TIME Books

These Books Boosted Troop Morale During World War II

Armed Services Edition
Harry Ransom Center

The Armed Services Editions also fostered a new generation of readers

This post is in partnership with the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin. A version of the article below was originally published on the Ransom Center’s Cultural Compass blog.

The book When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning celebrates the importance of the Armed Services Editions. Published between 1943 and 1947, these inexpensive paperback editions were given to servicemen on the frontlines. As Manning points out, not only did the editions achieve their principal purpose of raising morale, they encouraged a whole generation of readers who retained their appetite for reading when they returned home. Possibly a few stopped bullets or shrapnel. It’s necessary to remember that the cheap paperback edition was still a novelty at the beginning of the war, having been pioneered by Penguin Books in England and Albatross Books in Germany during the 1930s.

Armed Services Editions were made possible by a group of publishers called the Council of Books in Wartime. This group collaborated by eliminating royalty payments and arranging for the production and distribution of paperbacks in the most inexpensive possible formats. The Ransom Center has a couple of connections with these books. Although there are larger collections at the University of Virginia and the Library of Congress, we own more than 1,400 of the books, most of them shelved together as a discrete collection in the stacks, while some are kept with other editions of our major authors, such as John Steinbeck. Because they were printed on poor-quality wartime paper that is now brittle and brown, each is protected in a simple acid-free enclosure, invented by the Center’s Conservation department in the 1980s, and called a “tuxedo case.” Students of publishing history can use the collection to study which books were most successful (Manning concludes that books with a touch of nostalgia or sex were particularly popular with soldiers, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was one of the best-selling titles, even though it was considered a flop when first published in hardback during the 1920s). The books were generally published in an oblong format, with the cover notation “This is the complete book—not a digest.” In all, some 125 million copies were produced.

Among the founding members of the Council of Books in Wartime was Alfred A. Knopf, the eminent literary publisher (the massive Knopf, Inc. archive is here at the Center). Ironically, Knopf was famous for encouraging high production values in his own trade books, but he immediately recognized the importance of encouraging reading and raising morale and contributed a number of series titles by familiar authors in the Knopf stable, including thrillers by James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler and more literary works by Thomas Mann and Sigrid Undset.

In the postwar era, a number of paperback reprint publishers capitalized on increased demand for books, the availability of new outlets for cheap editions, such as chain department stores and drugstores, and Americans’ newly enhanced disposable income. Pocket Books debuted in 1939 and became well known after the war for its lurid covers, which, as Louis Menand points out in an illustrated recent New Yorker piece, graced not only the unabashed pulp of Mickey Spillane but also higher-toned works by William Faulkner and James Joyce. Ballantine and Bantam editions flourished, and the era of the mass market paperback had arrived. Nearly every prominent American hardback publisher developed a line of paperback books. Oddly, Knopf, Inc. was a holdout, arriving late to the game with Vintage Books in 1956. But it was the Armed Services Editions that gave the American paperback its big push.

See more photos of the book here at the Harry Ransom Center blog

TIME Books

Quiz: Can You Unpack These Portmanteaus?

The Mad Hatter's Teaparty. Illustration by John Tenn iel for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (London, 1865).
Universal Images Group / Getty Images Illustration by John Tenniel for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (London, 1865).

In celebration of Lewis Carroll, try your wits at unpacking blended words the author invented

Lewis Carroll didn’t just invent worlds, he also invented words. And the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland gave old words new meaning. The most famous example may be portmanteau, a name for a suitcase that folds into two parts, which he coined as a way to describe blended words like bromance and sharknado.

In the book that’s celebrating its 150th anniversary on July 4, Carroll also devised his own (semi-)nonsensical portmanteaus. As an homage to his cleverness and inventiveness, TIME has put together a quiz to test your knowledge of these fusion words, half from Carroll’s book and half from modern slang. Pick the root words and meaning for each.

Read more about the science behind portmanteau words in the latest issue of TIME.


Why Adults Are Getting into Coloring Books

Jeffrey Coolidge/Getty Images

It's the latest "literary" craze.

Coloring books: they’re not just for kids anymore.

That’s the word from The Boston Globe, which reports that coloring books for adults are flying off store shelves. The books, which the paper says are more detailed than their child-focussed counterparts, are among the top sellers on Amazon and are well stocked by bookseller Barnes and Noble.

Why are grownups buying up a genre generally targeted at younger children? The answer seems to be that coloring between the lines can be a therapeutic exercise.

“I think it probably speaks to people’s enjoyment in doing this kind of relaxing hobby or distraction from everyday life,” Sarah Deaver, president of the American Art Therapy Association, told the Globe. “It creates an object of focus, and it creates something that’s beautiful and that’s satisfying.” One best-selling coloring book is subtitled Stress Relieving Patterns, and promises to provide “hours and hours of stress relief, mindful calm, and fun, creative expression.”

Adult coloring books have become so popular that even Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin is getting in on the act. Earlier this month, Bantam books announced it would publish a GoT coloring book meant for a mature audience. The book “will feature 45 original black and white illustrations, inspired by characters, scenes, locations and other iconic images from Martin’s wildly successful ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series,” the company told the Los Angeles Times. The coloring book is scheduled for release sometime this fall.

TIME Companies

Court Ruling Finds Apple Guilty of Fixing Book Prices

A customer is reading on an iPad at an Apple store Barcelona on May 28, 2010.
Manu Fernandez—AP A customer is reading on an iPad at an Apple store Barcelona on May 28, 2010.

The ruling ends a long-running fight

An appeals court in New York on Tuesday upheld a 2013 verdict that Apple organized an illegal conspiracy with five book publishers to raise the price of ebooks, noting that so-called horizontal price-fixing is “the supreme evil of antitrust.”

The ruling ends a long-running legal fight between Apple and the U.S. Justice Department, and paves the way for Apple to start issuing payouts to consumers in a related class-action settlement.

The high-profile case involved a scheme in which Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs invited five book publishers to change their pricing arrangements as part of a plan to promote Apple’s newly-introduced iPad in 2010. The publishers went along with the plan in order to stymie industry powerhouse Amazon—an arrangement that U.S. District Judge Denise Cote said amounted to blatant price-fixing.

The book publishers in the case–Harper Collins, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Hachette and Macmillan–elected to settle before the case went to trial but Apple, adamant that it did nothing wrong, chose to fight on alone.

On Tuesday, however, the U.S. Second Circuit effectively ended Apple’s efforts, by upholding Cote’s ruling:

“Because we conclude that the district court did not err in deciding that Apple violated § 1 of the Sherman Act, and because we also conclude that the 6 district court’s injunction was lawful and consistent with preventing future anticompetitive harms, we affirm,” wrote Judge Debra Ann Livingston for a 2-1 majority. Judge Dennis Jacobs wrote a dissenting opinion.

The ruling means that Apple will soon begin disbursing payments to consumers that it agreed to last year under the terms of a conditional class action settlement. That arrangement called for Apple to pay $450 million if the Second Circuit upheld Cote’s ruling.

While Apple could technically appeal to the Supreme Court, it appears unlikely it will do so given the class action settlement arrangement. An Apple spokesperson the following statement:

“Apple did not conspire to fix ebook pricing and this ruling does nothing to change the facts. We are disappointed the Court does not recognize the innovation and choice the iBooks Store brought for consumers. While we want to put this behind us, the case is about principles and values. We know we did nothing wrong back in 2010 and are assessing next steps.”

The Justice Department’s case, including the appeals court ruling, is just one part of a sprawling set of court proceedings related to the ebook controversy. It resulted in the Justice Department obtaining an injunction, which governed how Apple and the publishers are allowed to interact and set prices for ebooks. But the Justice Department victory also paved the way for a joint effort by state attorneys general and class action lawyers to put the squeeze on Apple and publishers in the form of cash damages; the publishers bowed out early in settlements worth tens of millions – Apple’s decision to fight on in part explains the higher $450 million settlement.

“Gloves-off competition”

This final outcome is a bitter pill for Apple and, especially, for many in the book industry who feel it was misguided for the Justice Department to have targeted Apple, which remains a bit player in the e-book industry, even as industry giant Amazon remains dominant.

That argument, however, appears to have carried little sway with Judge Livingston who argued that Apple and the publishers could not rationalize their behavior on the grounds they were challenging Amazon:

“Plainly, competition is not served by permitting a market entrant to eliminate price competition as a condition of entry, and it is cold comfort to consumers that they gained a new ebook retailer at the expense of passing control over all ebook prices to a cartel of book publishers,” Livingston wrote.

In his dissent, Judge Jacobs argued the lower court had made a basic error of law, but characterizing Apple’s behavior as an automatic (or “per se”) antitrust violation, rather than examining the larger competitive context. He also claimed the lower court, and Livingston, failed to acknowledge that Amazon’s below-cost pricing for some books was not just intended to spur Kindle sale, but served as a tool to entrench a monopoly. The dissent also suggested his colleagues took an idealized approach to business:

“A further and pervasive error (by the district court and by my colleagues on this appeal) is the implicit assumption that competition should be genteel, lawyer designed, and fair under sporting rules, and that antitrust law is offended by gloves-off competition.”

You can read the ruling for yourself below:


This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Books

Fifty Shades Author E.L. James Got Skewered in This Twitter Q&A

Some users took over the #AskELJames hashtag with some tough questions

On Monday Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James became the latest example of audience participation gone wrong. The emoticon-prone author stopped by Twitter’s U.K. headquarters for a Q&A session, mostly to questions about what music inspires her or which scenes from the book were the hardest and easiest to write. But she also got a lot of questions about the quality of her writing, the novels’ Twilight inspirations and whether or not she glorifies domestic abuse. Though the Twitter interview ended hours ago, questions are still pouring in. Here’s a sampling of what James (or the person screening her questions) saw today:

TIME Theater

J.K. Rowling Confirms Harry Potter Play Will Be Considered ‘Canon’

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will debut in London's West End next year

Earlier this week, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling made news when she announced that a play based on the boy wizard—Harry Potter and the Cursed Child—was coming to the London stage. While rumors swirled about what the title could mean and what Rowling meant when she wrote she was excited for the world to see the “untold part of Harry’s story,” details have been scarce about the project. One thing that Rowling has been clear on: the fact that even though this is a Potter story, it won’t be considered a prequel to the series.

That doesn’t mean that the play won’t be a part of the universe in a legitimate way, however, and Rowling wrote on Twitter to confirm that even though she is not writing the play herself, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will be considered part of the Potterverse.

Tickets for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which will make its debut at the palace Theatre in London’s West End next year, go on sale this fall.

This article originally appeared on EW.com


How Steely Dan and the National Hockey League Revolutionized Music

Stephen Witt worked for hedge funds in Chicago and New York before getting his graduate degree in journalism from Columbia University in 2011. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

The rock band and hockey fans played surprising roles in technological developments that determined how you listen to music now

In the spring of 1995, with their state funding running out, the Germany-based Fraunhofer team traveled to industry trade shows across Europe and America to promote the mp3 standard. They had a customized booth, with brochures and demonstrations of the technology, but there wasn’t much interest. Struggling to attract potential customers, they kept hearing the same thing: the mp3 was “too complicated.” Meanwhile, across the trade show floor, the mp2 booth was three times the size of their own, and mobbed. Philips had done its job well, dumping promotional money into its own product while undermining the competition.

In head‑to‑head listening tests the mp3 remained superior. Only Fraunhofer couldn’t get anyone to participate in such tests anymore—MPEG had run those competitions, and everyone knew the results. Standardization of computer hardware had made team member Harald Popp’s expertise less relevant, so Karlheinz Brandenburg, the head of audio research, reassigned him to sales. In his pitch, Popp told potential customers about the mythology of the “complexity problem” and about the “political” nature of the MPEG decision, but some of his explanations sounded more like excuses.

They were saved in the end by a guy named Steve Church. Bernhard Grill, a programmer, had first met him at a trade show in Las Vegas the previous year. The CEO of a start‑up called Telos Systems, Church was a former radio talk show host and studio engineer who saw a market for improving the quality of audio broadcasting. Like Brandenburg and Grill, he didn’t trust MPEG, as he had seen these “impartial” standards committees make biased decisions before. He agreed to an independently refereed head‑to‑head listening test between the mp2 and mp3, and was startled by the results.

The mp3 was way better! Shortly after the demonstration, Church called back to the home office in Cleveland and arranged to repeat the experiment over a newly installed digital telephone line. The demonstration material was an encoding of Steely Dan, a band as beloved in Ohio as it was in Bavaria. Telos became the mp3’s first—and for some time, only—enterprise‑scale customer. Church commissioned several hundred mp3 conversion boxes called Zephyrs, the size of VCRs, capable of streaming mp3 audio in real time. He then turned around and licensed these to his biggest customer: the National Hockey League.

Here, finally, was a stroke of good fortune. One of the key reference materials in Bernhard Grill’s menagerie of exotic sounds was a recording of a German‑league professional hockey game. The sound of scattered clapping had always been a challenge for the encoder, particularly when set against a dynamic soundscape of scraping skates and brutal, bone‑crushing checks. The sample was a small snippet of on‑ice action, followed by a few seconds of indifferent applause. Grill had listened to it hundreds of times, isolating the encoding errors and working with Brandenburg to implement fixes. The NHL was the perfect customer: the mp3 had been specifically calibrated to the sound of the game.

But the league had certain technical requirements, and these took months to meet. By the time the units finally shipped in late 1994, the hockey players had gone on strike. That year’s shortened season didn’t officially begin until January 20, 1995—the official start date of the mp3 revolution in North America. The fastest game on ice was not widely understood to be a pioneer in digital acoustics, but as the first puck dropped on center ice that year, fans of the Blackhawks and the Red Wings were an unwitting audience on the cutting edge.

It wasn’t until after the 1995 decision in Erlangen that income from the sales finally began making its way to Fraunhofer, arriving just in time to save the mp3 team. The Zephyr racks allowed radio broadcasters to save thousands of dollars an hour on satellite trans‑ mission costs, and were installed in every pro ice arena in North America. Telos’ revenues quadrupled, and Steve Church became a zealous advocate for the technology. Soon he was in talks with every major North American sports league. But Fraunhofer received only a small cut. The licensing agreement they’d negotiated with Church charged on a per‑unit basis, and there were only a few hundred stadiums to sell to. The mp3 was alive, but on life support; to earn substantial profits, the technology would need many more licensees.

For Brandenburg, that meant a continued push for the home consumer. Earlier in the year, he had directed Grill to write a PC application that could encode and play back mp3 files. Finished within a few months, Grill dubbed it the “Level 3 encoder,” or “L3Enc” for short. The program fit on a single 3.5‑inch floppy disk. L3Enc represented a new paradigm of distribution, one in which consumers would create their own mp3 files, then play them from their home PCs. For the home audio enthusiast, the requisite technology was just arriving. Introduced in late 1993, Intel’s powerful new Pentium chips were the first processors capable of playing back an mp3 without stalling. Plus, the new generation of hard drives was enormous: with storage capacity of nearly a gigabyte, they could store almost 200 songs. The biggest limitation was still the encoding process. Due to MPEG’s forced inclusion of the cumbersome MUSICAM filter bank, even a top‑of‑ the‑line Pentium processor would take about six hours to rip an album from a compact disc.

No one at Fraunhofer quite knew what to do with L3Enc. It was a miraculous piece of software, the culmination of a decade of research, capable of taking 12 compact discs and shrinking them to the size of one, unencumbered by any digital rights management. On the other hand, the speed limitations of encoding made it cumbersome. After some internal discussion, Brandenburg made an executive decision: to promote the mp3 standard, Fraunhofer would simply give L3Enc away. Thousands of floppy disks were made, and these were distributed at trade shows through late 1994 and early 1995. Brandenburg encouraged his team members to distribute the disks to friends, family, colleagues, and even competitors.

Meanwhile, Popp continued to make scattered sales of the encoding racks, mostly to curious academics and broadcasting professionals. But the door was open to anyone who called, and that summer they met with another struggling entrepreneur, a former fiber‑optic cable technician turned music impresario named Ricky Adar. Like Seitzer, Adar had hit on the idea for a “digital jukebox.”

Adar believed that in a few years you’d be able to download music directly over the Internet and dispense with the compact disc entirely. The hitch was that audio files were large, and would have to be compressed considerably for the approach to scale. Fraunhofer, of course, had spent years working on exactly this problem. Even so, when Adar arrived at their offices, he wasn’t hoping for much. Given his past experience with audio compression, he expected the mp3 to be a tinny and unusable bust.

Instead, it reproduced CD music with near perfect fidelity at one‑twelfth the size. Adar was astonished. The mp3 seemed a marvel beyond technical comprehension. An entire album at only 40 megabytes! Forget planning for the future—you could implement the digital jukebox right now!

“Do you realize what you’ve done?” Adar asked Brandenburg after their first meeting. “You’ve killed the music industry!”

From How Music Got Free by Stephen Witt, published on June 16, 2015 by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright by Stephen Witt, 2015.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Books

Quiz: Which Alice in Wonderland Character Are You?

The Dodo solemnly presents Alice with a thimble Illustration by John Tenniel from the book Alices's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll published 1891
Universal Images Group / Getty Images The Dodo solemnly presents Alice with a thimble Illustration by John Tenniel from the book Alices's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Let TIME determine your Wonderland soul mate

Precisely 150 years ago, a fantastic story written by an Oxford mathematician starting circulating around England—and breaking all the Victorians’ rules about children’s literature. This unpredictable tale didn’t have pious morals; it had talking animals and death jokes and buckets upon buckets of nonsense.

Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has enchanted artists, thinkers and readers in the last century and a half, partly because of its wonderful clash of characters, from the curious to the brave to the chronically decapitating. Take TIME’s quiz and find out which one is most like you.



TIME Books

See How Lewis Carroll’s Alice Evolved Through the Decades

The world first met Alice in July of 1865

It was precisely 150 years ago this week—on July 4, 1865—that the world first met a very special girl, who in the decades since has taught countless readers (and movie- and theatergoers) about the importance of believing in the impossible.

lewis carroll
Oscar Gustav Rejlander—The Morgan Library & MuseumPhotograph of Lewis Carroll, 1863.

Charles Dodgson, better known by his pseudonym Lewis Carroll, had taken a boat trip exactly three years earlier, on July 4, 1862, with a group that included a girl named Alice Liddell. Liddell was a daughter of the Dean of Christ Church at Oxford, where Dodgson was studying mathematics. (Some people have questioned the nature of Carroll’s relationship with Alice, although there appears to be little firm evidence that it was not benign.) As the Lewis Carroll Society tells it, it was on that outing that he began to tell the story of another Alice, who found her way to a magical place underground. The character’s real-life inspiration loved the story and asked him to write it down for her, which he did.

That story became Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which was published in a very limited run by Macmillan on July 4, 1865, with illustrations by John Tenniel. A few weeks later, Tenniel announced that he didn’t like the quality of the first printing and asked to have the edition withdrawn. The book didn’t become more widely available until that holiday season, but according to the University of Florida libraries—which hold a collection of editions of the work—it was from the July 4 printing that Alice Liddell was given her very own copy of the book she helped bring into the world. Accordingly, July 4 is celebrated throughout Oxford as Alice’s Day.

Many other museums, libraries and groups will also celebrate Alice‘s birthday this week; one of the Tenniel illustrations in the gallery above, for example, can be seen at the new exhibit Alice: 150 Years of Wonderland, on view now through Oct. 11 at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City.

In the 150 years since John Tenniel’s illustrations first helped the world imagine Alice, depictions of the character have evolved—but she has never lost her sense of wonder.

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Powerful Books to Improve Your Life

A book is a powerful external force that can change everything about who you are

Quiz time: Can you name Newton’s first law of motion?

No? (Don’t feel bad, I had to look it up, too.)

Newton declared, “Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.”

In other words, if you are flying in the International Space Station and toss an apple out the window (come on, use your imagination), it will keep going in that same direction forever, unless something stops it (like a planet, gravity or alien life form).

Although Newton was talking about physics, little did he know he was also describing life.

People tend to move in the same direction as they always have unless some external force is applied. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my life to be lived in a straight line. I want to change, to improve, to crush it.

This is why I read.

A book is a powerful external force that can completely knock your life off its mundane straight line and change everything about who you are. The following are five books that did just that in my life.

  • 1. Rich Dad, Poor Dad

    Goldmann TB

    Something was eating me alive inside. (No, it wasn’t a parasite.) It was an idea.

    Something about work, life, money, wealth and freedom — but I couldn’t quite say what that idea was. For months it weighed on me, but I couldn’t find words to express it.

    Then came Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki.

    Finally, there were words for the internal dialogue that was taking place every minute of my life. I could finally form my abstract thoughts about money into actual speech — and it changed my life forever.

    It’s hard to say exactly what Rich Dad, Poor Dad is because it means so many different things to so many different people. But the gist of it is this: The poor work for their money, but the rich make their money work for them. It’s a mindset book more than anything, but with enough stories and examples to keep you captivated. It’s no wonder this book is hands down the most popular book recommended by guests on The BiggerPockets Podcast that I co-host each week.

    Kiyosaki taught me to stop saying, “It can’t be done,” and start asking, “How can it be done?” in every area of life. He started me on a journey that led me to buy my first rental property, followed by dozens of other investment properties that got me out of the “rat race” by the time I was 27.

    For the first time, I began to see that wealth is not an accident, but an action. (Yes, I expect you to tweet that! I worked hard on that line!)

    Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Rich Dad, Poor Dad this week.

  • 2. The Total Money Makeover

    Thomas Nelson Publishing

    A year after reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad, a friend from church recommended I read through Dave Ramsey’s book The Total Money Makeover, and once again, my life took a turn for the better after a rude awakening: my spending was out of control!

    I was spending $1,000 a month more than I was making. How did I not realize this?

    The Total Money Makeover helped me to look at my personal finances with more seriousness and gave me a passion to pay off debt, live more frugally, and save more money.

    Suddenly, having a budget didn’t seem like a chore, it felt like I finally had a reign on my wallet. I was in control of my spending. My spending was not in control of me.

    As an entrepreneur, some months are financially better than others. However, because of the lessons I learned from The Total Money Makeover, I’m better prepared to handle the difficult times because I have a strong personal finance foundation.

  • 3. The 4-Hour Workweek

    Crown Publishers, Inc.

    No, I don’t work four hours a week. No, I don’t travel to exotic countries to salsa dance. I don’t even know what Chinese kickboxing is.

    But Tim Ferriss’ story and philosophy about business and life resonated with me in a powerful way that altered my life, my relationships, my free time and my purpose.

    Whereas Rich Dad, Poor Dad taught me that wealth was mine for the taking, The 4-Hour Workweek taught me that life was mine for the taking.

    I don’t need to wait until I’m 62 to enjoy the fruits of my labor. I don’t need to have $1,000,000 in the bank to achieve the life that millionaires brag about. I don’t need to slave away at a job I hate just to pay the bills.

    There is another way.

    Part productivity handbook, part inspirational and part lesson in entrepreneurship, The 4-Hour Workweek refuses to be classified as anything but what it truly is: life-changing.

    I think critics of The 4-Hour Workweek tend to focus too much on the specifics of the book. “I can’t do that in my job” or “I don’t want to travel the world like Ferriss.” They are missing the point and can’t see the forest for the trees.

    You don’t need to hire a virtual assistant for $2 an hour to change your life (though, I did). You don’t need to start an online business that generates passive income (though, I did). You don’t even need to backpack Europe like a hippy (though, I did). However, there are ways you can improve your business and life through efficiency and optimization.

    For example, I hate talking on the phone with tenants, so after reading The 4-Hour Workweek, I hired someone part time to answer phones for me and show vacant units. The cost to me is tiny compared the amount of mental space it cleared up in my life, time that I could spend doing business activities I actually enjoy doing.

    To sum up The 4-Hour Workweek: Find things in life that make you passionate, pursue them with all your soul, and enjoy a glass of red wine while you are at it.

  • 4. The Lean Startup

    Crown Business

    The fourth book to cross my path at just the right time was The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.

    I had used real estate investing to get out of the rat race and was able to jump into my passion: teaching real estate to others. BiggerPockets was a small company at the time, with just the CEO and one developer. When I came on board, suddenly I was over my head in a world I knew nothing about: startup culture.

    This is when The Lean Startup changed everything for me. No doubt, you’ve heard of this book, as the entire startup world has been transformed by lean methodology. Rather than building something that I want, why not build something everyone will want?

    The Lean Startup got me excited about building a business that mattered, not just a business that made some money.

  • 5. The One Thing

    Bard Press

    Life gets hectic, does it not?

    I was working 100 hours a week between managing my rental properties, flipping houses, working at BiggerPockets and working on side projects as well. And I was burning out.

    That’s when this final book book took me by the shoulders and gave me a good, hard shake. The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan is an easy to read but profound book that helped me to focus on keeping the main thing the main thing in all areas of my life.

    The One Thing asks, “What’s the one thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

    By asking this question a dozen times a day, I am finding more time in my day to work calmly, taking less work home with me at night, fielding fewer emails and producing more income each month. It’s like magic.

    Are you ready to escape the “straight-line life” and allow books to change who you are? If so, I highly recommend starting with these five books.

    This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com

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