3 Self-Improvement Books Actually Worth Your Time

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Self-improvement books that have stood the test of time and usefulness: Never Eat Alone, Getting More & 4-Hour Workweek.

By Julie Zhou (Growthmaster, Hipmunk)

Growing up, my parents required me to read one self-improvement book every week, and I’ve mostly kept this up into adulthood due to inertia and fear of missing out on all of the newest ways that I can make myself a more valuable member of society. I’ve breathed Covey’s tenets of effectiveness, SUCCES’d my way to eternal stickiness, made more than a few stupid stock picks based on the latest financial sensation and read inspiring life doctrines based on everyone from astronauts to the first female Marines to Gandhi to Cleopatra.

Here are the three self-improvement books that for me have stood the test of time and usefulness.

I can honestly say that I use lessons I have learned from these books every single day.

Read Never Eat Alone for lessons on NETWORKING.

Networking is a necessary evil, and a scary one at that. Or so I thought until I read this book. Author Keith Ferrazzi does a brilliant job of turning the traditional interpretation of networking on its head, transforming it from an intimidating skill into a natural way of life where the more you help others, the more they want to help you.

Best of all, you’ll learn that networking is far from a skill that you have to be born with. I used to stress out beyond reason at the thought of small talk, and through simple, consistent habit change, I’m now comfortable holding a memorable conversation with just about anybody.

Read Getting More for lessons on NEGOTIATION.

Before I read this book, negotiation ranked right up with networking for striking fear in my heart. I walked into any situation that remotely resembled a negotiation as a nervous wreck, convinced I would ruin any credibility I had.

Author Stuart Diamond has helped resolve situations ranging from the 2008 Hollywood Writer’s Strike to convincing his 8-year-old son to practice piano every day. His recommended tactics are simple to remember, effective like hell and reassuring in a manner that I could not have imagined.

“Getting More” describes negotiation as the art of discovering and satisfying the perceptions and desires of others. Much like networking becomes non-intimidating when you think primarily of helping others, negotiating is far less daunting when you focus on empathy rather than logic or wordplay.

Read The 4-Hour Workweek for lessons on CAREER.

Author Tim Ferriss’ mantra to quit your job and live anywhere in the world strikes an immediate emotional appeal to anyone who has ever worked in the corporate world.

However, even if you’re happy in your job or don’t quite have the courage to upend your lifestyle, this book is still a gold mine for making the most out of your career. For example, there are plenty of articles these days about how “busy” has become a default state of being and how that’s not good for you. After reading this book, avoiding the busy trap became absurdly easy.

On a more fundamental level, the traditional 40 year career with retirement at the end seems at risk in the age of the Internet and economic turmoil. Ferriss discusses the concept of “mini-retirements”, which holds much more appeal for those of us who can no longer comprehend the notion of staying more than five years at the same company.

His followup book The 4-Hour Body, which challenges traditional notions of diet and exercise, is a worthy read as well.

Do you know other self-improvement books that have changed your life?

Recommend them in the comments below!

Editor’s note: Our guest blogger Julie Zhou will be teaching a General Assembly class in San Francisco starting Tuesday, September 25 on how startups can acquire more customers – sign up here.

About the guest blogger: Julie Zhou is the Growthmaster at Hipmunk, a travel site taking the agony out of hotel and flight search that was named one of the Best Travel Websites of 2011 by Travel+Leisure and one of the 50 Best iPhone Apps of 2012 by Time Inc. Before Hipmunk, Julie worked at Google, marketing products like AdWords, Google Maps and Android. In her free time, she enjoys rock climbing, krav maga and finding her next exotic travel destination. Follow her on Twitter at @jyzhou.