I was never a big reader when I was in school. And I dreaded book reports (mostly because they usually involved some sort of diorama). But I trudged through my school years reading all the fiction books that my teachers assigned: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Ramona the Pest, and of course, The Great Gatsby. But to be honest, I wasn’t a big fan. That’s not to say fiction books are bad, but I tend to prefer things that are a little more based in reality (which is probably why I want to go on Survivor).
As an adult, I discovered the wonderful world of non-fiction books. And I gobble them up like buffalo chicken dip on Super Bowl Sunday. Some are better than others, but many of them have transformed my life. Here is a countdown of my top ten favorite non-fiction books that I think everyone should read.
- Necessary Endings – Dr. Henry Cloud
Have you ever known that something in your life needed to end? A relationship? A business deal? A job? Sometimes it can be hard to let go of things, especially when your heart or passion is involved. Back in 2014, I experienced this when I had to make the difficult decision to leave my dream job. And I’m thankful I read this book. Dr. Henry Cloud offers practical and expert advice on how to make these tough decisions in a healthy way.
- Eat Mor Chikin Inspire More People – S. Truett Cathy
If there’s one guarantee in the Porteous household, it’s that we’ll find our way to a Chick-fil-A at least once a week. But why? Sure the food is good, but it’s the cleanliness, respect, and hospitality that sets Chick-fil-A apart from just about every other restaurant. This book takes you into the early days when S. Truett Cathy founded Chick-fil-A based on several key principles. If you ever want to start a business of your own, or you’re just curious about how Chick-fil-A became the juggernaut it is today, it’s my pleasure to suggest you read this book.
- Creativity, Inc. – Ed Catmull
So…full confession. I haven’t seen a lot of Pixar movies. (I know. I know. But my kids are a little too young for most of them. We’ll get there, though. I promise.) But there’s no argument that Pixar has taken animated movies to new heights, setting box office records and accumulating numerous academy awards. This book takes you behind the scenes to learn the techniques and strategies Pixar used to rise and stay at the top. If you’re tired of settling for the status quo and want to dig deeper into your creative world, this book is for you.
- The Big Short – Michael Lewis
Remember the housing crash and financial crisis of 2008? Apparently a handful of guys actually predicted it, but not a lot of people listened. This is a fascinating true story that makes some difficult-to-understand financial situations a little bit clearer. But caution: it will leave you shaking your head in frustration.
- Quitter – Jon Acuff
I’ve read just about all of Jon Acuff’s books. And I’ll admit that some of his others are probably better. But when I read this book, I was in a job in which I felt stagnant and frustrated. And this was the first book I ever read that gave me real and practical tips to chase my dream job. So many other books about this topic get lost in tired clichés and cheap motivational quotes. But not this one. It’s funny. It’s honest. And it will leave you with the tools you need to make a change (when the time is right).
- Entreleadership – Dave Ramsey
The only author with 2 non-fiction books in my top 10, Dave Ramsey has a way of taking difficult concepts and making them easy to understand. His practical nature is something that I’ve always been drawn to, and that’s definitely the case with this book. Are you an entrepreneur who lacks the practical leadership skills needed to run a business? Are you a born leader who understands the details needed to be successful but lacks a visionary spirit? This book combines the two and shares how Dave took his business from a card table in his living room to one of the best places to work in Nashville.
- The Millionaire Next Door – Thomas J. Stanley, Ph.D. and William D. Danko, Ph.D.
What if I told you that the majority of millionaires in America did not achieve such a status because of an inheritance or their degree? Oh…and they probably drive a used car. In fact, there may be some living in your very own neighborhood. Based on thorough research on the millionaires in America, this book looks at the most common principles that this select group of people live by. I don’t know if I’ll ever be a millionaire, but the information in this book forced me to really consider how I spend, save, and invest my money.
- The Total Money Makeover – Dave Ramsey
Two days after Alissa and I got married, we flew to Costa Rica for an all-inclusive, 10-day honeymoon. It was the best vacation I’d ever been on in my life (for obvious reasons). We went whitewater rafting, zip lining through the rainforest, and…read The Total Money Makeover while laying by the pool. Seriously, who reads on their honeymoon? But this book is so good, and it’s been foundational for our marriage. If you’ve ever been intimidated by budgeting, confronting your debt, or the various financial terms that can make your head spin, this book breaks them down and makes it practical for anyone to implement. Pick up a copy, apply the principles, and watch it transform the way you live.
- Good to Great – Jim Collins
This is the best business book I’ve ever read, and with all due respect to the other non-fiction books on the list, it’s not even close. Another research-based book, the beauty in this one is that, if you focus on the principles, you can apply it to just about anything. Do you work for a company? Do you have a family? Do you run a ministry? If you want to take them to the next level, you must read this book.
- How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
I truly believe that if every person in our country read this book, it would transform our current political climate. Of all the non-fictions books I’ve read, this is the only one I’ve ever read twice. It’s that good. Written in the 1930s, there are so many nuggets of wisdom in this book that I go back to them often to improve the way I relate to people. I still have a long way to go, and it may take me a lifetime to get there, but I’m grateful to Dale Carnegie for the principles in this book. They’ve made me a better writer, communicator, husband, father, friend, and employee. And I know they can do the same for you.
I know I left off some classics. The Bible and other spiritual books come to mind. And while those books are sure to transform your life, the reality is that they need a category all to themselves. But these 10 non-fiction books have had a profound impact on me, and I know they could do the same for you. So pick one that sounds interesting, head to your local library (or Amazon), and start reading. You’ll be thankful you did.
Question: What are the best non-fiction books you’ve ever read? (Share with others in the comments below.)