The Growth Library
A curated collection of the best books to help you gain knowledge and insights critical to personal and professional growth.
You need a solid foundation for growth. Start with these to gain a better perspective on life and to get yourself into the proper mindset.
Through anecdotes of historical figures and business leaders, Carnegie illustrates how empathy and listening can go a long way in successful interactions with other people. This classic has timeless advice on ways to build better relationships and to grow as a leader.
Covey outlines a framework for self-mastery, working with others, and continuous improvement through 7 habits: be proactive, begin with end in mind, put first things first, think win-win, seek first to understand then to be understood, synergize, and sharpen the saw. If these don’t mean anything to you yet, you need to read this book.
Duhigg dives into the ways in which habits rule our lives, from our day-to-day activities to the way large companies study our habits to sell us more stuff. By understanding the way habits work–Duhigg elaborates on a cue-reward-routine framework for diagnosing a habit–we can have greater control over the way we behave.
Dweck charts two types of mindsets: a fixed mindset, whose adherents believe that abilities are fixed, and a growth mindset, whose adherents believe that an individual has the capacity to develop skills and abilities through hard work and help from others. Dweck shares strategies on ways to nurture and encourage the growth mindset.
Growth Through Scientific Thought
The world is a complicated place. The logic of the scientific method will help you learn when to trust and when to be skeptical on your way to personal growth.
Scientific thought and knowledge is strongest when it reflects the results and findings from multiple fields. Wilson weaves together philosophy, literature, social and hard sciences into an eminently readable and brilliant exposition of how to reconcile our divergent approaches to understanding life, the universe, and everything. It’ll change the way you look at science forever.
Wright argues that evolutionary pressures make increasing interdependence and greater gains from cooperation a logical path for the future of humanity. Nonzero, the title of the book, refers to the game theory concept of zero-sum situations, where, for someone to win, someone else has to lose. Wright shows how cooperation can lead to increasing gains that benefit all.
Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World's Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself by Rich Roll
In this inspiring memoir, Rich Roll shares how, at the age of forty, he decided to turn his life around by embracing a plant-based diet and taking up endurance sports, going from an overweight, unhealthy couch potato into a world class Ironman-distance triathlete. Roll also goes in-depth on the details of his transformative diet.
Jurek, champion and, for many years, the face of ultramarathon racing, shares the story of how he became a world class runner, from his childhood in Minnesota to the years in the Northwest training for his 100-mile races. Beyond his training regimen and diet, Jurek’s underlying powers lay in his mental toughness and his willingness to push beyond what seems possible.
Karnazes, a legend in the ultrarunning world, tells the story of how he came to be a world-class runner and what motivated him to run 100+ miles in deadly heat or attempt a marathon in Antarctica. Karnazes shows that the impossible is possible with the right mix of obsession, discipline, and drive.
The renowned novelist Haruki Murakami takes an unusual approach to his memoir, choosing to frame his life story through his beloved activity of running. Murakami recalls his training for the New York City Marathon as well as his past races and parallels between writing and running.
Kahneman’s book features two central characters who represent modes of thought, System 1 and System 2. System 1 thinking (1+1=2) is automatic and error-prone while System 2 thinking (78 x 45 = ?) is deliberate and effortful. Kahneman walks us through his own research program’s findings regarding how intuition can (mostly) lead us astray and on how we can engage deliberate thinking to avoid these naturally-occurring judgmental errors.
We get much of our insight and analysis into what’s going on around us from experts. How much should we trust them? Based on a 20 year-long experimental study on how accurate experts were at forecasting the future, Tetlock and Gardner reveal that many were no better than a dart-throwing chimp. Fox-like thinkers, or those who take into account lots of perspectives and theories, performed better than hedgehogs, who try to fit the entire world into one theoretical framework.
Klein’s life’s work has been on understanding how intuition works, especially the keen intuitive thinking demonstrated by experts. In this book, Klein focuses on the concept of insights, where they come from, and the strategies employed for gaining them. Klein sketches out primary pathways based on examining insight episodes, such as seeking surprising contradictions and coincidences.
Gigerenzer’s work has been on how fast thinking methods such as employing mental shortcuts called heuristics helps people navigate the world. In this book, Gigerenzer discusses why normal people need to develop a better understanding of risk to avoid being duped by doctors, politicians, and financial professionals.
Professor Hammond, a leading judgment and decisions researcher in psychology, passed away in 2015. Hammond spent five years writing this book and offers a fresh perspective on understanding good judgment. Hammond integrates two competing ways of measuring judgment and illustrates his thinking with examples from politics and war.
Thinking the right way and being smart are two separate constructs. That is the crux of Stanovich's argument. Stanovich discusses the right ways to think such as being actively open minded and questioning of conspiracy theories.
Abraham Lincoln's rise from a "backwoods" lawyer in Illinois to the 16th president of the United States and his tenure during the country's most contentious, war-torn years is told masterfully by Goodwin. Through a careful study of Lincoln's handling of relationships and interactions with members of his cabinet, especially the "rivals" he beat out at the Republican convention for the presidential nomination, Goodwin paints Lincoln as a master politician, a generous and good-hearted man, and a leader for the ages.
One of the most colorful and outsize characters to take the presidency, Teddy Roosevelt was an eccentric from childhood and took the idea of carpe diem quite seriously. This volume, one of three books written about Roosevelt by Morris, chronicles the life of TR from childhood until he takes office after McKinley's asssasination. As adventurer, hunter, conservationist, politician, reformer, lawyer, author, zoologist, and military officer, Roosevelt applied great discipline to the use of his time and achieved much even before taking the office of the President.
De Botton begins by examining the historical developments that have fueled the feeling of status, and with it, the anxiety that develops in individuals who strive to achieve it. He curates various remedies offered by those who sought to escape the social anxiety trap, ranging from philosophers, psychologists, and novelists. A quick read that'll provoke some thoughts on having greater perspective about life and our daily anxieties.
"In adolescence, I hated life and was continually on the verge of suicide, from which, however, I was restrained by the desire to know more mathematics. Now, on the contrary, I enjoy life; I might almost say that with every year that passes I enjoy it more," writes Russell. In this classic and timeless volume, he goes on to expound on the causes of unhappiness and happiness, asserting that the "diminishing preoccupation" the self is largely what allows for happiness.
Haidt, a psychologist best known for his work on moral judgment and political ideology, argues that both the western focus on action and striving and the common philosophical source of happiness from within are not just necessary, but compatible.
Gilbert makes a strong argument based on psychology and cognitive science that we believe we will be much happier than we are upon reaching the destination. He makes a case of presentism and for using the experience of others as a guide for understanding ourselves.
From his precocious start as frugal, money-saving entrepreneur to becoming one of the world's richest and most influential businessmen, Warren Buffett's life story is about a man who pursues a life that makes him happy, doing exactly what he wants to do. With a steadfast, optimistic belief in American capitalism and an aversion to shady shortcuts, Buffett brings dignity to the game of building wealth.
You can read some of these letters for free right here or you can enjoy them in book format. Penned by Warren Buffett since 1965, these letters to the shareholders are a mix of self-deprecatory analysis on investment decisions, lessons on valuing businesses and finance, and a look into how Berkshire Hathaway rose from its money-losing textile operations to one of the most valuable companies in the world.
In this timeless classic, Drucker calls out to “every knowledge worker in modern organization” and claims that “effectiveness can be learned.” He outlines five practices that must be acquired: 1) Know where your time goes; 2) Focus on outward contribution; 3) Build on strengths; 4) Set and stick to your priorities (“Do first things first”); and 5) Make effective decisions (“the right strategy” vs. “razzle-dazzle tactics”).
In the modern world, the volume and complexity of our work have made systems and tasks more prone to mistakes than ever. Some errors, in fields like medicine and transportation, can be fatal. Gawande, through a series of real-world examples, illustrates that the simple checklist can go a long way in introducing clarity and certainty to our work, and also delves into what makes for effective checklists versus impractical and unhelpful ones.
Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen
Feedback comes in many forms and being well-equipped to receive feedback can make a big difference in your career and your relationships. Stone and Heen provide a framework and tactics to better understand, deconstruct, and handle the daily barrage of feedback while encouraging readers to see feedback not as final judgments but as inputs for continual growth.
At a time when most knowledge workers are knee-deep in emails and social media distractions, the ability to engage in cognitively demanding tasks (what Newport calls “deep work”) has become rarer. Deep work, Newport contends, is critical for achievement and success, and he goes on to share strategies for sustainably getting yourself into deep work mode.
The Success Equation: Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports, and Investing by Michael Mauboussin
Mauboussin discusses the importance of recognizing how skill and luck contribute to outcomes. The key idea–that luck is a major contributor to outcomes that people normally believe are within their span of control–allows people to differentiate between things that they should focus on and things they should ignore. He draws examples from gambling, games, sports, finance, and business.
Frank points out that people tend to attribute their success to hard work rather than to luck but that even self-made individuals likely benefited from luck in one way or another. As Frank, points out, quoting E.B. White, “Luck is not something you can mention in the presence of self-made men.” But the lack of acknowledgement of luck leads to sanctimonious feelings and a general lack of gratitude towards the things that benefited you that were completely outside of your control, such as genetics, your parents, where you grew up, and a whole host of other factors.
Epic science fiction novel set on the desert planet Arrakis. The intricate plot and multi-sided characters convey lessons in succeeding when faced with incredible odds and personal tragedy. The novel’s religious order combines Zen and Catholic teachings. Its mantra “fear is the mind-killer” means overcoming fear requires not letting it overwhelm you. Dune is a brilliant blend of psychology, religion, and political science that is considered the best science fiction book ever written.
The protagonist Jeff Winston dies suddenly at the age of 43 only to wake up as his 18-year-old self back in time. For the next 25 years, Jeff uses his knowledge from the future to shape his destiny. Jeff has multiple opportunities to “replay” his life but always ends up “dying” at age 43, his memory piling up with experiences, relationships, and tragedies of all his replays. It's impossible to read this book without thinking about how you would replay your own life.
Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington were embedded with the US Army in Afghanistan in 2007-2008 during a period of intense fighting in the Arghandab Valley (Hetherington was a war photographer who was later killed in Libya while embedded with rebels during the Arab Spring). Junger writes a remarkable book about war, notable for its unflinching and detailed treatment of the psychological aspects of warfare both during and after.
Colonel Shaw's letters, compiled and published in their entirety in this volume, express unique insights and sentiments about war and leadership. Shaw, most famously depicted by Matthew Broderick in the Oscar-winning film Glory, took on the socially-difficult and physically-dangerous job of leading the first all-black regiment during the American Civil War.
Dr. Kalanithi’s book is a heart-wrenching but enlightening read about the things that are important in our lives in the face of death. Diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer just as he’s hitting his stride with his medical career, Kalanithi takes the reader on a journey from the life of a neurosurgeon to the struggle of being a patient, sharing the joys of life and the stripping away of the things that ultimately do not matter.
Gawande reminds us of how important it is to grow old well and to die well. Gawande helps us come to grips with our own mortality, to make the most of the limited time we have, and to get us and our doctors to change our approach to the inevitable end of our lives. He also surveys the state of elderly care and questions our society’s default approach to extending life, exploring how the end of life experience can be more fulfilling and dignified.