21 Books That Changed My Life

Next to personal mentors, I’ve been influenced more by books than anything else.

I’m frequently asked about which books I’ve read and how they influenced me. I’ve put together for you a list of the 21 most important ones.

  1. Atlas Shrugged ― Ayn Rand

    Miss Rand was, in my view, the smartest and clearest mind of the 20th Century. This book helped me better understand what freedom is all about and the true role and true value of the entrepreneur.

  2. Man’s Search for Meaning ― Viktor Frankl

    Dr. Frankl discovered how life can still be worth living, even when incarcerated in prison or a Nazi concentration camp. It taught me so much about life’s meaning.

  3. A New Constitution for a New Country ― Michael Oliver
    (Unfortunately out of print)

    Michael Oliver, a former friend, while having many puzzling biases himself, wrote a fascinating book, which could be helpful to the preparation of a new constitution for a free country.

  4. Think and Grow Rich ― Napoleon Hill

    Napoleon Hill’s book was the most influential book I ever read about the process of attaining success. It’s filled with numerous success tips and strategies.

  5. Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff ― Richard Carlson

    This book helped to teach me what is really important in life and what isn’t. And it’s not the small stuff!

  6. Foreign Tax Havens ― Marshall Langer

    Marshall, an old friend, has authored the most definitive book on the fascinating world of the tax haven, and how you can legally slash your taxes and benefit from them.

  7. Economics in one Lesson ― The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics ― Harry Hazlitt

    Hazlitt is perhaps the clearest writer I’ve read in the field of economics. This book really opened me up to the little-understood role of economics in the real world.

  8. A Tale of Two Cities ― Charles Dickens

    Besides the great story, the author impressed me and taught me so much about what simple, clear, and effective writing is all about.

  9. How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World ― Harry Browne

    I considered Harry Browne a great friend when he was alive, before he suddenly passed away a few years ago.

    This book contains great insights on individual freedom and its consequences. And also where in the world you could live the freest life.

    After living in Switzerland for years he returned to the U.S. and become the Libertarian candidate for the U.S. Presidency.

  10. The Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie And the Gospel of Wealth ― Andrew Carnegie

    This book and the amazing life of Andrew Carnegie was and is a great inspiration. He overcame great odds to become one of America’s richest men.

    Later in life, I love how Mr. Carnegie was responsible for building numerous libraries around the U.S. and giving away his fortune to the many charities he supported.

  11. An Intimate Story of Milton S. Hershey ― Joseph Richard Snavely

    This inspiring story provided me a great deal of emotional fuel.

    He failed repeatedly in several businesses before he finally achieved success in the chocolate field.

    I, too, was a confectioner in my first business.

    Additionally, one of the finest candy makers I ever employed graduated from Hershey’s private school, which was organized specifically for orphans.

  12. The Wannamaker Diary ― John Wannamaker

    The Wannamaker department store history is a great American success story. This autobiography, and how he overcame so many obstacles was highly influential to my life in all sorts of ways.

  13. Five and Ten: The Fabulous Life of F. W. Woolworth ― John K Winkler

    F. W. Woolworth’s life taught me volumes about persistence. He taught me it’s OK to fail. And to try again. And again.

    F. W. Woolworth failed five times before he finally succeeded.

  14. The Alger Series ― Horatio Alger, Jr.

    Horatio Alger Jr. A prolific author, wrote more than a hundred books. The Alger series with tales about real boys were all on the same theme: that honesty, virtue, thrift and hard work would be rewarded with the success of achieving the American dream. 20,000,000 copies were sold.

    The typical Alger story was about a boy born poor who overcame great odds by living virtuously. And then going on to fame and fortune. This theme turned me on then and still does today!

  15. Scientific Advertising ― Claude C. Hopkins

    What a classic! I’ve read and re-read this book numerous times. Every entrepreneur, marketer, copywriter and business executive should get it and study it at least 3-5 times!

  16. Confessions of an Advertising Man ― David Ogilvy

    Ogilvy was a great direct marketer, especially in his early years. I’m a big fan of Mr. Ogilvy’s inspiring life story, as well as his wonderful well-written record-breaking ads.

  17. Making Ads Pay ― John Caples

    He was a great copywriter best known for the classic ad “They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano … But When I Started to Play!”

    I once sent Mr. Caples one of my highly successful ads and offered him any amount he wanted to rewrite his own version. Much to my surprise, he sent me a letter saying he didn’t think he could improve it!

  18. Robert Collier Letter Book ― Robert Collier

    I learned a vast amount of success secrets about sales letters in this classic book. It was written 72 years ago. Yet its concepts are timeless.

    If you want to write better copy it’s a must read.

  19. How I Made $1,000,000 in Mail Order ― And You Can Too ― E. Joseph Cossman

    The late Joe Cossman once shared the stage with me. I am a great admirer of the unique promotional style reflected in all his print and TV ads.

  20. The Sun Also Rises ― Ernest Hemingway

    Hemingway was such a clear writer. He often spent all day to write a single paragraph. And it was worth it. From him I’ve learned so much about using short sentences. Short paragraphs and single words to profoundly impact the reader.

  21. The Little Engine That Could ― Watty Piper

    This was the first motivational book I ever read as a child. The title was the first inspirational affirmation I ever learned. And I’ve been silently using it ever since my childhood.

In addition to the above list, each one of the 15 books I’ve authored have also impacted and changed my life. Why? I believe the biggest beneficiary of any book is not the reader. It’s the author.

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Published: June 8, 2010

7 Responses to “21 Books That Changed My Life”

  1. Thanks, Ted for this inspiring list. I've read several and now have quite the summer reading list to complete!

    Kathleen Cleary-boomermarketing

  2. Great list. Love the Hemingway suggestion.

    One of my favorites for copywriting and marketing is: Being Direct by Lester Wunderman

    Sean McCool

  3. Michael Masterson has been a great source of inspiration. Tell him i love him in person and his skill is exceptional.

    Leslie, Nigeria


  4. I am a people watcher, I went to school with those of higher Money dreams only fulfilled with their parents money, and when it came time for themselves to acquire their parents money, they squandered it. A lot of them pursued careers that made them their own money. Some had great dreams of being like the above athlete, only to realize it didn't last long, as he eventually did. A life well lived is to be content where you are with loving family..no regrets..and doing what you love.


  5. I have never thought to read Atlas Shrugged but I have read Think and Grow Rich- Twice! (I also have the audiobook.) Great selection! I will check out Hemmingway, Oglivy and Rand. Thanks!


  6. Thanks for the list, Ted! I'm excited to dig into some of these books. I read Freedom in an Unfree World a while ago and it enlightened me to many truths about the world.


  7. This is a great list. I’ve read three of the books and plan to work through the list and hopefully read all of them.

    Balaka Roy

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