Reading is not just something you should do on vacation, or when you have free time. It should be, like all important things in your life, a daily practice, something you’re working to get better at. Although I certainly read on some days more than others, I work hard to make sure I read something every day.
That means I am spending time each day with whatever book I am trying to get through, but it means I spend time, daily, with a few specific books (and authors) that I benefit from each time I pick them up. Which is why I am sending this special Reading List Email with some recommendations of books (and sites) I try to look at every single morning.
And don’t tell me you don’t have time to read every day. You do!
A Calendar of Wisdom by Leo Tolstoy
Tolstoy believed his most essential work was not his novels but his daily read, A Calendar of Wisdom. As Tolstoy wrote in his diary, the continual study of one text, reading one page at the start of each day, was critical to personal growth. “Daily study,” Tolstoy wrote in 1884, is “necessary for all people.” So Tolstoy dreamed of creating a book comprised of “a wise thought for every day of the year, from the greatest philosophers of all times and all people…Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Lao-Tzu, Buddha, Pascal.” As he wrote to his assistant, “I know that it gives one great inner force, calmness, and happiness to communicate with such great thinkers as Socrates, Epictetus, Arnold, Parker… They tell us about what is most important for humanity, about the meaning of life and about virtue.” It would take seventeen years for this book to be published, then ninety-three more for the English translation, titled A Calendar of Wisdom.
The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman
Of course, I don’t actually read my own book each morning, but I did design that book to mimic a ritual I have, which is to pick up and read one passage from the Stoics each morning. Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, I want to put something from them in my brain each morning. Unfortunately, there was no book that put them all together until we made The Daily Stoic (which has now sold 500,000 copies and is translated in more than 30 languages). We also put out an email version (and a podcast) for DailyStoic.com that has continued the same service. More than 250,000 people check in with these texts this morning because it’s important. You want to start your day off with wisdom and when it comes to wisdom, there is nobody better than the Stoics.
Marginal Revolution by Tyler Cowen
There is nobody who has exposed me to more books and ideas than Tyler Cowen. That’s why his blog MarginalRevolution.com is basically the only site I check every single day, without fail, sometimes multiple times a day. Tyler is a polymath, a diverse and contrarian thinker, who has incredible taste for interesting ideas, ways of thinking and modern and classical wisdom. If you are not reading this site every day, you’re not learning as much as you can. I really like Tyler’s books as well, including Average is Over, The Complacent Class and Discover Your Inner Economist. I listen to his podcast weekly, and if Tyler had a page a day book, I’d read that each morning.
Some other good daily reads:
Calling it a Day: Daily Meditations for Workaholics by Robert Larranaga
Marcus Aurelius was the Emperor, millions depended on him, he was famous, his face was literally on the coins of the currency—yet, he reminded himself in Meditations, not “to be all about business.” There is more to life than work: the most important work—becoming the person we need to be for the people who need it from us the most.
Listening to Your Life: Daily Meditations by Frederick Buechner
366 quotations culled from Buechner’s works—novels, sermons, lectures, autobiographical ruminations—by an admirer and elaborated on by Buechner himself, who wants everyone to “pay attention to the world and all that dwells therein and thereby learn at last to pay attention to yourself and all that dwells therein.”
You Are the Beloved: Daily Meditations for Spiritual Living by Henri J. M. Nouwen
There is a great line in a great song by The Head and The Heart: Until you learn to love yourself, The door is locked to someone else. “We are the Beloved,” Nouwen writes, “we are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children and friends loved or wounded us…That’s the truth I want you to claim for yourself.”
The other “book” I pick up each day is a journal. Actually, I pick up three. In the first one—a small blue gold leafed notebook—I write one sentence about the day that just passed. In the next, a black Moleskine, I journal two quick pages about yesterday’s workout (how far I ran or swam), what work I did, any notable occurrences, and some lines about what I am grateful for, what I want to get better at, and where I am succeeding. And then finally, I pick up The Daily Stoic Journal where I prepare for the day ahead by meditating on a short prompt, then set an intention or a goal for the day—just something to give myself something I can review at the end of the day, that I can evaluate myself against.
For years, journaling has been the most important thing I do every morning. It takes all of maybe 15 minutes and then it’s done. But by the time I am finished, I am centered, I am calm, and most importantly, I am primed to do the actual creative work by which I make my living. It’s something countless writers, creators, thinkers and leaders have done for thousands of years. I’ve written, as far as I know, the most comprehensive guide on journaling—how to start journaling, the science-backed benefits of journaling, and much much more. You can read the whole article on DailyStoic.com.
I’m a big fan of newsletters, as well. Here are some that I subscribe to:
James Clear’s “3-2-1 Thursday”
Mark Manson’s “Motherfucking Monday”
Tim Ferriss’ “5 Bullet Friday”
Ramit Sethi’s “I Will Teach You To Be Rich”.
Maria Papova’s “BrainPickings”
Matt Levine’s Money Stuff (which I heard about from Tyler Cowen)
The last thing I’d like to mention is actually my favorite thing to write. It’s not a book yet but it will be soon. It’s called the Daily Dad, and it’s a daily email that goes out to 20,000 people each morning. Being a parent is without a doubt the hardest, most demanding thing I’ve ever done in my life. And being a great dad is without a doubt the most important thing I want to achieve in my life. So I read every dad book I could find looking for some help and guidance to get there. Unfortunately, I found that most published advice falls abysmally short. They are typically age-specific and only situationally applicable—useful in a window of time that closes before the back cover does. Inspired by the format of the daily reads listed above, I hunt out the greatest wisdom and lessons from history, science, literature and ordinary parents, to give you real advice and insight for being a great dad every day. It’s free and will be waiting in your inbox every morning. I hope you’ll check it out (Dr. Drew, Casey Neistat, Charlamagne tha God and Brett McKay are all advisors on the project).
If you’re looking to read other books and written works about how to live well, check out Scribd. You can get a one month free trial of unlimited audiobooks and ebooks, plus subscriptions to a whole bunch of great places like The Atlantic and the New York Times.