a buddy run a way, and the content of the book are what follows.
I was around 12 or 13 when I read this, and I could relate a lot to ponyboy. There were a lot of parallels in my life to his. I was a poor kid that was a part of a gang of rebels, but I was fascinated by books and wisdom surrounded by a group of guys that were more interested in drugs and girls.
I’m sure you’ve heard the classic saying, “stay golden, ponyboy”, and that’s from this movie. It is themed around a Robert Frost poem called “Nothing Gold Can Stay”, and to understand the poem, you’ll have to watch the movie or read the book.
“Stay Gold” was my first tattoo, and it’s across my chest. Although the book doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending, somehow it gave me the hope I needed at that age.
5. The 3 Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
This book is just one of the best narratives ever written, and it’s extremely entertaining. For me though, as always, there’s more to the story…
In 5th grade, we had something called “AR points”, or Accelerated Reader. It was the school systems way of encouraging students to read. Different books had different point values based on how advanced the book was. As a student, we had requirements in order to pass that grade. But if you wanted to go above and beyond, you get get a certain amount of points and get invited to “AR Parties” and get to skip class to watch movies and eat pizza. As a poor kid that happened to be a book nerd, I was all about this.
Due to my entrepreneurial spirit, I ended up creating an arrangement with other students to where I would sneak in the library and take test for them, so they could pass class or even get invited to the parties.
Since The 3 Musketeers was such a high value book (it’s super long and most 5th graders were not reading this book lol), it’s the one I would typically take for the kids so they could get a huge boost in points.
Towards the end of the year, I got crowned “AR King”, for getting the most AR points the school had ever seen one student get. Right before the end of the year, it all came crashing down. Someone got caught, ratted me out, and I was revoked of my crown (although the plaque is still on the wall at the school, and no one has beat my record).
Even though all good things must come to an end, that’s why it’s one of my favorites.
6. Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
This was recommended to me by Andy Frisella in 2015, and I bought it right away. It was shortly after I started Superfit Foods, and I was soaking up everything I could.
It’s a business book, but it’s refreshing in that it is full of real-life stories by Tony Hsieh about the inception, creation and ultimate sale of Zappos.
In 2010, I had undergone a thorough training on customer service with a gym chain called Lifestyle Family Fitness, and how Tony Hsieh built his brand reminded me a lot of everything we learned in that training, but better.
One thing that stuck with me is that Zappos is a “customer service company that sells shoes”, and not a shoe company with customer service. I’ve worked hard since then for Superfit Foods to be a customer service company that sells meals, and I would’ve never had that extreme mindset if I hadn’t read this book.
7. The 4 Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
This book was given to me by a good friend and mentor. He was leading a group called Enli10men, which was 10 men that were handpicked to be a part of a Lululemon community project, and I was one of those men. It was super cool.
We were given a few books, and this was one of them. I received the short version, and read it in a 30 minute sitting while waiting in my truck for a meeting.
Since then, I redesigned my personal values, and you’ll find these 4 agreements rephrased in my own way as additional values of mine that I try my best to live by every day.
I’ve given the book to countless people at this point, and I always tell them that it has more wisdom per word than any other book in existence (besides the Bible).
8. The Reason for God by Tim Keller
Prior to starting Superfit Foods, I was a personal trainer at a Golds Gym in Lakeland, FL for a short period of time. During that time, I trained a high school senior named Colin, and he was like the younger version of Tim Tebow.
He went to a local Christian academy, and as a gift for graduation, their professor gave them the book “The Reason for God”.
Since he had already read it (of course), he gave it to me. Colin was a huge influence on my life, back then and still now, despite how much younger than me he was.
Tim Keller isn’t for everyone, but how he teaches the gospel and subtly but intelligently argues the existence of Jesus Christ resonates with my mind really well. I read this book early on in my Christian walk, and it helped me take leaps and bounds in my understanding of the whole story.
9. Contact: The Practical Science of Hearing from God by Dr. David Stine
I was early in my Christian walk when I stumbled across an Instagram ad for this book. Although the title probably sounds like heresy to some super religious people, the words “practical science of” are like music to my ears, so I bought it.
My girlfriend at the time criticized me for needing this book to “hear” from God, but I read it anyway (and stopped dating her). Stine does really well at doing exactly what the book says, and explaining the practical ways to hear from God.
As Christians, we do make hearing from God very complicated. This book reminds you how simple it can be.
I read it while on a mission trip to Costa Rica in 2018, and I’ll never forget it.
10. Jesus is ___ by Judah Smith
What is Jesus? Is He grace? Mercy? Love? Justice? Truth?
Although there really is not a one answer for that, because Christ is the creator of the Universe who can’t be defined by one word or even explained in our worldly language.
But Judah Smith, with entertaining stories and lots of Biblical truths, does an incredible job of articulating what Jesus is to us.
I think I like this book a lot because even though I was reading my Bible daily, it helped parallel some of the stories and gave me a better to-date understanding, which ultimately has helped me articulate the nature of Jesus to others.
11. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
I saw this book at Starbucks in 2015 and thought it was odd that Starbucks was selling books. I was about to finish whatever book I was on though, so I told myself if the book is still there next time I come to Starbucks, I’ll buy it.
Well it was there the next time I went, so I bought it. It’s not a business or Christian book, but a true story about social injustice. Bryan Stevenson, the author, was a young Harvard graduate and new lawyer who saw a need, moved to the South, and pursued justice for those who couldn’t afford it, which were primarily blacks and Hispanics.
The book tells mainly of one particular case, but in its entirety, it opened my eyes to how extreme social injustices can be, even today, and how little I (or we) really know.
I gained a much better understanding and empathy for people I honestly hadn’t thought about since getting out of the system, and I’m glad I read it. This book helped me love people more.
12. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
All 8 of them! I don’t really have a favorite, but if I did, it would be The Goblet of Fire. But you still have to read them all (or at least watch all the movies).
The Harry Potter books were during the same era as The 3 Musketeers, during the AR Points scandal. But they were so much more than some points and free pizza to me.
In school, I was always the first one done. Cool brag, yeah, but I was always bored. So I was always in trouble. Eventually, my teacher let me spend the rest of my time in the library reading books, and I would always find a comfy couch and read all the Harry Potter books.
They were a way to get away from the real world, and my real world at that age wasn’t that great. Although it wasn’t 3rd world country bad, all kids know at that age is relative comparison, and compared to everyone else, we had it bad.
As an adult, I watch the Harry Potter series at least every year. I recommend escaping to fictional movies and books like this regularly. If at the very least, for creative enlightenment. You never know how a crazy wizard book/movie can help give you your next great idea or solution to a current problem.
13. Unshakeable by Tony Robbins
I bought this book originally because it’s Tony Robbins, and I figured it was going to be a great inspirational self-help book. We can all use those from time to time.
But when I read the back, I realized it was about money. Despite being a business owner and a very ambitious person, I’m really not that into money. So it collected dust for about 2 years.
I picked it back up early 2019 and thought that despite my lack of interest in money, I should still pick it up and learn how to be a better financial steward. After all, Tony is a genius and we can always get better without money.
I learned soooo much. He has a very down to earth way of explaining things like stocks, bonds, and financial management that helped me a ton. Since reading it, I haven’t looked at or treated my money the same. Also, it’s helped me a lot in my conversations with financial professionals, and that’s invaluable as an entrepreneur.
And at the end of the book, you get the bonus inspiration self-help content I was originally looking for. So it was a win/win!
14. Why You Do the Things You Do by Gary Sibcy and Timothy E. Clinton
There’s only so much I’m really comfortable saying about this one.
Long story short, we all have baggage. Whether or not you want to admit it, that baggage is a part of who you are and why you do the things you do.
I’ve been on a lifelong journey of trying to figure myself out. I want to understand my bad (and good) habits, and to ultimately be a better human, so this book was recommended to me by a therapist friend of mine.
It exposed some of the most painful parts of my past, but in doing so, it helped to free me from them.
I would recommend this book to anyone open minded enough to endure whatever pain comes with getting to know yourself at the micro-level.
15. Leadership Pain by Samuel Chand
Speaking of pain – leadership is hard. I think we are all called to some form of leadership, but most of us avoid it. Some people unconsciously avoid it, but for the others, they are really avoiding the pain.
This book was recommended to me by the Pastor who baptized me during an interview I had with him a few years later. He is full of wisdom and tough life and leadership experiences, so I asked to sit down with him. When I asked what books I should read, he told me this one.
Every parent knows that at some point, your kids are going to break your heart. When you invest all your blood, sweat and tears into building something and leading people, much like parenting, you are going to get your heart broken.
Often times, it’s not malicious on the other persons end. Leadership comes with expectations and unexplainable weight, and that’s where we can feel the pain.
This book gave me the support I needed during a very tough time in my leadership journey. If you are a leader and have endured pains of any kind, especially in ministry, I highly recommend this book.
16. Atomic Habits by James Clear
Understanding habits is the key to understanding how to catalyze change in your life, and in others. James Clear is beyond his years in intelligence and wisdom, and did a great job writing the least boring habits book there is.
I say that because most books on habits are based on a bunch of research, and research is boring to most people. He uses stories, data and personal experiences to help his readers understand habits, and learn how to control theirs in order to grow as a person.
I don’t think anyone has eating problems or drinking problems. They have habit problems, but that isn’t what the world is teaching us. Read this book if you want to learn how atomic (small) habits over time can dramatically change your life.
17. 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell
This was a real eye-opening book for me. I’m somewhat of a natural leader, and I’m a passionate student of leadership, so although I know I’m not the best, I figured I had a good grip on things.
This book exposed to me multiple areas in which I could grow significantly. I loved how it outlines all 21, so being the nerd that I am, I could take separate notes on the ones I was confident in my abilities, and the ones I knew I was falling short in. It allowed me the opportunity to pinpoint certain weaknesses and create an effective strategy to get better at them
This book inspired me to start having meetings with my staff in which I ask them to review my performance and help me identify blind spots of mine.
18. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
In early 2016, I had a weird dream where all I remember was a guy I knew (who is now a great friend of mine) saying the number 43. I never remember my dreams, so when I woke up, I wrote the number down. The next day I saw him at church and with much hesitation, told him about my dream. He was pretty open minded about it, so he said he’d be on the lookout for the number.
The next day, he texts me. He said that on his break at work he usually reads a little, and when he opened his book, it was page 43. The book was 7 Habits and the page talked about creating a mission and vision for your life.
I bought the book and read it right away. That experience changed my life, and I have since lived with a much greater emphasis on mission and vision and have taught on the topic countless times.
Much like the previous book, but this book even comes with a test that grades you on a scale of 1-100. I found that super helpful, because I didn’t have to grade myself based on my opinion, but on objective scoring from a questionnaire.
Each year I read the book again and take the test again to see how much I’ve grown.
19. Supernatural by Dr. Michael Heiser
I went to Celebration Church for about 4 years. That was where I originally gave my life back over to Jesus. Around the time that I began transitioning out, we had our Awakening service, and Dr. Michael Heiser was introduced.
The Pastors there, along with Heiser, began talking a lot about the “unseen realm”. If you aren’t a Christian, or if you are, but you don’t read your Bible, this will probably come off a little spooky to you. But I was/am fascinated with it.
Heiser was somewhat of a specialist in that area, and he wrote a long book called The Unseen Realm, and a shorter version called Supernatural. I read the shorter version.
It gives you a ton of context (based on his studies) around the really “deep” parts of the Bible. The parts where they talk about demons in heavenly realms, or spirits, or fallen angels.
If you are into this stuff, or if you are a Christian in general, I recommend picking it up and having an open mind. Also, remember.. the core message of the Bible is Jesus. Don’t get too caught up with the other-worldly stuff and forget that part.
20. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
This is a fictional story with a lot of religious or biblical roots. Not necessarily any particular religion, but it’s a really intriguing story about man’s search for God, essentially.
I don’t want to take too much from the book, but the storyline is about a young Shepard boy who has dreams of a treasure, and risks everything to pursue that treasure.
If you need a break from business-specific or self-help books that require you to think a ton, I’d recommend this one. It was a really refreshing and easy read for me because of the adventure stories and parallels to life, and it definitely expanded my mind.
21. Can’t Hurt Me by David Coggins
This book (or audiobook) literally changed my life, and how I look at what excellence means to me, and my personal capacity. No joke.
It’s the story of David Coggins life, who had a really rough childhood, went from being extremely overweight to a Navy Seal, then an Army Ranger, and now a ultra-marathon runner and breaking the world record for pullups in a day.
I recommend the audiobook because he actually gets interviewed by the reader throughout the book, so it has a podcast feel to it and it’s easy to stay engaged. This book will fire you up!
It is what motivated me to do my first Sprint Triathlon. I always would make excuses for how my injuries and my plantar fasciitis stop me from excelling as a hybrid athlete, but from listening to his stories, I knew there was more in me.
Since then, I’ve joined CrossFit, and I’ve done 4 triathlons and a ½ marathon. Within the next year, I plan on doubling those and competing in a few CrossFit competitions as well.
22. The Last Arrow: Save Nothing for the Next Life by Erwin McManus
This was another “there is more in me” books, but more mental/spiritual than physical. McManus is a Pastor of Mosaic church in Los Angeles and has some crazy life stories.
I read this during a tough time spiritually, and it helped get me out of that hole in my mind. The main reference for “the last arrow” is from a story in the Bible of a king who was told to shoot all the arrows he had out of the window in order to win the war, but he gave up too soon.
I remember driving down A1A and finding a spot off the side of the road to just look out at the ocean and read this book, and that’s where I read it every weekend. Sometimes I’d bring a cup of wine and a bag of sour starburst gummies.
McManus reminds us that we have so much more within us, and through God, we have limitless possibilities. Life is too short to not max out every day, every relationship and every opportunity.
23. As a Man Thinketh by James Allen
Me and three of my friends read this together and would share our thoughts on each chapter weekly. It was a really cool experience.
We underestimate the impact of our thoughts on our lives, but they are at the root of every single actions. Not one thing is said or done without first being a thought, and this book dives into the complexities of that.
With lots of Proverb-esque vibes to it, just less prehistoric language. Especially if you’re not a Bible reader and have never read the book of Proverbs, this is an incredible source of wisdom for you.
It’s a short read and I would say the 2nd most wisdom per word of any book I’ve read so far. It’s one of the few books I read once a year now.
24. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
If you know the name Malcolm Gladwell, then you already know this is an interesting book. He is a journalist, a researcher and a very thought-provoking writer. I would recommend any of his books or audiobooks, but this was my favorite from him so far.
It explains certain phenomena’s that most people rarely consider even thinking about. Like why is Bill Gates, among the thousands of other geniuses of his time, the one who made it? Why are certain athletes the best in the world, when others with the same amount of inherent talent and hard work go unknown?
I don’t want to spoil it for you, but one really interesting example is when some kids were held back in school, or maybe started late, they excelled far beyond their peers both in academics and sports. This was because at that young of an age, 6 months of a more developed brain and body puts you far ahead of your grade competition. That creates compound interest, per say, and allows you to continue to gain advantage year after year, until you are the #1 draft pick.
There’s so much more he explains! It’s awesome. You just have to check it out for yourself.
25. Anonymous by Alicia Britt Cole
This is a fictional narrative of Jesus’ hidden years. For those that don’t know, Jesus didn’t come onto the scene until He was 30 years old. There is one instance of Him as a kid in the Bible, but other than that, we know nothing.
Most people, me included until I was recommended this book, never think about that.
The book reminds us that our hidden years can actually be our best years. During the 30 years that no one heard about Jesus, He was developing into the person that would eventually walk the Earth for 3 years, raising the dead and healing the sick, and eventually die for us, be raised to life and ascend to Heaven.
We take for granted our hidden years, but those are our developmental stages. Especially in a world where everything is publicly displayed through every digital platform, and we (at least I) am chasing every new win to celebrate, I was reminded to slow down and appreciate my intimate relationship with Jesus and my relationship with self-growth that happens behind the scenes.
These are my 25 favorite books that I have read so far in my 30 years of life!
Keep in mind a few things before your ambitious nature tries to convince your mind that you will read all of these in the next year or so:
- I have been an avid reader since I knew how to read well enough (around 8 years old I guess?), so I have spent plenty of time on this list.
- All of these books provide a ton of value, so they aren’t meant to be speed read. I only speed-read books I have already read (or textbooks for school), so take your time.
- Even though I read some of these as a kid, I would recommend them to anyone at any age.