I consider myself a pretty eclectic reader. I enjoy books on psychology, philosophy, self-help, writing, communication skills, politics, relationships, history, marketing, business, science, and religion. Anything that presents a unique yet elegant point of view on a topic.
Despite this variety, however, one thing I’ve noticed is that in different periods of my life, I find myself returning to the same books. Some books explore concepts, ideas, principles that just stick with me more than other books.
These books have shaped the way I think about something, allowing me to carry their ideas and sentiments and influence how I live. They aren’t simply interesting and thought-provoking – they are life-changing.
I call these types of books “the essential library” – that small collection of books that you return to often for wisdom and/or deeply shape your thinking. These books are essential because without them, you wouldn’t be the person you are today.
(Site note: essential libraries are essentially the opposite of what Nassim Taleb calls the anti-library – those books that you have not read, but may read in the future for research purposes. However, the idea is the same: you’re not collecting these books to show off, but to actually use them.)
On my projects page, you’ll see my own essential library – the books that have deeply influenced me. The idea is to keep this library as small as possible, by applying two simple criteria when considering a book:
- Do I return to it often?
- Has it deeply changed my thinking on something?
If it passes that test, then it deserves to be put in my essential library.
What about you? What books would you put in your essential library?