Books read is just a vanity metric. If you read one book a year that changes your life, that’s all it takes.Naval Ravikant
So here’s a few books and blogs that had an impact on me. Or that I would recommend to a friend. In no particular order.
For each book or blog that I recommend, there are at least 10 that didn’t make the cut. I include only the best of the best.
At the bottom of this page there are links to reading lists of people I admire. Then those sometimes link to other lists and… you can spend your whole weekend like that.
I last updated this list in August 2021. If it gets a bit old, feel free to tell me @loregrav and I’ll update it.
Needless to say, the list is personal — when you read something is just as important as the thing itself.
This Will Make You Smarter, edited by J. Brockman
The book is a collection of mental models. It was my first introduction to the concept, something which would open me up to an entire world of self-growth and discovery, and eventually to the rest of the books on the list. I read it young, it hit me at the right time, and the content did actually make me smarter (or so I think.)
The Black Swan, by N. N. Taleb
Taleb is brash, and it takes a little to get used to his style. But by the end you start seeing things from his point of view, and the style only amplifies the book’s effect on you.
Per se the concept explained in the book may not seem all that revolutionary at a first look — unexpected things happen — but he looks at it from a different point of view, exploring ramifications you hadn’t thought of. Worth re-reading, and a good entry book for the rest of his Incerto series.
The Lessons of History, by W. and A. Durant
Will and Ariel Durant spent 40 years writing a sprawling 11-volume magnum opus on the history of human civilization. Then they wrote this 100-page book summarizing what they believed were the lessons to be learned from history. If you had to read only one history book in your life, let this be it.
The Almanack of Naval Ravikant, edited by E. Jorgenson
This book is a free compendium of Naval‘s maxims and lessons that were already available on the Internet, in one neat package.
Naval completely changed my view on money, wealth, and entrepreneurship. It may be a case of “the right time,” but it hit me and I still feel the effects years later.
A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, by William B. Irvine
Do you have a philosophy of life? Do you have bedrock principles that guide your actions, or do you kind of just go randomly about life? Having a philosophy of life helps to move you from the second to the first category. Give Stoicism a try, this book is the perfect introduction to it.
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
This is the only fiction book on this list, and for good reason. It’s one of the few books where I truly felt transported to another era. Eco’s historical accuracy is uncanny. He wrote this first book of his after countless years of pouring over medieval texts, and his expertise shows. Plus it was inspired by, and is just as gripping as the Sherlock Holmes novels.
How To Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams
I’m aware the author of this book is considered to be controversial. When decoupling the ideas in the book from the author, however, they stand up, at least for me.
In the book, Adams explains how he went from having just a regular, good old office job to becoming more realized and fulfilled as a person, including happiness, money, fitness, etc. It sounds like some self-aggrandizing tale, but it is not. He gives tips which, when I think back to it, changed my life.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Do you have a craft? Writing, coding, painting, singing, or any work you do on your own? This book is a punch in the face. This book is a kick in the boulders. This book is a call to arms. My heart rate increases every time I open it. In a good way.
Blogs & Websites
Essays by Paul Graham
What are Graham’s essays about? Hard to tell. Some are about startups, some about identity, others about growing up. The common thread is that they are all insanely evergreen. That’s the best compliment I can pay a blog. Read his essays from 2004 and they are just as fresh and current as the ones he just posted. And you are guaranteed to finish one having learned something new.
Stratechery by Ben Thompson
This weekly column is one I read religiously. Ben Thompson’s blog is a must read for anyone who is interested in the cross section between technology and strategy. He carved a niche diving deep into explaining why tech companies do what they do.
Raptitude by David Cain
Raptitude has been going on for a long time, and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere. Which is a great thing, because it’s home to classics such as Wise People have Rules For Themselves and The Only Thing You Need to Get Good At. The blog is about becoming a better human being. You might notice some parallels with my own blog; that’s… let’s call it me flattering him.
Articles by Derek Sivers
Derek has been writing on the internet for more than 20 years, and his website is a treasure trove of insight. A couple of must-reads are There’s no speed limit and Actions, not words, reveal our real values. The link connecting most of his posts is that of relaying personal experiences, sharing what he’s learned so far. Like Graham’s blog, read something he’s written ten years ago and it feels as relevant today as it did then.
Articles and Handbooks by Julian Shapiro
Julian’s website can be best described as educational. It succeeds in that regard. Julian is also not trying to sell you anything: no overpriced course at the end of the rainbow. His writing style is clear and concise. He publishes handbooks, which are guides you can read in 30 minutes about a number of topics: there’s one on writing and one on growth marketing, for example. His blog is extremely evergreen, containing articles ranging from how to punctuate to how to pick a career.