7 Books That Changed My Life


I get a lot of email.

A shocking percentage actually go like this:

“hey Mike – I see you reading books in your youtube vlogs – what books should I read?


Books are interesting because the state and needs of the reader are just as relevant as the quality of the book.

So, what you will find below are not the seven greatest books ever written; rather, they are the ones that impacted me the most.

Which is why a choose-your-own-adventure self-help book made the list, and I never even finished Frankl’s world renowned masterpiece.

Anyway… here they are.



Relentless: From Good To Great To Unstoppable

Author Tim Grover was the personal trainer for Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Dwayne Wade.

This book is about the obsessive dedication displayed by the best of the best – those whom Grover refers to as “cleaners.”

It’s a barrage of in-your-face, fucking-work-harder-right-now rah rah. Which might not be your thing. But it’s hyperbolic message gave me permission to go all-in. It made me feel less “weird” for not understanding the “balanced” life that society pedestals.

And probably most importantly, it gave me the reassurance that I’m not the only one who dips into a dark place for deeper and sustained motivation.

Who Should Read It: Anyone who wants to be “the best” at anything.



Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows

If you hang out with me here at OTR, you have seen cute Harry Potter references spliced into my fitness content.

Or even full articles, like the one that alludes to the fact that Snape should have just started lifting weights to get over Lily, rather than join a cult of genocidal dark wizards.

But this book didn’t make the list for last minute snitch grabs or thrilling invisibility cloak adventures; Harry Potter is on this list because a poor, single-mom grinder in the UK impacted me more in a single chapter (Chapter Thirty-Four: The Forest Again) than anything else I’ve read in my entire life.

Who should read [this series]: Every single human being including those of you who have already read them.


Your Best Year Yet

Your Best Year Yet

On the surface, this is a cheesy self-help book.

But it served as a springboard that launched me out of bad breakup / quit-your-job land, over a sea of suffocating anxiety, and into a place where I could begin taking action at my new hustle.

The book forces you to take a hard look at your life and what you really want, then map out those goals in actionable steps.

It’s one of those you get out what you put in kind of books where results are directly correlated with your effort and how much caffeine you ingest while reading it.

Who Should Read It: Someone at a crossroad, looking to make a big change.




Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

How a South African kid who got bullied in grade school is now revolutionizing multiple industries.

Elon’s disgusting work ethic, stomach for huge risk, ability to think big (multi-planet species are you kidding?!?), and of course, his intelligence, makes us realize that even our big goals are much smaller and easily achievable than we previously believed.

Who Should Read ItEveryone.


War of art

The War Of Art

Author of Turning Pro and Do The Work, Steven Pressfield had me underlining and margin-scribbling nonstop throughout this easily consumable book.

In fact, I just opened to a random page to find an underlined quote that I love:

The critic hates most that which he would have done himself if he had the guts.

This book was also my first exposure to the idea that sex can be used incorrectly, not for connection or pleasure but rather, as escapism, validation, and procrastination from doing the work (aka bumbling instead of writing!).

Who Should Read This: Anyone who makes stuff.



#AskGaryVee (Audiobook)

I have spent every single day with this dude for 656 days.

I’ve also consumed the majority of his content online – keynotes, youtube, etc.

The audiobook version of #askgaryvee had at least 5 nuggets that were brand new to me.

It’s a book about entrepreneurship and how to win at business in 2016.

Some parts are motivating as hell. Some parts make you think. And most importantly, there are parts that reinforced beliefs I already have that were buried so deep that I didn’t know they were there.

For example, I struggle with distribution of content. Making stuff is my strength. Telling people to go consume my stuff is not.

When a reader asked a question about introverted entrepreneurs in networking situations, Gary surprised me with his reply:

Don’t go. Bet on your strengths. If you make good enough stuff they will come to you; you don’t have to go to them.

Lightbulb moments like that make the time investment for this book a no-brainer.

Who Should Read It: Anyone who works for themself or wants to work for themself.


ignore everybody

Ignore Everybody

To be honest, I don’t remember this book.

But I also don’t have time to reread before I hit publish.

Here is what I do remember: It’s raw and honest, and it made me feel happy, entertained, and ready to pump out more and better content.

Who Should Read It: Anyone who puts stuff on the internet (or wants to).


Bonus: Fitness Content

I don’t read a ton of fitness books. Other than an anatomy textbook and my PT book, it’s mostly good blogs, PubMed, Examine, and countless training programs.

However, I figured I’d share a few resources that came to mind:

Lyle McDonald’s website, forums, and books are what laid the ground work for my nutrition knowledge. Back in college, I stayed up until 4am many nights devouring every word of his content.

This is the only fitness podcast I listen to. Mike Matthews is not only very intelligent, a clear articulator of ideas, and walks the walk, but he pumps out content at a rate that makes me hate myself.

I read this book twice on back-to-back days after buying it. It wasn’t the “fitness” part that grabbed me, although there is great information on intermittent fasting and an awesome training program. The Hero’s Journey arch made it incredibly enjoyable, and the lessons on how to live as a good person still stick with me today.

ps if you are the captain obvious who is going to tell me I should have included affiliate links so that I could make six dollars and thirty-seven cents on this blog post, I don’t wanna hear it. You focus on your game, plenty there to keep you busy.


Thanks for reading – leave me a comment… what is one book that impacted YOU?

Comments for This Entry

  • Kristy B

    This is awesome! I always wonder what you're reading!

    April 23, 2016 at 10:41 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Zoë

    Great list, I'll add some of those to my reading list. Books that impacted me: feel the fear and do it anyway (Susan Jeffers), sometimes you win sometimes you learn (John c. Maxwell), Rich Dad Poor Dad (Robert Kiyowsaki), Serial Winner (Larry Weidel), 7 Habit of Highly Effective People (Stephen Covey). For fiction it's The Chrysalids (John Wyndham). Enjoy!

    April 24, 2016 at 3:00 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Quan

    I'm adding all of these to my reading list. I can't just choose one book that had an impact on me. A lot of them have changed me for the better. The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness (both by Shawn Achor), Ignite the Fire (Jonathan Goodman), Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell), Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Robert Cialdini) just to name a few.

    April 24, 2016 at 9:41 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Pedro Sangüesa

    "you can heal your life", Louise Hay. Thanks for the Lyle McDonald's stuff. I'm gonna check it out!

    April 24, 2016 at 10:24 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Brian

    The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson...about doing little easy things over time and consistently compound to amazing results!!

    April 25, 2016 at 1:38 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Joe

    Awesome! "How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big" by Scott Adams. Taught me to be system/process/journey oriented as opposed to goal oriented. Relentless is def on my list now.

    April 26, 2016 at 4:51 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Brittany

    Thanks Mike! This does motivate me a ton! I'm super short, 5 foot, and have always convinced myself that it would be extra harder for me to slim down. I had lost twenty pounds before finding Gary and you, then I lost ten pounds zenning it out and really getting to know my muscles, my limit, and enjoying the rush working out gave me. My core started getting tighter; I was more confident, nimble, and flexible etc. THEN!!! I started a shit-ass job that consumed damn near all of my time (on and off the clock)...and that's NOT how I roll! Anyways, I gained that flippin' ten pounds back. I was HONESTLY so beat after work, and consumed after hours by it that I didn't have time to invest into my health. That devastated me! Welp. I'm back at it again...get that ten pounds shaved off and work on my final 10 for my 50lb goal weight loss...then I'll concentrate more on toning and building more muscle. Love you and Gary both for all of the motivation, truly!

    April 27, 2016 at 10:50 am | Reply to this comment

    • Mike Author

      you're right that progress will be slower for you as a shorter woman, but that doesn't mean you CANT make progress (obviously, since you have already lost so much weight) -- keep battling Brittany!

      April 30, 2016 at 6:10 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Mike Author

    thanks for sharing Zoe :) only one I have read on that list is 7 habits -- will check the others out

    April 30, 2016 at 6:07 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Charlotte Whitten

    Reading Steve Cases's The Third Wave. Recommend to you and all entrepreneurs, young and old!

    April 30, 2016 at 6:42 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Romeo

    Good stuff, will add a few of these to my to-read list. For me its been 48 Laws of Power (Robert Greene), On Killing and On Combat (Dave Grossman), Art of War (Sun Tzu) and You're Not So Smart (David McRaney).

    April 30, 2016 at 6:45 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Jayne

    I love book lists! Thanks for the titles. There are few I'll check out. For me: Watership Down. (I was 8 and got it Christmas morning. I read non-stop and finished the next day.) That book introduced me to fantasy (hello The Hobbit) and then the world of science fiction opened up. As an adult, The Van Gogh Blues by Eric Maisel. Changed the way do my job and handle my own sense of direction.

    April 30, 2016 at 6:48 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Bill

    Hey Mike.... The War of Art is fantastic... great read. In fact, I'm flying to Australia tomorrow and will read it enroute (only takes an hour). The most impactful book for me is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Big sucker (1100 pages of small print)... but an amazing philosophy on life.

    April 30, 2016 at 6:54 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Heidi

    Great list! Completely agree with chapter 34 of Deathly Hallows and pretty much anything Dumbledore had to say. I will be checking these other books out. Keep up the great work!

    April 30, 2016 at 6:58 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Eric

    Bought Best Year Yet...can't wait to carve out 3 hours and get some GOALS on paper.....love the blog Mike, keep put the great work

    April 30, 2016 at 7:09 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Hilary

    Great list! I remember when the first HP book came out, and my parents, brother and I read it as a family. Good times! I'd recommend Getting Things Done by David Allen (productivity, FTW!); A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (timeless classic about our human capacity for redemption); and Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach (because knowing and loving yourself are what life is all about).

    April 30, 2016 at 7:44 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Maggie

    Yes to Harry Potter! The rest are now on my list.

    April 30, 2016 at 7:51 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Jamie

    Great list, excited to get reading!! Thanks for sharing Mike :)

    April 30, 2016 at 8:01 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Matt McLeod

    Going to buy the ones I don't have, super pumped to give them a read. Also super pumped you're a Lyle fan. Dude is a fucking nut sometimes but he has really high quality work. Haha.

    April 30, 2016 at 8:06 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Paulette

    Looks like I need to get my hands on Your Best Year Yet. It's a transitional year in my life, might as well figure out how to make the absolute best of it.

    April 30, 2016 at 8:23 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Nick

    Nice list. For me the biggest life changer was Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. It made me stop spending stupidly and start thinking about what to do with my money. There's been plenty of other awesome books I've read, but that one had the biggest impact on the direction of my life.

    April 30, 2016 at 8:48 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Mike

    Think and grow rich, autobiography of Malcolm x, untethered soul, the travelers gift, are a few that come to mind.

    April 30, 2016 at 9:13 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Chris Wagner

    Well, I'd like to recommend something to you, Mike. Raymond Chandler's novels. "The Long Goodbye". With apparently 80% being the diet and 20% the work out, are you positive that bulking & cutting are the way to go? (Am disgusted seeing what j u n k can be found in bags labelled "Mass")

    April 30, 2016 at 9:27 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Mimi Routh

    Thanks for new titles! Harry Potter of course. Louise Hay's You Can Heal Your Life of course! Add Stuart Wilde's Infinite Self and Alexander Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo about getting revenge elegantly.

    April 30, 2016 at 9:37 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Colin

    All of these will be read this summer. I hope you have think and grow rich by napoleon Hill - it's beyond a classic. Cheers!

    April 30, 2016 at 11:23 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Lisa

    Fantastic Mike! I've read "Relentless" and it can really put a fire under ya! There were a few things I didn't agree with, but mostly amazing! I really like the idea of reading "Your Best Year Yet" - it seems like something I could use right now. I've read so many of these types of books, so hopefully there will be something that makes a difference. Thanks for taking the time to recommend these to us! :)

    April 30, 2016 at 11:39 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Anna Derdzinski

    I've definitely ready Harry Potter :) multiple times. But one book that has greatly influenced me is The Slight Edge (actually, the Iowa Hawkeyes football team read it this year, something that they attribute their 2015 success to as well.)

    April 30, 2016 at 11:39 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Gene

    Great list! Just added Best Year Yet and Elon Musk to my Amazon cart! Great recommendations and thanks for the great info!

    May 1, 2016 at 8:04 am | Reply to this comment

  • Anneri Victor

    Hi Mike! I think the 'balance' bit the rest of society is talking about will start to make sense to you once you are no longer single and have a family/travel/other ventures, etc that also take up some of your time. I sometimes envy your singleminded determinedness to work hard for what you want in life. I say sometimes, because I have a daughter and I have learned to balance my time between working and being a mother. Mostly it is about balancing my thoughts around it, because in the beginning I was feeling guilty about not getting so much work done, and feeling guilty about not spending time with her. That is where the 'balance' buzzword starts to work its way into your life. :-) All I can say is - put in the hard work and effort now so that you can balance it with other things later in life.

    May 1, 2016 at 8:47 am | Reply to this comment

  • Sonya

    Hi Mike, I just started following you and was sick yesterday so watched LOTS of your YouTube content. Great stuff. Love the book suggestions.

    May 1, 2016 at 9:16 am | Reply to this comment

  • Lauren

    Excellent choices! I need to read more "lifestyle books" I'm more a fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction reader. I'm interested in the Elon Musk book you suggested! But my favorite books in the categories I listed are "All the Light We Cannot See"-WW11 premise "The Dove Keepers"-Roman seige of Masada premise and last but not least all of the "Lord of the Rings" books.

    May 1, 2016 at 9:19 am | Reply to this comment

  • Dave T

    Great stuff Mike! I laughed out-loud at this line "...but he pumps out content at a rate that makes me hate myself." I literally just told my wife and a buddy of mine that exact line Friday afternoon after listening to one of Mike's Q&A podcasts. Content quality and quantity is insane...

    May 1, 2016 at 9:28 am | Reply to this comment

  • Becky Wilkins

    As We Think, So We Are by James Allen...an awesome read for anyone negatively affected by a personal or business relationship

    May 1, 2016 at 10:26 am | Reply to this comment

  • Jenny

    Thanks for the list! I wish every book came in audible books, because I have so little time to actually read!

    May 1, 2016 at 11:49 am | Reply to this comment

  • Mary Rawles

    War of Art! Great book. My takeaway...Stop whining, stop procrastinating, stop posing as a "whatever you want to be" and actually just set aside the time each day and do it! Love that book.

    May 1, 2016 at 12:09 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Staci

    Love the post cause book lists are awesome.

    May 2, 2016 at 4:34 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Veronica

    Thank you for this blog post! I was actually going to ask you in a snap to share your favorite inspirational/motivational people/books/etc. I have already purchased 3 books from your list and a few from the comments as well. I too am also a huge fan of Lyle's content even if I have to re-read it 35 times to understand and fully digest it (my fault not his). I haven't listened to the MFL podcast but I could sit all day on his website soaking up all the good content, so thanks for sharing that one too. Great stuff, thanks Mike!

    May 3, 2016 at 8:37 am | Reply to this comment

  • Scott Flear

    I have the askgaryvee book, is it worth going for audio too? Lyle Mcdonald is awesome. I did his UD2.0 for my fitness comp and it worked a treat (not something I would recommend to the average joe but his principles are spot on). A few books I would recommend if you haven't read them yet Mike: The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy (I noticed in your about page you used to do walks and FB scroll to get into a mindset, this book just makes you REALLY think of the small stuff you do over time). How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie (so awesome). The richest man in Babylon Keep up the great work. Back to reading the askgaryvee book I go!

    May 3, 2016 at 8:54 am | Reply to this comment

  • Jess

    Just finished reading The Fred Factor by Mark Sanborn last week. Biggest take-away: Bring your best self everyday even on the most mediocre tasks.

    May 3, 2016 at 11:47 am | Reply to this comment

  • Tom Campbell

    One of my most, by far, dog eared, underlined, and notes in margin book is "A More Beautiful Question" but Warren Berger. Makes you question a lot in your life, and ask better questions to get down to your real reality. I'm going to pick up Elon Musk and Relentless this evening. Great list.

    May 4, 2016 at 1:56 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Cristi Vlad

    How about Schwarzenegger auto-biography Total Recall?!

    May 4, 2016 at 2:54 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Sam

    Books are stupidly awesome! I'm going to buy a few of these and devour them!

    May 5, 2016 at 10:18 am | Reply to this comment

  • Jackie Rioux

    Straightline Leadership by Dusan Djukich, Time Warrior by Steve Chandler. Change your Thoughts, Change your Life and Words of Wisdom both by Wayne Dyer. Power vs Force by David Hawkins. Mastery by George Leonard

    May 6, 2016 at 11:54 pm | Reply to this comment

  • karla

    That PS about affiliate links --DYING ha ha haaaa!

    May 20, 2016 at 6:03 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Matt Smith

    Nice list and thanks for sharing Mike! Stephen Pressfield is a genius and has helped me loads with my fitness business. Next purchase is definitely Gary V's book as I have all his others!

    August 11, 2016 at 11:28 am | Reply to this comment

  • Diane DeNuccio

    Malcom Gladwell's superb writing.. The Tipping Point Outliers Blink

    August 20, 2016 at 8:57 am | Reply to this comment

  • Jason

    Who is the author of Engineering The Alfa? I'm having a hard time trying to find it. Thank you

    August 27, 2016 at 12:51 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Luke Cafferty

    Great list. I just read the War of Art and it has to be one of my favorites so far. Not quite the same topic, but for any online entrepreneurs I really like the Millionaire Fastlane by MJ Demarco

    September 1, 2016 at 7:23 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Cat

    Great list thanks. Absolutely love the note to captain obvious to keep his nose out of your business and focus on his own game

    October 10, 2016 at 9:13 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Rosanna Sanchez

    I know this is an old article but I was just wondering...which anatomy textbook do you read?

    July 1, 2017 at 4:19 pm | Reply to this comment

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