The perfect reading list does not exist….(Well, it does. But it’s endless.)

The best books are what I like to call “Gateway Books”. You read them and suddenly you feel as if you’ve pierced the veil — your eyes have been opened to an entirely new world and you can never unsee what you’ve seen. The kind of books that both kick you right in the teeth and also leave you wanting more.

As Holden Caulfield,

As Holden Caulfield, the protagonist from The Catcher in the Rye, once put it:

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”

Those are the best kind of books.

Pulling from my own shelf, here are some instant classics that jumped out. There are easily another hundred books that should be included on this list. Probably more. Because there are just so many great books out there — especially for your early 20s.

Treat this list as a starting point. Not a comprehensive list.

  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • How to Find Fulfilling Work by Roman Krznaric
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  • Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
  • How Will You Measure Your Life? By Clayton Christensen, Karen Dillon, and James Allworth
  • Games People Play by Dr. Eric Berne
  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
  • The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
  • 12 Rules for Life by Dr. Jordan B. Peterson
  • The Almanack of Naval Ravikant by Eric Jorgenson
  • Die with Zero by Bill Perkins
  • The Art and Business of Online Writing by Nicolas Cole
  • Relentless by Tim S. Grover
  • How to Fail At Almost Everything and Still Win By by Scott Adams
  • Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
  • The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel
  • How to Get Rich by Felix Dennis
  • How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler
  • Metaphors We Live By written by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson
  • Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke
  • The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley, Ph.D. and William D. Danko, Ph.D.
  • What Color is Your Parachute? by Carol Christen (any version, the “for teens” or for career changers)
  • The Last Safe Investment by Bryan Franklin and Michael Ellsberg
  • The Fountainhead by Ayn Ran
  • Seeking Wisdom — From Darwin to Munger by Peter Bevelin
  • How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World by Harry Browne
  • Knowledge and Power by George Gilder

…as I was making this list I realized several I should have added to the pile. The “Not Pictured” list:

  • Don’t Do Stuff You Hate by Isaac Morehouse and Mitchell Earl (yours truly)
  • Mastery by Robert Greene
  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Jospeh Campbell
  • Nudge by Richer Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein
  • The Happiness Hypothesis & The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt
  • The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden
  • The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman
  • The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason

…there are countless others that are currently slipping my mind. Maybe I’ll have to return to this list later to update.

Happy reading!

Mitchell Earl
Post by Mitchell Earl
January 27, 2024
COO @DiscoverPraxis: I mentor young adults to take agency over their lives, careers, and money. | Career Bound Podcast | Author of Don't Do Stuff You Hate