Earlier I tweeted:

“You are what you (re)read.”

With that in mind, I figured I’d share a handful of the books I’ve re-read recently (or most frequently):

  • Getting Things Done by David Allen (read 5 times): I read this every year or so. Each time I read it I find some new angle or idea that didn’t resonate with me in any of my earlier readings. It’s a book I turn to when I’m making transitions — most commonly out of a period of extreme busyness and into one of more calm. It helps re-center me.
  • Deep Work by Cal Newport (read 4 times): It’s surprising how many times I’ve read this considering it’s only been out for a year or so. When I’m feeling frustrated with a lack of progress in big and important work I often turn to this book to help get me back on track.
  • Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (read 3 times): This is the book that changed everything for me. After I read it for the first time in early 2011 I decided to apply to graduate school to study positive psychology with Dr. Csikszentmihalyi. That was the best decision I ever could’ve made and I’ve been on a track of meaningful work ever since.
  • Mindfulness in Plain English by Henepola Gunaratana (read 3 times): I think this was the first book I read about mindfulness and I still think it’s the most clearly written and accessible of anything I’ve read. I try to always be reading a book related to my meditation practice and I like coming back to this one (in fact, I think I’m due for another re-reading).
  • Essentialism by Greg McKeown (read 2 times): When life feels overwhelming I come back to Essentialism. I aspire to essentialism in all aspects of how I spend my attention and this book always helps me recalibrate when I feel out of balance.

There are other books I’ve read at least twice (the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit, Autopilot: The Art and Science of Doing Nothing, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, The Power of Less, Reinventing Organizations, and In Praise of Slowness all fit that criteria according to a quick perusal of Goodreads), but the five I’ve listed above are the ones that come to mind when I think about books I’ve read more than once in the past and will likely keep reading in the future.

Part of me thinks that needing or desiring to re-read books is a failure because I evidently failed to retain the important information within. However, I’ve come to accept that 100% information retention is an unrealistic goal for me to strive for when reading for leisure and that even if I did have the ability to fully retain everything I read a large part of what I find meaningful depends on my personal experiences or emotions at the moment of reading — both things that vary with time.

What are books that you return to over and over? Are there certain books you turn to when you’re feeling a certain way?


This article is part of my (somewhat neglected) series where I challenge myself to draft, edit, and publish something in roughly 30 minutes every day. If you’re interested in what I’m reading you can follow me on Goodreads.