Quake Reading

November 16, 2007

From an email conversation with Tyler Cowen:

My reading was much different when I was younger. I would more likely intensively engage with some important book totally full of new ideas. Hayek. Parfit. Plato. And so on. There just aren’t books like that left for me anymore. So I read many more, to learn bits, but haven’t in years experienced a “view quake.” That is sad, to me at least, but I don’t know how to avoid how that has turned out. So enjoy your best reading years while you can!

Post your quake books in the comments.

Edit: Some of mine–



Atlas Shrugged

Fight Club

War of Art

Great Gatsby

Rules for Radicals

The Power Broker

Ryan Holiday

I'm a strategist for bestselling authors and billion dollar brands like American Apparel, Tucker Max and Robert Greene. My work has been used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube and Google and has been written about in AdAge, the New York Times, Gawker and Fast Company.

53 responses to Quake Reading

  1. Sometimes it’s like you read my mind. I was just trying to put together a list of important books to read.

    Three books that come to my mind:

    The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

    The Autobiography of Malcolm X

    Fight Club

  2. The Meditations

    A Man In Full

    Fight Club

    25th Hour

  3. I think my first quake book was “Mister God, this is Anna”. I read that when I was about 13 or 14, and it helped me see a lot of things differently.

    Sadly enough, apart from that I don’t think I’ve read any quake books yet… or nothing that quaked me up.

    I get tiny tid-bits out of books I read, like a characters says something and it feels like “oh yeah.. I should remember that, and I think like that in my everyday life”, but usually those things slip away again a few days after having read them.

    It’s sad really.

  4. I really liked Atlas Shrugged when I first read it, and I found it damn near unreadable the last time I tried…to try and catch that individualistic magic that reached me when I was much younger.

    That said, Getting Things Done–by David allen was a recent read for me, and while a book on personal productivity wouldn’t seem like much, its simplicity and bias towards action…put a lot of control back in my life.


  5. In the best time order that I can remember, of the quake books that changed me most:

    Dao De Ching – Lao Tze

    48 Laws of Power, 33 Strategies of War – Robert Greene

    Friedrich Nietzsche – Beyond Good and Evil, The Gay Science

    Harvey Mackay – We Got Fired!… And It’s the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Us

    The War of Art – Steven Pressfield

    Jiddu Krishnamurti – Everything he’s written that I’ve gotten my hands on

    4 Hour Workweek – Tim Ferris

    Wayne W Dyer (I think it was an audiobook, actually: the power of intention)

    Edward De Bono – Teach Yourself How to Think

    Robert K. Cooper – The Other 90 Percent

  6. Poker Without Cards by Ben Mack

  7. “Events in life mean nothing if you do not reflect on them in a deep way, and ideas from books are pointless if they have no application to life as you live it.” – Robert Greene

    All of the books below have caused major changes in the way in different aspects of my life.

    “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

    “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl

    “Anthem” by Ayn Rand

    “33 strategies of War” by Robert Greene

    “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean

    “Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War” by Robert Coram

    “The Game” by Neil Strauss

    “The Moral Animal” by Robert Wright

    “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk

    “Genhgis Khan and making of the Modern world” by Jack Weatherford.

    Funny enough most of these books I found out through Tucker’s site and your site. Sorry if my list is kind of useless.

  8. “The Vision of the Anointed” — Thomas Sowell

    “The Red Queen” — Ridley

  9. “The Vision of the Anointed” — Thomas Sowell

    “The Red Queen” — Ridley

  10. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison

    Steppenwolf, by Herman Hesse

    … to name a few.

  11. blink, by malcolm gladwell

    sperm wars, by robin baker

    the moral animal, by robert wright

    fight club, by chuck palahnuik

    huckleberry finn, by mark twain

    Great Gatsby, by scott fitzgerald

    And although theyre not books I feel obligated to list the writings of this site and of tuckermax.com as well, for suggesting many of those books, and for putting me on a path where i wanted to read them.

  12. Foundation – Issac Asimov

  13. Well, last night I got “the dip” by seth godin, and a bunch of de bono. The Dip was pretty profound. Might rise to that level, we’ll see as I’m thinking about it.

    Knowing what to expect is interesting, though.

  14. Dune by Frank Hebert.

    The World According to Garp by John Irving.

    Great Power Diplomacy 1814-1914 by Norman Rich.

    I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max.

    Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson.

    The Republic by Plato (Grube translation, have flipped through others and wasn’t compelled to read in full).

    I think I also realized a lot of shit about women after reading a few of The Bunny’s posts in conjunction with reading/learning about female prostitution in Argentina for a college class.

  15. Sex and Danger in Buenos Aires: Prostitution, Family, and Nation in Argentina by Donna J. Guy was the book I was thinking of; it’s a great, great read. She presents interesting shit from multiple viewpoints and very, very well written.

  16. It may sound weird, but a lot of Stephen King’s novels have been a wake up. I’m an aspiring storyteller myself. I don’t think he’s a great author (majority be damned) but he is a great storyteller. He gives his characters such life that I often identify and understand their ideals.

  17. “Musashi”, by Eichi Yoshikawa

    “Faust”, by J. W. v. Goethe

    Everything I’ve touched so far by Charles Bukowski

    Funny enough, “Dune” didn’t occur to me until I saw it in amphibian’s list, even though it’s one of the very few really battered looking books I own because I reread passages of it all the time, and it clearly influenced me.

  18. Meditations

    Fight Club

    Great Gatsby

    Rules for Radicals

  19. A long time ago I read “Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn, and it basically deconstructed everything that had been built in my mind (by myself and others). In my experience it’s that first real “quake” that makes all the rest of the reconstruction necessary and, more importantly, possible. Since that first experience it’s pretty much just been a series of aftershocks.

  20. Power of Now

    Fight Club

    Sperm Wars

    48 Laws of Power

  21. The Dip should absolutely be considered a “quake” book.

  22. I’m curious, why was Sperm Wars so shocking for everyone? I remember it being enlightening but not necessarily quake inducing.

  23. The Bible (sorry, know you don’t like this one)

    Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

    The Game by Neil Strauss

    The Four Pillars of a Man’s Heart by Stu Weber

    Wild at Heart by John Eldredge

    Getting Things Done by David Allen

    Thomas Mellon and His Times by Thomas Mellon

  24. Blood Orchid by Charles Bowden

    Running after Antelope by Scott Carrier

    Desert Soltaire by Edward Abbey

    Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates by Tom Robbins

    Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

  25. Happening to me right now. I’m reading Meditations. Thanks, man – I’d never have found it on my own. Peace.

  26. “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas Kuhn

    “Foundation” by Isaac Asimov

    “Tao Te Ching” by Lao Tzu

    “Dune” by Frank Herbert

    “Powershift” by Alvin Toffler

  27. I’m noticing a strong trend: almost all the authors mentioned so far are men. Now the audience here is primarily men, but I see no female authors on the one female’s list thus far.

    What’s up with this?

  28. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard changed the way I read books.

  29. Meditations

    Book of Five Rings-Mushashi

    The Black Swan-by Nicholas Nassim Taleb

  30. i forgot one

    The True Believer- Eric Hoffer

  31. I am halfway through QB VII by Leon Uris and it without a doubt qualifies as quake reading. The characters are so compelling, and the author writes with incredible depth and understanding about war, writing, hollywood, and the publishing industry.

    And those topics aren’t even what the book’s ultimately about.

    I dont usually comment, especially this long after a post has been written, but I needed to share this find, which I stumbled across randomly, with someone.

  32. Please send everything about gay, I just came out of the closet..

  33. New “Power of Now” novel “The Final Plot of Valerie Lott” a free serial download at JustSayNoWay.com

  34. Influence by Robert Cialdini blew my mind when I read it in college.

  35. Letters from a Stoic-Seneca
    First philosophy book that had practical value for my day to day life. Changed the way I think about friendship, death, pleasure etc.

    The House of the Scorpion-Nancy Farmer
    A dark and memorable sci-fi book from my childhood.

  36. A Curious Mind – Brian Grazer
    Dig Your Well Before Your’re Thirsty – Harvey McKay
    The Knight in the Rusty Armor
    Letters to a Young Artist – Anna Devere Smith (especially good on audio)
    On Their Own Words
    All I Did Was Ask – Terry Gross

    • A Curious Mind – Brian Grazer
      Dig Your Well Before Your’re Thirsty – Harvey McKay
      The Knight in the Rusty Armor
      Letters to a Young Artist – Anna Devere Smith (especially good on audio)
      In Their Own Words
      All I Did Was Ask – Terry Gross

  37. On the Shortness of Time – Seneca

  38. A life changing book for me was The Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton.

  39. Spiritual Enlightenment: It’s the Damnedest Thing.

    Written by an “enlightened” gentlemen under a pseudonym who goes on to explain what enlightenment exactly is, and how nobody could truly want such a thing. It’s something you have to have – and it involves burning down your house to the ground to see what’s left in the ruin.

    Entertaining read and pulls the veil back on most spirituality seekers, who end up strengthening their ego rather than dissolving it in their myriad pursuits of what they think enlightenment will be (never-ending contentedness/happiness/joy I reckon).

    Not to spoil the book but he found enlightenment by locking himself in cabin and asking himself incessantly “Who am I?” until he found an answer that was True. He has a second book which is similar, but I like the third one where he uses Moby Dick as a parable for enlightenment. I did my high school thesis paper on Moby Dick and got my ass handed to me.

  40. The Future and its Enemies – Postrel

  41. Propaganda – Edward Bernays
    The Click Moment – Frans Johansson
    The Management Myth – Matthew Stewart
    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Michael Chabon
    Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut
    The Coming Anarchy – Robert Kaplan

  42. Steve Powell May 9, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    – Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment: George Leonard
    – and/or The Life We Are Given: George Leonard
    – Leader Shock: Greg Hicks
    – 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story: Dan Harris
    – The Art of Power: Thich Nhat Hanh

  43. Blood Meridian
    Catch 22
    How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
    The Millionaire Fast-lane
    Psycho Cybernetics

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