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Elon Musk (New York City: Ecco, 2015)

If you have a narrow definition of success, Elon Musk is one of the most successful entrepreneurs of all time. However, I see this biography as more of a cautionary tale. In his drive to win, Musk sacrifices friends, business associates, and even his family to get what he wants. His life (so far) is a living example of what happens when you value projects more than people.

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The Art of Work (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2015)

Today, unlike any previous time in history, we have options about the work we do and the role it plays in our lives. But it is precisely here that so many of us get stuck. With so many choices, we struggle to figure out what we really want or where to start once we do. In The Art of Work, Jeff Goins provides a clear framework for discerning our calling, developing our mastery, and maximizing our impact. This is the plan we’ve been waiting for—from a guide we can trust.

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The ONE Thing (Austin, TX: Bard Press, 2013)

Ever feel overwhelmed by having too much to do? In The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, Gary Keller chairman of the board and cofounder of Keller Williams Realty, Inc., and New York Times bestselling author, starts off by dispelling five lies people believe about productivity. He then explains how to focus on the one that that if done, makes everything else easier or unnecessary.

The MacSparky Markdown Field Guide

Markdown (David Sparks, 2013)

One of the biggest problems writers face is distraction. It is especially frustrating when the very tools designed to help you become a distraction. That’s why I am now writing everything in a simple text editor, using a method called markdown. It enables me to remove the clutter of technology and just write. If you want to markdown, I recommend The MacSparky Markdown Field Guide by David Sparks and Eddie Smith. I read the whole thing in one sitting.

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The Ultimate Sales Machine (New York City: Portfolio Trade, 2006)

This is by far the best business book I have ever read. I know that is a big claim, but I found the book enormously compelling. It is full of real-world examples, brilliant strategies, and proven tactics. And make no mistake: this book is not just about sales. It is about life and an approach to running a business that is different than anything I have ever read. I can see why Tony Robbins partnered with him. (Sadly, Chet died of leukemia in 2012.)

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The Power of a Positive No (New York, NY: Bantam, 2007)

If you are ever going to create the margin you need to focus on the things that matter most, you have to learn to say no. This is difficult, especially for recovering people pleasers like me. Fortunately, Dr. Ury make it easier by reframing the whole exercise as something positive—both for you and for the person making the request. If you struggle with saying no, this book will provide the motivation you need to say no more often.

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The 4-Hour Workweek (New York, NY: Harmony, 2009)

This is one of the best books on productivity and lifestyle design available. I have read it through at least three times. I got something new each time. I especially enjoyed Ferriss’s framework: Eliminate first. What you can’t eliminate, automate. What you can’t automate, delegate. What you can’t delegate, do yourself. This is the easiest way to free up margin for yourself. Ferriss is also a very entertaining writer.

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Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health (Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Rodale Books, 2011)

This is one of the most revolutionary health books I have read in some time. The author’s basic premise is that wheat and wheat products are responsible for many of the health maladies that plague modern Americans, including obesity, diabetes, arthritis, dementia, and more.

When I first heard about the book, I dismissed it because I have always been taught that wheat, especially in its whole-grain form, is healthy for you. He presents a compelling case that the wheat we eat today bears little resemblance to the wheat of one hundred years ago. It has been so genetically-modified and hybridized that our bodies can’t process it. The result is chronic inflammation, leading to everything from poor health to a general lack of energy.

The book is pretty technical. The author is a medical doctor, and he is determined to prove his case with hard data and lots of science. Fortunately, he weaves in lots of case studies about his patients and how a gluten-free diet transformed their health.

As a test, Gail and I, along with a couple of our daughters with Crohn’s disease, decided to give the diet a whirl. We’ve been on it now for two weeks. I can honestly say that I have never felt more alert and energetic. One of my daughters has already lost ten pounds.

Get Off Your “But” (Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass, 2009)

This is one of the best books I have read this year. It is written by a man who overcame enormous physical disabilities to succeed. He really does take all the excuses away. Better yet, he offers practical advice that can literally change your life. This is one of those rare books that I was sad to see come to an end. It is the perfect book to read in preparation for the year ahead.

Book Yourself Solid (San Francisco, CA: Wiley, 2010)

This is one of the most inspiring and practical books I have read in a while. If you are in the personal services business, it is must-reading. The subtitle says it all: The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even if You Hate Marketing and Selling. This book has 81 reviews on Amazon—68 are five stars!

Paid to Speak (Austin, TX: Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2011)

This is one of the few books I have read on public speaking that covers more than just communication. The book also deals with the business side of public speaking. I found it very helpful as I shifted from amateur speaker to professional.