The Ten Most Influential Books I’ve Read

My non-fiction reading list that helped me pay off five-figure debt balances and believe in myself enough to start my own business.

Delaney Jaye
Oct 7, 2019 · 8 min read
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I have always been a bookworm. I love getting lost in a new world, trying on a new perspective, or learning something interesting (whether it directly relates to my typical interests or not).

There’s nothing I love more than curling up with a cup of tea and a new book on my kindle with a smelly candle, fluffy puppy, and cozy blanket to keep me company.

For whatever reason, I am not often drawn to novels. I love novels and have a list of them I want to read, but when it comes to actually reading them, they usually fall below a non-fiction on my priority list.

With that said, let’s jump into the books — I hope you find something to add to your reading list!

Personal Development

Book 1: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit is a book that made me take a good look at the things I do without even thinking about it. It also showed me how to hack this human tendency and “stack” my habits into a productive routine.

There is a lot of publicity over the power of habit in a negative light (like the problems caused by addiction) but this was the first time I’d seen a focus on how that system benefits us — why we evolved with it and how to improve our lives by rewiring it.

If you’re looking to make lasting change in your life (whether it’s to read more, get in shape, change your diet, or focus better at work) this book can help you achieve your goal.

(The Power of Habit on Amazon)

Book 2: You are a Badass by Jen Sincero

This is one of my favorites on this list and a book I have read several times. It was my introduction into the “personal development” (aka self-help) world and if you haven’t ventured into this realm of reading, this is a great place to start.

It gives you the basics — has some elements of “The Secret” and many other “manifesting your dreams” books, but does it in a way that doesn’t make you feel stupid for reading it (even if the title makes you feel a bit silly in public).

It’s a quick but powerful read, and one I keep coming back to when I need a good kick in the pants to get motivated, focused, and serious about achieving my goals. I also have the audiobook version, which Jen Sincero narrates herself, which is great for added “oomph”.

(You are a Badass on Amazon)

Book 3: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

This book gives you an insight into the creative brain behind the author of “Eat, Pray, Love”. I will warn you that it is an “out-there” place in that brain of hers, but I love the way she treats her personal license to creative thinking.

She’s very playful — seeing her creativity as “a genius” — a little minion on her shoulder to help her, instead of looking to become and identify herself as a “genius”. This shift in verbiage removes the pressure of that identity that creates so many of our tortured artists.

She also goes into a lot of detail on what a creative life looks like, how to find it for yourself, and reminds her readers that a creative life does not have to mean quitting your job and pursuing creativity forsaking all others. Instead, it can be finding ways to incorporate that spirit into your existing daily life.

(Big Magic on Amazon)

Book 4: The Book of Joy by The Dalai Lama XIV and Desmond Tutu

This book is, literally, a joy to read.

It is the recorded banter between old friends, the Dalai Lama XIV and Desmond Tutu. They share their wisdom discussing the state of the world and how, despite the adversity they have personally witnessed and experienced, they are able to find a lasting joy in life.

These two are infectious — I caught myself smiling often when reading this book. They talk about their own experiences and practices around finding a joyous lifestyle, but also the leading science on the topic and ways you can find your own joy too. I highly recommend this one.

(The Book of Joy on Amazon)

Book 5: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

This book really turns the “self-help” world’s mantras on their head, arguing that a positive outlook is not going to get you anywhere. Manson argues that a more realist approach of seeing the world as it is and learning to the make the best of it is the true key to success in life.

He caused me to really think to myself and understand where my faults and fears are, because once you know, you can face them head on and overcome.

“Improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better.” Check out his book for a refreshing approach to personal development.

(The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck on Amazon)

Book 6: The Success Principles by Jack Canfield

I’m not going to lie, this book is long, but if you’re only going to read one book this year, I’d say this one might be it — (just don’t do the audio version, it’s very slow-paced).

Written by the co-author of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” empire of books, Jack Canfield goes through the timeless principles successful people employ to get to where they are and how you can do the same. He uses a lot of examples from CEOs, his personal experiences, and other personal development techniques to develop 64 principles for success.

While I haven’t employed all of the principles yet, I already see how taking the principles from this book and applying them to your daily routine would quickly change your life into the one you have always wanted.

(The Success Principles on Amazon)


Book 7: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

This book is a memoir of the life of Phil Knight and the series of events that led to Nike — the athletic brand.

I did not expect to love this book, but I love this book. It is one of my absolute favorites and another one on this list that I have read several times. It is so well written that it does not feel like you’re reading a non-fiction — it reads more like a novel. You really feel like you are following him through the journey to create the brand we know and love today.

Phil Knight recounts the thought process, decisions, setbacks, changes, and growth strategies that got Nike to where it is today, and no business book has inspired me more than this one. It is completely relatable, motivational, emotional, and fascinating. Have I mentioned that I love this book?

(Shoe Dog on Amazon)

Book 8: The Power of Broke by Daymond John

This book is not my favorite on this list, but it is a really good one for changing your mindset around what it takes to make a business successful.

It inspires you to take a real look at yourself and the situation you’re in to realize that you can create something no matter what you have (or don’t have) around you. In fact, the less you have, the more creative and resourceful you can be — and this creativity may be your greatest competitive advantage.

It’s also just interesting to hear more about the background of this “Shark” on “Shark Tank” — understanding where he came from, some of the businesses he’s invested in on the show, and what he looks for in his investments. It’s an interesting read that inspired me to start my own business.

(The Power of Broke on Amazon)


Book 9: How Not to Die by Michael Greger M.D.

This is by far the best book I’ve read on the subject of nutrition. It has an unconventional title, but this title is a reference to the structure of the book.

It goes through the top 10 diseases that kill people in the western world and teaches you how nutrition is often the cure. It goes through diseases like heart disease and explains how they are usually only hereditary because diets are hereditary — you can prevent, reverse, or cure it with a change in what you eat.

Dr. Greger goes through what makes a study credible (explaining double-blind, placebo-controlled, neutrally funded, etc.) and cites only studies of this nature in his research. He also provides you with where you can find these studies to check on them yourself. He also does not personally make any money from this at all — to prove he has no incentive or bias, all proceeds from this book go to charity.

This book has changed my relationship with food — I now evaluate meals based on nutrient density instead of macros and calorie content. I highly highly highly recommend this book to anyone looking for nutrition advice, who has diseases that run in their family, who has concerns or questions about their diet or a loved one’s, or anyone who eats food regularly.

(How Not to Die on Amazon)

Book 10: The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

This book is a very popular personal finance book, but still one worth mentioning because it helped me pay off five-figure debt balances (between car loans, personal loans, medical bills, and student loans) in under a year using his method.

Money is a taboo topic, but something we all deal with (and need to deal with) so it is worth reading a thing or two to understand it better. This was the first personal finance book I read and I have read several more since, but the principles in this book are the ones that have stuck with me. Debt freedom is worth the few dollar investment in this book — trust me!

(The Total Money Makeover on Amazon)

I hope you found something that interests you to add to your reading list — I’d love some ideas to add to mine — do you have any recommendations?

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Delaney Jaye

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Marketing Strategist with a passion for travel, nutrition, & mindfulness. Grad business student @ the University of Oxford. Read more >

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