Lessons I Learned Reading Over 200 Books

I recently realized that I’d been reading a book every week now for about 5 years straight.

It kind of made me wonder: what did I really learn? Am I smarter than I used to be?

I started to wonder, and this is what happened. 140 characters per book, for 200 books… 200 things you may not know.

Are you curious? I sure was when I started. Here we go.

A Walk in the Woods

The Appalachian Trail is a trail in the woods that’s over 2000 miles long. In 1990, Bill Irwin became the first guy to ever walk it– BLIND.

The Millionaire Next Door

Those that are wealthy are not those who ACT wealthy. Those that look wealthy are usually in just debt, while the rich tend to act broke.


“Sometimes we’re right about things– especially when we’re experts. Other times we’re wrong.” With a bunch of examples.

How To Succeed in Anything by Really Trying

The three A’s of careers are Ability, Ambition, and Attitude. If you have those three down, you’re good.

The No BS Ruthless Management of People and Profits

If your employees suck, nobody is happy. So fire them– fast. Stop being so bleeding-hearted about it.

The Dip

The real rewards come to those who can outlast the competition. If you can do that while staying unique, you win.

The Little Red Book of Sales

People do business with people they like. So if make it easy to be someone they like, you’re a big part of the way there.

Crash Proof

The US is carrying massive amounts of debt. This may or may not reduce the value of the dollar over time, so invest to compensate for it.

On Writing Well

Simplicity matters. Clarity matters. “Writing improves in direct ratio to the number of things we can keep out of it.”

The Little Teal Book of Trust

Trust matters, but more importantly, Jeffrey Gitomer is a master salesman, and it is always possible to write a new take on an old subject.

Everything Bad is Good for You

Even culturally “stupid” things like reality TV can have lots of value. In fact media is getting more complex over time. Don’t dismiss it.

The Myth of Multitasking

Do one thing at a time or you’re wasting your time. Man, I could still really learn this lesson. So could you.

What Would Google Do?

Companies that embrace Google-like qualities win over “closed” companies. Free, open, etc. wins.

Old Masters and Young Geniuses

There are two ways to success. Either be young and have a huge insight, or get older and gradually improve.

Pow! Right Between the Eyes

Surprises create emotion. Emotions create memories. Information has nothing to do with convincing someone.


Learn practical skills or you’ll regret it when you need them. Being useful matters.

Lance Armstrong: Every Second Counts

Persistence is everything. Ignore detractors and push forward no matter what.

Problem Solving 101

It’s easy to sell a little book to a bored guy in Chicago O’Hare airport… yeah, that’s all I remember.

Talent is Overrated

Work matters more than talent– this is like a much better version of Outliers. Focus on the work, always.

Culture Smart:Japan

There are at least 5 ways to talk to people in Japan, based on their status and yours. In America, we’re lucky to have social mobility.

Thank You and OK!

Even Zen Buddhists can be messed up. No single path will make you perfect.

The Way of Zen

Japanese Daruma dolls are really cool symbols for persistence. Keep real objects around you that remind you of your purpose.

Stumbling on Happiness

The stuff we think will make us happy usually doesn’t. We need to be clear on what those mistakes are or we waste a lot of time.

Not Always So

Enlightenment is about the practice, not the talking. You can’t intellectualize insight.


Simplify your life and you’ll appreciate what you have more. Yes, it’s that simple.

The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die

Most of the answers to happiness have been figured out by old people. Ask them, they’ll tell you.


Simple environmental changes can radically alter behaviour. It’s how change happens. So don’t blame yourself or your weaknesses.

The Game

Girls like confidence, and confidence is hard to fake.

How To Sell

Girls apparently like jewelry too. But not as much as confidence.

Six Pixels of Separation

Mitch Joel is an under-appreciated asset to the whole social media community. This book has secretly outsold every single other social media book out there, by the way.

What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20

Frankly, this was not memorable. If you are reading a book and can’t come up with any significant quotes or ideas from it, you should probably stop. Trust me.

Mastering Your Hidden Self

Do yourself a favour and don’t read books about spirituality. They’re usually crap and are trying to sell you on something.

Man’s Search For Meaning

Between stimulus and response there is a space, and in that space lies our growth and our freedom. (This was the largest inspiration for my book The Flinch.)

Feel the Fear… And Do It Anyway

If you feel fear in non-dangerous situations, you should just go forward anyway. It’s rare that bad shit happens.

Blue Ocean Strategy

Low competition means it’s easier to win. Always search for the easiest, least competitive way.

What Should I Do With My Life?

Follow your passion or you’ll regret it. Speaking from experience, this is true.


Stuff doesn’t make you happy, but you’ll never stop thinking it will.

She Comes First

Lol. I can’t believe I’m admitting that I read this. It was good though. You should read it.

Purple Cow

Being remarkable means your customers will notice, and being noticed is the first step on the way to being successful.

50 50

Doing the impossible is often easier than you think. Most people don’t try to find the real limits– they just trust what others say.

Presentation Zen

Stop putting walls of text on your Powerpoint slides. Everyone knows this now, don’t they?

Getting Things Done

Having a system in place is necessary to facilitate completing lots of tasks. Otherwise, you get lost. But if it’s too complex, the system itself gets you lost.

Open and Shut

The Canadian government never would have let Obama win, or even run, because he’s an outsider. This stifles innovation from the Canadian system.

Rules of Thumb

Any lesson is easy to learn… but applying it is hard.

When I Say No, I Feel Guilty

Saying no to something is actually very hard, so learn social “techniques” to help you say no when it matters.

Crush It

Fact: It’s possible to talk into a microphone and have it be made into a bestselling book.

Status Anxiety

It’s programmed into our brains to seek higher status, and when we can’t do it, we feel like crap.

The Architecture of Happiness

Our physical environment is important. How we feel in a place influences our behaviour in it, so try to create a space you love.


Even if people are outside your social network, you influence them. In other words, humans aren’t like wolves, we’re like bees.

The Cluetrain Manifesto

Hyperlinks subvert hierarchies. (This sounds simple but it’s in fact very profound.)

Gambling Scams

Amazing book. Crazy stories. Most scams are about getting the mark to feel like they’re getting away with something, not the other way around.

Zen and the Art of Archery

Reading short books helps you get ahead on your reading list. Don’t underestimate this. 🙂

The Numerati

The world of the future will be controlled by those who have, and understand, the numbers. Intuition is no longer good enough.


Traveling full-time is easier than expected. You, yes you, could probably do it… just not as you are now.


If you have trouble with a book, persevere anyway. It’s worth it.

Your Money or Your Life

Your spending habits are changeable. Stop letting them direct your life. What seems “essential” usually isn’t.

Of the Dawn of Freedom

Black people had it really bad, you guys. We are all lucky to be alive when we are right now.


Motivation from inside gets you moving. Motivation from outside stops you dead cold.

The Social Contract

There are implicit and explicit “contracts” that occur between people all the time, without people even talking about them.

Shop Class as Soulcraft

Working on things (vs, say, ideas) is rewarding, because you can see the results of your work and how it improves the world.

Escape From Cubicle Nation

Quit your horrible job. ASAP. Trust me.

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

Unfortunately, all work sucks at least a little. But life is still good, so don’t worry about it too much.

The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

Amazing things will happen, and terrible things will happen. Deal with both in the same way.

The Paleo Diet

Removing sugar and grains from your diet is one of the best things you can do for your health.

7 Days in the Art World

Art is all about personalities and technique is no longer that important. Often, big artists don’t even make their own work anymore.


Change is about working with three things: intellect, emotion, and environment. Get all three and change is easy.


I read this while in Cuba. This is the book I wish I had written. I was both impressed and upset when I read it because it was what I had wanted to do.


Simplicity is often harder than complexity, and often, there’s a lot of garbage that can just remain unsaid.

The Art of Eating In

If you’re doing it right, food in the house can be just as great as eating at restaurants. Take time to work on your cooking skills.

The Fighter’s Mind

People that fight intimately understand something that we do not.

The Greatest Salesman in the World

Mindset is everything.

The Creative Habit

One of the world’s most famous choreographers gets in a cab every morning to bring her to the gym to make sure she works out. In other words, high achievers have more than just “willpower” to make it happen.


Books that say a little are often way better than books that say a lot.

Do More Great Work

Getting people to do exercises makes them think about things more than if they just read about them.

Stranger in a Strange Land

Starting a cult is easy. 🙂

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

Think about your life as a story. How would you make it worth watching? Also, a character is what a character does. This is very important.

Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate

Zen Masters are just normal people that sit around a lot. They aren’t saints. I spent a month in a Zen monastery in Japan, so I know this is true.

Global Citizens

Don’t downgrade your standards for books just because you’re getting on a plane in New Zealand. Just garbage.

Ogilvy on Advertising

People used to be very gullible I think. A wall of text used to convince people… wait, maybe it still does?

Tao Te Ching

This book made me appreciate Chinese writing. The fashionable thing is to like the Japanese, but honestly I think ancient Chinese philosophical writing is far superior.

Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography

History will distort what your message is, or it will forget you. Focus on making the people near you happy instead of your “legacy” or whatever.

All Marketers Are Liars

The story you tell yourself (and others) is really important.

In Defence of Food

If it doesn’t need to be refrigerated, it may not actually be food. So never go through the aisles of a grocery store– go around the edges instead, where the fridges are.

I Am Not a Gadget

The web is making you into a commodity and narrowing your thinking without you knowing it.

5 Love Languages

Behind the things your spouse does is a way of thinking. Aligning yourself with that will help you understand them.

The Vegetarian Myth

I was a vegetarian/vegan for 10 years and there were lots of talking points I believed without researching them. So the lesson here is, read up on sound bites before repeating them.

The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King

Big bets either pay off or wipe you out. But even if they wipe you out, you can still come back from it.

A Brief History of Everything

Systems look very different from the inside than they do from the outside.

The Gift of Fear

Your instincts have been honed by millions of years of evolution. When your intuition tells you something, don’t ignore it.

Three Steps of the Ladder of Writing

In order for great art to emerge, you must suffer. (I have also experienced this firsthand.)

Se liberer du connu

Any habit, no matter how stupid, will end up with religious significance if unquestioned.

The Primal Blueprint

One book on the paleo diet is enough. Stop re-reading the same information over and over again. (This also applies to social media books.)

Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong

The French are best appreciated as a deeply distinct culture. They may have cars, McDonald’s, and shopping malls but they are not like you.

The Art of Non-Conformity

I could learn a lot from Chris Guillebeau. You can too.


When things go viral, it’s because they touch upon emotion, not logic. This is actually a big message most web people forget.

The Happiness Project

It’s shocking how much this book has sold. I guess it goes to show what happens when you put “happiness” in the title. It’s good, but…

The Little Black Book of Connections

Your network is everything. Access to the right people accelerates everything you do.

The Paleo Solution

Another paleo book may not have been the right thing to do, but it does prove that presentation matters. This book is the best presented of all the ones I read.

Hamlet’s Blackberry

People have encountered new technology many times before, so looking to the past can help you understand how you should deal with it when it happens to you.

The End of Food

Unless it’s local and needs to be refrigerated, the food you eat had a terrifying ride to get to your plate.


I think I’ve read enough Edward de Bono books. This was about success, but whatever. Why do I keep reading about the same things?


Old people have tons of amazing stories– but most of us don’t know them because we just don’t ask.

It’s Not Just Who You Know…

Pull other people up. Be considerate to everyone.

Good Calories Bad Calories

Native people all over the world, before being introduced to Western food, had significantly less chronic disease.

Making Ideas Happen

The productivity system you use must be available everywhere and give you your tasks only for today, not for next week.

Work the System

You should not be working inside your company putting out fires. You should be improving its efficiency instead. This book is like a better 4-Hour-Workweek.

Food Rules

When you name something a “rule,” everyone believes it even though it may not be true.

Foucault for Beginners

Michel Foucault was gay and came up with the panopticon.

A Treatise on Elegant Living

What you wear isn’t just surface– it also displays your personality and what matters to you.

Why We Get Fat

Science writers usually write a complicated book, and then a simple one after that. Always read one or the other. Never both.

The 4-Hour Body

Do the minimum possible to affect the largest possible change. Everything else is wasted energy (unless you want to master a discipline).

Emotional Intelligence 2.0

I was in Thailand while reading this. Skip it and go to Thailand instead.

What Technology Wants

Technology is a force and it’s going in a certain direction. If you work on the web, you need to understand what direction that is.

How I Became a Famous Novelist

Thailand again… this was the funniest book I ever read. It made me want to write other things than business books for the first time.

One Small Step Can Change Your Life

Large change is best done in small steps, because it doesn’t set off your emotional alarm system.

The Alchemist

Have a quest.

Program or Be Programmed

Most people on the web are writers, not programmers, and in so doing, they are less powerful than they could be.

As You Think (and other short books)

Writing down goals has power.

Poke the Box

Become a person that initiates. Others will follow.

What the Psychic Said to the Pilgrim

People give up extremely easily. If you don’t, you automatically win.

The Thank You Economy

Social media is all about basic human interactions, so being as human as possible means you have the most impact.

The Long Walk

All Stephen King books are about a regular thing that becomes evil. Carrie is a high school girl that becomes evil. Christine is a car that becomes evil. Cujo is a dog that becomes evil. The Long Walk is about a walk that becomes evil.

How to Get a Grip

Most self-improvement is in fact very basic to do. Stop kidding yourself.

Do the Work

Just sit on your ass and do it. It’s that “easy.”

Go Forth and Kick Some Ass

eBooks are quick to read and people will probably buy lots of them.

Against the Gods

Insurance companies (and others) understand risk in an extremely sophisticated way– but most individuals do not. They consider risky things safe, and safe things risky.

The God Delusion

Richard Dawkins is not nearly as much of an asshole as some think he is.

Five Little Pigs

Agatha Christie is the greatest fiction writer in the history of mankind. She is a master.

Rules for Aging

Amazing short book about important life lessons. Very funny.

The Places That Scare You

“Drop the storyline.”

Born Standing Up

Even if their movies are bad, celebrities usually aren’t idiots… especially the comedians. Also: read more biographies.

Born to Run

Marketing, especially when applied to things we have been doing for millions of years, can really screw things up. People with expensive shoes, for example, get more injuries than minimalist shoe runners.

The Dip

Wow, I read this twice! Well, this one was an audiobook, so I guess that’s different. Kind of like being on the Camino de Santiago with Seth Godin.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

After finishing this book, I realized that I should be reading it every single year. It’s that good.

A Whole New Mind

The mind necessary in the 21st century is not like the one we were taught to use. We need to learn to think and learn differently.

Getting Unstuck

Godin also recommended I read some Pema Chodron. He was right.

The War of Art

This is the perfect writing book. It’s so good it makes you never want to compete with it.

The Thing About Life is That One Day You’ll Be Dead

Sickness and aging happen very slowly, so you never actually notice it happening. Plan accordingly.

Your Dog is Your Mirror

Bad dogs aren’t bad for no reason. They have been with us for longer than any other animals, so they are uniquely attuned to our emotional states.

The Consolations of Philosophy

Most of our basic human problems have been solved a long time ago. If you start digging, you can solve them pretty easily.

When Things Fall Apart

Even though pain may seem catastrophic, it’s actually temporary. And again, “drop the storyline.”

Evil Plans

When you draw, you can say a lot with a little. I plan on drawing a lot of my work in 2012 and beyond.


I read this because I was asked to blurb it, but it was actually a good primer.

Read This Before Our Next Meeting

Most time in offices is wasted. I heard the other day most people actually “work” around 2 hours per day. Meetings are partly responsible.

Purple Cow

When I read this for the second time, it was because I was trying to “distill” the Flinch. It worked.

Self-Reliance (Domino edition)

Always read the original.

The Power of Myth

Joseph Campbell, although not “undiscovered,” is still under-appreciated. The dude did things his own way in a time when conformity was the norm.

The 22 Laws of Marketing

Tim Ferriss was right. This book is simple yet awesome.

Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness

People who give you simple formulas are spoon-feeding you. Be skeptical.

L’art de la sieste

Some books are inappropriately titled. I thought this book was about napping, but it isn’t. It’s about people napping in paintings. No kidding.

End Malaria

The most easily marketed work is the one that is publicized collaboratively. In order to facilitate this, you should also write collaboratively. (See Godin’s What Matters Now for another example.)

The Pilgrimage

Universal themes in books never get old, and Paulo Coelho is a master. As he visited each town, I remembered how I felt while visiting them.

The Warrior Ethos

Throughout history, there have been cultures that have been hard, and others that have been soft. We are soft. The Spartans were hard.

5 Minds For the Future

The most appreciated people in the 21st century will be those who do the jobs that computers are bad at.

We Are All Weird

Find a little tribe that is like you, be yourself to them. Build yourself a business around it. (See also: 1000 True Fans.)

Accidental Genius

Freewriting unlocks ideas that your brain may never have otherwise encountered. Read this and try it for yourself.

Rum Socialism

I should go to Cuba again. You should too, probably. It’s going to change a lot soon. Foreigners just got the right to buy property there.

Falling While Sitting Down

You can radically change your writing and still keep a lot of your audience.

The Game Master

Yes, I still play Dungeons and Dragons. Yet there is little writing about how to write a game. This was a good one. You can download it here for a donation or for free.

Cognitive Surplus

When you free up a lot of your time, or give yourself many more options than before, your creativity and that of society is entirely transformed. Kickstarter and Sokap are great examples.


Each fact in a book should be considered separetely. For example, Willpower says glucose depletion is a primary cause of making bad decisions. Not sure about that.

The Education of Millionaires

I should be going to more events. Summit Series, for example.

The Lean Startup

There is a methodology behind exploration of new concepts. Don’t just do it chaotically– have a method behind the madness.


Get advice from people who have been there before. Don’t reinvent the wheel.


This is a kind of Gladwell-style book, but much more interesting. I also learned here that there are about a million books about psychological errors that people make.

The Power of Eye Contact

It literally took me a year to finish this. I started in January and finished in December. Anyway, eye contact is important for relationships.

Never Eat Alone

You are not networking as much as you should be.

Strong Enough?

Incremental change can make you amazingly strong. (This applies to all areas of life.)

Think Twice

We make cognitive errors all the time without knowing it. Correcting them usually means big rewards.

How To Be a Man

In an anarchist state, manners would become the main substitute for laws. So be polite.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Many famous and well-respected writers have copied, or translated, other people’s works. See also: Hunter S. Thompson.

18 Minutes

Set your phone to ask you once an hour whether you’re being productive. Watch massive change occur.


Influence on the web comes from working with regular people, not “influencers.”


Almost all decisions we make are influenced by our biology.






141 responses to “Lessons I Learned Reading Over 200 Books”

  1. Dave Fleet Avatar

    Awesome, just awesome. Thanks for sharing Julien.

    I just finished another one to add to your list – Influencer: The Power to Change Anything. Pulls from a similar place to both Nudge and Switch, talking about personal, social and environmental forms of influence, with a healthy dose of real-world examples of how people have achieved amazing things through influence. A bit Cialdini-esque in the research approach, too. Enjoyed it.

  2. Ricardo Bueno Avatar

    You know what’s awesome? That you spit these little facts out even while you’re having a casual conversation…

    1. Julien Avatar

      I do? What do you mean?

      1. Ricardo Bueno Avatar

        Heh. When we were having drinks at Blogworld, you kept saying, “Have you heard of…” and recommending book titles.

        I think it’s pretty rad that you’ve read so much and have pretty much built it into a habit. I’m not up to a book a week yet, but definitely reading a lot more.

  3. Sarah Mae Avatar

    Wow. That was really cool that you took the time to put this together. Really enjoyed reading it (and I’m thinking you may need to branch out a little on the reading material!). 🙂

  4. Dave Lukas Avatar

    Thank you for sharing all of these Julien! I added so many books to my wish list on Amazon. Time to get to work on reading them all.

  5. Kyle LaFontaine Avatar

    Really awesome, this is so useful. There’s a bunch of books in here that seem super relevant to me right now. It will be a solid reference for me.

    It got me wondering, at what point during those 5 years did you get your idea for The Flinch? or was it more organic than that. I ask because I find it fascinating what other writers are reading, and how it can influence their work. Did any of these books influence or help naturally guided you to your perspective in The Flinch?

    1. Sarah Mae Avatar

      The largest inspiration for The Flinch he mentioned was what he learned in Man’s Search for Meaning. Go back and see what he says, it’s interesting. 😉

    2. Julien Avatar

      Kyle, use idea of dealing with suffering was with me for a long time, but it’s working with Godin that helped it really gel.

  6. Julian Summerhayes Avatar

    Best book for me is the Art of Possibility by the Zanders closely followed by The Little Big Things by Tom Peters and then the E-Myth Revisited. It’s an education in a few pages. For the one book that really kicks my butt it has to be The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I see you have the Warrior Ethos. Nice book but not long enough.

  7. Mitch Devine Avatar

    I like the goal of a book a week. This was a fascinating list and I appreciate your 140-character (or less) reviews. Especially the ones where you felt the book was a waste of time! I also loved “Man’s Search For Meaning” – a short but deeply profound work. Thanks.

  8. Tyler Avatar

    Did you meant to put a pic up of The Art Of War under the heading of The War Of Art?

    Both are good books, but I’m not certain Sun Tzu helps much with writing. Well…unless you’re writing battle plans.

  9. shweta Avatar

    Hey, following ur blog since a while,I had to tell u..you come up exactly with the things,solutions which i might be in search for 🙂
    Like this post too, just came on time!
    god bless

  10. Mark Avatar

    Love, love, LOVE this Julien – what a great post. I have so many of these books already on my kindle, just haven’t got to them yet. And now I’ve got a whole lot more!

    I just want to know – how do you manage to read a book a week? I jus don’t seem to be able to get the time. But it’s a priceless priority. Cheers

  11. Steve Avatar

    Holy crap – that’s an awesome list. I have a sense my Amazon wish list is about to burst into flames. Thanks man!

  12. Matt Brennan Avatar

    There are some truly cool titles here. This is really inspiring. I have to read more!

  13. Naomi Avatar

    Thanks for reminding me I should know more about Louis Riel than the Billy Childish song.

  14. Momekh Avatar

    What. Have. You. Done!?

    This is some seriously serious stuff here.
    I keep wondering how long it took you to write this post?

    And there are people who write out 400-words long posts discussing whatever and wonder why their blogs dont work.

    Great work Julien. Inspiring.

  15. Collin Avatar

    Wow, hell of a list, thanks for taking the time to put it together! Makes me want to look at my reading list and see what sentences come to mind first.

  16. Jake Avatar

    Very well done. This brings cliff notes to a whole new level (reading for tweetters). I have read a bunch of these but thanks for saving me the time on the others…

  17. Momekh Avatar

    Ok. I counted. Let others count too now. hehehe

  18. Michele Welch Avatar

    Yay!! I know I sound like a nerd, but I’m an avid reader and this list makes me sooo happy. I’ve read many of them, but there’s a few I haven’t and can’t to do so.

    Thanks for putting this list together Julien!

    Big Hugs 🙂

    1. Paul Jun Avatar

      Nothing wrong with nerds and reading; we are smart ones.


      Yeah, after reading this list, probably going to buy at least 10 of them that I haven’t read yet.

  19. Deanna Avatar

    Excellent list! Your list has just become my To Be Read list. Read most of Seth’s books and The Art of War is my annual favorite. Thanks for posting. Oh, and Flinch is first on my list!

  20. Lynne Avatar

    Thank you so much for all the reading you’ve done and for the succinct reporting! I’ve posted this link for my book club to see — inspiration, what not to bother with and lots of, “Good, now I don’t have to read that because the main idea is right there.” Well done!

  21. Phil Drolet Avatar

    Very cool & inspiring! It’s crazy what you accomplish by reading constantly for 30-60 minutes every day!!

    I’ve just started my own 52 books in 52 weeks challenge, here’s my (epic) reading list for those curious : http://www.thefeelgoodlifestyle.com/reading-list

  22. Michael Haberman Avatar

    We have similar tastes, so I will take your list as a “must read” list. Thanks.

  23. Caleigh Avatar

    Nice list 🙂 Have more than a handful of these on my wishlist. 2 more weeks til I can afford my library membership!

  24. Samsung Avatar

    Only a crazy person would write such a post.

    You crazy.

    but brilliant.

  25. Rich Rothman Avatar
    Rich Rothman

    Pure genius. Inoveryourhead is amazing as it is and this post packed so much punch- If this was a bookstore, this section of the store would be titled “what’s possible”. Thanks for letting us into your world and summarizing it so brilliantly.

  26. Gabriel Dipankar Subba Avatar

    Julien, taking a cue from an old post of yours I started 2012 by reading one week a book. I am documenting those as mind maps over at http://www.bookmapped.

    It’s been an interesting experience so far, I am seven books down and this post of yours gives me a clue on what else I should read. Thanks for expanding my horizons.

  27. Christopher Avatar

    thanks for this great list…I’m a big fan of Alain de Botton as well.

    Maybe check out The Denial Of Death by Ernest Becker if you haven’t already.

  28. Alex Trimis Avatar

    No seriously this is a very very interesting topic. I wish someone would have a very well documented answer.
    What do we learn from books and from reading altogether? Is this information saved somehow and comes up intuitively at some point or is it just one sentence we are going to remember after a while? Is there a “good” way to read so to absorb the written scripts or it doesn’t make any difference? So many questions! A ny neuroscientists in the community? 🙂

  29. marketingexpertise Avatar

    I guess the 4 Hour Work Week is not on the list because Tim Farris advocates not reading anymore “educational” books and limiting reading to 30 minutes of fiction before falling asleep at night?

    Steven Pressfield’s Do the Work may be the best book I’ve ever read.

    1. Julien Avatar

      You need to get out more man.

  30. Louise Avatar

    Bravo! I’ve wanted to list all the books I’ve read (50 years of reading !!!) but too lazy to do so.

  31. Raj Avatar

    Impressive list and commentary.

    One thing that stayed with me after reading Murakami’s book was his tenacity and perseverance in completing an ultra-marathon.

  32. Karma Avatar

    At first I thought, “hmmm, so what if he’s trying to make some money through his amazon affiliate link, at least he’s delivering a ton of value in the process.” That’s when I noticed…there *are* no affiliate links. Are you for real?

  33. texmex Avatar

    Ouah that was a post I heard about a few from The Philosophers notes, and I read a few, but your selection is really wide. Impressive and very informative. Thanks for the collection. Working on Blink and The tipping point at the moment.

  34. Pedro Avatar

    Great list! I have read a number of these books in my a-book-a-week challenge, and will order some others to read soon.

  35. Elliott Starr Avatar
    Elliott Starr

    Reccomendation: Think and grow rich. Whilst it might repeat some knowledge you already know, it is an incredible, incredible book.

  36. Alden Avatar

    You really outdone yourself this time Julien. That’s one hell of a list.

    I still remember when I was young my teacher told me to get a better grade in English language, the answer was just, “read”.

    This simple word should be used almost everything in life, be it business, solving problems and stuff, for anybody.

  37. Tracy Avatar


    Thank you SO much for posting this! We chatted on twitter a few weeks ago about all of your books so I’m excited to dive into many of these myself. I have to say, you definitely learned a lot from reading and I appreciate and thank you for sharing your wisdom here!

  38. Christopher S. Penn Avatar

    DUDE. No affiliate links?

    Why the hell not?

    1. Julien Avatar

      Chump change bro.

      1. Arie Opps Avatar

        Julien – just curious, what do you define as chump change? This could be a good lesson in affiliate marketing (ie When is it worth it?)


      2. Pierre Avatar

        Writing “Chump change bro” in my journal right now…

  39. Roger Ellman Avatar

    What a relief and fantastic time saver…it’s so true that there are many wonderful books and at the same time just a few with something really worthwhile to change, excite or invigorate our view.

    Bravo! Well done.

  40. Dave Nelson Avatar
    Dave Nelson

    Fascinating! I can’t believe you read so many non-fiction books back-to-back. Nice push to reexamine my previously unverbalized assumption that I’m “overwhelmed” by reading too much non-fiction. (Though some is maybe too stimulating for bedtime reading.)
    Do you find yourself thinking about or internalizing many of the main points or general lessons of a book in the weeks or months after you’ve read it with so much other reading?

  41. Christina Ambubuyog Avatar

    This is great, love seeing your descriptions to some of my faves! I thought I read a lot of books, whew! This is inspiring for a bookworm and excited to grab many I haven’t yet heard of 😀 And totally agree: “Joseph Campbell, although not “undiscovered,” is still under-appreciated. The dude did things his own way in a time when conformity was the norm.” Thanks for this!

  42. Liz Dennery Sanders Avatar

    Awesome and inspiring list, Julien! And I really appreciate the 140 character reviews. Many I’ve read, but many I haven’t, so I’ve added quite a few to my list.

    But my big question is: What’s going to be #201?

    Thanks for another awesome post! 🙂

  43. Katherine Bull Avatar
    Katherine Bull

    I read “The Gift of Fear” to learn how to teach my daughter how to follow her instincts. Every parent should read it. It will make you uncomfortable but it is such an important skill for kids (and adults) to learn.

  44. Brett Henley Avatar

    Wowsers Julien.

    Definitely bookmarked this for any time I need to source new reading material.

    Sure this has been done in some capacity, but I’d love to see someone toss together a 140 character literature/reading group. Pick a book, everyone commits to finishing in one week, hashtag it and let the discussion happen.

    Be pretty cool to see all of the varying interpretations of an idea when you toss it into the Twitter melting pot.

    1. Katherine Bull Avatar
      Katherine Bull

      Brett, great idea! I’d definitely be up for that.

  45. Tyler Freeberg Avatar
    Tyler Freeberg

    You are awesome! Thanks for the list.

  46. Don Stanley Avatar

    Fantastic list and love the tweet-like reviews. Most importantly, I really appreciate that you’re honest in your reviews.

    I also really love the breath of topics covered. It’s important to be well-rounded IMHO. Now you’ve made me put The Flinch at the top of my books to read next 😉 BTW, are you on the Paleo diet?

  47. […] Lessons I Learned Reading Over 200 Books – This is really great. He gives, like, three line summaries of his lessons for each of the books. […]

  48. […] Lessons I Learned Reading Over 200 Books – This is really great. He gives, like, three line summaries of his lessons for each of the books. […]

  49. Jelena Milosevic Avatar

    So, enough to read!
    Thank you:)

  50. Rolando Peralta Avatar

    wow! the list is impressive!!
    I’m glad we share some thoughts about some book we’ve read in common.
    But thank you so much for your 140 character descriptions of these books. I’ve just added a couple to amazon shopping chart.

  51. Arie Avatar

    I concur with just about everything said above. Very inspiring and great idea with the short summaries.

    A couple questions:

    1. Did you consider rating the books (ie star rating system)?
    2. Why these books?
    3. What’s in your pipeline?
    4. I find a lot of non-fiction books could be half the length and still provide the same value. Do you agree?

    Keep it up and thanks!


  52. Rob Metras Avatar

    Great synthesis Julien,and thank you for sharing, something you are particularily good at.
    When is your next book coming out?

  53. Casey Camilleri Avatar

    This is amazing! I want to read most of these books. You’ve inspired me!

  54. Jane Avatar

    I could only dream to be able to read so much. Love the variety in your choices. Some, I have read and some I have on my list, but many I have never heard of. I bet you do all this, work 50 hours a week, clean the house, do your laundry, exercise, and volunteer too. You are in inspiration.

  55. Erik Deckers Avatar

    Yeah, this list just made me reserve at least 12 books from my library. And I’ve got a stack of another 20 or so next to my bed. So, thanks for that.

  56. […] this writer named Julien Smith. He reads a new book every week (they aren’t comic books either). He co-authored a book a few years ago that made the New York […]

  57. […] can stifle you and fear can save you. Fear/discomfort/unhappiness has one great asset. It’s a warning sign that something has to […]

  58. Seo Manchester Avatar

    Thanks for sharing, there a lot of books on that list I have been intending to read fora long time and I am not getting any younger , I love reading and the ability to kind of plug into the authors thoughts

  59. […] by my friend Julien’s post, I would like to start sharing a bit about what I am reading and my take […]

  60. […] by my friend Julien’s post, I would like to start sharing a bit about what I am reading and my take […]

  61. Leandro Beer Avatar
    Leandro Beer

    Looking forward to the next 200 books!

  62. […] Smith’s excellent Lessons I Learned Reading Over 200 Books. Great summaries in 140 […]

  63. […] books to read I recommend checking you one of the latest posts by Julien Smith where he shares his lessons from reading 200 books. Each book has short comment which gives excellent indication what’s it about and whether […]

  64. Peter Avatar

    Crap, you just made my to-do reading list a looooot longer, and my bookshelves are already overflowing with books I didn’t get to yet 🙂

  65. Nathan Avatar

    I’m bookmarking this post. Thanks so much!

  66. HANNA Avatar

    An inspiring list with a good few that stand out. But this is a list of books mostly written by men. This reminds me of a booklist for UK primary schoolchildren that had recommended reading lists for boys and girls. The boys book list was male authors only and the girls list had both male and female authors. Interesting huh? is this why so many authors/publishers prefer to use their initials to avoid this troubling issue?

  67. Prabhat Avatar

    Have you read this book – “So, you’re a creative genus, now what?” by Carl King?

  68. Hezi Avatar

    Didn’t get your comment regarding Murakami’s book, are you suggesting he copied from Thompson? If so please point to the “original” book, I would be interested in reading it…

  69. Jim Takchess Avatar
    Jim Takchess


    Your blog RSS feed is linked to Goodreads . My bit of Cognitive Surplus investment…

  70. Ken Oath Avatar
    Ken Oath

    Good God! You actually read all those books? And you kept reading for five years when none of them had more than 140 characters worth of memorable material? I don’t know what is more incredible…your dedication to the cause, or the fact that most of these books were published.

  71. Brian Avatar

    This was an awesome post. In 2010, I made a goal to read a book a month, I read 6. In 2011, I made a goal to read a book a month and I read 20. In 2012, the same goal, and I have already read 6. Thanks for this post, there are some books I will be purchasing today from this list.


  72. Justine McGrath Avatar

    Well I can see from the ton of comments you have received what a popular post this has been. I would just like to add my thanks for this exceptionally interesting and useful review of all these books. I would love to know where you find the time to do so much reading. I thought I was doing well until I saw this! Anyway, great stuff. Thanks a million.

  73. […] number of things we can keep out of it." —William Zinsser, On Writing Well, quoted in "Lessons I Learned Reading Over 200 Books". h/t<span id="_plain_text_marker"> Grat Tucker </span> Share:MoreLike […]

  74. Dean Avatar

    Wait…what???? A book a week for 5 years????? It takes me 3 weeks to get through Maxim magazine.

  75. […] in Featured Articles, General Stuff | 0 comments I recently ran across this blog post by Julien Smith where he posted in 140 characters or less (I’m guessing in honor of Twitter), the synopsis […]

  76. […] on living a Zen filled life — which I read about from Julien Smith’s blog post Lessons I Learned Reading Over 200 Books. Share […]

  77. Noel Avatar

    I’m a reader, but I’ve never done anything like this. I don’t even track the books I read! I’m starting a new habit today!

  78. Christine Avatar

    You’ve just provided me with reading material for the next twenty years. Thank-you so much!
    Here’s two for you: Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and The Element by Sir Ken Robinson.

  79. Ryan Ireland Avatar

    Thanks for this list…my reading queue just got longer! Also, thanks for the heads-up about sokap–first I’ve heard of it.

    For the books I’ve already read, I wish you added a tweet button for each snippet…your summaries were better than the book-backs in many cases 🙂

  80. Susan Higley Avatar

    Thanks, for a great list! I am continually working on my reading skills to a complete a book. One of my favorites is The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.

  81. Enzo Avatar

    Thank you, this is ideal for my short attention span

  82. […] 200 books each distilled down to their core message in < 140 chars […]

  83. Phil Avatar

    Thank you for the great list of books and your insight. I’m going to read The Paleo Solution and The End Of Food to start

  84. Pete Matthew Avatar

    Fantastic post Julien. Have gained much from Trust Agents, and this has given me quite a few things to put on my Kindle Wish List!

    Cheers, from the UK


  85. […] 200 books each distilled down to their core message in < 140 chars […]

  86. […] other was Julien Smith, and part of his conversation focused on generating compelling content by realizing that people […]

  87. Chase Thompson Avatar
    Chase Thompson

    Hi Julien,

    I was thinking of starting a 52 books in a year challenge with myself, but I was wondering what your thoughts were on audiobooks.

    I’m not a fast reader, probably about average, and I was thinking I could sub one book a month audio style for my daily commute.

    Is that cheating? 🙂

    1. Julien Avatar

      Not cheating.

      1. Chase Thompson Avatar
        Chase Thompson


  88. Dominik Avatar

    Hi Julien

    So what DID you learn from reading these books? I’m not asking what is in the book, but rather what is left in your head.

    I just finished my degree and I want to start reading more books now…

    My mom who red really a lot of books in her life said to me one day, that she really don’t know what she got out of it!

    Hope to hear from you,

  89. […] I no longer own piles of books, but I read more than before. I enjoy each book, taking them in slowly, absorbing the knowledge, processing the information, […]

  90. […] I’ve been essentially reading through Julien Smith’s list of “Lessons I learned Reading Over 200 Books.” My rediscovery of the New York Public Library is definitely making this much more possible […]

  91. […] library or buys and keeps for only long enough to read. Now, I no longer own piles of books, but I read more than before. I enjoy each book, taking them in slowly, absorbing the knowledge, processing the information, […]

  92. […] 6. Julien Smith on Lessons I Learned Reading Over 200 Books […]

  93. Sheyi Avatar

    Whao, 200 books? that’s a great milestone and i hope i’ll be like you one day reading each book while flying long hours business class flight.


  94. […] Over Your Head – Lessons I Learned Reading Over 200 Books – Must read — this guy is awesome!! Love his takeaways — wish I had the energy to do […]

  95. Brittany Laughlin Avatar

    Thanks for putting this together. Added another 20 books to my Amazon wish list. You’re heavy on business books so what’s your favorite novel?

  96. Tommy Walker Avatar

    I feel smarter reading this list. It’s no wonder you’re so well spoken and have a more worldly view of the way people work.

  97. […] A few weeks back, I read most of Millionaire Mind (it’s so freeing to realize that you don’t have to finish books or read them in order — thanks Mark and Bob) and was impressive with a couple of great concepts (Julien Smith summarized the book well as “Those that are wealthy are not those who ACT wealthy. Those that look wealthy are usually in just debt, while the rich tend to act broke.” in his list of hilarious and succinct summaries of 200 books.) […]

  98. LouAnn Avatar

    love this – thanks for taking the time to do this–very entertaining

  99. Lothar Avatar

    Well, most of the books You read seem to be ‘how-to-books’ Now You can write about this (;-):
    “Why I can’t stop reading how-to-books”.

  100. Jamie Avatar

    Absolutely amazing list. Thanks for taking the time to create this. I’ve printed it, pinned it, and stumbled it.

  101. Michal Avatar

    where are you? Whera are your post?
    I’m missing them.

    Take care!

  102. Sheila Gregory Avatar

    I really enjoyed this post although I didn’t have time to look at every book and comment. Out last night at dinner one friend asked everyone about what book they were currently reading. I love these discussions because everyone had something interesting to say and we all learned something about books. But more important, we learned something about each other. I hope you will not mind if I create a similar post for my own blog. I do not mean to “steal” your idea, I would just like to have this discussion with people.

  103. Sheila Gregory Avatar

    Oh jeez I forgot to tell you in the last comment that when it came my turn at dinner last night, I talked about Trust Agents! So it will be in my post of course!

  104. lani Avatar

    thanks for saving me the trouble of zillions of hours of pondering over whether this book or that book has _the_ epiphany which will turn my life over. in fact, i’m just going to write out the one liners in calligraphy so that i remember them well.
    btw, i notice almost all these books have a Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey/Quest” style of arrangement of chapters – don’t you think ?

  105. Shrader Avatar

    This was genius. I just bought 10 books, and knocked 5 off my wishlist. Thanks!

  106. mammak Avatar

    I absolutely loved reading thru your list. I have read many books on here myself. I was so amused, I forwarded this list to a group of colleagues at work, before I realized that “She Comes First” may get some witty comments back from my peers. Not a one. When I then pointed it out to my female colleagues privately, we all roared that it silently made it into your list. Well done. 🙂

  107. Aaron Gertler Avatar

    I haven’t read every one of your thousand-and-something blog posts, but do you have some convenient note-taking/memory system in place for what you read? Or is remembering 140 characters/whatever naturally comes to mind generally enough?

  108. Anon Avatar

    If there’s one thing you should always remember: don’t try to remember or apply all this bulshit you read. Act as you feel, you already know the answers. If you think that reading all this makes you better, you’re lying to yourself (but you already know that, right?).

  109. Philip Luca Avatar

    This is so inspiring! Amazing.

  110. Michael Avatar

    Thank you for the list. I’m wondering if you know Thomas Campbell’s “My Big TOE” and what you think about it.

  111. Lara Avatar

    That is so hilarious. When you said you read a book a week I was impressed. I thought you meant literature. You’re just reading self-help-NYT-bestseller-crap. Easy peasy, try reading something good for a change.

    1. Julien Avatar

      Yup, you nailed it. Now I’m finally upgrading.

  112. […] reading Julien Smith’s blog and in particular, his post on what he’s learned reading over 200 books, I felt motivated to start logging the books I’m reading and decided it would be beneficial […]

  113. […] very right time. The parting thoughts moved me a lot. Now, I no longer own piles of books, but I read more than before. I enjoy each book, taking them in slowly, absorbing the knowledge, processing the information, […]

  114. dale carroll coleman Avatar

    What a great list. I have read quite of few of these books and will be sure to read more. The Happiness Project… I had to laugh at your comments. Must be one of the worst pieces of crap I have ever half read. It was proof to me that anyone, unfortunately can get published. I appreciate your website. You are a bright guy.

  115. YLParker Avatar

    I hope you read my book when it comes out.

  116. […] I find a good thing I want to share it. Somehow the other day I came across this blog from Julien Smith. When I read his blog post, I knew I wanted to share it, as it is a different way of summarizing so […]

  117. Duncan Avatar

    Enlightenment is about the practice, not the talking. You can’t intellectualize insight. Was my favourite, think I only got quarter of way down. Really wanting to be inside a waterstones shop right now, looks like some great books to add to my must read list.

  118. […] Lessons I Learned Reading over 200 Books: The author of this pst on the blog inoveryourhead wrote a short but sweet book called The Flinch (it’s free.) Julien Smith reviews 200 books he has read and the lessons he learned in 140 characters. I’ll now be doing something similar on my new Twitter by reviewing books I’ve read in 180 characters.  […]

  119. […] are products of what we consume, so pay close attention to the foods you eat, the books you read and people you hang around with. Your goal should be to become the best version of yourself and […]

  120. […] If your goal is to produce the best content you can, read as many books as you can get your little hands on. Give your RSS feed a rest and start here. […]

  121. Kenna Griffin Avatar

    I loved this post! Your summaries of the books on your list that I’ve read are right on. Plus I see that you did, in fact, learn something from each book you read (even the bad ones). It’s amazing that you read so much. I just challenged myself to read 100 books in 2013. I’m using the Twitter hashtag #100Books for the challenge. Others have joined, as well. I would love for you to participate. I’m curious, how do you get so much reading done? Is there a negative to reading that much? I worry a bit that I’m unable to focus on really enjoying books or exploring the material because I’m trying to read so many.


  122. […] blogs should I/do you read?” a lot.So after reading Julien Smith’s blog post Lessons I learned Reading Over 200 books , I decided to compile something similar…for blogs.Here are 20 lessons I learned from reading […]

  123. […] his only desires was for me to read (and save money). I loaded up on the books and began reading. Here is a pretty interesting list of books that I’ve picked through. This last step to freeing […]

  124. […] Julien Smith’s lessons learned reading over 200 books […]

  125. […] Take a look at these lessons learned reading 200 books. […]

  126. Harvey Aymar Avatar

    Terrific collection, Eric, appreciate it. Bookmarked and shared 🙂

  127. Patrick Graham Avatar

    Great format, Julien. Book review that fits a Twitter post. Perfect for our ADHD generation. I may have to steal it like an artist.

    Stay fucking awesome.

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