Reading List 2013: A Program of Mastery

It’s New Year’s Eve. You’re making resolutions (or hopefully setting actual goals). Is your reading list going to get you where you need to be?

In?The 4-Hour Work Week, Timothy Ferriss mentions his “low information diet” — a system whereby he separates himself from all excess information that doesn’t directly feed his objectives. This means no news (as most can be gleaned from headlines, or just talking to people), and no recreational reading except for an hour at bedtime to relax. But with the glut of self-improvement materials on the shelves, it can be difficult to pick what you should or shouldn’t read.

Magazines don’t help much. Because they’re often focused on creating as much interesting and innovative new content as possible every month, they’ll generally also present contradictory content as new reports come in. By the time you use a magazine to improve an area of your life, the strategies they suggested last month will get interrupted by a new set of strategies that seem just as good, if not better.

Expert tip: Once you’ve decided on a goal, and a strategy to achieve it, don’t deviate from that strategy. The results will come. The only thing that will stop the results is changing course mid-stream.

We at?The Man Sphere want you to set your goals clearly and precisely. But we also want you to focus in on information that will change your perspective, sharpen your focus, and generally make you a more powerful, confident, and effective version of yourself. With that in mind, start with these:

How To Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie

If you’ve never read this book, get it now. This is THE classic personal interaction manual. Written in the 1930s as a guide for salesmanship, it has become the bible for those interested in the art of getting along. It boils down to a few fairly simple principles, but the impact of putting these principles to work on a daily basis is utterly life-changing. Don’t believe it? Start with one of the simplest: use a person’s name. When you’re talking to a waiter or a cashier and you see their name tag, simply say, “Hi <name>. How’s your day going?” Do it with genuine interest and a smile, and watch how their attitude toward you changes.

Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill

This book strikes a lot of people as odd at first, because it’s a bit “out there.” Really, it’s?The Secret, but without all the viral marketing. Plus, it’s better written. We’re not going to enter the fray about whether or not manifestation mindset actually works. We will allow, however, that this book provides a very clear set of instructions on how to focus on your goals, and how to keep yourself motivated to finding those goals. The section on creating a mastermind group is priceless info that still holds true today.

Rich Dad Poor Dad?– Robert Kiyosaki

This book is an eye-opener. You might not agree with all of Kiyosaki’s general principles, but the point here is to?re-frame?your thinking. Learn how money works, why what you think of as an asset really isn’t, and how discipline with your spending can make you richer faster.

Those are the basic books every guy should read if they want a leg up in life. They’re easy reading (you should plow through them all in fairly short order, but feel free to revisit them over and over again), but simply shifting how you interact with people and how you frame your goals and?aspirations?is a big start in getting yourself motivated to live the life of your dreams.

But then, there are these…next level, gentlemen:

The 4-Hour Workweek?– Timothy Ferriss

If Kiyosaki presents a re-frame on how money is organized, Ferriss’ now classic tome on escaping the daily grind does the same for your time. We won’t say it’s a guaranteed out, but if you think you’re working hard to set something up for your future, his attitude may be something of a game-changer for you. Time, Ferriss argues, is the actual currency with which you negotiate your work life, and if you can generate more value for the time offered, you can also generate more time?off. Why wait until retirement to enjoy yourself? You’re living your best years now, so live those years the best you can. Even if you don’t follow the game plan to the letter, you’ll come away with a new attitude, and a handful of great ideas for generating extra income without sacrificing a lot of your family time.

The 4-Hour Body?– Timothy Ferriss

4-Hour manuals are becoming a franchise for Ferriss, and we haven’t picked up his cookbook yet (no really…he just put one out). But it’s not without good reason. They’re good books. If you can’t settle on a good workout plan to fit your time and goals, this book will do it for you. It’s about eliminating wasted movement and wasted effort in meal preparation. Minimum Effective Dose. When you know what you want to accomplish in your fitness goals, do only things that will lead to those goals; and of course, he’s laid it all out in buffet form here. You don’t even have to read the whole book. Ferriss has a roadmap included that gives you only the chapters you need for specific objectives, whether those be fat loss, muscle gain, general wellbeing, or becoming a sexual dynamo.

Dangerous Book For Boys?and The Daring Book for Girls?– Conn and Hall Iggulden

These are books you wish you had when you were a kid. If you’re a dad, you must get a copy of each of these. They’re phenomenal. Everything from basic equipment for backyard outings to how to play Four-Square; from identifying bugs to sewing buttons; it’s all in there. When our staff read through these, we were amazed to discover there was more stuff in there that most of us had never known than stuff we’d forgotten! But that’s the fun…and honestly, don’t be afraid of the titles. If you have a girl, use the boy book (and vice versa), because even girls have a use for tying knots and starting campfires. And it never hurt a boy to learn a few stitches or how to press flowers (that one’s handy for science projects, by the way).

The Rules – Richard Templar

Richard Templar has become a household name in personal development with his witty, sensible, and practical Rules series. The six we’re most interested in are:

[buy the whole set for Kindle]

We love this set, because it includes parenting and management. People often overlook management guides as improvement manuals, but the fact is good management techniques in the office or business also translate to good interpersonal transaction techniques in the rest of your life. Again, it’s an easy-to-read collection that just simplifies so many areas of life and relationships, we just couldn’t let another year go by without making sure they’re on your shelf.


And now…graduate school. If you’re ready to move up to the big leagues, get these books. The key here is that they’re written almost like history or philosophy books, so you must have the mental skill necessary to translate the lessons into modern life. If you can, you will be unstoppable.

They’re all by Robert Greene.

The Art of Seduction

Yes, it’s a book on how seduction has been used as a power play over the centuries. Good. Learn it, and you can learn to recognize when you’re being seduced (i.e., marketed to), and how to do the seducing (i.e., market toward). It’s intelligent and practical, and yes it does contain some insights in terms of sexual nuance you can use in a sexual context as well. But to use it in its widest application, the ability to use those seductive powers for advantage elsewhere is invaluable.

The 33 Strategies of War

The most complete strategy guide since The Art of War, and one slightly more practical. The 33 Strategies of War boils down tactics you can use to out-maneuver your opponents on the playing field, in the ring, or in the boardroom. While there’s a subtle difference between the friendly and attractive nature of How To Win Friends and Influence People and the adversarial strategy guide of Greene’s book, the ability to win battles when the time comes to do battle is what separates the professional from the amateur. Master and balance this difference and you’ll be regarded as engaging and friendly even while you’re taking over the world.

…metaphorically, of course.

The 48 Laws of Power

Power is difficult to understand, and how people have moved through seats of tenuous power is a fascinating subject. Here, Greene distills some of the most effective uses and misuses of power strategy into a comprehensive list. Become obsessive with learning these laws, and you might well make yourself paranoid. Be effective in recognizing them at play, and you’ll become a master strategist who can respond accordingly. If you get only one book on this list, make it this one.


The latest in Robert Greene’s collection, Mastery is a masterpiece in its own right. In it, Greene describes the stages of learning that lead to mastery in any field, and by combining them with historical examples provides a manual for success that’s simply unparalleled in print. It’s a wonderfully-written book, full of elegant prose and instructive allegory. But beyond that, it’s a step-by-step guide to mastering any endeavour you set out for yourself in life. And that, gentlemen, is the whole secret to confidence and success: mastery.



Feature image courtesy of adamr /