10 books that have influenced my life

Reading has a way of making an impact on our lives and changing the way we think, observe and ultimately influences our decisions. I reminisce beautiful moments that I would spend with my Grandfather whilst he would be reading and hoping I would sit with a book he had particularly chosen for me to enjoy the sunny afternoon in the New Forrest rather than be the inquisitive Grandson, asking him about every chapter of my Grandfathers book. 😊

When I discovered reading and the journeys it took me on, I consumed books day and night. Despite the lights out rule that applied at 7.30pm every night and the threat of grandparental disapproval, I continued to read under the covers with my bedside lamp at my elbow.

The quote by Alex Haley, ‘Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children. Is so true. If you have ever turned to your Grandparents you will know how wonderful grandparents can be. I will never forget the special moments of reading and learning with my Grandfather and Grandmother.

I have been reading a lot recently. There are so many books that touch and influence my life. They have not only influenced me but instigated a lot of positive difference in my life. I believe if they can drive so much difference in my life, they will do the same to you. Some of these books unearth philosophies, drive innovation, creativity, spirituality and could be beneficial to your personal and career growth.

You do not need to head for the contemporary Best Sellers shelf for an excellent read. I have always taken the stance looking for acknowledged classics within the literary canon is a near certain way to find books which deserve to be on your bookshelf.
Reading, learning and consuming information and ideas is now a big part of my destiny and purpose. Some books change you more than others. My rule of thumb is that if I get one good idea, it is one book worth reading.

This tactic has worked well for me over the years, and the following 10 books are from my collection. All make for excellent reading and for different reasons, and I consider each one to be a classic worthy of anyone’s time. If you love reading, or want to take it up, these are all perfect books for current new insights and inspiration.

1. How To Fly a Horse – Kevin Ashton

As a technology pioneer at MIT and as the leader of three successful start-ups, Kevin Ashton experienced firsthand the all-consuming challenge of creating something new. Now, in a tour-de-force narrative twenty years in the making, Ashton leads us on a journey through humanity’s greatest creations to uncover the surprising truth behind who creates and how they do it. From the crystallographer’s laboratory where the secrets of DNA were first revealed by a long forgotten woman, to the electromagnetic chamber where the stealth bomber was born on a twenty-five-cent bet, to the Ohio bicycle shop where the Wright brothers set out to “fly a horse,” Ashton showcases the seemingly unremarkable individuals, gradual steps, multiple failures, and countless ordinary and usually uncredited acts that lead to our most astounding breakthroughs.
Creators, he shows, apply in particular ways the everyday, ordinary thinking of which we are all capable, taking thousands of small steps and working in an endless loop of problem and solution. He examines why innovators meet resistance and how they overcome it, why most organizations stifle creative people, and how the most creative organizations work. Drawing on examples from art, science, business, and invention, from Mozart to the Muppets, Archimedes to Apple, Kandinsky to a can of Coke, How to Fly a Horse is a passionate and immensely rewarding exploration of how “new” comes to be.

2. The Innovators – Walter Isaacson

Following his blockbuster biography of Steve Jobs, The Innovators is Walter Isaacson’s story of the people who created the computer and the Internet. It is destined to be the standard history of the digital revolution and a guide to how innovation really works.
What talents allowed certain inventors and entrepreneurs to turn their disruptive ideas into realities? What led to their creative leaps? Why did some succeed and others fail?
In his exciting saga, Isaacson begins with Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter, who pioneered computer programming in the 1840s. He then explores the fascinating personalities that created our current digital revolution, such as Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, John von Neumann, J.C.R. Licklider, Doug Engelbart, Robert Noyce, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Tim Berners-Lee and Larry Page.
This is the story of how their minds worked and what made them so creative. It’s also a narrative of how their ability to collaborate and master the art of teamwork made them even more creative.
For an era that seeks to foster innovation, creativity and teamwork, this book shows how they actually happen.

3. Creativity Inc – Ed Catmull

As a young man, Ed Catmull had a dream: to make the world’s first computer-animated movie. He nurtured that dream first as a Ph.D. student at the University of Utah, where many computer science pioneers got their start, and then forged an early partnership with George Lucas that led, indirectly, to his founding Pixar with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter in 1986. Nine years later and against all odds, Toy Story was released, changing animation forever.
Since then, Pixar has dominated the world of animation, producing such beloved films as Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Up, and WALL-E, which have gone on to set box-office records and garner twenty-seven Academy Awards. The joyousness of the storytelling, the inventive plots, the emotional authenticity: In some ways, Pixar movies are an object lesson in what creativity really is. Now, in this book, Catmull reveals the ideals and techniques, honed over years, that have made Pixar so widely admired―and so profitable.
Creativity, Inc. is a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation Studios―into the story meetings, the postmortems, and the ‘Braintrust’ sessions where art is born. It is, at heart, a book about how to build and sustain a creative culture―but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, ‘an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.’

4. Creative Confidence – Tom & David Kelley

IDEO founder and Stanford d.school creator David Kelley and his brother Tom Kelley, IDEO partner and the author of the bestselling The Art of Innovation, have written a powerful and compelling book on unleashing the creativity that lies within each and every one of us.
Too often, companies and individuals assume that creativity and innovation are the domain of the “creative types.” But two of the leading experts in innovation, design, and creativity on the planet show us that each and every one of us is creative. In an incredibly entertaining and inspiring narrative that draws on countless stories from their work at IDEO, the Stanford d.school, and with many of the world’s top companies, David and Tom Kelley identify the principles and strategies that will allow us to tap into our creative potential in our work lives, and in our personal lives, and allow us to innovate in terms of how we approach and solve problems. It is a book that will help each of us be more productive and successful in our lives and in our careers.”

5. The Organised Mind – Daniel J. Levitin

New York Times bestselling author and neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin shifts his keen insights from your brain on music to your brain in a sea of details.
The information age is drowning us with an unprecedented deluge of data. At the same time, we’re expected to make more–and faster–decisions about our lives than ever before. No wonder, then, that the average American reports frequently losing car keys or reading glasses, missing appointments, and feeling worn out by the effort required just to keep up.
But somehow some people become quite accomplished at managing information flow. In The Organized Mind, Daniel J. Levitin, PhD, uses the latest brain science to demonstrate how those people excel–and how readers can use their methods to regain a sense of mastery over the way they organize their homes, workplaces, and time.
With lively, entertaining chapters on everything from the kitchen junk drawer to health care to executive office workflow, Levitin reveals how new research into the cognitive neuroscience of attention and memory can be applied to the challenges of our daily lives. This Is Your Brain on Music showed how to better play and appreciate music through an understanding of how the brain works. The Organized Mind shows how to navigate the churning flood of information in the twenty-first century with the same neuroscientific perspective.

6. Animal Speak – Ted Andrews

Ted Andrews is best known for his work with animal mysticism and for his bestselling Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small. Certified in basic hypnosis and acupressure, Andrews was also involved in the study and use of herbs as an alternative path in health care, focusing strongly on esoteric forms of healing with sound, music, and voice. In addition to his interest in metaphysics, Ted was a trained pianist and often used the Celtic harp, bamboo flute, shaman rattles, Tibetan bells, Tibetan Singing Bowl, and quartz crystal bowls to create individual healing therapies and induce higher states of consciousness.
The animal world has much to teach us. Some animals are experts at survival and adaptation, some never get cancer, some embody strength and courage while others exude playfulness. Animals remind us of the potential we can unfold, but before we can learn from them, we must must first be able to speak with them.

7. In The Praise of Slowness – Carl Honore

We live in the age of speed. We strain to be more efficient, to cram more into each minute, each hour, each day. Since the Industrial Revolution shifted the world into high gear, the cult of speed has pushed us to a breaking point. Consider these facts: Americans on average spend seventy-two minutes of every day behind the wheel of a car, a typical business executive now loses sixty-eight hours a year to being put on hold, and American adults currently devote on average a mere half hour per week to making love.
Living on the edge of exhaustion, we are constantly reminded by our bodies and minds that the pace of life is spinning out of control. In Praise of Slowness traces the history of our increasingly breathless relationship with time and tackles the consequences of living in this accelerated culture of our own creation. Why are we always in such a rush? What is the cure for time sickness? Is it possible, or even desirable, to slow down? Realizing the price we pay for unrelenting speed, people all over the world are reclaiming their time and slowing down the pace — and living happier, healthier, and more productive lives as a result. A Slow revolution is taking place.
Here you will find no Luddite calls to overthrow technology and seek a preindustrial utopia. This is a modern revolution, championed by cell-phone using, e-mailing lovers of sanity. The Slow philosophy can be summed up in a single word — balance. People are discovering energy and efficiency where they may have been least expected — in slowing down.
In this engaging and entertaining exploration, award-winning journalist and rehabilitated speedaholic Carl Honore details our perennial love affair with efficiency and speed in a perfect blend of anecdotal reportage, history, and intellectual inquiry. In Praise of Slowness is the first comprehensive look at the worldwide Slow movements making their way into the mainstream — in offices, factories, neighborhoods, kitchens, hospitals, concert halls, bedrooms, gyms, and schools. Defining a movement that is here to stay, this spirited manifesto will make you completely rethink your relationship with time.

8. When Pride Still Mattered – David Maraniss

In this groundbreaking biography, David Maraniss captures all of football great Vince Lombardi: the myth, the man, his game, and his God.
More than any other sports figure, Vince Lombardi transformed football into a metaphor of the American experience. The son of an Italian immigrant butcher, Lombardi toiled for twenty frustrating years as a high school coach and then as an assistant at Fordham, West Point, and the New York Giants before his big break came at age forty-six with the chance to coach a struggling team in snowbound Wisconsin. His leadership of the Green Bay Packers to five world championships in nine seasons is the most storied period in NFL history. Lombardi became a living legend, a symbol to many of leadership, discipline, perseverance, and teamwork, and to others of an obsession with winning. In When Pride Still Mattered, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss captures the myth and the man, football, God, and country in a thrilling biography destined to become an American classic.

9. More Human – Steve Hilton

Government, business, the lives we lead, the food we eat, the way our children are brought up, the way we relate to the natural world around us – it’s all become too big and distant and industrialised. Inhuman. It’s time to do something about it. It’s time to put people first. It’s time to make the world more human.
Steve Hilton, visiting professor at Stanford University and former senior adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron, believes that the frustrations people have with government, politics, their economic circumstances and their daily lives are caused by deep structural problems in the systems that dominate our modern world – systems that are broken because they’ve grown too far from the human scale. He shows us how change is possible, offering the latest research, compelling stories and case studies from all over the world across industry, politics, education, design and social action to show us what can happen when we make our world more human. This book is a manifesto and call to action for a more local, more accountable and more human way of living that will make us more productive, more fulfilled and ultimately happier.

10. Daily Rituals – Mason Currey

The working methods presented in Daily Rituals are so diverse as to offer no easy formulas (or what are now known as “productivity hacks”). It’s a string of lifestyles that are often eccentric, but always human. If we want to emulate Franz Kafka or Jane Austen should we copy their routines or find the routines that are right for us, which is to say the routines that are us? Isaac Asimov had an impressive schedule, but he credited it not to self-discipline but to his father’s sweet shop, in which he assisted as a child, which would open at 6am and then not close until 1am. “You’re who you are,” advises Bernard Malamud. “Not Fitzgerald or Thomas Wolfe.”
For most of us, our routines are imposed from the outside. They come from our employer or our family circumstances. They are the structure we rail against, the cage we dream of escaping. But is escape really so simple as just waking up each morning with no plans? Isn’t that just as terrifying? Or is freedom simply being able to reinvent your life around the work that you do, if that is also the thing you enjoy. “It’s not my work,” objects Stephen Jay Gould, quoted in his Daily Rituals entry. “It’s my life. It’s what I do. It’s what I like to do.”

Reading, learning and consuming information and ideas is now a big part of my destiny and purpose. Some books change you more than others, this is why I wrote “Freedom after the Sharks”, and more recently: “Meaningful Conversations”.

These 10 books were key to helping me change my life. I rediscovered hope for my future. I found my courage, strength, and my self-belief. I hope that by reading these books, you will find the same inspiration and motivation to take up the challenge and change your life.

Let us remember this great quote by Malala Yousafzai:

“One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.”

Share your thoughts with us