The Books That Got Me Where I Am Today

Written by: Reinder de Vries, June 28 2015, in Guide, Q&A, Stories

Admit it, you’re a bookworm just like me! Over the years, a great deal of books have shaped my thinking, doing and perspective on both life and business. A testimony is the amount of books I brought when moving to Norway back in 2014: almost half of the volume of boxes was filled with literary goodness…

For a long time I’ve wanted to create a living blog post, explaining the books I’ve read and what I liked and didn’t like about them. This article is meant to inspire you, and function as a subjective guide into getting where you want to be. For real – getting where you want to be – as all of the books I’ve read fit in the personal development space.

Let’s go!

The 4 Hour Work Week (Tim Ferriss)

The 4 Hour Work Week (4HWW) is a bible for many digital nomads, internet entrepreneurs and Virtually Rich. The book explains the concept of the work week that’s only 4 hours long, through 4 actionable tasks: Definition, Elimination, Automation and Liberation.

Tim Ferriss works (way) more than 4 hours a week, and so should you. It’s a paradigm, really: eliminate what you don’t want to do, and automate that what you can’t get rid of. Build a business online, and escape the 9-to–5.

I’ve long lost the idea of building a business to get free of long work days and an easier life. Most days I’m stressed out, sleep deprived, longing for a vacation – just like anyone else. Except, there’s one big difference: I can 10x my business, scale up. Want to know how I got started? Read this book.

Must-read for the cubicle jockey, the 9-to–5-er and the aspiring digital nomad.

Get it on Amazon: The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9–5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich

Think And Grow Rich (Napoleon Hill)

This book laid the groundwork for all of the personal development books that followed it. To this day it’s the pinnacle of modern thinking, because Napoleon Hill was way ahead of his time when he wrote this masterpiece in 1937.

It’s incredibly cool to read his personal view on the world, from a time when people still thought “the ether” existed. Hill explains the fundamentals of ambition: achievement through desire. Then, he embarks on a journey to explain you in fine detail the benefits of imagination. He calls it “Infinite Intelligence”, and wants you to use your mind to attract beneficial thought from the ether. Saying it like that is a bit wishy-washy, but what he really means is this: you become what you think. Your focus determines your reality.

Talk to any therapist or psychologist today and they’ll tell you that cognitive behavioral therapy is a driving principle behind many succesful therapies. Although the way we think about our mind has changed since 1937, Hill laid the groundwork for influencing reality with thought. It’s nothing like moving stuff by just thinking about it, but more aligning your actions with your beliefs, and making a plan to get where you want to go.

I absolutely love the intense language of the book, the pages scream power and determination. The chapters are non-repetitive, the book carefully peels of layers of understanding, and it’s an easy read.

Must-read for the self-conscious, determined achiever.

Get it on Amazon: Think and Grow Rich: The Landmark Bestseller – Now Revised and Updated for the 21st Century

Losing My Virginity (Richard Branson)

Losing My Virginity is one of the most personal accounts of one’s life I’ve ever read. I finished it in 2 weeks, with a full hour of daily reading, because the story is so addictive. Richard Branson takes the time to tell about his life, from early childhood to the current day. He’s a fine story-teller, captures your attention and charms you with frightening, touching and inspiring accounts from his life.

My main takeaway from the autobiography is this: be a risk taker. Branson clearly portrays himself as a do-gooder, a huggable entrepreneur with an eye and a heart for people. A finer red line is visible to: he takes on risk, often when it would have been more logical to call it quits. It’s said that a crisis calls for investment, not for giving up, and Branson emphasises this viewpoint in the book.

Must-read for the thrill seeker, lover of personal stories and acolyte of risk.

Get it on Amazon: Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way

The Black Swan (Nassim Nicholas Taleb)

A yes, the Black Swan! The absence of evidence is not the same as the evidence of absence. That you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. The story of the Black Swan explains gaps in our thinking, and introduces the concepts of chaos, chance, the Bell-curve and Extremistan.

It’s an incredibly funny and witty read, although sometimes hard to follow. I can’t really say why and when you should read this book, it’s simply unique. All I can say is, when you’ve finished reading, you look at the world in a different way.

Must-read for White Swans, Black Swans, anyone in between, and everyone else.

Get it on Amazon: The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be (Paul Arden)

This is the first book I ever bought on the topic of personal and professional development. It’s black-and-white cover stood out to me, and flipping through the pages I found it is filled with dozens of short stories about ambition, achievement, working professionally and aiming for the stars.

Paul Arden was a creative director for the world-famous agency Saatchi and Saatchi, and published several books about advertising and motivation. He’s done a terrific job of fitting bite-sized pieces into the book, explaining to you the many things that without a doubt made him successful.

Must-read for the hater of personal development books, it’s a very easy read.

Get it on Amazon: It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be

Invictus (William Ernest Henley)

If I would want a tattoo, this poem is what I would tattoo on my arm. Here, read the last 2 verses:

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

This poem has it all. It’s the strong language that got me, and when you’d Google the meaning of “unconquerable”, this poem you should find. When you can’t get out of bed in the morning, read this poem. When you’re scared, hurt, beaten, burnt: read this poem.

Must-read for the true soulcaptain.

Get it on Wikipedia: Invictus

Anything You Want (Derek Sivers)

Anything You Want is the autobiography slash relatable personal development journey of Derek Sivers. Sivers is well-known for selling his CD Baby venture for $ 20 M, and writing 16 books on startup culture in 16 Asian countries.

I had the pleasure of proof-reading the book in 2011, and absolutely loved it. The book is a very relatable story about the start of CD Baby, how it was sold, and what that meant for the storyteller. At the same time, Sivers transmuted the story into bite-sized advice for the entrepreneur. Each of the chapters features one theme, and explains very basic and foundational principles to the reader. It’s not very technical, and reads like a breeze, making it ideal for those who don’t like complex reading, but still want to learn about the world.

Must-read for the lover of fables, short novels and inspiring stories, and for future millionaires.

Get it on Amazon: Anything You Want

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Written By: Reinder de Vries

Reinder de Vries is an indie app maker who teaches aspiring app developers and marketers how to build their own apps at He has developed 50+ apps and his code is used by millions of users all over the globe. When he’s not coding, he enjoys strong espresso and traveling.

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