Are These on Your Shelf? 20 Must-Read Books - Common Sense Living Newsletter
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Are These on Your Shelf? 20 Must-Read Books

Feb 13, 2015


I wrote an article recently asking you to pick up a book. Several of you wrote back to ask me 'which book'?

That is the hardest question to answer. After all, each person has not only different interests, and is swayed by different kinds of writing, but they also have different needs at different times of their lives...

So today I will answer the question, which book, but in the broadest sense possible. These are a list of books every person must read - for growth, for depth, for change, to add dimensions to your life you didn't know existed, and to understand the world in all its complexities.

These books cover a few different areas of life including personal development, wealth building, business success, Indian and global understanding... you will have read a few, others you may not have... you will definitely have heard of some, others will be new to you... but they are all important works that will augment your life experience...

Either way, if you want a handy list of must-read books to bring out the reader (and leader) in you... this is it. I wish this list could be a 100 books but for now I'm sticking to 20 (if you want more on some specific area please leave us a note)


  1. Man's Search for Meaning
    by Viktor E. Frankl

    A book unlike any you will ever read - it shows the depths a man can plunge to, and still rise like a phoenix. Frankl was imprisoned in concentration camps for years during the Second World War, and in his struggle to overcome that suffering he found a theory based on finding meaning, full of love, and one that can strengthen the spirit of the reader. It is the single most motivating book I have ever read.

  2. Unlimited Power: The New Science Of Personal Achievement
    by Anthony Robbins

    Like his other books, Unlimited Power is a can-do inspiring book that you can use as a bible. Everytime you need inspiration you flip through its pages and something you read will sort you out. Robbins believes we all have the power to take on and achieve our dreams, an attitude you will also take on if you read his convincing words.

  3. The Paleo Manifesto: Ancient Wisdom for Lifelong Health
    by John Durant

    We must learn from our past, and this book makes sure that we do. The past of mankind, the evolution of our species, and an assessment of how we lived thousands of years ago in the Paleolithic era, and what we can learn from our origins. What we learn from this book is answers for better lives - from nutrition to exercise, from sleep to fasting, for healthier lives more in sync with our natural states, read this book.

  4. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
    by Stephen R. Covey

    You've been hearing about this book for decades, you probably even read it decades ago. The reason it is on my list is that when I re-read it recently it was as if I was reading it for the first time - and I really understood why it has been a best-seller for so long. It really hits the nail on the head - if you want to be highly effective read this book and adopt these seven habits.

  5. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
    by Timothy Ferriss

    Tim Ferriss is something else. He is odd, he lives an odd life, and he claims you can be successful working just four hours a week. And that makes you really want to pick up this book. The time you spend reading this book, however, is totally worth it. It's well-written, inspiring and innovative - and will gear you up for getting the most out of life.


  1. Think and Grow Rich
    by Napoleon Hill

    If you read one book that you hope will get you on the road to sorting things out in your life - monetarily or otherwise, this is it. This is the book that apparently the now-popular book 'the Secret' is based on. And it's much much better. It's not just about the money, it's about life... a richer life, because as the book says, 'Riches can't always be measured in money!'

  2. The Richest Man in Babylon
    by George Clason

    I read this book very recently, as I was about to start working with the Wealth Builders Club, and I was surprised, no, truly shocked, that I had never been recommended it before. It should be taught in schools, in colleges, and should be on every bookshelf. There is a woeful lack of financial literacy in our education system, and this one simple, easy to read, easy to grasp book on understanding money can easily fill that gap.

  3. Automatic Wealth: The 6 Steps to Financial Independence
    by Mark Ford (aka Michael Masterson)

    Yes I know you know he's my wealth coach and he is that because his writing in inspiring, yet practical and easy to follow. He cuts through the theory to lay out exactly how to build wealth - and reading his works has changed my own financial situation completely. He moves me into action in a way that no other book has ever moved me to action, and it will do the same for you.

  4. Thinking, Fast and Slow
    by Daniel Kahneman

    This is a great book for understanding how we make decisions - Kahneman proposes that we either make them fast or slow, and explains how each of these works, and how we can use them to our benefit to make sound financial decisions. He's a Nobel prize winner so there has to be some merit to his theory - worth trying out for better financial lives, right?

  5. How to Speak Money: What the money people say and what they mean
    by John Lanchester

    I picked up this book because, honestly, after changing careers from the non-profit sector to the for-profit sector I found people spoke what sounded to me like gibberish. The simple and effective way that Lanchester explains what that gibberish is was a huge revelation to me. It's an interesting read - and makes it that much more interesting to read the finance journals now too.


  1. The Little Red Book of Selling:12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness
    by Jeffrey Gitomer

    Any businessman can tell you how crucial sales is to the success of a business - no matter what you are selling - products, services, or ideas. 'People don't like to be sold but they love to buy' is now a generally accepted rule and that is thanks to Gitomer.

  2. Business Adventures
    by John Brooks

    This book just skyrocketed in popularity recently when heavyweights such as Bill Gates said it was 'the best business book I've ever read' and that Warren Buffett recommended it to him. Enough said? If the greats are reading it, I certainly want to know what it says.

  3. The Lean Startup
    by Eric Reis

    Starting up is hard to do - you need a heavy dose of bravado coupled with a hefty pile of funding, right? Not necessarily. This book outlines a strategy for starting up where an entrepreneur can reduce the market risks and start without a great deal of startup funds, so a must-read for anyone who wants to start anything.

  4. Outliers - The Story of Success
    by Malcolm Gladwell

    I've mentioned outliers here but I'm essentially recommending every book that Gladwell has ever written because between his 'tipping point' rule, and his 10,000 rule he explains, life, and success, in a completely novel, decipherable, practical way. The man is brilliant.


  1. Freedom at Midnight
    by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins

    This book gives details about India's independence movement that we are never taught - detailed insight into the partition years rendered from multiple perspectives, a must-read for every citizen.

  2. New Ideas from Dead Economists
    by Todd Buchholz

    Easy-to-understand, non-technical, and full of examples this work explains with the greatest of ease the major economic theories that have dominated the world. To understand the world and how it works without frowning in confusion the whole time, read this genius book.

  3. India after Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy
    by Ramachandra Guha

    In this book, Ramachandra Guha, a former professor, and one of India's best historians, makes sense out of the chaotic evolution of modern India - and that is no mean feat. We have had an enormously complex past, and it is captured brilliantly in this giant of a book.

  4. Silent Spring
    By Rachel Carson

    If you are not sure how much you care about the earth or how to care about the world and it's future, read this. A book so powerful that it launched the environmental movement and continues to keep the world on its toes. It is one of the most important books I have ever read, and connects me with the world in a way few others have.

  5. A Suitable Boy
    By Vikram Seth

    A work of fiction, yes, but one that has gone down in history as one of the most meaningful (and longest) books ever written. For its evocative writing and historical value, and also because I loved all thousand pages of it, I recommend it fervently.

  6. Imagined Communities
    by Benedict Anderson

    When I was a student of International Relations, Anderson's interpretation of nations had a great influence on how I understood the world. Today, in a changing India, you will find that his theories still continue to inform the way you can relate with your world, your nation, and your understanding of nationalism.


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21 Responses to "Are These on Your Shelf? 20 Must-Read Books"

Bala Joshi

08 Sep, 2017

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Professor Yuval Noah Harari!!!

G Darad

13 Mar, 2017

A good selection. However, Think & Grow Rich needs to be replaced by Rich Dad Poor Dad - Robert Kiyosaki. Also Alchemist - Paulo Coelho is a must - just to find oneself.

Ajit Pendharkar

11 Mar, 2017

I  am giving MYSELF one year to read all the books.Thanks a ton.

Jay kumar

11 Mar, 2017

Two I have read already.Two more are on my bookshelf. Rest of these I am going to buy soon.

Gautam Patel

11 Mar, 2017

Few priceless books worth mentioning .. An autobiography of a yogi by Paramhans Yogananda 'Rich Dad - Poor Dad' by Robert Kiyosaki Who moved my cheese by Spencer Johnson My experiments with truth by Mahatma Gandhi Future shock by Alvin Toffler Yoga self taught by Andre Van Lysebeth


11 Mar, 2017

Knowledge and thought process books enrich us and thanks for giving us the list of great books


16 Apr, 2016

Thank you for recommendations,, will complete the list this year..........


15 Apr, 2016

A good list covering some very important facets of life, mostly serious. Lacking perhaps are some titles on the non-serious eg wit, humor etc which cover the light hearted and joyful facets. Let us also encourage laughter.

M R Manickam

29 Jun, 2015

Very nice. Good recommendations. Must read.

Like (2)


24 Feb, 2015

Thanks a lot for the recommendation.


19 Feb, 2015

Good recommendations, Anisa. However, I believe that no meaningful journey is possible, unless internal exploration has been done, and hence, the first book in my list would always be Gandhi's My experiments with truth. To prepare oneself for changes, who moved my cheese is another good read. Regards,

Like (1)

V M Rao

19 Feb, 2015

I would include the following: a) Jonathan Livingstone Seagull b) Fish c) From Zero to One d) Animal Farm e) Love Story. .

Like (1)


16 Feb, 2015

Anil - The book Shyam mentioned below - Predictably Irrational is a great one on behavioral science - so is thinking fast and slow in my list, tipping point and outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Freakonomics by Dubner and Levitt, and Why we Buy by Paco Underhill are other great reads from that genre... happy reading!

Like (2)


14 Feb, 2015

Thanks Anisa for the recomendations. Id order a copy of Thinking Fast and Slow next:) . Id recomend 1) Imagining India by Nandan Nilekani 2) The Last lecture by Randy Paush 3)Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely 4)Romancing the Balance Sheet by Anil Lamba.Cheers Cheers.

Like (2)


14 Feb, 2015

Hi - this is a very very small selection of books (twenty is too little - five from each genre even less) and it was very difficult to narrow down... when it comes to getting knowledge I don't look at borders, I don't look at nationalities, I read whatever I can and as much as I can from wherever I can... a lot of the Indian writers I read are either fiction or political and as you can see I've tried to keep this list to non-fiction and practical according to category ... there are many I wish i'd included - Gandhi of course, Amartya Sen, Amitav Ghosh... list goes on... and I'm glad you;re adding to it ... more will come!


14 Feb, 2015

Thanks a ton, on the guide to good books. This is really welcome. Keep the great work going. I enjoy reading every article posted and keep looking forward to it everyday.

Mahmood Merchant

14 Feb, 2015

Dear Anisa: Interesting selection. Some other books that might go in your next list: 1) Seven spiritual laws of success: Deepak Chopra. 2) Love story: Erich Segal 3) The Prophet: Khalil Gibran 4) The tipping point: Malcolm Gladwell 5( Conversation with God

Like (3)

Sudhir Pandey

14 Feb, 2015

I really appreciate your research on books but I am eager to know if there are any books, apart from you mentioned, written by Indian writers might be in hindi language. Don't we have the inspirational writers like Munshi premchand and many more who with their literary work have a great and deep impact on our lives.Most of the books you recommended are of foreign writers.

Like (1)


13 Feb, 2015

Please consider 'ALCHEMIST' by Paulo Coelho under Life Changers and 'GLIMPSES OF THE WORLD' by Jawaharlal Nehru under India and the World

Like (1)

Dr Ram Babu

13 Feb, 2015

It seems all roads lead to west and English language only! This world is so screwed in their favor !! Only Vikram Seth from India or PIO in list of 20 writers !!! Either the writer/selector is hooked to west & english or the south/east has no intellectual output ? Very sad indeed .

Like (2)


13 Feb, 2015

Suggest some on behavioral science.


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