The following list is designed to give college seniors a good foundation and “starter” reference library from which to draw on during the early years of their career. The books on this list are not ranked in priority order – but rather cover three major areas: History/Government, Psychology/Sociology, and Economics/Finance. These will all be important to understand and will have a tremendous impact on thinking.
As you review this list, ask yourself, “What would happen if every college senior was required to read each book on this list before they could graduate? How would it change them – and our nation?”¹
1. On Liberty, by John Stuart Mill
This is an enduring work on personal liberty like none other. The British economist, philosopher, and ethical theorist's focus is on the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual. He asks and answers provocative questions relating to the boundaries of social authority and in powerful and persuasive prose, it is one of the most influential studies on the nature of freedom and its role in a democratic society.
2. Men in Black, by Mark R. Levin
This thought-provoking book provides context for the history of the United States Supreme Court and invites the reader to ponder its true role in the system we live under. Questions like: “How close to the ideals of America's founding fathers has the court stayed?” and “Has the court overstepped its intended bounds?” are explored. Several decisions in the court's history are analyzed, beginning with the landmark Marbury v. Madison case, wherein the court granted itself the power to declare acts of the other branches of government unconstitutional.
3. Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers From Everyone Else, by Geoff Colvin
When asked to explain why a few people truly excel, most people attribute success to either hard work or innate talent. However, According to the author, scientific evidence doesn't support the notion that specific natural talents make great performers. And many people work very hard and never “make it.” According to Geoff Colvin, what really makes the difference is a highly specific kind of effort-"deliberate practice" that few of us pursue. The secrets of extraordinary performance are featured in stories of people who achieved world-class greatness through deliberate practice-including Benjamin Franklin, comedian Chris Rock, football star Jerry Rice, and top CEOs Jeffrey Immelt and Steven Ballmer.
4. The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell
The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate. Gladwell brilliantly illuminates the tipping point phenomenon, which has changed the way people throughout the world think about selling products and disseminating ideas.
5. Thank You for Arguing: What Lincoln, Aristotle and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion, by Jay Heinrichs
This is a master class in the art of persuasion, taught by professors ranging from Bart Simpson to Winston Churchill. The time-tested secrets this book discloses include Cicero’s three-step strategy for moving an audience to action—as well as Honest Abe’s Shameless Trick of lowering an audience’s expectations by pretending to be unpolished. But it’s also replete with contemporary techniques such as politicians’ use of “code” language to appeal to specific groups and an eye-opening assortment of pop culture dodges—including The Yoda Technique, The Belushi Paradigm, and The Eddie Haskell Ploy.
6. Tell to Win, by Peter Guber
Even today, success is won by creating compelling stories that have the power to move people to action. If you can’t tell, you can’t win. This book tells you how to do both.
Historically, stories have always been the key to moving people to do things. And purposeful stories--those created with a specific mission in mind--are absolutely essential in persuading others to support a vision, dream or cause.
Guber’s entrepreneurial accomplishments have made him a success in multiple industries and he has long relied on purposeful storytelling to motivate, win over, shape, engage and sell. He offers a set of principles that anyone can use to achieve their goals.
7. How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
For more than sixty years the rock-solid, time-tested advice in this book has carried thousands of people up the ladder of success in their business and personal lives. You will learn: fundamental techniques in handling people, six ways to make people like you, twelve ways to win people to you way of thinking, nine ways to change people without arousing resentment and much more as you engage in a practical study of human nature - learning about yourself along the way.
8. Knock 'em Dead 2015: The Ultimate Job Search Guide, by Martin Yate
This is one of the most valuable career books on the market and can change the trajectory of your life forever. Yate has helped millions of job seekers super-charge their job search and career success. In this brand-new edition of a world-renowned classic, he shares his proven, unique, and ever-evolving tactics for professional success. You'll learn how to: create resumes that get results, optimize social networks, turn job interviews into job offers, and negotiate the best salary and benefits package.
9. Economic Facts And Fallacies, by Thomas Sowell
This book exposes some of the most popular fallacies about economic issues in a lively manner that does not require any prior knowledge of economics. These fallacies include many beliefs widely disseminated in the media and by politicians, such as fallacies about urban problems, income differences, male-female economic differences, as well as economic fallacies about academia, about race, and about Third World countries. Sowell, an African-American, is a tenured economist at Stanford. He shows that fallacies are not simply crazy ideas - but in fact have a certain plausibility that gives them their staying power and makes careful examination of their flaws both necessary and important.
10. Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill
Originally published during the Great Depression (1937), this was the first book to ask, "What makes a winner?" Hill draws on stories of Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and other millionaires of his generation to illustrate his principles. In the updated version, contemporary millionaires and billionaires, such as Bill Gates, Mary Kay Ash, Dave Thomas, and Sir John Templeton, are analyzed for their wealth-building acumen. This classic has been called the "Granddaddy of All Motivational Literature."
EXTRA CREDIT: The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr
Carr asked the question: “Is Google making us stupid?” This question tapped into a well of anxiety about how the Internet is changing us. He also crystallized one of the most important debates of our time: As we enjoy the Net’s bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply? He describes how human thought has been shaped through the centuries by “tools of the mind”—from the alphabet to maps, to the printing press, the clock, and the computer—and interweaves recent discoveries in neuroscience and reveals that the technologies we use to find, store, and share information can literally reroute our neural pathways. While we are becoming ever more adept at scanning and skimming, but what we are losing is our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection.
¹All book descriptions have been quoted or adapted from Amazon.com.
Related: Ten Books Every High School Senior Should Read Before College
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