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Read These 60 Books to Get an Education

Read These 60 Books to Get an Education

books to get an educationI can hear you screaming, “Is she kidding, read 60 books in one year?” while you’re running in the other direction. I chose 60 books for a specific reason. I want you to read just over a book a week for 52 weeks. I want you to become a more well-rounded person, and get an education in the process. Research shows that the average Chief Executive Officer (CEO) on average reads about 60 books each year. And the books they read make them think. You may not be a CEO, but wouldn’t it be grand to set the bar a little higher for yourself, so you can feel like a Chief? If CEOs place a premium on self-education, why shouldn’t you?

Reading gives me pleasure, so I indulge myself all the time. But it’s also a good thing that I’m self-assured, because I would suffer from a complex, since Teddy Roosevelt read at least two books a day. You heard me correct, the United States President of yore, read one book in the morning, one in the evening, and there were times when he squeezed in a third. So reading 60 books this year shouldn’t be too onerous for you, should it? Imagine if we were sitting here a year from today, and you read joust over a book a week for 52 weeks, what would the conversation sound like? Imagine the conversations you would have with your peers, when you talk about the amazing things you read that you could apply at work. You would be seen as the go-to person, how cool is that?

Getting the Most from Reading the Following 60 Books

Before I list the 60 books that I recommend that you read this year, I want to emphasize the importance of taking detailed handwritten notes while reading. Research indicates that when you take notes by hand, you remember more of the information.  Additionally, when you take notes by hand, you tend to write the information in your own words, which helps to cement the information into your long-term memory. Type up your notes after each book you read, then extract five big ideas from the book. Think about how you can apply the five big ideas. You want to develop the habit of active reading – interacting with the words on the page.

To read 60 books in a year, you have to schedule reading into your day. I recommend that you read about 50 pages each day, and when you finish one book, do not wait too long to start another. A few of the books on the list are children’s books that are chock-full of wisdom, and some of them you have never heard of. You can easily read them in no time, so it’s important to start reading another book after you have read a children’s book. There are times when you will be busy with life, so if you have more time one day, read more pages that day, that way you will not fall behind during the busiest times.

Reading diverse books and reading broadly will help you to become more well-rounded, and that’s how you can use books to get an education. Reading fiction gives you insights into human nature. If you want to hone your problem-solving skills, read detective stories and other mysteries. Use the clues given to solve the case. Many of the detective stories written years ago, are often superior to the ones you see on the bookstore shelves today. Science fiction takes you into a world of possibilities – and you are often a few steps ahead of reality, while children’s books help you to tap into your most creative self, reminding you of what it’s like to leap into the world of make believe. Fairy tales and fables often have a moral that makes you stop to think. And business books help you to stay on top of trends that can impact the way you perform your role, and operate your business. Reading the best sellers is not necessarily a smart move, because at times, what you need to find that one good idea – the one that can transform your life – is to read a book that’s off the beaten path.

Please download the Monthly Reading Matrix. For every four books that you read, enter the five big ideas for each book into the template, then follow the instructions. I know this sounds very mysterious, but it really isn’t. The Reading Matrix walks you through the process of connecting ideas from the books you read to form hybrid ideas. All it takes is one great idea to transform your life.

Books to Get an Education

  1. How to Read a Book: If you are going to read 60 books in a year, it makes sense that you learn how to get the most from reading. That’s where How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler comes it. You will learn about the different levels of reading, the reasons for reading any book, and much more. This is not an easy book to read, and is more like a reference book. You find yourself referring to this book all the time.
  2. How to Read Literature Like a Professor: I really enjoyed How to read Literature Like a Professor, and it was not “dry” like I expected. This book helps you to better understand the symbolisms in books. Why did the author use certain words? Why did he choose to start the story that way?
  3. Think Like a SheEO: I met the author, Vicki Saunders over a year ago, and she espouses radical generosity. According to Vicki Saunders, “SheEOs are women who leverage their passions and strengths to create businesses that build new models, new mindsets, and new solutions for a better world. SheEOs discover their own path and create success on their own terms.” If you think that our world is broken, and are looking for something different, you have to read this book
  4. Contagious: I read Contagious by Jonah Berger because I wanted to understand how ideas spread. I do not have a lot of likes on my Facebook page, I do not get as much traffic as I’d like to my blog, and I do not show up as often as I’d like in LinkedIn searches. I tried some of the tips that the “experts” recommended, but they simply didn’t work for me, so I decided to go back to the basics, to get a handle on virality. If you want your ideas and products to go viral, you need to understand the basic components of virality. This book delivers
  5. Hooked: When you are trying to understand a concept, you need varying points of view, so I decided to read Hooked by Nir Eyal. Eyal has developed the Hooked Model, and he outlines the steps you have to take if you want to create habit forming products. This book builds on Contagious.
  6. The Misfit Economy: When I first started to read The Misfit Economy, I was simply fit to be tied because I was so upset, and this has a lot to do with my religious upbringing. The authors use examples to demonstrate that we can learn from pirates, drug dealers, hackers, and others who society deems are misfits. I felt so much better when the authors indicated that they did not agree with people who break the law. When you read this book, with an open mind, like I was forced to do, you’ll get many ideas on what you need to become a success. I was able to tie the content of this book to virality.
  7. Non-Obvious: I have always been interested in learning how to spot trends, and wanted to find a formula to do so. I read about Non-Obvious: How to Think Different, Curate ideas & Predict the Future by Rohit Bhargava, and was far more intrigued by the subtitle, so I decided to buy this book. So many people talk about curation, and most of them do not know how to do it properly. I love this book because it teaches you to dig below the surface, because some of the best things are non-obvious. And there are steps you can use to identify trends in the short-term. I love the many examples in the book on how to use the trends that the author identifies.
  8. Several Short Sentences About Writing: Don’t you love a book that’s called Several Short Sentences about Writing? This book by Verlyn Klinkenborg is not what you’d expect from a book about writing. While reading the book, you’ll feel some angst because you realize that you’ll have to unlearn most of what you know about writing well. When you stop to think about what he is saying, you’ll realize that it makes perfect sense. If you do not write as much as you should because you are suffering from writer’s block, get over yourself because it doesn’t exist.
  9. Nervous Conditions: As a black person, it is always difficult to read about racial discrimination. Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga forces you to think about what it’s like to be discriminated against. Reading books such as this one, helps you to develop cultural sensitivity.
  10. Creating Fat Content: I struggled with putting this book on the list because of the glaring grammar mistakes that often got in the way while you are reading. In the end, I decided to include Creating Fat Content: Boost Website Traffic with Visitor-Grabbing, Google-Loving Web Content by Dr. Andy William because it has some really great tips to help you develop authority.
  11. The Devotion of Suspect X: The Devotion of Suspect X by Japanese author Keigo Higashino is an excellent read, and will definitely help you to hone your problem solving skills. The book was so good that I was upset when it ended. My heart was also very heavy – this is one of the disadvantages of being an active reader.
  12. How to Fly a Horse: Like Several Short Sentences about Writing, How to Fly a Horse by Kevin Ashton is another book that turns your belief system on its head because you have to unlearn what you’ve been taught. Forget everything you’ve been told about how to become more creative. I was very emotional when I read this book because I have been using a creativity model I found in The Art of Thought by Graham Wallas and How to Fly a Horse debunks the creativity model. Don’t you hate it when that happens?
  13. Think and Grow Rich: The Original 1937 Unedited Edition: I hated Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill the first time I read it about 15 years ago. I guess I wasn’t ready for the message. This time around, I was crazy enough to read three versions of the book, starting off with the contemporary version. The book includes a lot of information about success principles that you can apply to your life.
  14. Beowulf: A New Verse Translation (Bilingual Edition): This book allows you to get in touch with the warrior in you, and sometimes that’s exactly what you need to succeed. Beowulf, a young warrior, and 15 of the bravest men sail to Denmark to assist the Danes in slaying the monster, Grendel. There’s much rejoicing, and Hrothgar bestows Beowulf with many gifts for releasing his people from Grendel’s reign of terror. This book was easy to read, and a page turner.
  15. Season of Migration to the North (New York Review Books Classics): This is another book you’ll find difficult to read because of the subject matter, but one you have to read because it deals with the immigration experience. Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih is a surprise because there’s a lot of graphic sexual references in the second half of the book, which is unusual because Sudan is an Islamic country, which frowns upon such things.
  16. The Woman in White (Penguin Classics): Not enough people are reading the classics today. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins delivers and you will enjoy it tremendously. There’s a good mystery waiting for you to solve it. This is an intriguing story.
  17. The Phantom Tollbooth: Although the book has some profound lessons, I chuckled often because of the inventiveness of Norton Juster, the way he names places and things in The Phantom Tollbooth. Milo, Tock and Humbug venture on the Island of Conclusions where people are always jumping to conclusions (Isn’t that priceless?). You have to ponder on the deeper meaning.
  18. BrainRead – Effective Speed Reading – Reading like the Swedish: I appreciated BrainRead by Göran Askeljung because the author talks about the science of reading and the book is loaded with exercises, tips and resources to help you improve your reading speed.
  19. The Power of Visual Storytelling: How to Use Visuals, Videos, and Social Media to Market Your Brand: With the rise of visual content creation, tools such as CanvaBeFunky and Fotojet,  have become commonplace. The Power of Visual Storytelling: How to Use Visuals, Videos, and Social Media to Market Your Brand by Ekaterina Walter and Jessica Gioglio is an important book because it not only shows us, but tells us what we need to know about visual storytelling. A good image complements your words.
  20. Catching the Catfishers: Disarm the Online Pretenders, Predators, and Perpetrators Who Are Out to Ruin Your Life: In Catching the Catfishers, Tyler Cohen Wood points out that to get access to some types of information, you have to give up some of your privacy, and this is not something that most people give enough thought to. This is an important book because having a stellar online reputation is very important. I love this book because it has a lot of practical tips that will help you and it raises a lot of issues and concerns that you are not thinking about.
  21. Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers, Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur (Review): Are you seriously thinking about starting a business? Has the environment in which you are operating your business changed significantly? If you answered yes to any of the two questions, read Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers by Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur.
  22. The Three Questions [Based on a story by Leo Tolstoy](Review): The Three Questions [Based on a story by Leo Tolstoy] is a short story that can literally be read in five minutes. Despite that, the story is very profound and the lessons are suitable for all age groups. Although this is a children’s book, you will think about what you are reading. Learn what the three questions are!
  23. Girl in Hyacinth Blue: In Susan Vreeland’s Girl in Hyacinth Blue, the star in the story is a Johannes Vermeer painting. At his apartment, Cornelius Engelbrecht shows Richard an unsigned painting that is in the style of Johannes Vermeer. For a math teacher, Cornelius knows an awful lot about Johannes Vermeer and his paintings, and tries to convince Richard that the painting is an authentic Vermeer. This is an intriguing story, and I like it because not much is known about the artist, Johannes Vermeer, and it’s interesting to see, how based on history, someone uses her imagination to reconstruct the artist’s life. The bigger lesson here is that you will never have all the information you need, so you have to fill in the gaps.
  24. Girl With a Pearl Earring: A Novel: This is another book about Johannes Vermeer. Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier is very different from Girl in Hyacinth Blue, but is also worth the read. In the story, the artist is an aloof character, however, every so often, when he senses interest from Griet, the main character, so he takes the time to explain what he’s doing. I  included both books here for a reason. There are times when you decide not to work on a project because others have done it before. Don’t let that stop you because you will bring a different perspective.
  25. Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft: Kon Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl isn’t a project management book, but by following the process that Thor Heyerdahl used for his expedition, you’ll learn how to manage a project. The book chronicles the amazing journey from Peru to the Pacific Islands on a balsa wood raft. The expedition wasn’t smooth sailing all the time, but they were excited because they had successfully made it to the Pacific Islands. The journey to success is filled with many obstacles along the way.
  26. Jamaica Inn: Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier is another fantastic classic. After her mother dies, Mary makes the journey to her Aunt Patience and Uncle Joss Merlyn. While on the journey, Mary learns that people don’t think highly of her Uncle Joss, and in fact, he’s despised by his neighbors. Why is that? While Joss is away, one day, Mr Bassat, a magistrate, raids Jamaica Inn, but finds no evidence of smuggling or other wrongdoing because the evidence had been removed the night before. Are you intrigued yet?
  27. Ender’s Game (Ender’s Game (The Ender Quintet)): Although I found Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card difficult to read because of the child abuse and bullying, I found myself taking notes because the book is an excellent training course on strategy and tactics. In fact, the military often usse this book in strategy training.
  28. The 46 Rules of Genius: An Innovator’s Guide to Creativity (Voices That Matter): This short book by Marty Neumeier helps you tap into your creative self. This is important because when you do original work that’s creative, you are less likely to lose your job to automation.
  29. Bunker Bean: Although Bunker Bean by Harry Leon Wilson is an excellent book, the character, Bunker Bean, will drive you nuts because he is so simple-minded and gullible. You will find certain sections of the book difficult to read because the character speaks very bad English. Persist reading because you will learn some important life lessons. The book also gives you great insights into human nature.
  30. Photoreading, 3rd Edition: If you are interested in reading faster, PhotoReading by Paul Scheele is another option for you. The book outlines a process that consists of five stages – preparing, previewing, PhotoReading, activating, and rapid reading, and the book walks you through the stages. It’s a great book, but I think that the process is too involved to completely grasp the concept by simply reading the book. I think you will also have to attend the course. The book is important because you save time reading a book when you scan it first.
  31. Awaken the Genius: Mind Technology for the 21st Century: The author, Patrick Porter defines awakened geniuses as “those who have learned to tap that superconscious reservoir of information so as never to waste time or energy in recreating the wheel. They simply make modifications and enhancements until they move forward with optimum speed and efficiency.” This book is a practical guide filled with lots of exercises.
  32. Superlearning 2000: New Triple Fast Ways You Can Learn, Earn, and Succeed in the 21st Century: This book is chock full of techniques, tools and resources to assist the reader in learning faster, remembering more of what they read, and optimizing their brain capacity by using both sides of their brain.
  33. The New Birth Order Book: Why You are the Way You Are: The New Birth Order is entertaining, yet insightful, and packed with a lot of interesting information, which gives you insights about why people behave the way they do based on their birth order. However, I think there is too much going on in the book, so to get the most from this book, I suggest that you read the first ten chapters and use the Table of Contents to decide which other chapters to read.
  34. Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy: This is a book by Isadore Sharp, Founder, Chairman and CEO of the Four Seasons Hotel. The book is an autobiography, which weaves in the story of the renowned five-star Four Seasons Hotel chain. While reading the book, I noticed distinct similarities between it and The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence: A Handbook for Implementing Great Service in Your Organization. Both Nordstrom and Four Seasons are best-in-class and they compete by offering impeccable customer service.
  35. The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence: Nordstrom is known for its impeccable customer service and by reading The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence, you will learn about some great ideas to introduce in your business.
  36. The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs: Insanely Different Principles for Breakthrough Success: Carmine Gallo has identified seven principles to guide innovation based on what he has learned from studying Steve Jobs, the Co-founder and former CEO of Apple. The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs is an enjoyable read and you will find yourself stopping several times to think about what you are reading.
  37. Briefcase Essentials: Susan T. Spenser attained phenomenal success in areas that are non-traditional for women so I decided to focus on her experiences which she outlines in Briefcase Essentials: Discover Your 12 Natural Talents for Achieving Success in a Male-Dominated Workplace. You will learn a lot from this amazing woman’s journey.
  38.  Sam Walton: Made in America: Sam Walton: I am not a big fan of Wal-Mart, but I recommend that you give Sam Walton: Made in America a read. You will not agree with all of his philosophies (I don’t), but if you own a business, or planning to start one, you’ll find information that you can immediately apply.
  39. How to Build an Empire on an Orange Crate: I love a good rags-to-riches stories to discover how people attain personal and professional success against the odds, and that’s what How to Build an Empire on an Orange Crate by Ed Mirvish is about. It’s an autobiography of Honest Ed Mirvish’s life, you’ll learn important business and lessons.
  40. The10X Rule: This is among the best books that I read in 2015. If you want to achieve extraordinary success, you have to put in 10 times more of relevant effort than the typical person. What would happen to your output this year if you did that? Make sure that you surround yourself with excellent thinkers and doers. This book by Grant Cardone is a winner.
  41. Buyer Personas: Have you ever wondered who your ideal client is? In Buyer Personas, Adele Revella walks you through the process of identifying the persona of your buyer, and takes the guesswork out of the process. I’m sure that you’ve heard it countless time, that when you write, you should have a specific person in mind, your ideal client, but what you are really after is a buyer persona and not an ideal client. Revella says, “Buyer Personas are archetypes of real buyers that allow marketers to craft strategies to promote products and services to the people who might buy them.”
  42. Connect: There are so many people on social media, especially on LinkedIn, who are using the platform to generate leads. Wouldn’t it be nice if you secured most of your clients that way? And if you do not operate a small business, how about it if prospective employers found you, instead of the other way around? Connect by Josh B Turner outlines the system he uses to generate leads on LinkedIn. The book is worth the read.
  43. Picnic at Hanging Rock: I know that there is a lot of hype around The Girl on the Train, but there are more satisfying reads if you love a good mystery. Picnic at Hanging Rock is set in Australia, and is a gothic mystery that deals with class and racial discrimination. Any novel where man tries to master nature makes for good reading.
  44. Strangers on a Train: This is another murder mystery that was written decades ago. Reading Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith, I was reminded of the importance of having a support network of people whom you trust. When you have a solid network, you are less likely to feel isolated, and you make better choices. The book is a thriller, and worth the read.
  45. The Murder of Rodger Ackroyd: This Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot book, is problem solving at its finest. This is another book to read to hone your problem solving skills. When you read this book, you have to decide what’s a red herring and what’s a legitimate clue. In life, when you are confronted with a problem, you gather information, but in the end, you will not use all the information. You have to become adept at separating the essential from the non-essential information. Well written mysteries and detective stories help you to develop that skill.
  46. What do you do with an Idea: This children’s book by Kobi Yamada packs a great punch. It walks you through the process from when your idea first come into being to what you eventually do with the idea. Although this is a children’s book, it is a very important book because we often walk away from ideas based on what others say. When you get an idea, the first thing to do is own it.
  47. Andersen’s Fairy TalesThe Grimm Brothers and Aesop’s Fables: These count as three choices. There is a place for the Disney version of fairy tales that you love, but it is important to read the original stories to see how they have evolved over time. After you have read some of the original stories, you will be grateful for the Disney version. When I read the original Cinderella story I was shocked. Another reason why you should read the original fairy tales and fables is that so many stories are based on them, and context is everything. In Aesop’s Fables, I enjoyed “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” “The Tortoise and the Hare,” and “The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs.”
  48. Wake Up and Live: According to Dorothea Brande, the formula for success is to act as if it were impossible to fail. You are at the start of a brand new year, imagine how much you would accomplish a year from now, if you approached your work with this mindset. Wake Up and Live is a classic that’s worth the read.
  49. The War of Art: This book by Stephen Pressfield is priceless because it teaches you how to work through the resistance that you often face when working on projects. You will learn how not to abandon worthwhile projects because of the obstacles that you face.
  50. The Art of Social Media: This book by Guy Kawasaki & Peg Fitzpatrick is priceless and worth the read. May people learn social media through trial and error – that’s how I did. The Art of Social media will fill in the gaps. You will learn about shareworthy content, which is important if you want your social updates to go viral.
  51. Show Your Work: Have you ever wondered if you should share a piece of content on social media? In Show Your Work, Austin Kleon presents a simple diagram that helps you to decide. This is a short book, but he presents the case why you need to show your work to others. You cannot be the best kept secret.
  52. Zero to One: if you are planning to start a business, you have to read this book. Zero to One by Peter Thiel is like a breath of fresh air. The book deals with so many topics that a business needs to be aware of. For instance, if you are starting a business, what you have to offer has to be at least 10 times better than the closest competitor, if you expect success. And every business must have a secret, that one thing that will distinguish it from the competition. There is lots more in the book.
  53. Little Bets: I absolutely loved this book by Peter Sims. We often hold back our work because we want it to be perfect, but perfection does not exist, it’s a myth. Little Bets shows you the importance of iteration, constantly making improvements along the way.
  54. There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: Do you ever find yourself making the same mistakes over and over again, until you finally learn your lesson. If you answered ‘yes,’ then this book is for you. You can read this book in 30 minutes. I bought this book because I loved the poem, “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters.”
  55. Watership Down: This is a children’s book, although I am not convinced that a child between the ages of nine and 12 can fully understand the deeper meaning of Watership Down. This is the best leadership book I have ever read – it’s leadership in action.
  56. The Hobbit: Are leaders born or made? This is another book that demonstrates leadership in action. Leaders are made. I love it when an unlikely leader arises.
  57. Storyscaping: There is so much talk these days about telling stories, but after you read Storyscaping: Stop Creating Ads, Start Creating Worlds by Gaston Legorburu and Darren McColl, you will take your narrative to a whole new level. And it will be far more engaging.
  58. The Gambler: Oh dear me, I am not suggesting that you use your hard earned money to gamble. The Gamble by Fyodor Dostoyevsky is not as well-known as other books by the Russian author –  Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot, The Possessed and Poor Folk. We’ve heard it said countless times that a person should write about what he or she knows.  You get an insider view of gambling through the eyes of a gambler. But the short book is loaded with lots of lessons that are relevant today. One of those lessons is to never spend money that is promised or expected.

books to get an education

If you need some support to enable you to read 60 books to get an education, in a year, consider joining my Read the Word Challenge! You’ll get weekly prompts to keep you on track.

Additional reading:

Still Sitting on the Fence? Why You Must Join the Read the World Challenge Today!

The Reading Challenge Conclusion!

What are your thoughts? Do you think that you can read books to get an education?

Avil Beckford
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Avil Beckford

Founder & CEO at The Invisible Mentor
Avil Beckford, the founder of The Invisible Mentor, is a published author, writer, ghost blogger, the host of the Strategic Reading Challenge and an expert interviewer. Sign-up for the Strategic Challenge.
Avil Beckford
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