21 lessons

I love to read books and, if you’re here, you probably do as well…or you’d like to get more into the habit of reading.

It doesn’t matter if you prefer paperback books, hardcover books, audio books, or e-books; books are essential, because nothing compares to the deep learning and insights you can garner when you plunge into an extensive work of fiction or non-fiction by a talented writer.

Articles, videos, podcasts, and other shorter bursts of media are helpful and important as well, but they are a complement to books rather than a substitute. If you perceive that you don’t “have time” to read books, chances are you’re spending time on at least a couple of activities that don’t add a lot of value to your life. Once you identify such activities, you can transfer that energy to reading.

I find that most voracious readers enjoy getting recommendations from other readers. I’m asked quite often about my favorite books, and so I thought it would be helpful to list them all in one blog and categorize them; these categories align with my website’s overall blog categories. Since I’m constantly reading and discovering new titles, I update this post every one to two months; so please keep checking back and contact me with your book recommendations as well.

Mindfulness, Learning Agility, and Storytelling

  • Zinn, Jon-Kabat, Meditation Is Not What You Think: Mindfulness and Why It Is So Important
  • Hanh, Thich Nhat, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching
  • Spira, Rupert, Being Aware of Being Aware
  • Brach, Tara, True Refuge
  • Tan, Chade-Meng, Search Inside Yourself
  • Riso, Don Richard, The Wisdom of the Enneagram
  • Tolle, Eckhart, The Power of Now and A New Earth
  • Smith, Huston, The World’s Religions
  • Hallenbeck, George, Learning Agility
  • Godin, Seth, This is Marketing
  • Burnett, Bill, and Evans, Dave, Designing Your Life
  • Pink, Daniel, A Whole New Mind
  • Ferriss, Timothy, The 4-Hour Work Week
  • Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi, We Should All Be Feminists
  • Wilkerson, Isabel, The Warmth of Other Suns
  • Loehr, Jim, and Schwartz, Tony, The Power of Full Engagement
  • Rohr, Richard, Falling Upward
  • Block, Peter, The Answer to How is Yes Gelb, Michael, How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci


  • Harari, Yuval Noah, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century
  • Harari, Yuval Noah, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
  • LeMay, Matt, Agile for Everybody
  • Clifton, Jim, and Harter, Jim, It’s the Manager
  • Johnson, Whitney L., Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work
  • Duhigg, Charles, The Power of Habit
  • Myer, Pamela, The Agility Shift
  • Pinker, Steven, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress
  • Tippett, Krista, Becoming Wise
  • Newport, Cal, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World  

Fiction That Illuminates Human Nature

  • Carver, Raymond, Where I’m Calling From: Selected Stories
  • Lee, Harper, To Kill a Mockingbird
  • King, Stephen, The Stand
  • Rowling, JK, Harry Potter series
  • Hemingway, Ernest, The Old Man and the Sea
  • Orwell, George, 1984 and Animal Farm
  • Salinger, JD, The Catcher in the Rye
  • Puzo, Mario, The Godfather
  • Kerouac, Jack, On the Road
  • Morrison, Toni, Beloved
  • Doerr, Anthony, All the Light We Cannot See
  • Steinbeck, John, East of Eden
  • Hurston, Zora Neale, Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • Marquez, Gabriel-Garcia, 100 Years of Solitude
  • Wroblewski, David, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
  • Hesse, Herman, Siddhartha
  • Dickens, Charles, Great Expectations

Writers and Writing

  • Prose, Francine, Reading Like a Writer
  • King, Stephen, On Writing
  • Gilbert, Elizabeth, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
  • Lencek, Lena, and Brunello, Pero, How to Write Like Chekhov
  • Hemingway, Ernest, Ernest Hemingway on Writing
  • Pressfield, Steven, The War of Art
  • Moore, Dinty W., The Mindful Writer
  • O’Brien, Tim, The Things They Carried (a memoir by a Vietnam veteran; not a book on writing per  se, but the prose itself is worth several semesters of an MFA program!)

In my work, I write, strategize, and coach about how to develop three core skills for career happiness and career sustainability–mindfulness, learning agility, and storytelling, and their corresponding habits. These are the skills that will help us thrive amid disruptive possibilities such as AI, Big Data Algorithms, and Biotechnology, and make wise, courageous choices in the face of Climate Change, and Industrial Complexes..

Curious to learn more? Check out the blogs and books that are already here and join our learning community to receive exclusive content on a monthly basis.

John M. DeMarco is a writer, strategist, and executive coach based in Nashville, Tennessee.