The 23 Books I Read At 23

When I turned 23 last year, I made it a goal to read 23 books before turning 24. I was reading at a pace of roughly a book each month at the time, and decided that this was a sufficiently lofty goal. It was close, but I managed to accomplish my goal within just a couple days of turning 24. The idea of the blog post only came to me recently, so here it is.

The books I read were fiction and nonfiction, varying widely in length and genre. I started and left unfinished many books which are not listed here. Most of the time I was reading more than one because I have a tendency to pick up different books depending on the mood I am in. I finished only the books which kept me fascinated and spoke to me at the time I read them.

These are the books I read in the order I finished them. I’ve included my attempt at a one sentence summary along with a favorite quotation from each book. My finishing of a book tends to signify my endorsement of it (with a few exceptions).

I plan to read 24 books before I turn 25. Recommendations are welcome and sincerely appreciated in the comments!

The 23 Books I Read at 23

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl – A spiritually transformational guide for navigating the suffering inherent to human life through the pursuit of meaning and love.

“Live as if you were living for the second time and had acted as wrongly the first time as you are about to act now.”

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene – A manual for understanding the intricate rules of exercising power by studying its use throughout history and examining the philosophies of Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, Clauzewitz, and others.

Law 9: Win Through Your Actions, Never Through Argument

Any momentary triumph you think you have gained through argument is really a Pyrrhic victory. The resentment and ill will you stir up is stronger and lasts longer than any momentary change of opinion. It is much more powerful to get others to agree with you through your actions, without saying a word. Demonstrate, do not explicate.”

The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason – A simple path to wealth explained through easily understandable and memorable parables.

“Where the determination is, the way can be found.”

Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall – An author’s journey to discover the the keys to endurance, nutrition, and movement as they were used by heroes throughout history.

“True heroism, as the ancients understood, isn’t about strength, or boldness, or even courage. It’s about compassion.”

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman – Dr. Chapman presents his 5 Love Languages—quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, and gifts—and an approach to understanding both yours and your significant other’s in order to better give and receive love.

“Our most basic emotional need is not to fall in love but to be genuinely loved by another, to know a love that grows out of reason and choice, not instinct. I need to be loved by someone who chooses to love me, who sees in me something worth loving. That kind of love requires effort and discipline.”

Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household – A gripping 20th century spy thriller about an assassin’s foiled plan to assassinate a European dictator (read: Adolf Hitler?).

“The only periods, I suspect, when a man feels captain of his soul are those when he has not the slightest need of such an organ.”

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – A short story about one fisherman’s greatest conquest and loss, but not defeat.

“Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with that there is.”

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer – An inspirational and heart wrenching story of one boy’s indomitable adventurous spirit taking him across America and into the Alaskan wilderness in search of a simpler life.

“Nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”

Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom – The compiled lessons in how to live from a college professor dying of ALS, as told by a former student who keeps Morrie Schwartz company in his final days.

“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”

Rogue Justice by Geoffrey Household – A British assassin’s second attempt to assassinate a European dictator—Adolf Hitler—and his “own lonely war on the Third Reich.”

“And where do you want to go?”

“To join the armed forces of my country. And if I cannot, I will fight alone.”

My Early Life by Winston Churchill – A great man’s own words on the first thirty years of his life; from his childhood, to his rigorous schooling, to his adventures as a soldier, war correspondent, and prisoner, then finally his early days in British Parliament.

“You have not an hour to lose. You must take your places in life’s fighting line … These are the years! Don’t be content with things as they are. ‘The earth is yours and the fulness thereof.’ Enter upon your inheritance, accept your responsibilities. Raise the glorious flags again, advance them upon the new enemies, who constantly gather upon the front of the human army, and have only to be assaulted to be overthrown. Don’t take ‘No’ for an answer. Never submit to failure … You will make all kinds of mistakes, but as long as you are generous and true, and also fierce, you cannot hurt the world…”

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain – Valuable insight into 1/3 of the population that tends to be undervalued in modern society—a must-read for extroverts to understand their counterparts and for introverts seeking validation, explanation, or both.

“So stay true to your own nature. If you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don’t let others make you feel as if you have to race. If you enjoy depth, don’t force yourself to seek breadth. If you prefer single-tasking to multi-tasking, stick to your guns. Being relatively unmoved by rewards gives you the incalculable power to go your own way.”

The Way to Love by Anthony De Mello – Wisdom and meditations for loving others and yourself in a manner that is both unconditional and fully aware.

“Love springs from awareness. It is only inasmuch as you see someone as he or she really is here and now, and not as they are in your memory or your desire or in your imagination or projection, that you can truly love them. Otherwise, it is not the person that you love but the idea that you have formed of this person, or this person as the object of your desire, not as he or she is in themselves.”

The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss – Why wait to design the life that excites you?

“People will choose unhappiness over uncertainty.”

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson – A true story of masterful leadership and courage during the Blitz—a period dominated by unspeakable evil and crippling uncertainty.

“Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.”

12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson – Twelve simple principles on living in balance with order and chaos to maximize growth, freedom, and fulfillment.

“If the world you are seeing is not the world you want, therefore, it’s time to examine your values. It’s time to rid yourself of your current presuppositions. It’s time to let go. It might even be time to sacrifice what you love best, so that you can become who you might become, instead of staying who you are.”

The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness by Eric Jorgenson – A convenient collection of pithy wisdom from podcast interviews, Tweets, and essays by Naval Ravikant, a brilliant thinker, entrepreneur, and venture capitalist.

“A happy person isn’t someone who’s happy all the time. It’s someone who effortlessly interprets events in such a way that they don’t lose their innate peace.”

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey – Matthew McConaughey’s “love letter to life,” packed with funny anecdotes about his childhood, career, and other whacky life experiences with some pithy wisdom, poetry, and “prescriptions” thrown in for good measure.

We all have scars, we’ll get more. So rather than struggle against time and waste it, let’s dance with time and redeem it, because we don’t live longer when we try not to die, we live longer when we’re too busy livin’.”

South of Broad by Pat Conroy – A tragic and inspiring story of friendship, love, and growth which confronts many of life’s confounding dilemmas set in Charleston, SC spanning several decades.

“Time moves funny and it’s hard to pin down. Occasionally, time offers you a hundred opportunities to do the right thing. Sometimes, it gives you only one chance.”

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman – A free-thinking Nobel Prize physicist’s account of his adventures and misadventures—frustrations with bureaucracy and academia, the making of the atomic bomb, theories on quantum physics, safecracking, and playing the bongo drums.

“You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.”

Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari – The history of the human species presented in a way that you have never heard before.

“Biology enables, Culture forbids.”

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway – A poignant tale of the Lost Generation, from cafe society in Paris to the bullfighting rings of Pamplona—the truth is unclear, the love is unrequited, morals are questionable, and the wine is endless.

“Never fall in love?”

“Always,” said the count. “I am always in love.”

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel – Think for yourself, ask good questions, and build new things, while trying to avoid competition at all costs.

“In the most dysfunctional organizations, signaling that work is being done becomes a better strategy for career advancement than actually doing work (if this describes your company, you should quit now).”


Do you have any book recommendations? Did I miss anything? Have questions or critiques? Post your response in the Comments section below.

1 Comment

  1. I recommend Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christoper McDougall.

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