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It’s 2019. The new year is the perfect time to pick up a new habit, or better yet, work on becoming a better version of yourself. New year, new you. Amirite?
Aside from starting a new workout program, reading is one of the more popular habits people want to start during this time of year. The problem is, where do you start? We live in the information age. There is no barrier of entry to put out information. We are bombarded with content left and right. Deciding who to listen to is hard enough. There are millions of books out there, my goal is to provide you with a list to get you started in the right direction.
Over the past five years, I have made it a point to read, on average, a book per week. I feel this not only keeps my mind sharp but also keeps me ahead of the game. If you spend 3.5-7 hours per week working on self-improvement and studying your profession, you’re much more likely to be successful
I like to separate the books I read into two categories. Category one is
At the end of the day, books are a great value. Even if you only get one piece of quality information out of a book, it’s well worth the small investment.
It’s important to note, don’t just read the books to see how many you can get under your belt.
Bookmark this page, I plan to update it each year, adding one book of value. So, next year the title will be changed to “20 Books You Should Read in 2020”. Enjoy!
*All of the titles are clickable.
Fitness / Nutrition
Kelly Starrett is a
Becoming a Supple Leopard is a valuable book to have on your shelf if you are a coach, athlete, or anyone who takes their training seriously. You can read it straight through to get the full understanding of how everything is related, or, you can just use it as a reference and browse the different sections as needed.
If you are looking for more mobility information, or it presented in a follow along format, check out the Daily MWOD subscription at https://www.mobilitywod.com/
Jim has written 4 or 5 books now and they are all great. 5/3/1 Forever is his most recent and is filled with different programming options. My favorite is still the second edition to the original 5/3/1 book.
What makes these books so great is not even the programs. The true value comes in Jim’s simple and effective approach to explaining things.
It’s wild this even has to be said, but sometimes what people need is less information. Sometimes you just need to simplify things to make progress. I think that is one of the key reasons why the 5/3/1 program became so popular when it came out 10 years ago. It gave people a basic plan to follow with
After being a big fan of Jim’s for so long, it’s still crazy to me I had the opportunity to sit down with him for two podcasts. Here is a short clip from our first episode.
Although Triphasic Training is more geared toward sports performance, there is information in here that can benefit anyone in the weight room.
Cal Dietz is the strength and conditioning coach at the University of Minnesota, where he has worked with 1,000s of athletes fine tuning his system.
This book provides a lot of quality information in an easy to understand way. There is no other book I know of that talks about tempo work in as much detail as Triphasic Training. The entire system is about breaking down athletic movements into their three components – eccentric, isometric, and concentric. If you want to learn how and why to implement isometric/paused work, along with various other methods on how to maximize strength, speed, and power, this is the book.
I took a ton of notes the first time I read this book.
This is technically a two book set. If I could only recommend one training and one nutrition book for you to read, it would most likely be these.
Eric and the crew did a great job putting a ton of well rounded, evidence-based recommendations in these books. They also distilled and clearly explained everything without including much, if any “fluff”.
With all of the information available today, it’s easy to overthink things and start to put an emphasis on stuff that doesn’t really matter. Not everything we do in the gym and in the kitchen deserves the same amount of attention. These books do a good job pointing out what’s important, and what’s not. Also, the second editions just came out with new/updated info.
Flat out, I love this book. I have read it multiple times and each time, I take something different from it.
In my opinion, as a coach it’s important to be well rounded. You need to read the science/evidence based material but you also need to read stuff from the non science crowd as well. There is a benefit to not always sticking 100% to what the research says. Even the researchers will tell you, some material is just not heavily studied yet.
We have a group of individuals in the fitness industry who speak like they are veteran researchers and/or strength coaches without ever stepping foot in a
Never Let Go is more than a training book. It’s a book filled with stories from decades in the strength world. As the cover says, it’s a philosophy of lifting, living, and learning.
This book is on the list purely out of nostalgia. I must have flipped through this book 1,000 times in my teen years and I am not even exaggerating. I still remember the day I bought it. I picked up this 700+ page tome at a Walden Books Store in the Arnot Mall in Big Flats, New York. As a side note, remember when Walden Books was in every mall?
The pictures and stories are incredible. This is an old school book. Don’t read this expecting to learn any science or new training/nutrition information. Almost everything is outdated but you should read this book for inspiration, not so much information. If you don’t get fired up to train after looking at all of the black and white pictures of the old school bodybuilders, this lifting weights thing might not be for you.
However, if you want to do some crazy high volume lifting, check out the double split (a.m/p.m) 6 day per week “Advanced Bodybuilding”
Also worth reading from Arnold, The Education of a Bodybuilder
Sleep. It’s one thing that does not get enough attention in the fitness space. Typically people just say the blanket statements like get 7-8 hours per night without really breaking it down and explaining why.
This is a great book, written by an elite sports sleep coach (yes, that’s a real thing). In the book, Nick goes over what you need to do in order to get better sleep. If you are serious about your performance, dialing in your sleep is a must.
This was a fun read that was easy to understand and follow along. This is another book I took a ton of notes on.
This is probably the most in depth and well-rounded book on powerlifting programming there is. If you are a powerlifter and want to learn more about programming variables – specificity, volume, intensity, fatigue management, variation, etc. this is the book.
However, this is a 371 page gauntlet. It’s not a quick read if you want to understand everything. When I said it’s in depth, I meant it.
Overall, this is not a difficult read. It’s long, but not difficult. This is one book where you undoubtedly will want to take notes and read more than once. The second time you read it, you will probably take more out of it.
Ok, this book is probably the most unique on the fitness/nutrition list, that’s why I saved it for last.
The training information is basically CrossFit style programming. The workouts are actually pretty cool the way he sets them up if you are into that style of training.
However, this book did not make the list based on Jocko’s training or nutrition recommendations. Discipline Equals Freedom made the list based on the first part of the book titled, “Thoughts”. This section will figuratively punch you in the face. Be ready. Discipline might be the single biggest factor of success. Success in the gym. Success at school. Success in business Success in life.
There is no shortcut. There is no hack. There’s only one way, so get after it.
Personal Development / Business
If you listen to my podcast, you know I bring this book up a lot. In terms of personal development, this is by far my favorite. If I had to pick just one book from the personal development list for you to read, it’s this one.
If you want to get ahead and enjoy a life of prosperity, you must invest in the last safe investment: yourself, and your own skills, value to others, relationships, and overall happiness.
In this day and age, we can accomplish anything. We have the ability to learn, create, and build like never before. The only thing holding us back is ourselves.
This book is all about discarding traditional advice and focusing on ways to build true wealth based on things that matter to you. Invest in yourself, buy books, learn new skills, meet new people, spend money on experiences, and hire the best coaches. Spend money to create a better you and everything else will fall in line.
Also worth reading from Michael Ellsberg, Education of Millionaires
It doesn’t matter what you do for a living, improving your ability to build relationships is going to make you more successful.
I have this book on audio and I make it a point to listen to it at least once per year. Every time I hear it, I am reminded of something I either forgot or have been slacking on. This is a classic. It’s an old book, first written in 1936. Some of the content is outdated but most of it is timeless.
This book doesn’t really have a category but it’s a great book so I had to include it. The book is written by entrepreneur Jesse Itzler. He is a unique dude that will try almost anything. His entire life has been about bold moves and being risky. So, when he felt himself getting comfortable, he decided to hire an unconventional “trainer” to live with him for a month. The guy he hired was a former Navy Seal, who is now widely known as one of the worlds most bad ass people.
What’s crazy is at the time, no one really knew who this Navy Seal was (the cover photo is not actually him). He didn’t have much notoriety. In fact, his name isn’t even mentioned in the book. So, who was the former Navy Seal Jesse hired to train him for a month? None other than David Goggins.
I debated between The One Thing and Essentialism. They are both great books, but decided to go with this one simply because I enjoyed reading it more.
There is a big difference between just being busy and being productive. We always want more – more productivity, more attention, more friends, more work, but sometimes what we need is less.
We need fewer distractions. The barrage of emails, texts, calls, social media notifications, etc. distract us from our most important work. We are so “busy” that we can’t even be productive.
This book will help you cut through the clutter, be more efficient, and focus on what’s most important.
This is not to be confused with the Art of War lol.
The War of Art is another book I have on audio. A quick side note, I actually don’t listen to a lot of audio books. For the most part, I like to actually read my books and save audio content for podcasts.
However, since I have this book on audio, I make it a point to listen to it once a year. It’s a quick read/listen.
This book is all about battling procrastination. Everyone has felt it. We have a project we want or need to get done, but for some reason, we can’t get ourselves to do it. Suddenly things we never want to do sound appealing. How do we break through this
Also worth reading by Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro.
I have been a Tim Ferriss fan for a long time. I actually took The 4 Hour Work Week out of the public library and read it when I was in high school. Are public libraries even still around?
If you are deciding between Tools of Titans or Tribe of Mentors, I would definitely go with Tools of Titans.
In this book, Tim gives you the tactics, routines, and habits of billionaires, icons, and
Also worth reading by Tim – The Four Hour Work Week. The 4 Hour Work Week was one of the first personal development/entrepreneurial books I read. Like I said, I came across it in the public library during my senior year of high school. I’m not sure what made me pick it up, but that one little decision played a big role in my development.
Tim Grover was the long time strength coach for Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, and other NBA superstars. Although he is a strength coach, this is not a training book. This book is all about mindset. Relentless is packed with insight into the mind of the most successful and accomplished athletes of all time.
Mindset is so important. There is a certain “IT” factor elite performers have that others just don’t.
Every day we seem to just go through the motions, following our usual routine without ever stopping and thinking why we do what we do, or what we’d rather be doing instead.
But sometimes, we have that one day – that perfect day – where everything just clicks. We feel great. We are unstoppable. Why can’t every day be like this? It can, if you set up your life that way.
On your “perfect day” what time would you wake up? What would be the first thing you do? How would the rest of your morning go? What would you do – and not do- after lunch? What would your night look like?
I had the opportunity to have Craig on my podcast last year, check out that episode here: Craig Ballantyne on the Perfect Day Formula – Absolute Strength Podcast Ep.94
I debated between two books to include here. It came down to Rich Dad Poor Dad, or the Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Both are great books. The reason I ended up going with Rich Dad Poor Dad is the story associated with it. I read this book for the first time while I was in high school. It was the first non fiction book I read that wasn’t about training or nutrition. This lead me down the rabbit hole to The Four Hour Work Week, Think and Grow Rich, The Millionaire Fastlane, The 48 Laws of Power, and the rest is history.
I actually think The Total Money Makeover is a more practical “money” book for most people. If you want a step by step guide to get in a better spot financially, that is the book. However, Rich Dad Poor Dad is a great book to help shift your mentality and that’s what it did for me.
“The main reason why people struggle financially is because they have spent years in school but learned nothing about money. The result is that people learn to work for money…but never learn to have money work for them.”
I mean, come on. You didn’t think I was going to leave my book(s) off the list?
If you are going to read anything of mine, I suggest starting with the OG Absolute Strength book. Plus, when you purchase the original Absolute Strength, you get the second version, Absolute Strength V2.0 Meet Prep Edition, for free!
The original Absolute Strength came out in 2016 and honestly, the results blew my mind.
I never imagined it would be such a hit! The feedback over the past few years has been amazing. But as I said, the program came out in 2016. A lot has changed since then and I wanted to put something out that closely resembles what my current training philosophies are. I also wanted something that incorporated more hypertrophy work
You have no idea how hard it was for me to limit this list to only 19 books! I could have easily listed over 100. After you read the 19 books listed above, here are 10 more to check out.
I didn’t set up any of the links above as “affiliate links” meaning, I do not make any money for recommending the books (except of course my own book, Absolute Strength). I just wanted to provide the links to make the books easier for you to find. However, I do have most of these books on my Amazon recommended purchases page. So, if you want to support the website you can check out the books on the link below: