Ask Celes – What Books Would You Recommend?

Ask Celes

Hi Celes, I would like to know what is in your library. What kind of books do you read and how have they affected you so far? Thank you. ~ Bongani

I’ve to be honest that I actually don’t read books. I prefer to learn through self-reflection and taking action. I also prefer to learn by directly interacting with people who have achieved the results I want for myself and then asking them for advice on how I should do the same.

That said, I do have some good books to recommend, half of which I read years ago. These are all-time classics (both within and outside the self-help niche) which you have probably heard of. Many self-help books today are mere reiterations of what have already been covered in them.

In no order of priority:

  1. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey — A verbose book but has great lessons all the same. It’s one of the best-selling personal development books ever. Even though it was published in 1989, the habits apply today.
  2. Living the 80/20 Way by Richard Koch — I love how simple yet insightful this book is. It shows you how pervasive the 80/20 principle is in our lives and how to create dramatic change by simple applications of the principle. This is probably the one book that can create the biggest and fastest change in your life if you were to read it.
  3. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill  — This book was the result of over 20 years of research on successful individuals and what led to their success. It’s widely referenced today and is a must-read for anyone who is into self-help.
  4. The Dip by Seth Godin — The “dip” refers to the ambiguous phase in goal achievement when nothing you do seems to make a difference. This book teaches you when to stick and when to quit in your goals. While it’s a simple book with a simple idea, it’s very impactful. Quite inspiring, especially if you are in a funk.
  5. Tribes by Seth Godin — I read this two years ago and felt it was helpful in giving me ideas on how I should manage my “tribe”  at PE. It’s a book about creating the conducive space for tribes to form and thrive. A book of leadership of self and of others. I love Seth’s books because they are often short and impactful.
  6. Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin — I never finished this book but what I’ve read of it captivated me. Many think that the reason behind others’ success is talent. This book demystifies talent and shows that it isn’t as instrumental as you might think. (The message links to my article on 10,000 Hours To Develop Talent.)
  7. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne — I didn’t read the book but I had watched the movie of the same title. I assume the book is of the same content as the movie; if so, you should definitely check this book out. It’s about the Law of Attraction and how our thoughts have a bigger role to play in creating our reality than we imagine.
  8. The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace Wattles — This book will always have a special place in my heart as it was one of the first self-help books I’ve read (when I was a teenager). While the title sounds like it’s about making money, it’s a lot more than that. It provides the spiritual backbone on what it takes to be rich and is something you should read if you want to be rich (who doesn’t???). It’s pretty much a book about the Law of Attraction, except in the context of financial goals.
  9. Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker — I always love such principle-based books as the lessons are timeless and can be applied over and over again. Harv shares the 17 lessons that separate the millionaires from non-millionaires. I think applying any of the lessons can already improve one’s propensity for wealth accumulation.
  10. Speedwealth by T. Harv Eker — This book was a gift from a reader. It’s a book with quick lessons for business owners who want to take their business from zero to millions in a short amount of time. While the book is extremely thin and can be finished in less than an hour, it contains valuable lessons and big ahas. I enjoyed the book a fair bit and refer to it from time to time, since the lessons are timeless. (As you can tell, I have a penchant for reading/writing material with timeless lessons!)

Of these few books I have read, I make a point to remember what I have read and apply those lessons rigorously. I always think it’s pointless to read something unless I have the intention to apply what I’m going to learn.

That is probably the most important thing to do every time you read—extract the key lesson(s) from the book/article and apply it into your life right away. Never fall into the trap of reading and not doing. Read with an end objective in mind, then get working towards that end objective after you are done reading. You want to be the proactive amazon creating blazing trails in both your life and others’ lives, not the sleepwalker who drifts around and lives vicariously via stories/books/movies he/she reads.

Check out:

What Books Do YOU Read?

If you read books and you have books to recommend, please share them. State (a) the title of the book(s) and author(s) (b) why you recommend it/them (c) how it/they has/have impacted your life. Thanks!

This is part of the Ask Celes section. If you have a question to ask me, proceed to the Ask Celes page. Check out past Ask Celes questions here.

  • max

    “I always think it’s pointless to read something unless I have the intention to apply what I’m going to learn” that is just so inspirational right now… do you guys think if you have motivational problems reading university stuff it implicates that you’ve chosen the wrong study course? thanks, i am a silent observer of personal excellence for about 1 or 2 years now.. it’s just such a good feeling to know that I’m not the only one who loves so much as people around here do :angel:

    • Celes

      “do you guys think if you have motivational problems reading university stuff it implicates that you’ve chosen the wrong study course?”

      I’d really shy away from making that kind of conclusion. Only reason being that I think it’s easy to take the easy route and conclude that the course isn’t for you simply because you don’t feel inspired to read the material, which is something I’ve seen a lot of students do in my time. The problem was never that the course wasn’t for them, but they had compounded issues on other fronts (simply not being focused, not having a clear direction in what they want, not being serious about their lives, etc.), which then resulted in the same (procrastination) issues even in other things they took on later.

      I see a large part of the inspiration/motivation to fall on the shoulders of ourselves; i.e. if you do not feel inspired to read or study, the first questions to ask should be, “How can I make this work out? How can I channel into my inspiration to study?” and not “Should I change courses?” (Not referring to you, but a comment directed to students out there in general.) The latter should only be a consideration when one is absolutely, with no error of doubt, sure that this current course is NOT an area of his/her interest.

      You may find the procrastination series helpful:

      Thanks for reading PE, Max, and glad that you are sticking around even after one to two years! :D Please keep reading and supporting the material here and I’ll keep writing and sharing!

    • JadePenguin

      I don’t think the course material is necessarily representative of your subject as a whole. Maybe you simply enjoy a different niche in that field. For example, I study Psychology and most of our course content centers around language and vision, which I do not find that interesting (that said, I do love the lectures and book of one really humorous lecturer who does vision, so very much is up to the lecturer/textbook writer!) I’m mostly interested in social psychology so I do some extra reading in that field while leaving some course reading undone (because I know it will be irrelevant to me in the future).

      Now, if you never do anything beyond the bare minimum for your subject and that’s uninspiring, maybe you should explore your field further. Find material beyond what your course requires and see if that captivates you more. And even if you do decide to change courses (I switched from computers to psychology and it was the best decision I’ve ever made!), you should first do the same with the new field. Or the same problem will arise in the new course ;)

      Good luck! :)

  • Bob

    Hi Celes,
    Two of my favourites:

    (a) Who moved my cheese by Spencer Johnson
    (b) Short, simple lessons of life about two mice one who clings on to his way of doing things and the other who slowly starts to change. I like it because it is quick to read but profound.
    (c) This book makes me think about learning life’s lessons and embracing change rather than resisting it.

    (a) Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
    (b) Excellent steps on building wealth. Packed with lots of information and ideas about money, more of mindset than strategies, with some good formulas.
    (c) Thinking about the big picture “Most people never see these opportunities because they are looking for money and security, so that’s all they get.”

    • Bob

      On reflection…

      I have quite a collection of Self help books, but instead of mining one book for the information by highlighting it, retreading and thinking deeply about the information I just move onto the next idea. It is like just constantly eating food, filling up and not appreciating the different nuances in the flavours – whether it is sweet or savoury, juicy or dry, whether it fills me with happiness to eat this particular food or not. The subtle preparation of the food with the different levels of refinement to bring out an individual quality of an ingredient. There is no or very little link or bond with the matter.

      I think this goes with the saying of: “How we do anything is how we do everything”

      I am going to just read one idea over and over again and take notes on it and reflect until I understand from now on. To be an active learner I have to use the information straight away, share it, apply it, store it, re-use it and repeat consistently.

      • Bob

        A good quote from Dr Seuss,

        The more you READ ,
        the MORE you know
        The more you KNOW,
        the SMARTER you grow
        The smarter you GROW,
        The STRONGER your voice,
        when speaking your MIND
        or making your CHOICE

        1% if you read 1 book every month about your industry, in 10yrs you’ll have read 120 books. That will put you in the top 1% of your field.

        One book we should all know is the DICTIONARY – to check we are using our words correctly, and we really mean what we say.

        • Bob

          Here are some useful points (a cut and paste, sorry I can’t remember which site it came from):

          Why should we read?
          The reasons that I give you are quite simple: to improve your knowledge, to expand your general culture, to have more fun, to make your imagination fly, to find new ways to express your ideas, and finally to expand your vocabulary.
          The first reason that I give you to enjoy reading is that when you read, you can expand your knowledge and also your culture. There are a lot of good books in which you can find history, novels, tragedies, comedies and a variety of other themes. You can see that people who read more often frequently have a bigger knowledge of life and also a bigger perspective of their environment.  I think that fact gives them an advantage over all others who do not read frequently.

          The second reason to read more often is that through books you can have fun and even travel in your imagination.  Children have not yet lost the ability of getting  into their dreams, and because of this, in their first years the parents read a lot of tales  in which they use their imagination. Adults should try to keep this ability, so we do not forget the importance of the use of the imagination. The imagination also represents a tool that could help you to develop your professional career in a creative way.

          Finally, the third and the most important feature that reading offers you is that it does not matter the age that you have, you always could expand your vocabulary and the ways to express your ideas to the others in a simple and correct form. By the time you can improve the kind of books that you read, there are a lot of categories, so you will never stop learning from the pleasure of reading. People who know how to choose a book generally have the capability of choosing a formal book in which they can find formal grammatical structures and obviously a formal vocabulary.  All these things allow them to gain greater fluency in their communication.

          In conclusion, I recommend that you enjoy reading more often. There are excellent reasons for doing it;  you just have to want to expand your knowledge and your culture, to improve your imagination and also your vocabulary. I know that we should evolve with the technology; that is, it is good to know how to navigate in the internet, but we must also not forget the books. Try to choose good books at the beginning, and then I ensure you that you never will stop reading.

          Now I read books because it helps me know what the world really is.

  • Marla

    The Differnce Maker by John Maxwell. A great book about attitude and how it really can make you or break you.


  • JeanK

    I read:
    The Nice Girl Syndrome by Beverly Engel
    The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
    Creating Your Best Life by Miller/Frisch
    Getting Things Done by David Allen

    All great books, which I highly recommend, that have helped me understand myself, improve my life, and get out of a rut. I own the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, but have yet to get around to reading it.

  • shhsherry

    The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch is one of the best books I have ever written. Mr. Pausch was dying of pancreatic cancer when he wrote the book. It is one of the most positive hopeful books i have ever read. I also think the Og Mandino Books: The Greatest Salesman in the World, The Greatest Miracle in the World, The Greatest Secret in the World are deserving & beneficial books.

  • Megan Festin

    Hi Celes and to all PE Participants and staff:

    Peace and blessings be with all of us…

    Thank you for bringing this topic. I like reading books and my favourite one is the Holy Bible.
    It is the oldest and modern one too, the most powerful, popular, and life-worth reading.
    An excellent book and the bestseller in the whole world. No one will regret reading this book.
    The Holy Bible is published in different languages…culture, belief, and the author is amazing.
    Therefore, I invite everyone to read at least one verse with self-reflection.

    The other book I recommend to read with the Holy Bible is the Human Anatomy and Physiology.
    It is very basic and it covers about us. Very interesting and another life-worth reading.

    The third book I would recommend is anything to do with environmental studies that covers:
    – plants
    – animals
    – climate
    – nature
    – gardening
    – discovery about our planet, earth, sun, moon, stars, and the whole galaxy.

    That’s all. Thank you for all the help and guidance. God bless.

    Take care and God bless.

  • Violetz

    A novel from Mitch Albom ‘For One More Day’, is good to touch base with oneself.

    Another is a classic by James Allen ‘As A Man Thinketh’ written more that 100 years ago, and it still stands true today.

    Hope everyone enjoys reading as much as we relish the journey in improving ourselves.

  • JadePenguin

    I’d recommend some excellent books about communication:

    Dale Carnegie “How to win friends and influence people” – I first thought of the word ‘influence’ as kind of negative but it’s actually a book very much in alignment with kindness :) It gives simple lessons on how to be a better listener, a kinder person, more patient and nonjudgmental. All with examples from real life that made a difference.

    Marshall Rosenberg “Nonviolent Communication” – focuses on people’s feelings rather than judgments. Again the ideas are very much about being kind, both to others and yourself (there’s a whole chapter on introspection and forgiving yourself for little things that go wrong).

  • Karen

    Alot of the great books are already mentioned. Another really great inspirational book that I read a few years ago is “The Slight Edge” by Jeff Osteen… This book helped me to remember that nothing Great happens in great leaps, instead it is in the mundane steps we take each day accumulated over time!

  • Heinz

    Hi Celes and all PE Participants

    Sometimes a book comes along and you wonder why it has not been read by the world over, so long ago. I struggled in my personal excellence drive, to read so many articles and books. One book on reactive behavior and arrested emotional development was written by Paul Hegstrom and called Angry Men and the women who love them. This book shed some light on my personal reactive behaviors. I have also used, and am still using materials from your site in my search for Personal excellence. Manifestos stand out among the many on your website. Hope you will bundle them into a handbook someday.

  • Tom Boyd

    old books old friends

    The Citadel is a novel by A. J. Cronin, first published in 1937, which was groundbreaking with its treatment of the contentious theme of medical ethics. The novel was made into a 1938 film with Robert Donat, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Richardson and Rex Harrison.

    The young doctor is often poor and almost always struggling to improve his knowledge, his community and his family. He never acts arrogant nor considers himself brilliant. His basic idea in exercising the practice of his profession is “never to take anything for granted”. I read this book often in the past when I was troubled by ethical issues or my lack of financial success.

    The Keys of the Kingdom is a 1941 novel by A. J. Cronin. Spanning six decades, it tells the story of Father Francis Chisholm, an unconventional Scottish Catholic priest who struggles to establish a mission in China. Beset by tragedy in his youth, as a missionary Chisholm endures many years of hardship, punctuated by famine, plague and war in the Chinese province to which he is assigned. Through a life guided by compassion and tolerance, Chisholm earns the respect of the Chinese—and of fellow clergy who would mistrust him—with his kindly, high-minded and courageous ways. The book was made into a 1944 film starring Gregory Peck as Father Francis Chisholm, a role which earned him his first Oscar nomination

    The priest lives and preaches a life of universal love, and acceptance of others. A “Mother Theresa” and with an understanding of other faiths. “Our word ‘God’ is a human word…expressing reverence for our Creator. If we have that reverence, we shall see God…never fear”. I often read this book when my spiritual soul needs a boost.

  • Kiko Juárez

    Hi everyone,

    I didn’t see them here, so, I’ll recommend a few that I enjoyed very much.

    1.- The 4 hour work-week, by Tim Ferris.
    2.- The Education of Millionaires, by Michael Ellsberg.
    3.- The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins.

    I believe you will enjoy those. Be well.

  • Christina

    Thank you so much for sharing Celes! I definitely agree with you about Think and Grow Rich being a classic must-read. I will have to check out the others. I really love books about manifesting, and I recommend Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain and Synchronicity by Dr. Kirby Surprise. Also along the same lines: There Are No Accidents by Knopf I believe.

  • Allan

    My recommendation:

    One hundred great books in Haiku, David Bader.

    How to be well read.
    And have a good laugh, while,
    learning to be brief.

  • Susan

    Some of my favorites:
    A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson (comforting in times of sorrow)
    Psychocybernetics by Maxwell Maltz (a classic)
    The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz (very powerful)

    I love the idea of immediately applying lessons learned. I keep a notebook with the summary of the key points (for me) of every book I read. I review my notes weekly, so as not to forget all the lessons I have learned in life, and to continuously find new inspiration for ways to apply those lessons. I also summarize key points from internet articles and blogs that are powerful for me.

    • Bob

      Hi Susan,

      I like you how keep a notebook and review your notes every week. When you read them again, Do you get deeper reflections each time?

  • sina

    Hi Celes!

    I suggest my three favorite books to you, if you have not read them!
    1) Speak and grow rich by Dotti Walters and Lillet Walters

    2) I can make you rich by Paul Mckenna

    3) The innovation secrets of steve jobs by Carmine Gallo

    my english is not good excuse me! :D Thank you for all the help and guidance. God bless. :)

  • Ivona

    Best five books I’ve ever read:

    1.Psycho-cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz
    2. The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson
    3. 7 habits of highly effective teens by Sean Covey (first personal development book I’ve ever read, I was 15 and it got me interested about this stuff)….I never really read the basis for this book, 7 habits of highly effective people though, but I guess it would share the 3rd place
    4. 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John Maxwell
    5. 17 lies that are holding you back and the truth that will set you free by Steve Chandler

    I also love anything by Brian Tracy, Psychology of Winning by Denis Waitley, and also Why Men Love Bitches by Sherry Argov (I would never pick that one up myself, but I got this one as a gift and turns out it’s an excellent book)