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The Best Self-Improvement Books You've Never Heard Of

on in Get Success
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What Books to Read if You Hate Reading Books
(and find long books inefficient)

Within the first month of creating, guys were asking me what books I could recommend to them.

I'm going to assume they meant 'Self-Improvement' or 'Personal Development' books. And Not a book about zombies or magical children, or whatever you kids are into.

These are virtually my only recommendations.

But first -

It's HIGHLY IMPORTANT that you understand why I am recommending these books and why they will improve your life/mind while other longer, better-written books will not.


Good Looking Loser's 10% Bookworm Theory

This is important, it was one of the best things I ever learned.
(technically - it's my opinion)

Regardless of how "good" of a reader you are, how smart you are or even how well you are able to comprehend and process information, you are subject to the "10% Rule".

My 10% rule states -

At best, within a week, you will only remember 10% of the content you just read.

The longer the book, the less you will remember. Guaranteed.

Despite how engaged you might be to a certain book (or video), within about a week removed, and certainly a month, you will only remember 10% of what you read.

That 10% will usually consist of -

  • The general lesson in the book (9%)
  • Less than a handful of particular lines or themes that you could relate to or were particularly stimulating (1%)

If you don't apply what you learned, 10% slowly drops to 1 or 2% within 6 month to a year.

That is why - 

I suggest (if you like reading and find it an efficient way to learn, I usually DO NOT), you should only read ONE (or MAX two) books a year.

Read the book once for general meaning.

Re-read it for detail.


Otherwise, the vast majority is simply entertainment and eventually lost.

My Mom, God bless her, has read more self-help and 'how to' books of anyone I know.

When she began to suffer from early onset-Alzheimer's/Dementia and could no longer read well, I decided to sell her books on Amazon.

I sold over 90 self-help books, all of which I think she read cover-to-cover.

She never applied a single concept she 'learned' in any of those books.

At best, it was a temporary "ah-ha!" or some 'feel good' moments.

It can take months, often years, to apply and reinforce self-help concepts.

That is why I do not recommend any books that lack a STEP-BY-STEP process with a near guaranteed outcome. 

That doesn't mean there's no good 'self help' or personal development books out there.

There are.

Many of those books, written by people 5x smarter than I am, are deeper and more insightful than my VERY BEST material.

But the likelihood that you actually apply the concepts you read in a 300 page book is low.

The likelihood that the books "change your life", is almost none.

I have a nice trick around the 10% rule however.


How to Beat the 10% Bookworm Rule

Sometime back in 2005-2006, I bought all these "personal development" books.

A lot of the usual suspects -
(I just looked in the box in my closet)

  • Rich Dad, Poor Dad
  • 4-Hour Work Week
  • Awaken the Giant Within
  • Unlimited Power (Tony Robbins' #1 Book)
  • Wild at Heart
  • No More Mr. Nice Guy
  • Never Get a Real Job
  • The Millionaire Next Door
  • About 15 or 20 others... some on dating and mindset

For me, it was more like the "1% Rule", I wasn't getting through ANY of the books.
(Ironically, the book that I almost read cover-to-cover was 'The Game', but even still - I never finished it. I have better things to do.)

Maybe I really do have ADHD, but I found it grueling and my growing library and "quest for knowledge" became homework.

There was too much information to sort through and apply.

Later in 2006, I found some books by a certain little-known author that totally helped me out.

His name is Tom Butler-Bowdon and he basically writes 2 or 3 page summaries/highlights on ALL the most famous/riveting success/personal development books.

For me, it was huge.

I could get ALMOST ALL the most important information in about 15 or 20 minutes and not have to commit to reading the books from cover-to-cover.

Although I'm fairly intelligent, despite rumors to the contrary, I love how he "dumbs down" the book and focuses on THE MAIN POINT rather than trying to be eloquent or complicated.

Butler-Bowdon's books are like high-quality "Sparknotes" or "Cliff's Notes" of all the books that you want to read.

Here are the Tom Butler-Bowdon books that I own -

I recommend the first two since that's what most of you guys are after.

Anything by Tommy B should be good though.

It's easy reading. As self-improvement SHOULD BE.

Even though you aren't getting ALL THE DETAILS (words), you would only remember <10% of the complete book anyway.

If you read these summaries several times, you might actually remember more of the concepts than if you read the entire book.

Simplified concepts are more likely to be applied anyway.

Chris Owns These Books

How to Read (Study) These Books
(if you are into that sort of thing...)

I suggest you only read ONE summary a day.

That's right - just 2 or 3 pages.

Read it first for general theme.

Read it again for detail.

With a highlighter - break down Tom Butler-Bowdon's summary into your own shorter summary.

Write down (not type out) the lines and concepts your highlighted.
(call me Grandpa, but I feel like writing better retains/comprehends information) 

Read the summary and your summary again everyday, for the next 5 to 7 days.

By that point, if ever asked, you will probably be able to recite all the most important concepts in the book in the simplest form.

If you have a photographic memory, you'll basically know a book you haven't actually read INSIDE and OUT.

Something you WOULD NOT be able to do if you took weeks/months to actually read the book from cover to cover.

If you find yourself particularly intrigued by a certain book, by all means - buy it and read it cover-to-cover. Understanding the key concepts beforehand should actually help you comprehend the book.

The Secret SummaryButler-Bowdon states the entire point of the book in 1 or 2 sentences before the summary.

Intellectuals, Get Over Yourself

Self-proclaimed 'Intellectuals' might disagree with my highly [near genius] efficient way to consume written content.

That's fine.

Self-help and personal development isn't really meant for intellectuals.
(let alone sleeping with girls or making money)

The ultimate goal of personal development books is to DO SOMETHING WITH IT and not just "get smarter" or "know more".

It's about improving your life and not just your mind.

Besides, being successful is highly dependent on your ability to do an adequate job in an inadequate amount of time.

If you are sick of reading 200-300 page books and not even remembering/knowing what the most important concepts you read were - check out Tom Butler-Bowden's books.

I think they are quite good.

If you have some other recommendations for EFFICIENT ways to consume personal development, success, self-help books - let us know below.

Hi, Chris from Good Looking Loser. "Get a Life" is our safe for work, non-adult site that features lifestyle, health/fitness and style information. Feel free to leave a comment!

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  • I couldn't agree more with this post. When you read a book you learn everything that person learned without having to spend the time they actually spend learning. But books sometimes take too much to read and have a bunch of filler in them.

    I think everybody should start reading and summaries are a great way to do it. You can easily get the key lessons in the book through a summary without having to spend days reading it. I actually sell summaries of the books I read and like on my blog if you are interested.

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  • Simon

    My rule is action is the only thing that matters.

    If you read something does it invoke action? If no - its a waste of time.

    All your stuff chris makes me invoke action - books are good when they inspire you to work harder and do more in real life.

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  • Hey Chris,

    I read GLL for a long time but this is the first time I am commenting on a post since this one made an impression upon me. And I would like to share what works for my when it comes to reading books and improving the learning process.

    The 10% rule applies to me as well since I am able to remember only the basic ideas for most of the books I have read the previous months.

    The last few weeks I have started to do something else to improve my learning process and it really helps me a lot.

    1. I read a book and whenever I find something valuable I write it down instantly and read it 2-3 times.

    2. I stop a minute and think how each point I write down can be applied in my life in the future. Or I try to remember a situation in the past that this point was true but I couldn't understand it. This helps me figure out how it can be applied in my life.

    I don't read physical books so I am not able to take notes on the book itself. But I have a dossier when I keep my notes. Usually, 2-3 pages per book I read.

    3. After I have finished the book I read my notes again to remember the most important points I have written down. Then I choose the 1 most important of all the points in my summary and take action on that. I try to implement it in my daily life.

    I have noticed that doing these 3 things helps a lot.

    On the other hand, just reading the summaries of the most classic books seems helpful too.

    But I am not sure if you can understand the whole concept just by reading the summary(except you have already some experience and knowledge about the subject). When you read the whole book, you are able to understand the ideas better even though the only thing you remember after some weeks is the key idea(personal opinion).

    But I am going to give it a try with these summaries and see what's going on.

    Damian Pros

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  • Awesome posts, especially the part about the summaries. I run a site about life-changing books and to choose which books to look into more, it's definitely helpful to be able to get a quick summary of the key points before buying or starting to read from page 1...!

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  • I simply get any book I like into audio format, or purchase an audio book and listen to it while I'm sleeping for a few days. I embed the info into my being that way' I call it "forced reprogramming". Been doing it for years. Now I apply techniques or take action steps unconsciously.

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  • ankmiike

    hey chris,
    which one of these books would you recommend for someone who has clinical depression?
    Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy - David D. Burns, M.D.

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  • Hey Dillon - I've not heard of that book.

    One thing you absolutely need to do is get bloodwork.
    Testosterone, Thyroid, etc. etc.

    Hormonal imbalances are often the cause of depression/anxiety. It's REALLY important if you haven't done that yet

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  • dillon

    hey chris,
    which one of these books would you recommend for someone who has clinical depression?

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  • Jahaan

    Hey. I've been trying I get in touch with you guys for a long time. I'm trying to talk to Chris or rooster but I can't find contact info anywhere. Could one of you guys please send me an email?

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  • hit me up in the GLL forum dude

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  • NikFromNYC

    By simply underlining carefully I can quickly review any book I've read, months or years later. I double thickness underline the most important passages and make a quick personal index of the best parts on the last blank page. Thus your 10% rule doesn't apply, though it of course takes longer to do this, and most books are crap so I make a strong note of the book quality on the front title page too. I vastly prefer print books since they physical act of underlining and adding little notes and observations helps build memory.

    These books will be a useful summary though, and I do intend to get the whole set.

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  • Travis

    I'm also fond of highlighters. I think highlighting/underlining are useful especially for reference purposes. I highlight/underline all important facts or ideas that I want to be able to reference in the future. This is one of the reading tools that I consider as efficient.

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  • Ryan

    What a great collection of books. I would definitely buy 3 or 4 of these. This is great!

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  • Gabriel

    I hope there's a summary of "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill in those books. It's an awesome classic.

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  • There is - "50 Prosperity Classics"

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