8 books that fundamentally changed me as a person

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I read a lot of books. One year (2018) I read 52, in fact. I think my natural cadence is more like 3/month, with an even split between physical books, Kindle, and Audible.

I read all sorts of books. Mostly non-fiction, but I throw in the occasional fiction book here and there (I’m a newcomer to Stephen King, and a big fan of the Prey books by John Sandford).

In some cases, books will give you a few good takeaways that you *might* put into use in your life. More often, they’re a nice distraction from the day-to-day, giving you something to think about but not making much of an impact on your life overall.

And then you get your hands on that special book. You know the one. That book you find yourself pulled to, searching for time in your day to get back to it, sneaking in some pages while you’re waiting in the doctor’s office, jotting notes down of things you’re going to do differently, and telling everyone you know that they just have to read it.

Yes, there are those rare books that change us forever. I took a look back at my reading history and found a handful of books that changed me (hopefully for the better <shrug>).

The list is small. Only books that changed me deeply are listed. And I broke them up into two categories: books that changed me as a person and books that changed me as a leader.

Books that changed me as a person

Just Mercy

This book by Bryan Stevenson helped me continue to see how privileged I am, while also showing me the way that our society works so hard to punish those that look different from those of us in power. Heartbreaking and powerful. I listened to this one on Audible and there were several times I was driving with tears in my eyes.


It is nearly impossible to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. This book by Matthew Desmond does a superb job bringing to light the stories of people struggling to find a safe place to live, and the system that keeps them from doing just that.

A River in Darkness

Heartbreaking is a theme so far, and this book is just as crushing as the first two. The brutal life that so many around the world are subjected to, and specifically in this book the focus is on those in North Korea, is hard to fathom. How can people treat other human beings like this?

Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon

I knew nothing about Bobby Kennedy before I read this book five years ago. And I’ve been obsessed with him ever since. Even named a nonprofit after him (Ripples of Hope). Bobby was not perfect by any stretch, but what pulls me toward him is how he transformed his life, spending the last five years focused on using his vast privilege to fight poverty, racism, and oppression wherever he saw it. He was almost surely going to be elected president in 1968 — before he was assassinated, resulting in Richard Nixon winning the election — and the world was never the same.

Born to Run

This book helped me find the joy in running. A fun, engaging read to be sure, but if you’re a runner or aspire to be one, put this book at the top of your list. I now believe that humans were in fact born to run, and I now find myself among the many runners out on the road.

Books that changed me as a leader

The Great Game of Business

It was like fireworks were going off in my head as I read this book. Before reading The Great Game of Business, I had run companies for 15 years. And I was doing it all wrong. The Great Game will be a staple of my companies until I’m done, and I’m teaching the program to anyone that will listen. Of course, at Dragon Army we call it The Great Game of Dragon Army (GGoDA) ;)

Great by Choice

One of Jim Collins lesser known books, to me this is the best one. Leadership requires thoughtful strategy and patience. The way I approach growing my companies will never be the same after reading this book.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

I didn’t realize how important trust was to a successful business until I read this Patrick Lencioni book. It’s my favorite of his, and I love his writing style — he uses a narrative format to tell the story, allowing the reader to become engaged with the characters and helping to bring the concepts to light. I love it so much, I wrote my book in the same style ;)

What about you? What books would you share that changed your life forever?

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