Books that schools
don’t tell you to read


Often times I will get this question from the audience: what books would you recommend students to read. As a responsible career coach, I will only recommend the books I have read, not the books that others recommend. So, there is a risk that you are getting a very narrowed list of books from me and that my experience is not relevant to you. What matters is that the books I recommend have truly helped me one way or the other. And I believe reading them will help you, too.

Life and success

Read the Secrets of Millionaire Mind to understand that mindset is everything. The good thing about this book is that it’s compares the mindset of the more successful with the ones that are less successful. Read this book to install a millionaire mind. 

Read the Rich dad poor dad to understand the basic concept of revenue, expense, asset and liability. Manage your finances like a company. It’s a quick read that will give you a good foundation for personal finance.

Read the Go-givera short and sweet business fable, to adopt a seemingly counter-intuitive strategy: getting by giving. I wish I could read this book sooner. In a world full of takers who think only for themselves, learning how to be a good giver and being one will set you apart. 

Read the 4-hour Work Week to learn the ways of the new rich. Apply the techniques in the book such as outsourcing your errands to others (e.g. SpotHelp in Hong Kong). Learn to give concrete instructions, deliver a criticism sandwich, use money to buy time. 

Read the Millionaire Fastlane to get a whole new perspective about work, career, jobs. It’s one of the 7 books to read before you quit. The most valuable part of this book is to see the world in two camps: creation and consumption. Start creating today. Combined with the Go-giver, be a giver, creator, and producer of something valuable.

Read The Game to understand social dynamics. It talks about how the author, Neil Strauss, transformed himself from a nerd into a world-famous pick-up artist. It’s highly controversial and highly interesting. Soon enough you will start differentiating ways of losers and ways of winners. And be brave enough to test even the craziest idea instead of just saying “it won’t work”. 

How to influence people and win friends. This one is a classic (boring) must-read book for leaders. You will find many people recommend this book because it touches on the key principles of interacting with people. I would say the principles still remain the same, but in order for it to work, you have to put it into practice. 

Think and grow rich. Anther classic self-help book (shorter). The ideas in the book are timeless. When I first read it, I was looking for knowledge. And that’s the wrong approach. No planning, thinking, analyzing, reading, studying will get you anywhere in life. 

Read As-a Man Thinketh to build up your mindset muscle. This book is referred by many as one of the books that will change your life. This short (30+ pages) and powerful book will wake up your giant within. You will start treating your mind like a temple. All thoughts will leave to actions. So feed it with inspiration, motivation, and passion. 

Read Choose yourself to become a better version of yourself. Four concepts that I like: 1) be happy with what you have everyday. 2) Improve 1% in health, relationship, and wealth everyday. 3) Be a hero to somebody everyday. 4) Build up you brain muscle by writing down 10 bad ideas everyday. 

Business books

Business Model Generation. This is an interesting and informative book for university students and young business people. It will help you understand the basics of business models. You will be able to make better analysis and talk with better business sense in your interviews. 

Read Lean Startup to understand successful startups are NOT results of masterful planning. Rather it’s a result of trial and errors and learning from real life. If you are interested in learning ways of startups, then this is a must-read.

Read the One minute manager to become a better manager. This book will prepare you to build a better team, be a better manager, and a better leader. It’s got some really practical tips such as try catching someone doing something right instead of the other way round. 

Read Good to Great to understand what makes great companies great. Think about how awesome you will sound when you can cite one or two relevant business examples to support your argument. After you read this, you will to flip through the Built to Last to understand how visionary companies are built and why they last.

Read the Problem Solving 101 for Kids to build up your problem solving skills. If you can break everything down into smaller pieces and lay down the process to make it happen, then you are demonstrating a good quality of a good strategist. Needless to say, you will not only stand out in the interviews but also outperform your peers at work. If you prefer something that’s more formal and professional, then go for the McKinsey Way to understand the frameworks and concepts in consulting. 

Read chapter 20 of the Intelligent Investor to understand and apply the concept of the Margin of Safety. This is an all-time classics that even Warren Buffet recommends. In this book you will see the idea of investing in index market (2800 in Hong Kong). Today it’s the only equity investment that gives me more than 10% return on investment. (Better than my hedge fund friend’s performance.) 

Read the short (26-page) Element of Style to build the basics of better writing style. A young managing partner recommended this book to me. Till this day, I still revisit this book and find it helpful. One you are done with the basic one, go for the On Writing Well. This bigger book gives you a more structured and detailed walk-through on writing well.

Read the De Oratore by Cicero to transform your public speaking game. This book is probably the ultimate bible for public speaking and leadership. Even though it’s actually written in 55 Before the Common Era (BCE), it’s still and simply amazing.

Read David and Goliath to change your perspective on power, strength, and advantages. Constraint is liberating. Small is big. Power is relative. It’s also supported with many stories that will give you new perspectives about life, e.g. how the current Goldman Sachs COO got his first job from the Wallstreet. 
Read the Team of Rivals to understand how president Lincoln leads a team of people who hate him. Lincoln’s story is my personal favorite. The guy had experienced so much failure, defeat, rejections before he became one of the greatest presidents of the United States. 
Read the (short) Mastery by George Leonard to understand the basics of mastery. If you are ambitious, then read the (long) Mastery by Robert Greene to understand what makes masters masters in life. Both will give you a better understanding of why genius are not what we think they are. More importantly, why you will end up being more successful if you do what you LOVE instead of doing what sounds or pays better in the short term. 
Read the Influence to understand the principles and techniques of influence. Before you know it, you will be applying this into your networking events, information interview, relationship, etc. Warning: it can be pretty old and boring to you, my young friends. 
Read the Seven habits of highly effective people to become more effective. This used to be a must-read for all Accenture consultants. One of the key concept is to focus on what you can control. Focus on the process, don’t focus on the outcome. For job seekers, this means focus on practicing and performing well in interviews.

CareerTipsHK: Reading, learning, growing, and doing is the way to success in life. And that’s what CareerTipsHK is all about. We want to share with you fundamental skills and practical tips that will enhance your career success.

Like this post? In my Result Coaching I share specific strategies to help you:

  • Figure out what your dream job is
  • Make the right connections 
  • Craft a CV that the hiring manager can’t ignore (even if you’re underqualified)
  • Crush every interview
  • And much more

Most of my advice is very different from other career “experts” or coaches. Check it out here.

Source: CareeTipsHK; Image Credit: Unsplash; Image Effect Credit: Pixlr