Book Reviews: Part 1

“A capacity, and taste, for reading gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others.” —Abraham Lincoln

I recently updated my recommended books list, but I only put books on the list that make my top books of all time. Since I go through roughly 40-50 books a year, I’m going to start periodically writing brief reviews and linking to the items in case you are interested. Some of the books I’ve read are great, while others are so so. Thankfully I haven’t read too many horrible books lately (except ones that aren’t relevant to the topic of this blog), but I wanted to provide a ranking to you so you know how I would recommend prioritizing the reading. Think of me as your built in filter. I’m going to rank the books on a 1-5 star scale. So here goes my quick list of read material over the last few months:

1. Think and Grow Rich3 Stars -Think and Grow Rich is a well known classic, and since it is a classic the ideas are all old and somewhat outdated in the verbiage. That being said a lot of the material is still relevant today. This book was OK in my opinion, but it certainly was not the game changer that others have stated it is.  The number one point the book makes is that you need to think and believe you can do something and you will be able to achieve. While this is somewhat true, but that concept is nothing you can’t obtain from any other self-development book and the audio narration was not exceptional. I was surprised it has a 4.8 star rating on Amazon since usually the review average is more in line with my taste. If you’re running out of material to read, like I am it is probably worth checking it out, but I do not recommend prioritizing this book.
2. Rich Dad Poor Dad – 5 stars– Robert Kiyosaki does a great job using story telling to keep your attention throughout this timeless classic.  I just wrote a post about humility, and I am embarrassed to admit that the fact that practically everyone for the past 20 years has recommended  reading this one actually kept me from reading it. It took for me to see it as a buy-one-get-one on Audible for me to pick it up. I wish I would have picked it up sooner. I can see why everyone recommends it as a classic. Not only are the principles great, but as it walks through a child learning how to truly build wealth, you start to identify with the characters in the book. Great character development that isn’t typically available in books that are also educational. I also agree with the main principle (invest in assets, not liabilities). Its simplicity is likely what makes this book so effective. Buy this book in any and every form available, although I did enjoy listening to it, as it almost seems like you’re hearing a story told by your wise grandpa about when he was a child.

3. 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself 4.5 stars– This is a great practical guide by Steve Chandler. It’s setup so that each page or two is a new tactic to keep motivated so it is a great book to keep on your desk to read 1 technique at a time. I keep it on my desk at work and pick it up and read one of them occasionally when I have an extra moment that I feel that I need a little extra motivation. Steve Chandler seems to effectively combine tidbits from practically every other self-development book into this concise and neat little package. The only reason I did not give this one five stars is that it does not provide a story that captivates your interest, however I will note that the intent of the book is to provide a practical guide for separate tips. I think it accomplished its mission very well. I recommend buying this one on Audible as well as in print so you can keep the book handy when you’ll need it most.4. Extreme Ownership – 4.5 stars– Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, both Navy Seals, write about their experience in combat as well as in business to demonstrate characteristics that are critical to leadership. The setup is fairly simple as one of the two walks through a mission they went through as a Seal and then the corresponding business application. If you liked American Sniper or Lone Survivor and you’re interested in self-development as well, you’ll likely love this book. The key takeaway for me was essentially how to not blame others for the situation I’m in and take extreme ownership of my life. It definitely will provide you with an attitude adjustment. Regardless, this is a definite must buy for anyone who is looking for extra motivation. The reason for 4.5 instead of 5 stars is that it may not be everyone’s cup of tea. If combat books are not your thing, you may not enjoy this as much, however you will still get good content out of it. I recommend the audio version since both narrators are the writers and they do a great job helping you relate to the situations they were in.

5. Grit – 4.25 stars – In this book, Angela Duckworth outlines why intelligence is overrated. Passion and perseverance are said to be twice as important as IQ to producing sustained success. I liked this book because I always have thought that I was gritty, only to find out that, while I am passionate, I am not very gritty after all. I need to work on my long-term focus. This book provides useful tips to develop, not only your own grit, but help others, such as your children, develop grit as well. As a father of two small children and another on the way I definitely appreciate all the help I can get. This book is great for practical purposes but does not have quite the entertainment value that Extreme Ownership or Rich Dad Poor Dad bring to the table which puts it at 4.25 stars. Pick this book up and give it a read.  You may find it convicting like I did.

6. You Are a Badass – 4.25 stars – Jen Sincero does an awesome job bringing positive energy and great audio on this little motivating book. I was very hesitant to read this one, because it seemed geared towards women more, but I actually thoroughly enjoyed it. I do think female readers would connect slightly better, but I still recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a more lighthearted pick-me-up.  One minor negative is that there is some cursing in the book which made it harder for me to listen to in the car if kids were around.  While I really enjoyed the book, this is less of a practical guide to life and more of a feel good book. It certainly accomplishes its goal, but for that reason I can’t give it a perfect score. This is still a strong recommend at 4.25 stars. Another word of advice, buy the audio version, Jen Sincero narrates it and she does a great job keeping your interest.

7. Make It Stick 2 stars – This book is essentially a how-to book on new ways of learning. While the book offered some good insights on better ways of learning, it was was very repetitive and I go so tired of it by the time I was finished with it. The biggest takeaway I got from this book is that quizzing yourself is important for memorization. Other than that, don’t waste your time with this book unless you’re incredibly board.

8. The Power of Ambition – 3.5 stars – Jim Rohn is one of the most cited self-development/self-improvement gurus.  Many of the younger life coaches use Rohn’s material and quotes as a cornerstone for their material. That being said, while I somewhat enjoyed this audiobook, it did not leave me with much better direction than what I started with going in.  If you’re an avid reader than go ahead and buy this book, otherwise stick to the other books that are on my recommended books list.
9. Mindset – 3.5 stars –  Carol Dweck is a psychologist who essentially advocates for a growth mindset. What this means is that individuals need to have a bias towards believing that we control our growth, rather than success being a product of natural talent. Ultimately this results in an individual believing they can work hard and achieve results. Carol Dweck is cited in many many books for her work on this topic, and while I love the actual research part of her book, it does get repetitive and was not the most entertaining read. If you’re interested in learning and are not overly concerned with entertainment value give this book a read.
10. 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth 4 stars – John C. Maxwell is a popular life coach and speaker, and he has written many books that are similar to this one.  I enjoyed John’s writing style and he is a wealth of interesting quotes and stories. This book probably will not blow you away with new content, but it is a pretty good overview of habits you will need to develop to be successful. If this is your first self improvement book, than this one is a good start, but if you are a old veteran of self development books like I am, it may not be the most interesting. Either way, I do recommend reading this book eventually, but make sure to read the list for other books you may enjoy more first.
11. The $100 Startup – 2.5 stars – This book is essentially a variety of examples and models of entrepreneurs who started their company for very little money and essentially became independent. The main thing I learned from this book is that it is common for entrepreneurs to be able to quit there job and start out on there own with a little elbow grease. Freedom is only a few steps away. The book does provide some practical tips, but it certainly does not help you understand how you should generate an effective business model and it was not very interesting to me either. Essentially this book is a less entertaining version of the 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. If you are interested in learning about start ups, go with Tim Ferriss instead.
12. The Iliad and The Odyssey – 5 stars – I threw these two in just for fun. Obviously they are not self development books, but they were pretty entertaining to listen to. I have always been interested in Greek Mythology but never spent the time learning or reading more, so these were relaxing audio-books to listen to while accomplishing that mission.

Well there you have it. This encompasses my last few months of reading. I hope that this post helps you find the perfect book for you to read or listen to next. If this post has helped guide you in what to read next, please help me out by clicking to Amazon (use the icons) to purchase the books. I receive a small commission at no expense to you if you do. Also if you have not checked out Audible yet, you need to start your free trial today.
Truthfully Audible has changed my life significantly. This website certainly would not exist if I had not started downloading audiobooks from the website. I honestly can’t say that I would have been promoted at work or finished my MBA without the knowledge that I gained from Audible listening so make sure you give it a try if you have not yet. Books truly can make all the difference.

Thanks for reading and if you have any books you’d like to recommend to me, please do it in the comments below. I always appreciate your feedback! Thanks again, and remember to make today your masterpiece!

Robert Krickeberg

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