Book Summaries: 
Popular Books Summarized

The smartest people I know read nonstop, mostly books, from a variety of disciplines. The best books spark new ideas and insights with each reading, so it's better to read a great book twice than a marginal one once. "Some books should be tasted, some devoured," wrote Francis Bacon, "but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly."

When asked about success, Warren Buffett pointed to a stack of books and said, "Read 500 pages like this every day. That's how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it."

Each of the following books includes a brief summary and the most insightful and thought-provoking ideas and quotes. Cedric Chin offers a good mental model on the three kinds of non-fiction books.

"It will generally be admitted," wrote Charles Helman, "that the true test of all books is the influence they have upon the lives and conduct of their readers." The Asaro tribe of Papua New Guinea believes "Knowledge is only rumor until it lives in the bones."

Contemporary library in Germany

Book Summaries by Title

This is a complete list of my book summaries.

Despite being the wealthiest nation in the world, Americans suffer epidemic rates of stress, anxiety, depression, obesity, and time urgency. Drawing upon rich scientific studies, American Mania offers a comprehensive explanation for the addictive mania of consumerism grounded in the biology of the brain’s reward system.

We tend to take breathing for granted because it’s automatic, but the breath does far more than keep us alive. Conscious Breathing incorporates Buddhism, shamanism, and contemporary breathing techniques into a structured framework that can help transform your life.

Clinical psychologist Nicole LePera was frustrated by traditional psychotherapy's limitations, so she developed holistic psychology. How to Do the Work is a philosophy of mental, physical, and spiritual health, a manifesto for self-healing and living a more vibrant, authentic, and joyful life.

Start With Why is about a naturally occurring pattern, a way of thinking, acting, and communicating that gives some leaders the ability to inspire those around them. Those who are able to inspire give people a sense of purpose or belonging that has little to do with any external incentive or benefit.

In tennis (and life), people equate performance with self-worth, will their body to perform, and get frustrated when it doesn’t. The Inner Game of Tennis is a methodology of learning and performing best by quieting the mind, letting go of mental self-instructions, and trusting the body's natural inner intelligence.

Nothing is more essential to our health and well-being than our breath. Yet most of us aren’t breathing correctly. Breath takes us on a fascinating journey to discover that all cultures, geographies, and religions across time discovered an optimal way to breathe through the nose.

Many say “thirty-is-the-new-twenty” as if our twenties don’t matter. Our twenties set the stage for adulthood that's either prosperous and fulfilling or not. The Defining Decade explores career, love, and children and helps twentysomethings invest in their lives now rather than suffering underemployment, divorce, and childlessness later.

Self-expression is a fundamental human need. Yet most people are unable to join the creator economy because their minds and computer files are too disorganized. Building a Second Brain is a methodology for systematically saving ideas, insights, inspirations, and connections, so you can begin sharing your creative gifts, positively impacting lives.

Waking Up explores and answers the most common questions about religion, spirituality, meditation, mindfulness, thoughts, and consciousness and helps newcomers and veterans alike to understand the nature of mind and how to experience the profoundness of each moment free of the illusion of self.

Resistance is the universal enemy of the artist. Resistance will do anything and everything to keep you from doing what you were born on this earth to do. Your job isn’t to shape yourself into the ideal you imagine but to find out who you already are and become it by sharing your art.

Spirituality alone is not enough to fully develop our maturity. What’s missing are emotional skills, which are often ignored within spiritual communities. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality gives us the tools and practices to develop ourselves spiritually - and emotionally.

Children of emotionally immature, selfish, or unavailable parents tend to experience anger, loneliness, and confusion in adulthood. Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents teaches you how to free yourself of your parents’ emotional immaturity, recover your true self, and create positive, new adult relationships.

The path to personal and professional fulfillment is winding. What separates those who realize fulfillment and those who don’t is emotional agility. Emotional agility shows us how to navigate our inner world—our thoughts, feelings, and self-talk—to achieve goals, create thriving relationships, and realize joy and lasting satisfaction.

Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism is about our tendency to see spirituality as a process of self-improvement. But our self, or ego, is essentially empty—there’s nothing to improve. Ego, in other words, tricks us into using spirituality to build self. Rather than bolstering self, true, joyful liberation comes from complete surrender of ego.

Feelings are confusing and leave us vulnerable causing us to suppress the most painful emotions. But when we suppress unpleasant emotions, we cut ourselves off from pleasant feelings too leaving us emotionally barren. Enjoying life and living fully entails feeling emotions completely and letting them move through us organically without resistance.

The 5 Love Languages reveals how most couples expect love to last forever. When it doesn’t, they don’t know what to do. Keeping love alive requires communicating in your partner’s primary love language, which fosters intimacy and feelings of well-being from which sex naturally arises.

As a Man Thinketh shows us how our thoughts determine who we are, how we act, and ultimately how we experience life—for better or worse. Beneficial thinking develops character, an ordered mind, and a peaceful spirit. Un-beneficial thinking leads to a lack of integrity, harming others and ourselves, and a lack of peace.

Every one of us wishes to be happy and make consistent progress on meaningful projects. How we start our day largely determines how the rest of the day unfolds. The Morning Miracle shows us the simple yet essential personal practices that help us succeed in the areas we value most.

The Four Agreements reveal how our beliefs and behaviors cause unnecessary suffering and rob us of the joy and happiness that is our birthright. Here we’re offered a way of living that’s transformative—harmonious, freeing, and delightful—based on ancient Toltec wisdom.

Essentialism is the systematic discipline of focusing on the things that matter while eliminating everything else. Unlike shallow activities, applying ourselves wholeheartedly to what we value offers lasting satisfaction and fulfillment.

The Alchemist is a lush and beautiful tale about a shepherd boy on the oldest and most magical of journeys: pursuing one’s dreams in search of worldly goods only to find the treasure sought was within us all along.

Successful people aren’t exceptionally lucky, talented, or experienced. Instead, they live by the maxim: ‘What stands in the way becomes the way.’ They learn to turn every obstacle to their advantage by managing perceptions and directing actions toward the things they can change.

Daring greatly is about being vulnerable, living wholeheartedly, and showing up as our authentic selves in the face of uncertainty, doubt, and not knowing. It’s courageously loving and being loved and putting ourselves and our creations out there despite the risk of rejection.

The ego thinks happiness comes from enlargening our sense of self through thinking, accomplishing, and accumulating. But constant thinking and doing disconnect us from the true source of happiness: the simple joy of Being. Happiness is the practice of awareness of Being, the inner space within.

Many have heard of co-dependence, but few are aware of counter-dependence. Yet counter-dependence prevents millions of people from getting the intimacy they need and want. Discover what counter-dependence is, what causes it, and how to break free from the behaviors that prevent closeness. 

Using research, stories and examples, Dare to Lead provides a road map for being brave in your life and your work, having tough conversations, and showing up every day with your whole heart.

The critical takeaway of Just Keep Buying is this: Just keep investing as much as you can in index funds, starting as early as possible, and let the markets and time take care of the rest. This strategy will account for 90% of your investing success while freeing you to spend your time on the things you value.

Factfulness demonstrates that the world is not as bad as it seems, if you look at the facts. A fact-based worldview creates less stress and hopelessness than a dramatic worldview. It also helps us to see what we have to do to keep making the world better.

Mindset is about how our beliefs shape our perceptions and determine our success in life. With a fixed mindset, our potential is limited by the skills we were born with. With a growth mindset, our potential is limited only by our effort.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a fable about a seagull more interested in flight for the joy of flying than chasing food from a fishing boat. After getting cast out of the flock for not being “normal,” he befriends two gulls who come to take him home. He discovers that freedom is being who he already is.

The Checklist Manifesto shows us that checklists can save lives, and shows us the correct way of implementing them. Checklists are helpful in complicated environments like air travel, building construction, finance, even award-winning restaurants. Today, checklists are being used in hospitals across the globe to save lives and reduce costs.

Many products don’t work well due to faulty design, not operator error. Poor design usually results from not understanding how people interact with products. Good designers understand the interplay between technology and psychology, or human-centered design (HCD).

Happiness rates have been steadily declining since the 1970’s. People are focused on external conditions that are subject to change. Growing internally brings lasting happiness, and serving others creates meaning.

Forming meaningful connections with ourselves and others requires learning the language of emotions and human connection. Having a nuanced vocabulary around labeling our emotions can be transformative. Usually, we look outside ourselves for solid ground, but emotions are internal and always available to anchor us wherever we are.

The Compound Effect says that small, daily actions multiplied over time create tremendous results and radical change. Instead of sprinting and failing, take the long view, be the tortoise and do the mundane, unsexy things over and over until you’ve built the life you want. But first, you need to take 100 percent responsibility for your life.

You have a moral obligation to be successful, and whether you are successful or not, your mind keeps a running tab. To be successful, you must set goals for yourself that are 10X greater than what you believe you can achieve an

There are two ways of leading: Above the line and below the line. When leading from below the line, or “To Me,” we are unconscious, closed, defensive and committed to being right, and when leading from above the line, or “By Me, we are open, spacious and committed to learning.

Each of us can offer something no one else can: our truth. For this author that meant sharing his experience repeating the phrase “I love myself.” "Magic” is the word he began using to describe how this simple phrase changed his life.

Success in finance is mostly a result of low spending, high savings, time and compounding. But if you get wiped out financially, you will not be able to take advantage of time and compounding. Investing in stocks is very difficult, therefore most people would benefit from investing in low-cost index funds.

People start businesses to do work they love and control their time and who they work with. But most small businesses fail because the owner works in the business rather than on the business. Small business success requires three things: a) work on your business, not in your business b) your business is your product c) your product is your systems.

"You couldn’t start with a better book than Cialdini’s 'Influence,'" says Charlie Munger. If you like Malcolm Gladwell's books, you'll love this.

This is an important book and confirms much of the ancient wisdom teachings, including the possibility of change, practice, interconnectedness, and freedom.

One of the all-time best investment guides and one of my favorites. A normal person can pick stock just as well, if not better, that the average Wall Street expert. Investing in stocks is an art, not a science, and success is determined not by the stock market or the companies you pick but the investor himself / herself. 

Born within every man are the Jungian masculine archetypes—king, warrior, magician, and lover—that transcend time and space. Many of us, however, did not receive good enough parenting and are therefore stuck in boy psychology. This book speaks to the possibility of accessing the archetypes and manifesting our mature masculinity in all its forms.

The most comprehensive book on Buffett that I’ve read (I’ve read half a dozen). Learn everything you ever wanted to know about management, investment, finance and accounting from one of the world’s smartest businessmen and investors.

Everything you thought you knew about women is wrong. If you want to understand and transform your relationship to women, read these notes.

Featured in a scene on the Apple TV show Ted Lasso. Absolutely brilliant, one of my favorite books, every page like a slice of black forest cake, dense with Jungian wisdom.

Brilliant and comprehensive guide to the ins and outs of advertising (and business) from one of the most well-known and respected admen.

A masterful inquiry into consciousness. Learn how meditation works and how to move skillfully through the ten stages—from monkey mind to unified mind.

A smart and timeless book for anyone who leads or manages others professionally or personally. Learn—in three simple steps—how to get the best out of people by appealing to their basic need for goal-setting, feedback, and respect. Based on fundamental human psychology, you will learn why they work and how to apply them to your life.

Explores the differences between introversion and extroversion and the cultural mandate of the Extrovert Ideal while encouraging introverts to embrace their true nature, unique strengths, and value to self and society. 

If you want a healthy, mature relationship, read this book. You will learn the cause of your conflict and how to nurture a secure bond for a lifetime of love. Dr. John Gottman calls Sue Johnson "the best couple therapist in the world."

Astute yet practical investment advice from legendary money manager Peter Lynch. Follow-up to One Up On Wall Street, it's as funny as it is perceptive.

Beautiful and timeless Buddhist insights on the nature of the human mind from one of the most widely regarded Zen teachers.

Fantastic inquiry into our desire for status, what it means for our lives and ideas for breaking free. Insightful, articulate and mischievously funny.

Learn how to practice mindfulness in all aspects of work - email, meetings, creativity, etc. A solid resource for understanding and applying mindfulness.

Wall Street classic still read widely for its timeless wisdom on the perils and promises of stock speculation. Recommend the book but not speculating.

The book that forever changed marketing. Positioning is outside-in thinking targeting the deep inner workings of the prospect's mind. A simple yet powerful way of working with the human mind rather than against it.

Money is a powerful force in our lives. This book will transform you relationship to money and life. Deep insights from western and Buddhist psychology with challenging exercises.

I believe this is one of the most important books ever written. Fundamentally it is about getting our needs met. More profoundly, it is a way of connecting from the heart..

If you love business, and life, this book contains more wisdom than meets the eye. For the first time ever, Amazon’s 14 leadership principles are illustrated with real-world in-the-room examples. Written by former executives who worked directly with Jeff Bezos, this insider's guide shares what “Being Amazonian” is like.

One of the most comprehensive and informative books on the topic of personal growth. Contains Stephen Covey's entire body of wisdom from decades of research, consulting, counseling and personal experience. One could spend a lifetime mastering these skills.

Grammar books may not be exciting, but copy editor Benjamin Dreyer does a good job enlivening this one with wit and sarcasm. You may discover how many things you didn't know about the English language. A modern classic reference manual.

A short book with a timeless message: adapt to inevitable change. Written as a parable, the book highlights how we resist change and make the simple complicated through emotions and excessive thinking.

An informative, and at times, hilarious book on writing. Stephen King's frank style belies his deep intellect and philosophical insights. Highly recommend for anyone wanting to learn the craft of writing, especially fiction.

My favorite nonfiction writing book. In-depth coverage of the mechanics and methods of great nonfiction writing, the different types - business, travel, interviewing, etc - and attitudes like voice, fear and conficence. Excellent handbook for new and seasoned writers, bloggers and journalists alike.

Single best book on the Nice Guy Syndrome. Includes forty-six exercises to help Nice Guys break free. Highly recommend for any recovering Nice Guy.

Superbly insightful book about spiritual growth, love and grace masterfully explained in clear, plain English. For anyone interested in personal growth, the book I would recommend first.

One of the best books ever written about marketing by two of the most influential marketers of all time. An absolute must-read and own for business people, entrepreneurs, photographers, musicians and bloggers alike.