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Barker is the author of Barking Up The Wrong Tree

I post about a *lot* of books. Most people don’t have the time to read them all but a number of readers have requested a post where I break down my must-reads.

I have a number I want to cover so I’ll do it over a few posts. Obviously I’m posting only books related to the blog’s usual subject matter — don’t be upset there’s no James Joyce on here.

1) Influence

What is it?

Most consider it the single best book on the psychology of persuasion.

What did I learn from it?

There are universal principles that make something influential: scarcity, authority, social proof, liking, reciprocity, and consistency.

This video is a great introduction to Cialdini’s research:

Check out the book here.

2) Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

What is it?

The best, most accessible research-based book on what motivates us.

What did I learn from it?

For jobs that require creativity and problem solving, research shows we’re motivated by a desire for autonomy, mastery and purpose. Money is really only a motivator for work that does not inspire passion or deep thought. The single best motivator is progress, and the best predictor of success is “grit.”

My notes from the book are here. Watch Dan Pink’s TED talk here.

Here’s a great animated video about the book, narrated by author Dan Pink:

Check out the book here.

3) The Power of Habit

What is it?

An engaging read that explains the science of how habits work — and how we can change them.

What did I learn from it?

About 40% of the actions we perform in a day are habits — so we’re on autopilot almost half our life. Identifying what triggers your habits is key. Assigning new habits to established triggers is how you change a bad habit into a good one. Friends can be a major part of whether you’re able to change for the better.

Here’s a great interview with author Charles Duhigg about the book:

Don’t have time to watch the full 40 minute interview? Here’s a 4 minute version.

Check out the book here.

4) The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study

What is it?

They studied over 1000 people for the duration of their lives – from childhood until old age — giving them regular physical and psychological tests and tracking the results.

What they discovered confirmed some things we all believe about what it takes to live a good, long life — and more interestingly they found out where our common beliefs are wrong.

What did I learn from it?

There’s a lot of overlap between what makes us happy and what promotes a long life. Stress isn’t all bad. The good do not die young. Women don’t live longer than men because of biology. Relationships are more important than exercise if you want to live a long life.

The authors discuss the study, the book and the counterintuitive things they learned in this video:

Check out the book here.

5) The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work

What is it?

A Harvard researcher’s very practical book on how to be happier and how happiness can improve your life.

What did I learn from it?

Happiness increases productivity and makes you more successful. The 20 second rule can make you a much better person. There are a lot of simple little things that can make you much happier.

Here’s author Shawn Achor’s


Check out the book here.

Again, they are:

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Related posts:

What 10 things should you do every day to improve your life?

What do people regret the most before they die?

What five things can make sure you never stop growing and learning?

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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