Reading is one of the most important activities a musician can engage in.
It can stimulate your imagination, give you ideas for songs and even teach you valuable tactics and strategies for furthering your career.
But it can be hard to know where to start, especially if you’re not in the habit of reading a lot.
Not to worry – I read many books every single year, and on this list, you will discover some of best I’ve read.
In this section, we’ll explore a few catch-all books that most readers would do well to acquaint themselves with.
Essentially, these volumes are general personal development works aimed at helping you get more out of life in general.
If you haven’t read them yet, however, don’t skip over them. They will set a solid foundation for the other books on this list.
As A Man Thinketh by James Allen
James Allen’s As A Man Thinketh is a classic personal development work that tells it like it is.
There isn’t necessarily anything earth-shattering here, but if you’ve never learned that there are both positive and negative approaches to life, and that one produces results while the other leaves you empty and defeated, you must give this short book a read.
The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson
Most of us don’t understand the benefit of small, positive choices repeated over the long haul. We also underestimate the impact of the opposite – small, negative choices made long-term.Most of us don’t understand the benefit of small, positive choices repeated over the long haul. Click To Tweet
The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson will make it clear why some people end up rich and some people end up with heart attacks. And, you will discover why it has everything to do with what you choose today.
The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy
Best read in tandem with The Slight Edge, The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy begins by covering the same ground Jeff Olson spends his entire book on. So, the opening chapters of this book will reinforce what you learned in The Slight Edge.
Fortunately, the rest of the book gets into valuable insights into personal development, and Hardy’s advice is among the best available.
The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz
Often cited as a foundational work in personal development, The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz is a magical book that changes as you grow. Every read-through will be different depending on where you are in life.
One of the key takeaways is to drop your excuses regarding anything you’re trying to achieve. Makes sense. If we hold tightly to the righteousness of our excuses, we won’t see the limitless possibilities staring back at us.If we hold tightly to the righteousness of our excuses, we won’t see the limitless possibilities staring back at us. Click To Tweet
If you can effectively marry music with business, you will achieve expanded outcomes in your music career. That’s the philosophy that I hold to.
So, here are my favorite business books that inspire, entertain and educate. They aren’t stuffy, boring or overly academic.
The Go-Giver by Bob Burg & John David Mann
The Go-Giver by Bob Burg & John David Mann explains how adding value to others and being generous ultimately leads to growth in your business.
When I think of all the tips and advice I’ve given away, entirely for free on the blog and podcast, I can clearly see all the ways it has benefited the growth of my business.
So, The Go-Giver is a worthy idea.
Double Double by Cameron Herold
Cameron Herold’s Double Double easily makes my top 10 list of books (not just business books).
The promise of the book is simple – doubling your business’ profits and revenue in three years or less.
As a musician, it’s unlikely you will adopt the entire strategy detailed in this work. But there are still ideas worth understanding and implementing, such as Herold’s Vivid Vision process, also described in his book of the same title.
Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a musician, freelancer or entrepreneur – Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid comes with a thorough framework on how to generate more leads and more business.
I remember reading this when my stable of projects and clients was already full to overflowing, but this will prove even more useful to anyone who’s got the makings of solid revenue streams but wants to systematize and grow it.
Content Inc. by Joe Pulizzi
Building an online business on the back of content may have been a novel idea 20 to 25 years ago, but today it’s a given.
So, if you aren’t already acquainted with this process, or simply want to upgrade your content marketing game, you must give Content Inc. by Joe Pulizzi a read.
This book features a lot of great examples, from bloggers and podcasters to YouTubers and beyond. So, don’t be fooled by the title, premise or the author. This book couldn’t be more on-point for musicians building a career using any type of content.
Work Less, Make More by James Schramko & Kelly Exeter
I’ve learned a great deal from Schramko, and one of the biggest things I got from seeking coaching from him was more traffic. As result of what I’ve learned from him, I’ve been able to double, triple, quadruple and even 8x my website traffic.
But this book will have you evaluating and considering a great deal more, from how to work more effectively by reducing your hours to steps you can take to increase revenue from any product you’ve already developed.
Anything You Want by Derek Sivers
I was relatively familiar with the content in Derek Sivers’ Anything You Want before reading it, but I don’t regret reading it one bit.
I agree with Sivers – business is your utopia. You create the rules. Assuming you’re doing right by your customers and generating the type of revenue you want to create for sustainability and beyond, the rest is up to you.
How do you want to run your career/business?
No B.S. Business Success In The New Economy by Dan S. Kennedy
In the last year, I’ve become a Dan Kennedy junkie, so you probably knew that a few of his books would make this list.
Here we have what I would consider to be one of Kennedy’s defining works – No B.S. Business Success In The New Economy.
The title threw me off a bit, but once I started reading it, it made more sense.
This book is about the commitment required to make any endeavor a success, especially when dealing with customers who are price-conscious, skeptical and recession-weary.
Sex Money Kiss by Gene Simmons
I covered this book at length in a recent blog post. I’m not sure if it would make my top 10 list, but it’s certainly up there.
If you’ve never considered your finances as applied to every area of life, including marriage, then you’re sure to get something from this.
And, that’s the chief strength of Gene Simmons’ Sex Money Kiss. It will teach you how to make more and be smarter with your money.
We all receive communication differently.
Case and point: Religious people might cringe at so-called “curse” words, while the average person makes nothing of them and think of them as a normal part of life.
But these are the types of subtleties that will make all the difference in your communication, and therefore your branding, messaging and marketing.
Here are a couple of books worth digging into.
How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie
The title is kind of weird, but it’s one of the highest selling books of all time for a reason. People want to be able to make friends and share their ideas in a way that leaves others feeling touched, moved and inspired.
Some people say this book is commonsense, but you can throw that idea out the window, because I personally receive plenty of communication that isn’t thoughtful or beneficial. If it was commonsense, everybody would be doing it.
This book is a must.
Speak To Sell by Dan S. Kennedy
Speak To Sell by Dan Kennedy is a powerful book on how to make money as a public speaker.
You may have no desire to become a public speaker (it’s something you could add to your repertoire as a means to grow your music income), and that’s fine, but the number one thing this book will do for you is shift your mindset around money.
This book, combined with Gene Simmons’ Sex Money Kiss is bound to be a revelation as applied to money, as it was for me.
Creativity is where many musicians shine the brightest.
And, I can’t say I’ve read a lot of inspiring creative books. So, we won’t be looking at many books in this category.
With that established, there’s no question it’s still an important category. Musicians are often under a lot of stress to produce on demand.
Here’s a book that can make your life easier.
The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry
Author Todd Henry was on my old podcast and I also talked at length about this book in an earlier blog post.
The Accidental Creative is a deep thought book that offers valuable tips and suggestions for the create on demand professional.
More than ever, to succeed in music, you must be prolific. You will discover helpful frameworks in this book to better structure your creative activity.
As I’ve said before, I hold to the notion that the bank, your financial advisors, your teachers, your family and even your friends can’t teach you financial smarts, except in exceedingly rare situations (i.e. they’re rich).
If you want to learn how to manage your money (and trust me – you need to), then here are a couple of books that will give you a good head start.
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki will do a better job of helping you establish a solid foundation in finances than school ever will.
Discover for yourself the value of the cashflow quadrant, the four steps each of us must master and graduate from to be able to take full control of our financial life.
MONEY Master the Game by Tony Robbins
Personal development guru Tony Robbins studied and interviewed some of the top thinkers in finances and investing to write MONEY Master the Game, another book with some merit as applied to making, saving and growing your money.
One book wasn’t enough, however, as Robbins later launched Unshakable, a book that complements, amends and elaborates on this one. Still, MONEY Master the Game is going to give you a better financial education than post-secondary school can offer.
I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi
Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich is on-point when it comes to teaching you both small- and big-picture ideas to help you figure out your money.
I agree with at least 80% of this book if not more. Some of the tips offered are going to depend on the individual and their exact financial situation. But there isn’t any throwaway advice here.
If you want to make the most of it through, reading it won’t be enough. You must apply what you learn.
Many people feel stuck with their lifestyle and aren’t living the kind of life they want to live. The truth is that you probably have more options than you realize – just that you haven’t been introduced to possibility thinking.
The following books will inspire and give you access to new ways of being that will support you in your desire for a different kind of life.
The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss is a must-read when it comes to lifestyle design. If nothing else, the book will leave you feeling inspired, and when human beings are inspired, they take action. Action is key to getting to where you want to go.When human beings are inspired, they take action. Action is key to getting to where you want to go. Click To Tweet
The title isn’t accurate, as this isn’t a book about how to work four hours per week, but rather a book about living the life you want now instead of putting it off to some undefined date in the future. But you can’t blame the author for A/B testing titles.e
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck could just as easily fit under the Personal Development category. But since it recounts Manson’s own journeys as a digital nomad, Lifestyle seems like a more fitting option.
This book is a call to challenge conventional wisdom, see things from a different perspective and take a different approach to life that will enable you to continually expand your thinking and your horizons.
Studies show that we often overestimate ourselves in every regard – looks, intelligence, personal qualities or more. Read this book to do away with your superiority and see yourself clearly in the mirror once and for all.
Marketing is one of the most important things for musicians to learn. Having said that, there aren’t many books whose method is sound and timeless.
What follows is my top recommendation for marketing books, but you should also consider picking up the books introduced in the Business section, as many of them contain practical and valuable marketing advice as well.
With that, let’s get into this category.
Magnetic Marketing by Dan S. Kennedy
Know it or not, many experts have adopted, adapted and even teach Kennedy’s marketing method. No surprises here – his strategies work.
The difference is this. If you go to any other marketer or engage in their materials, you’re getting the watered down, less effective, less future-proof method.
Without personal development, I would not be the man I am today. It has helped me see beyond my perceived limitations and follies.
The following books are among some of my favorites.
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
Napoleon Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich forms the foundation of many of my personal beliefs.
Hill was clearly an intelligent and long-suffering man. At the recommendation of business magnate Andrew Carnegie, he studied some of the most successful people in the world for decades, culminating into his various books and seminars. This is the most popular of his works.
As I’ve shared before, the title might as well be Think, Act and Grow Rich, as we must act on our ideas, but the title is pointing to something important, that if we think ceaselessly on how to make more money, inevitably, we will, because we will naturally recognize more opportunities.If we think ceaselessly on how to make more money, inevitably, we will. Click To Tweet
Personal Development for Smart People by Steve Pavlina
Steve Pavlina is the undisputed guru of personal development online.
I give Pavlina credit for kick-starting my personal development journey and helping me realize the importance of making conscious decisions in life.
In Personal Development for Smart People, Pavlina adopts the role of the kick-butt coach who will push you as far as you can go and then push you some more. To that extent, don’t expect this to be a walk in the park.
But if you’re serious about your personal growth, this book will show you all the practical ways you can grow.
The Success Principles by Jack Canfield & Janet Switzer
Jack Canfield, of the Chicken Soup for the Soul and The Secret (he appeared as an expert in the movie) fame, put together a detailed tome in the form of The Success Principles – principles to follow if you wish to achieve at a high level in life.
With over 60 principles, I don’t know how you could possibly memorize them and implement them all. But it does work as a mirror. You can use this book as a self-diagnostic tool to determine whether you are on the right track.
And, it’s fair to say this is an inspirational book to boot.
Beyond Positive Thinking by Dr. Robert Anthony and Joe Vitale
Robert Anthony has long been considered the secret to the success of many well-known people. It’s a wonder he’s not more well-known.
Of the ones I’ve read so far, Beyond Positive Thinking is my favorite book by Robert Anthony.
Among other things, this book will paint a realistic picture of what it will take to get to where you want to go in your career and life.
I don’t know too many musicians, marketers or coaches that don’t want to be more productive.
After all, if you could do more in less time, you’d be able to make more music or products, generate more leads, book more gigs, make more money and more.
Here are a few books that will change the way you think about productivity.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
An important foundational work in personal effectiveness (most of us would do well to substitute the term “productivity” with “effectiveness”, as effectiveness is ultimately more desirable than productivity), The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey is his seminal work.
The main thing to understand in this book is Covey’s four quadrants, which help you place your tasks and to-do items in four distinct buckets based on their value.
Getting Things Done by David Allen
Read this book to discover David Allen’s paper-based system for achieving peak productivity.
I originally read Getting Things Done in 2015, and since implementing the GTD method piecemeal, my processes haven’t changed much at all.
As Allen notes, this is an acceptable way to implement GTD. You don’t need to adopt all of his processes. Take what works for you, discard the rest.
No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs by Dan S. Kennedy
If the soft-spoken, inspirational, “you can do it” approach to productivity just isn’t working for you, get acquainted with Dan Kennedy’s sledgehammer, take-no-prisoners methodology instead.
No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs will help you figure out your worth. Then, you will be taught, step-by-step, how to eliminate unnecessary distractions and set up your schedule for peak performance.
This book isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you want to set yourself up for success, you’ll love it.
The spiritual journey is an important undertaking, and many creatives and musicians will testify to its importance. There are so many ways this can play out.
For example, reading about spiritual matters could inspire new music and inform your creative process.
It could help you develop a polarizing message in your music, attracting a specific kind of listener instead of “being for everyone”, which is highly ineffective.
Here are several of my favorite spiritual books.
Desire by John Eldredge
In Desire, author John Eldredge lays out, from a Christian perspective, what it means to be human and to have desires.
This book is not about repressing, suppressing or ignoring your desires. Rather it’s about leaning into the uncomfortable, and considering why you feel so unworthy and guilty about your desires.
If you’re not violating man or God’s laws, odds are the things you desire are coming from a specific place of your inner being, and at minimum, need to be acknowledged. At maximum, they need to be pursued with abandon.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
If you’ve read anything about Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, then words like “amazing”, “inspiring”, “groundbreaking” probably stood out.
The book doesn’t just live up to the hype. It transcends it.
I read this entire book in two or three sittings, just based on how much it resonated with me.
Honestly, though, this book can’t be described. It must be experienced. I will leave the rest to you.
The Power of Intention by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
The late best-selling self-help author Wayne Dyer is credited with the creation of dozens of books, among other products, like audiobooks, DVDs, online courses and more.
The Power of Intention is by far one of his best works on spirituality and personal growth.
Here, Dyer takes a soft-spoken, gentle approach to setting your goals in motion. He offers that everything starts with an intention, and by holding an intention, we can manifest, in reality, what our heart desires.
Final Thoughts on Paradigm Shifting Books
Depending on what you need, and what stage of growth you’re in, there are other books that can produce results for you.
And, although I’ve read 200 to 300 books to this point, I’m always exploring new material, because it continues to inspire my work and help me do what I do better.
If there’s a specific challenge you’re looking to solve in your career right now, share it with the community in the comments below. I’m sure we could help steer you in the right direction.