The Absolute Best Books to give This Holiday Season

I love to read, I advocate that passion to others. As I’ve pointed out previously, you would ask for 15 minutes and a cup of coffee from some of the most prominent people in the world. I believe that time would be wasted on formalities and small talk. Instead you can purchase a book written by an individual to hear a concise, edited, and revised argument they have put together for the world to review. Nothing has more utility than a well written book. Below is a list of the 9 books I recommend you give to the voracious reader in your life this holiday season. Each recommendation has my take on the book and the personality type it is best suited for.

For The person who wants to optimize performance

The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch

The Pareto Principle is a naturally occurring patter in life. The principle puts forth the argument that 20% of inputs/resources account for 80% of outputs/resullts. This applies to money, time, happiness and just about anything else you can name. 20% of drivers cause 80% of accidents. 20% of people cause 80% of crime. 20% of your daily actions accrue 80% of your wealth, happiness, and all around achievement. This quick read will leave you wondering if you should have only read 20% of the book to gain 80% of it’s knowledge. Buy it for the business person, entrepreneur, or time-stricken person in your life.

For the person obsessed with social issues and current events

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

Did the social unrest in this nation catch you off-guard in 2020? It didn’t surprise Malcolm Gladwell. If anything the man pretty much predicted that there was something boiling under the surface of this nation that would lead to the BLM movement. Gladwell explains why there is a disconnect between police officers and the people they pull over. He breaks down why someone who warned the SEC that Bernie Madoff was stealing millions, was ignored. He talks about why some people knew Jerry Sandusky was a pedophile and why others still are unsure. If anything he explains to us why we are unable to understand the people we think we know very well. It’s a book I wish everyone would read and like all of Gladwell’s books it can open you up to a point of view you never considered. Buy it for the intellectual and empathetic thinker in your life.

For the fitness and or psychology buff

Willpower by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney

Can we boil down the difference between people who achieve the goals they set and those who don’t to a single factor? Psychologists Roy F. Baumeisterr and John Tierney say it is willpower. If you have a loved one who believes hardwork is the key to success than this book is the perfect compliment to that mindset. Whether they are demonstrating the factors that result in a successful diet or financial success; Bauermeister and Tierney explain why at times it’s harder to fight cravings than others. They also point out why some of us have the discipline to save our money when others do not.

For your friends who are into meditation and living forever

Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles

I absolutely loved my time in Okinawa for a multitude of reasons. My best friend put it best when we watched an Okinawan man directing traffic with the ferocity and extreme attention to detail. He said, “The Okinawans do everything with 110% of their energy.” I would later learn that the Okinawans are also some of the longest living people on earth. Ikigai boils down what these “centenarians” are doing to live long and purposeful lives. The authors take it further by developing a system to identify how you too can find your Ikigai. This is also a great book for the person who hates to read.

For the History Buff in your Life or anyone really!

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford

I hope all of these books alter your way of thinking. I know this book will. If there was an order to this list this book would surely be number one. Genghis Khan at the height of his accomplishments had conquered the Asian land-mass from Beijing to Ukraine and from Moscow to South Korea. Modern history would lead you to believe he did this purely by raping and pillaging. While that may be true he also managed to beat some of the most revered armies in the world with scouting parties by executing superior tactics and strategy. Sun Tzu may have written the Art of War, Genghis Khan lived it. Just buy this book right now and take my word for it.

For the Business Man or Woman in your life

Elon Musk written by Ashlee Vance

This is the story about the man who moved to America from South Africa and disrupted the Banking, Space, and Motor Vehicle Industries. The world can say what they want about Elon Musk, he’s doing things none of us had the balls to do and he refuses to take no for an answer. Just ask the Russians who told him he couldn’t afford a rocket ship. Or the employee who left work for the birth of his child and was told by Elon to “get his priorities straight.” He might be somewhat obsessive and I’m thankful not to suffer from the intersection of madness and genius that Elon does. I am thankful to know my children will benefit from his progress. Learn about what makes an amazing man like this tick.

For the person who loves a good story about someone pulling themselves up by their boot-straps

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Does the story of a man born into hillbilly royalty in Appalachia without a father, and an addict for a mother sound like disaster. Well it wasn’t for J.D. Vance who managed to graduate from Yale Law after doing a stint in none other than the United States Marine Corps. The netflix special about this book doesn’t do it any justice when you can hear it straight from Mr. Vance himself. They also failed to touch on the fact that the Marines did a lot for him, but that’s a story for another post. Every family has drama, so every person who has had a family can relate to J.D. Vance, you’ll learn excuses are most definitely bullshit once you put this one down.

For the person who thinks sleep is for dead people

Why We Sleep by Dr. Matthew Walker

I always thought I could operate on 4-5 hours of sleep regularly. “I’ll sleep when I am dead.” Well Dr. Walker actually showed me that the odds of me dying increased greatly due to a lack of sleep. Many people argue the invention of fire, and cooking our meat was responsible for the great leap forward of Homo-sapiens. Dr. Walker puts for the argument that it was actually our transition from sleeping in trees to sleeping on the ground resulting in more REM sleep and the ability transfer short-term memory to long-term lessons. This along with about a million other facts and studies about sleep will have you turning off netflix and hitting the sack for some much needed recovery.

For the Student of Leadership

Call Sign Chaos by Jim Mattis and Bing West

Are you interested in the man who invaded Iraq and toppled their dictatorship in weeks instead of months? Perhaps you would be more interested in the man who was willing to serve as Secretary of Defense under a President he vehemently disagreed with because his nation needed him. Look no further than James Mad Dog Mattis. This is the man who never purchased a T.V. so he did not have to fight off distraction from studying history. Talk about Willpower. Get inside the mind of a Warrior-Scholar, Leadership Guru, and one of the most influential men of this century. No better friend, no worse enemy.

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About the Author

John McCarthy is a Father, Son, Husband and former Marine Infantry Officer. He serves his local community and just wants to push people to be better humans. Check out the Tough Talk Podcast and other writings on this website to learn more.

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