What’s on my bookshelf?
I love to read. If you share my nerdy enthusiasm, you might enjoy this page, featuring a variety of books about money, work and life that I recommend.
Deep Work, by Cal Newport
If you’re tired of getting distracted by email, social media, and small tasks that don’t move the needle, then you need to read this book. Deep work – focus – doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people, yet it’s critically important to our success as employees and entrepreneurs.
In a world where it’s incredibly easy to get caught in an endless cycle of checking and replying to email, rushing to meetings, and trying every new tool that promises more productivity, there’s a severe lack of focus. Your attention span is limited when you’re attempting to take care of hundreds of little tasks throughout the day.
What creates progress is the ability to do deep work. That is, to focus on our primary objective – the one thing that will move the needle.
Newport explains how to do this in his book, and explores the Deep Work Hypothesis, which states that the ability to do deep work is becoming more rare, yet at the same time, more valuable.
168 Hours, by Laura Vanderkam
I also interviewed Laura on my podcast, and reading this book inspired me to track my time in 15 minute increments for a week straight. The results? I found out I wasted time like it was a part-time job.
In 168 Hours, Laura explains that we have a lot more time than we think we do. While it may seem like our schedules involve never-ending to-do lists, that’s a false narrative. Most of us have plenty of time left – after work and sleep are accounted for – to spend time doing things we enjoy.
Laura herself is a mom of four, and she’s no stranger to working long hours and figuring out how to manage life outside of that. But surprisingly, it’s not as hard as we might think.
Part of the problem is that most of us are overworked, and that leads to our brains forcing us to take breaks. The time that I wasted was a result of not taking intentional breaks.
Read this book if you need a refreshing outlook on how to manage your time, if you feel overworked and exhausted at the end of the day, or you don’t believe you actually have any time left to spare.
- Getting Things Done by David Allen. Classic book that taught me the importance of maintaining Inbox Zero, a goal that I reach about once every three months. 🙂
- The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. Another classic. This taught me to “fire my clients” — get rid of the paying clients who create the most hassle, so I can focus my limited time on good clients. It also taught me the significance of the “80/20 Principal” — 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your efforts.
- The ONE Thing by Gary Keller. Yes, this is the second book by Keller that appears on this list. 🙂 In this book, Keller recommends that you start everyday by asking yourself: “What’s the ONE thing I could do today, such that by doing it, everything else becomes easier or unnecessary?” By focusing on the highest-leverage opportunity, you create a life that’s easier and more productive. Huge thanks to my friend David at Money Under 30 for recommending this book to me.
- The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg. This book blew my mind. We’re ruled more by mindless habit than active decision-making — and that means we can change our actions by paying attention to triggers.
- Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. I’ll never order a meal at a restaurant in the same way again. If you’re curious about why your mind operates in the way in which it does — and more importantly, if you’d like to be aware of your cognitive biases so you can make better decisions — read this book.
Money Mindset Books
Millionaire Teacher, by Andrew Hallam
Andrew and I have been friends ever since I launched this website back in the Neolithic Era (ahem, 2011). I recently interviewed him on the podcast as well, and Andrew had so much to say that I had to divide our conversation into two parts.
Andrew is a high school teacher who built a million-dollar investment portfolio by age 38. He’s a high school teacher AND a millionaire — how cool is that?!
Here’s how he did it:
- He “minds the gap.” There’s a gap between earning and spending; the “secret” to smart money is to widen this gap. There are only two ways to do this: earn more, spend less.
- He hustles to earn more. He tutors students on the side, for example, during his time off.
- He’s not a big spender. He finds joy in simple things.
- Then he invests the gap.
- He invests in index funds. Simple, easy, cheap, awesome.
…. and that’s it!
His writing is clear, simple, and jargon-free. His message is common sense, which is why it’s surprising that so many people don’t follow it.
- Read This If: You’ve ever uttered the words “I don’t earn enough to become a millionaire.”
- Don’t Bother Reading If: You’re an advanced investor.
How Rich People Think, by Steve Siebold
Steve structured this into 100 ultra-short chapters, each roughly two pages long.
Every chapter illustrates a high-level concept. Here are some examples:
- The middle class plays it safe. The rich take wise, calculated risks.
- The middle class thinks wealth is a solitary effort. The rich know its a team effort.
- The middle class thinks ambition is a sin. The rich think ambition is a virtue.
- The middle class assumes you must choose between family or money. The rich know you can enjoy both.
- The middle class sets low expectations to avoid disappointment. The rich set high expectations to stay excited.
There’s no need to read front-to-back. Feel free to skip around.
- Read This If: You want an overview on cultivating a wealth mentality.
- Don’t Bother Reading If: You want actionable specifics.
Your Money or Your Life, by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez
Released in the 1990’s (and updated a few years ago), this New York Times Bestseller popularized the movement of hopping off the trading-time-for-money hamster wheel.
The book is filled with gems, but here’s one of my favorite (actionable) pieces of advice in this book:
Compare your lifetime earnings to your net worth. Keep score against yourself.
What does this mean? Your lifetime earnings are — as the name implies — the total amount of money that you’ve earned throughout your life.
Your net worth is a snapshot of what you own, minus what you owe. It’s calculated as your assets (house, retirement, savings), minus your liabilities (mortgage, other debt).
How do these two numbers compare? Which is larger — your lifetime earnings or your net worth? By how much?
The Millionaire Next Door, by Thomas Stanley and William Danko
These were the findings of two researchers who interviewed dozens of American millionaires in search of common threads.
- The majority didn’t inherit anything from their parents, not even $1.
- Most have “cheap” tastes; they prefer Bud Light to fancy champagne.
- They drive used cars and live in middle-class houses.
- They own non-glamorous businesses. “We are welding contractors, auctioneers, rice farmers, owners of mobile-home parks, pest controllers, coin and stamp dealers, and paving contractors.”
- They are your next door neighbors. And you have no idea they’re rich.
Most millionaires invest their money, which is how they become (and stay) millionaires. The media loves to spotlight Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton, but they’re the exception, not the norm.
- Read This If: You hold the limiting belief that you can’t be a millionaire.
- Don’t Bother Reading If: You want concrete, actionable instructions.
The Little Book of Common Sense Investing, by Jack Bogle
In this epic classic, Jack Bogle — the founder of Vanguard — throws down the gauntlet, explaining why index funds are the Mac Daddy of investments.
If you’ve ever wondered why so many personal finance bloggers are index fund devotees, this book nails it.
- Read This If: You want to understand smart stock market investing. Or you’ve tried to articulate why you love index funds, but can’t figure out how to put it into words.
- Don’t Bother Reading If: You love index funds and don’t need any further confirmation why.
Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits, by Philip Fisher
Value investors look for strong companies that are momentarily underpriced. They’re the bargain-hunters of the stock market world.
Growth investors focus on companies with tremendous growth potential. They’re willing to pay full retail price for a company that could be the Next Big Thing.
This book is written by the late Philip Fisher, known as the “Father of Growth Investing.” (Ironically, his son is a value investor.)
His colleague, the late Benjamin Graham, is known as the “Father of Value Investing.”
If you want to understand these two theories, read one book from each author.
I read Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits a few years ago, when I wanted to build a knowledge foundation around investing theory.
I decided I’d stick with simple index funds (following the teachings of my favorite investor, Jack Bogle), so I’ve never needed to apply these ideas. But knowing this background is handy. It helps me make more informed decisions.
- Read This If: You’re a finance enthusiast who wants to learn investing principals.
- Don’t Bother Reading If: You don’t care about theory. You just want to know action to take. (Buy index funds.)
The Intelligent Investor, by Benjamin Graham
Don’t read one without the other.
If you’re interested in learning investing theory, read these two books together. (And then follow Jack Bogle’s advice) 🙂
- Read This If: You’d like a foundation in stock investing ideas.
- Don’t Bother Reading If: You want to cut to the chase. (Stick with index funds. End of story.)
Real Estate Investment Books
From 0 to 130 Properties in 3.5 Years, by Steve McKnight
This book helped me learn how to think like a buy-and-hold real estate investor.
It’s a mindset book, not an actionable “how to” instructional.
Huge disclaimer: The information about laws, taxes, banking, financing, etc., applies only in Australia. Read it for the high-level concepts, not the specifics (unless you’re also Australian).
- Read This If: You want to develop the mindset of a rental property investor.
- Don’t Bother Reading If: You want actionable, concrete information.
The Millionaire Real Estate Investor, by Gary Keller
- Myth: Investing is risky.
- Reality: Investing is risky if you don’t know what you’re doing.
If you buy the wrong property, you’re screwed. If you buy correctly, however, you remove risk.
- Myth: Investing is complicated.
- Reality: Investing is only as complicated as you make it.
When you’re in kindergarten, 5th-grade math seems hard. It’s all about perspective.
- Myth: Good investors time the market.
- Reality: Good investors make the best of the current time.
Great investors don’t blame the market. They seize all current market situations for opportunity.
- Read This If: You’d like to develop an investor mindset.
- Don’t Bother Reading If: You want actionable, concrete information. Also, don’t bother if you’re an advanced or experienced real estate investor.
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