I set myself the challenge of reading 100 books related to writing, running a blog, and The Spin-Off Project. Following you’ll find an overview of the books that I’ve read so far.
Last edited: March 17, 2017
In pursuit of becoming a better writer and blogger, and inspired by James Altucher’s article, “The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Reinventing Yourself” (see point D, no.2), I set myself the challenge of reading 100 books related to writing, running a blog, and The Spin-Off Project.
The following list includes the books that I’ve read so far, the one I’m currently reading and the next read up.
Reads that influence my everyday life are marked with a 🖖🏼; light, fun ones with a 🐧; topic-specific stunners with a ⭐️ and general must-reads with a ⚡️.
- “On Writing Well” – William Zinsser
- “Ego Is the Enemy” – Ryan Holiday (audio book)
- “The Artist’s Way” – Julia Cameron
- “The New Psycho-Cybernetics” – Maxwell Maltz
20. “Big Magic” – Elizabeth Gilbert (audio book) 🖖🏼⭐️
Discusses the fears that come with the pursuit of a creative life and shows us how to overcome them.
Big Magic changed the way I think of the creative process. It helped me to release some of the pressure I was putting on myself and my work. Nowadays, I try to have more fun while creating, and instead of chasing perfectionism, I force myself to meet self-set deadlines.
– Recommended to me by my dear friend and super talented photographer, Silvia Falcomer.
19. “The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life” – Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander (audio book) 🖖🏼
Introduces new perspectives on how to deal with everyday obstacles.
Although I haven’t yet managed to fully live by the practices as introduced in this book, which are greatly inspiring but at the same time still feel a little utopian, they do exist in the back of my mind from where they come to the foreground now and then. I especially like “Rule Number 6” (“don’t take yourself so damn seriously”) and “Giving an A” to yourself at the beginning of new projects.
– Recommended by Seth Godin on the “Tim Ferriss Show” in the podcast episode “How Seth Godin Manages his Life–Rules, Principles, and Obsessions“.
18. “How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less” – Nicholas Boothman 🖖🏼
Introduces a set of communication skills that can help you become a better conversation partner.
I can’t believe I never picked up a book like this before. What could be more important than learning how to communicate with people? I’m far from consistent when it comes to leaving a great first impression, and understanding why that might be, and how I can try to tip the odds in my favor when needed, has been quite helpful.
17. “Marco Polo Didn’t Go There: Stories and Revelations from One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer” – Rolf Potts ⭐️
Twenty travel articles of which some accompanied by endnotes that reveal the scenes behind the author’s travel journeys and the literary choices he made in the name of good storytelling.
I love Rolf Potts’ writing. It’s good, and it’s funny. And having his stories complemented with a peek into his writing process and travel journeys is very special. I based the “behind the scenes posts” in “30 Days of Travel Stories and Lessons Learned on the Road” on this idea.
16. “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” – Robert B. Cialdini ⚡️
Explains six techniques of persuasion that are used by people to talk us into buying their products, or even, their beliefs and ideas.
It’s super useful and fun (because it’s empowering) to be able to recognize when you’re being persuaded into buying something or into complying with a request. I’ve used some of the techniques on Mr.G (just once or twice 🙄), and they worked. In my defense, though, I did tell him to read the book–and you should too.
15. “Travel Writing: Expert Advice from the World’s Leading Travel Publisher (Lonely PLanet)” – Don George
A practical guide to (never) becoming a (barely) paid travel writer.
I like part one of the book for its writing exercises, advice on crafting stories, and example travel stories. Nevertheless, there’s too much emphasis on the gloom and doom of a travel writer’s life throughout the entire book. It will kill any dreams that you might have of becoming a travel writer.
14. “The Art of Learning” – Josh Waitzkin (audio book – semi-autobiography)
I hoped to learn more about “the art of learning” and how to best master a skill but found the material to be very vague on this topic. I learned more about these subjects by reading Derek Sivers’ highlights and notes on Waitzkin’s book.
13. “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work” – Mason Currey 🐧
Fun, easy read covering the creative routines of Franz Kafka, Jean-Paul Sartre, René Descartes, Charles Darwin, Andy Warhol, Benjamin Franklin, Jane Austen and 155 other great minds.
For some time now, I’ve been experimenting with different working routines, trying to create one that works best for me. And it’s not easy. This book, however, reminds me that building discipline and creating daily habits is something most creatives struggle with and encourages me to keep trying.
12. “Losing My Virginity: How I’ve Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way” – Richard Branson (autobiography)
Branson’s life and business endeavors are nothing short of remarkable. And yet, his success stories fail to inspire me because they seem irreplicable: based on irresponsible risk taking and supported by a whole lot of luck.
11. “The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal” – Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz 🖖🏼⚡️
Insights in how to increase performance by alternating periods of hard work with rituals of disengagement. Accompanied by case studies and easy-to-implement habits hacks.
Stressed for me the importance of building in meaningful breaks during my working hours and made me feel less guilty about taking them.
– Gifted to me by Daniele.
10. “Get Rich Click!: The Ultimate Guide to Making Money on the Internet” – Marc Ostrofsky
Showcases the ways that you can make money online, or at least, could’ve made.
This is not a guide. It’s more of an extended table of contents, and an outdated one for that matter. If you’re interested in learning about the online business opportunities that are available, I suggest you use good ole’ Google.
9. “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change” – Stephen R. Covey 🖖🏼⚡️
On living a more grounded and integer life based on principles rather than emotions.
This book has had an enormous impact on both my personal and professional life. One of the most important things it taught me, is that my greatest power lays in my freedom to choose a response to whatever happens to me. This has helped me improve my communication skills and ease tensions in numerous situations. There doesn’t go a day by that I don’t think of one of the techniques or habits described in this book. It’s an endless source of life lessons.
8. “Web Marketing All-in-One For Dummies” – John Arnold et al.
Eight books in one covering different areas of web marketing, like search engine optimization, web analytics, online advertising, social media marketing and mobile marketing.
Offers at times too much detail for total beginners and too little for advanced beginners. Although surely not the best material around on web marketing, it could serve as a starting point.
7. “The Art of Thinking Clearly: Better Thinking, Better Decisions” – Rolf Dobelli ⚡️
Explains the cognitive biases (errors in thinking) that lead to inaccurate judgments, incorrect interpretations, and erroneous decision-making.
Fascinating, humbling and super educational.
6. “How to Thrive in the Digital Age (The School of Life)” – Tom Chatfield
Discusses what effect our ever-connected world has on our lives and offers suggestions on how to best live in a digital world.
Light philosophical reads like these are my idea of reading for fun.
5. “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable” – Seth Godin
Explains with one overarching idea (be remarkable) and inspiring case studies how to create an exceptionally successful business, service or product and how to get it noticed
4. “The Associated Press Guide to Punctuation” – Rene J. Cappon
About the rules of punctuation.
Taught me everything I needed to know about punctuation, but unfortunately, however, I couldn’t remember any of it. Thus, I tried using it as a reference book but then found it easier to use Google instead.
3. “How to Write about Food: How to Become a Published Restaurant Critic, Food Journalist, Cookbook Author, and Food Blogger” – S.J. Sebellin-Ross
What you need to know about becoming a published food writer.
This book isn’t about “How to Write about Food” (like the main title suggests), but about “How to Become a Published Restaurant Critic, Food Journalist, Cookbook Author, and Food Blogger” (like the subtitle says). It didn’t help that I was interested in the former topic rather than the later, but nonetheless, I found the content weak.
2. “Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera” – Bryan Peterson
Easy-to-follow guide (with lots of example pictures) on everything you need to know about shooting in manual mode.
1. “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life” – Anne Lamott
Instructions on how to write well and soothing advice on how to deal with insecurities and difficulties that come with writing.
Lamott reassured me that writing isn’t easy for anyone, and that writing well, has to do more with practice than talent.
Tell me what you think. Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (links match comment pages for this post) and let me know: Do you have any must-read recommendations on the topics mentioned? And if you’ve changed careers before, what strategies did you use to become better at your new job?
I always wondered what it would be like to only have to read for work, Monday to Friday, eight hours a day. Thus, for one month, I did exactly that. Here’s a collection of posts I wrote as a result of that experience: Spin-Off No.7: Be a Reader.