Each week, I try to write useful articles on topics like psychology and habit formation, medicine and health, and science and entrepreneurship. Where do I get many of these ideas? By reading books written by people who are smarter than me.
Because of that, I love to share some of the better books I’ve been reading — and get suggestions from you, of course!
And with that said, here’s what I’ve been reading recently:
by Nir Eyal
Nir Eyal is a successful entrepreneur and has spent years studying how businesses use behavioral techniques to form habits in their customers. In this book, he covers practical ideas for “building products people love” and “creating user habits that stick.”
As an entrepreneur, I found the book fascinating and had multiple notes written within the first few pages. But -- and this is why I added it to my reading list -- I think it’s just as useful for the everyday person. What Eyal really covers is how our environment shapes our behavior (in the case of this book, he often references the digital environment). I’ve written about the power of environment design and choice architecture before, so it’s no secret that I think environment changes can be a powerful way to shape behavior.
I also believe that any interested reader who reads this book — entrepreneur or otherwise — would discover multiple ideas for sticking to better habits and applying Eyal’s “hook model” to their everyday life. Obviously, entrepreneurs and business people will find it particularly useful. (Full disclosure: Nir Eyal is a friend of mine and he is also running a Habits Summit in San Francisco on March 25th.)
2. The Art of Photography
by Bruce Barnbaum
And because of my renewed focus, I’ve been searching for fantastic photography books, mentors, and resources. The Art of Photography by Bruce Barnbaum is one of the best I’ve found. (Another popular photographer said that Barnbaum’s book is “the best ever written on photography.” I haven’t read them all, so I won’t make that claim, but it is excellent.)
In particular, Barnbaum’s points on simplicity resonated deeply with me and I think it certainly improved my photography in Morocco. More generally, Barnbaum does an excellent job of demystifying the magic behind a beautiful photo. So often you’ll hear photographers say things like, “You just need to have the eye for it” or “Some people can see it and some people can’t.” I never enjoyed these answers because it makes photography seem like a mysterious talent that you’re born with rather than a skill you can improve and master. Barnbaum breaks down the skill in a way that makes it seem much more achievable without eliminating the magical feel of a great image.
This is a great book to start with if you’re interested in taking photography seriously.
by Marcus Aurelius
Earlier this month, I shared a series of quotes and lessons from the famous Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Those quotes came from his book, which is filled with brilliant life philosophies, interesting insights on difficult questions, and practical strategies for dealing with the challenges that we all face along the path of life.
As far as we know, Aurelius wrote these ideas down for himself and had no intention of publishing the book. In a way, Meditations offers an inside look at the mind of the man who was both governing the Roman empire and struggling with the same issues that you and I do on a daily basis.
The book doesn’t follow any formal chapter structure and doesn’t flow well in parts, but I’m continually impressed by how applicable the advice is to my day-to-day life. Many of the ideas are just as applicable today as they were centuries ago.
Meditations was written almost 2,000 years ago -- in Greek -- so there have been many translations and different versions over the years. I prefer the translation by Gregory Hays, which I linked to below. That said, there are also many wonderful free versions online, which I also shared below.
I hope you’ll find those books as interesting and useful as I have. But more importantly, what have you been reading recently?
A version of this article first appeared on JamesClear.com.