The Only 5 Books You’ll Ever Need

This is it! The definitive answer you’ve been looking for! Read only these books and all your problems will be solved! All of those other lists out there are nonsense. Like this one, or this one, or this one.

Of course, this is all lies.

Would you read one book on investing and then assume you’re good enough, and so never read another book? Would you read one personal finance book and assume you can now answer most questions about personal finance? How about a book on weight loss, meditation, or computer programming? What about learning from only one source, like a trusted professor in college? If one professor says it’s so, does that make it the only truth available? One source is not sufficient and reading a few books is not enough – a continued desire for learning is enough.

Therefore my “only books you’ll ever need” list has books on it that are meant to motivate you to read more books. Like The Slight Edge and The Miracle Morning.

Surround Yourself With Greatness

Suppose there was one book out there, that was incredibly long, and it covered everything you could possibly need to know about a certain subject. Then, would it be enough? I don’t think so.

Your success in life, your proficiency at what you do, and how you see the world, largely depend on what you consume. I mean more than what you eat and who you hang out with. I mean what you see, watch, read, listen to, everything! How do we effectively change those things then? The best way is through choosing what we consume. Distinguishing quality from junk can be a challenge sometimes though. Here’s what I do to filter the uselessness and only keep the good content.

Finding Quality

In the old days when I wanted to learn something new, I used to just walk into a bookstore, look around at the section I was interested in, and choose something that had an interesting looking title and cover. Oh how times have changed. I use the library instead of a bookstore when I can, I listen to audio books instead of reading them, and I have a specific vetting process that I put all material through before I’ll read it. Because as Stephen King says in his book On Writing, there are too many books and I don’t have time to waste on crap.

Find a Book

Go to, type in “personal development,” choose books, click “success” on the left, add a filter for four stars or more for the average customer review, pick one, and read it. This is my strategy in a nutshell. You shouldn’t always choose “success” and “personal development” of course. There are other useful subjects out there (like investing, stoicism, happiness, interpersonal relationships, etc). The four stars or more part is pretty important, but it’s not foolproof. It keeps us from reading fringe books that are unenjoyable or don’t have good content. It won’t keep us away from The Secret by Rhonda Byrne though, which should definitely be avoided.

Filter the Junk

Even with the four-star filter, we still need to weed out the nonsense that’s left over and that isn’t always easy. Two cases in point: The Secret by Rhonda Byrne and Food Matters (a documentary), both fairly popular. The first thing to notice is that while 4+ stars is the average of all reviews, there are still numerous negative ones. Some books you’ll find will actually have no bad reviews (kind of amazing, really)! In our quality assurance check we can check the reviews against the following three-pronged test (aka the patented wealth psychology trident method for filtering through the nonsense and getting straight to the usefulness in personal development material test).

  1. Does the material provide action steps?
    1. If not, then it’s just entertainment.
  2. Is it based on science, the author’s personal experience, or something else?
    1. Can the actions actually produce results for us?
  3. Is it enjoyable to read?
    1. If we don’t finish it then it won’t do anyone any good. Plus, you know, fun and enjoying life are nice.

There are a lot of negative reviews of The Secret to read through. The key is to find ones that explain why so-and-so didn’t like it, instead of just saying “it sucked.” Here are some excerpts from the negative reviews about The Secret.

[…] there are no helpful practices or any helpful advice on how to carry this out […]


[…] The author also actually EXPLICITLY states that you don’t need to DO anything. Just think happy, and the universe will magically reorder itself to cater to your whims. […]


[…] no answers here tons of fluff […]

After reading a number of negative reviews, a few patterns will emerge from the constructive ones. For this book some of the repeated complaints are “there is no content” and “there are no action steps.” So it doesn’t pass prong one of our test.

The Food Matters documentary has tons of negative reviews that say it’s unscientific. So although it may be entertaining to watch, we should definitely do some research before we go out and start swallowing megadoses of vitamins to cure cancer (as the movie suggests).

There will always be bad reviews, though. It’s about choosing which risks you’re willing to take on a new book. Reviews saying “too expensive,” “didn’t arrive on time,” or “I thought this was something else” should be ignored, of course.


Surrounding ourselves with greatness can be a lot of fun. If you do it, you’ll be happier, you’ll feel smarter, and you’ll lose 5 pounds! Well, maybe not the 5 pounds part (unless you read books about managing your weight). In my experience, one book isn’t enough to make a difference even if the advice is spot-on. It’s really about immersing yourself in greatness. The rich do it by paying for $20,000 life coaches or befriending millionaire CEOs. Reading books is much simpler for normal folks.

The best way to do it isn’t to stop consuming junk then, it’s to start consuming awesomeness. Let the good things that you do consume drown out the uselessness that is modern TV, toxic relationships, poor health, and consumerism. Results will follow.


Have I missed anything here? How do you filter junk out of your life?

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