The NF Library: 16 Books to Inspire, Educate, and Level Up Your Life

Lego Library

I’m a huge bookworm.  

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve loved reading and always wanted one of those houses with massive bookshelves filled to the top with interesting books.  I’ve since abandoned my dreams for big book shelves and have since embraced the ebook (thank you Kindle!), which has allowed me to to crank through 4+ books a month.

If you happen to love reading as well, this post is for you.

This content will also live over at and will be updated frequently, so feel free to bookmark that page and check it each month!

Here are my favorite books, covering my favorite genres.  Enjoy, ya nerd!

Fitness and Diet

starting strengthStarting Strength, by Mark Rippetoe – If you are serious about weight training, this is your bible.  Mark goes into incredible detail with each and every one of the major barbell lifts.  Heck, there are like seventy pages about squats alone!  Back when I started lifting, this book was instrumental in changing how I approached my fitness and training.  If you ever have any plans to pick up a barbell, plunk down the money for a physical copy of this book.

four hour bodyThe Four Hour Body, by Tim Ferriss –  Although I don’t agree with every one of Tim’s opinions nor all of the claims in the book, he has created an incredibly vast and diverse reference of that shows what we’re capable of, if we’re willing to work for it.  Rather than an end-all, be-all fitness book, I found the Four-Hour Body to make me constantly say: “Wow I didn’t even think about that, time to start experimenting with my own workouts.”

why we get fatWhy We Get Fat And What to Do About It, by Gary Taubes – Gary Taubes has consistently impressed me with his writing, research, and logical arguments when it comes to why we get fat.  Some of his claims in this book are a stretch, but everything in it will make you say, “interesting perspective, definitely food for thought (ha!)” Before you dive into this book, check out Gary’s “What if its All Been a Big Fat Lie?” in the New York Times to see if you like his style:  I found this book easier to get through than the great “Good Calories Bad Calories.”

paleo solutionThe Paleo Solution, by Robb Wolf – The Paleo Diet confuses the crap out of people, which I guess is why The Beginner’s Guide to the Paleo Diet is the most popular (and commented on) article on Nerd Fitness!  Of all the books I’ve read on the Diet, I found Robb’s book to be the most enjoyable and easy to read.  He takes a firm line on what’s paleo and what’s not, and I really enjoyed his no-bs writing style and content.

Self Improvement

power of habitThe Power of Habitby Charles Duhigg – I wrote an article about this book a few weeks ago because I’ve found it to be that important to how Nerd Fitness operates.  Charles does such a great job of breaking down habit change and habit formation that you really end up with a different perspective on what you can accomplish.  If you are a person that struggles to make positive changes, this article provides you with all of the tools and information you need to help yourself make lasting changes.

i will teach you to be richI Will Teach You To Be Richby Ramit Sethi – This should be required reading for every college graduate.  I knew little about personal finance (and thus had nothing prepared); now, I have a fully funded Roth IRA, savings accounts set up for emergencies and expenses, and I’m paying off my student loans at twice the required pace.  I’m not saying these things to brag, but rather to show you that if a guy who knew nothing about any of this stuff can take control in a few years, you can too.  Ramit’s blog is great too.

millionaire next doorThe Millionaire Next Door, by Thomas Stanley – I really loved this book, as it shifted my perspective on who the truly wealthy are. Hint: It’s probably not the people with the biggest houses or flashiest cars!  This book provides a great window into how people who are smart with their money manage to eventually amass large amounts of wealth: safe investments, living well below their means, and not worrying about trying to impress others with material goods.  A great book for people who want to build a financially stable future.

emergencyEmergency, by Neil Strauss – Okay, not really a self-improvement book…unless you’re trying to become Jason Bourne.  Fortunately for me, I AM trying to become Jason Bourne, so this book opened my eyes up to a whole new world of what’s actually possible with enough time, money, resources, and craziness 🙂


four hour work weekThe Four Hour Workweek, by Tim Ferriss – I bought the Four Hour Workweek on a lunch break five years ago, read it in two days, and three days later purchased  This book planted the seed in my brain for building a small business and traveling the world.  Although sections of the book can come across as an online get-rich-quick scheme, it’s incredibly inspiring.  Whenever I need a boost of motivation I reread the first few chapters.  If you’re looking to break free, this is a great eye-opener, as is Tim’s blog.

100 startupThe $100 Startup, by Chris Guillebeau – Tim’s book got me started, but Chris’s blog and 279 Days to Overnight Success is the reason Nerd Fitness turned into a blog.  Chris is also the reason I could afford to travel so much!  I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know Chris a bit over the past few years, and I even got the chance to introduce him at a book launch party a few months back in San Francisco.  If you want to make a living online, the Four Hour Workweek will inspire you to act, and The $100 Startup will tell you how to do it.

losing my virginityLosing My Virginity, by Richard Branson – An incredible autobiography that reads more like a work of fiction, thanks to Branson’s incredible adventures and risky decisions as an entrepreneur and daredevil.  Tim inspired me to start, Chris inspired me to make it a blog, and Mr. Branson inspired me to think BIG for what’s possible with this community.  It’s worth the read even for non-entrepreneurs due to the Branson’s hilarious stories.


pillars of the earthPillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett – One of my favorite books of all time.  Who knew building a church could be so exciting?.  This is a book I legitimately couldn’t put down until I finished…which was unfortunate because it’s 900+ pages and weighs quite a bit.  Love, treason, murder, mystery, action, Pillars of the Earth has it all.  I’m a sucker for historical fiction, which is probably why I love Assassin’s Creed so much.  This book was turned into a Starz mini-series that was pretty well done –  watch after reading!

a game of thronesGame of Thrones, by George. R. R. Martin – I almost hesitate to recommend reading these books yet, because there are still two more books that need to be written!  You’ll power through all five that are currently available, and then realize it’ll be another decade before you get to figure out how the story ends!   The HBO interpretation certainly does the series justice.

the name of the windIn the Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss – I read this first book in the Kingkiller Chronicles trilogy on the recommendation of a Nerd Fitness rebel years ago, and it turned out to be one of the best Fantasy novels I’ve ever read. It starts out slow, but once Kvothe starts telling the story of his childhood, you won’t be able to stop reading.

What I’m reading right now

cloud atlasCloud Atlasby David Mitchell – I bought this book thanks to this 5-minute trailer for the upcoming movie adaptation of Cloud Atlas. Watch the trailer, and you’ll go “wow that looks awesome, but I have no clue what is happening.”  Well, I’m 40% of the way through the book, and I still have no clue what’s happening! I’m enjoying the journey thus far, and will let you know shortly if it’s worth the read.

What’s next?

These are the books I have in my lineup, ready to read once I finish Cloud Atlas:

The Nerd Fitness Book Club

book club

My previous article about reading was a huge hit (big shock, I know…nerds loving books), and I knew I wanted to do some sort of Nerd Fitness book club.  Sure enough, a few days later, before I even had the chance to announce anything, the Rebels of the Message Boards went ahead and created an “unofficial” (which then became “totally official”) book club.

They are are currently voting on which book they’ll be reading for the 6 week challenge, free to jump into the fray, read the book, and join the discussion.  I hope to announce a new book each month that we can all read together in a more organized fashion.

Now it’s YOUR turn: What are you reading currently?

What belongs in the NF library?  Any book recommendations for me?



Today’s Rebel Hero:  Nick H, who I met up with while at Oktoberfest in Munich!

These past few days, I’ve gotten a chance to cross two things off the Epic Quest of Awesome (Oktoberfest and visiting Neuschwantstein Castle), which gave me enough experience to level up and finally reach double digits!  Level 10 baby!  BIG thanks to Nick, his lovely wife, and their great friends for welcoming us into their group in Munich.  Lots of good times and LOTS of good beer.  I’m currently in Prague exploring and will be back soon!

photo: lego library, book club

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117 thoughts on “The NF Library: 16 Books to Inspire, Educate, and Level Up Your Life

  1. Just finished flow by mihaly. Great to read after the fountainhead. And infinite jest if you’re a lit nerd. B david foster wallace. It can be kinda depressing but it’s got a strong theme of paying attention to the choices you make. It shows what happens when you fail to make thoughtful choices. Make sure you read all the endnotes!

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  3. Ready Player One was absolutely incredible. The fact that there was a real life Easter egg game associated with it makes it that much cooler.

  4. One of my favorite books, and one I read every year, is Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. It’s about an expedition to Everest. It’s amazing what people can do when they put their mind to something. And what people are capable of when lives depend on them.

  5. On training I like Dinosaur training.And four the older nerd Gray hair and black iron. Both by Brooks Kubik.

  6. No idea if anyone will see this comment after ten months (!) but I wanted to mention Susan Jeffers’ “Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway”. This book turned my life around as a teenager.

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