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

What Books to Read if You Hate Reading Books
(and find long books inefficient)

Within the first month of creating GoodLookingLoser.com, 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.

TBB-Books

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.

APPLY EVERY CONCEPT IN THE BOOK before you read ANYTHING ELSE.

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.

bookworm

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.

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Comments (48)

  1. Jasper

Have you read the Table of Contents of "How to Win Friends and Influence People"? http://www.westegg.com/unmaintained/carnegie/win-friends.html

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  1. Good Looking Loser    Jasper

nope, that's a good outline. more self-improvement should do that.

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  1. boris

holy fuck that great! nice bite size to the point information!

Ever read "millionaire fastlane", that's the one and only book i read about "becoming successful" and it was great, especially the parts about the business litmus test NECST, need,...

holy fuck that great! nice bite size to the point information!

Ever read "millionaire fastlane", that's the one and only book i read about "becoming successful" and it was great, especially the parts about the business litmus test NECST, need, entry,control,scale,time. That's pretty much the most important parts i remembered...

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  1. Good Looking Loser    boris

Yup I've browsed that book, I have no doubt that it's solid.

interestingly enough, I'm finding out a lot of that book is true - in hindsight

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  1. Florian Ulrich

Thanks for the blog post. To me, books were always fun to read, but it's true - if you don't find a way to keep in mind what you read, it will be gone soon.

The advice of writing down the summary of each chapter is good. I would actually try to...

Thanks for the blog post. To me, books were always fun to read, but it's true - if you don't find a way to keep in mind what you read, it will be gone soon.

The advice of writing down the summary of each chapter is good. I would actually try to answer three different questions:

1. What is the general message of the book?
2. What advice in that book is unexpected?
3. What are the action steps you take after reading this book?

Question (3.) is my way of taking action from a book.

You can do that with self-help books OR any other fictional book as well.

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  1. Good Looking Loser    Florian Ulrich

Thanks Florian, good to see ya around.

I like your questionnaire - #3 is BY FAR is the most important.

people are better off reading 4 or 5 pages and applying it than reading 400 or 500 pages and not knowing where to start

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  1. Alex

My man Chris, YOU HAVE DONE IT AGAIN!
Thank you so much for this brilliant article. You are literally going to be saving YEARS of studying all this fluff in the books that I've been reading so far. I am eternally grateful for your insight, keep...

My man Chris, YOU HAVE DONE IT AGAIN!
Thank you so much for this brilliant article. You are literally going to be saving YEARS of studying all this fluff in the books that I've been reading so far. I am eternally grateful for your insight, keep up the fantastic work!!!
-Alex

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  1. Good Looking Loser    Alex

Hey thanks Alex, thats quite nice.

These books are quite good, you can view a portion of it on the amazon page.

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  1. manic5

While there's much to what you said, I think a lot of this has to do with age as well. I think to truly grasp what you've absorbed and change/improve is age related. If you're 35+, well chances are you are way too set in your ways to change...

While there's much to what you said, I think a lot of this has to do with age as well. I think to truly grasp what you've absorbed and change/improve is age related. If you're 35+, well chances are you are way too set in your ways to change something as deeply ingrained as your mindset.

For instance, before I got on thyroid meds, I had a non-existent metabolism. As a result, I learned to lift weights almost daily and eat and stick to a high protein low carb diet at a very young age (21).

Now, while I don't eat as low carb anymore as the drugs allow me more wiggle room in my diet, I have little trouble hitting the gym 4-6x/week and eating a clean diet with only minor cheats (I'm 29).

You take a person and implement this change at 30-35+ and this sort of change becomes much harder, if not impossible for some.

I also think, the underlying themes these self-help books all contain can be absorbed. I was an econ major in college, and while I don't remember much of the particulars of any specific econ course, I do recall the patterns to which most economic theory follows and they deeply impact my thoughts and decisions to this day.

Lastly, there's a low cost time-wise to read and finish 3-4 books per year. So while you may not find huge returns from reading books, it still may help at the margins as you pointed out (1-10%).

Personally, I see books as almost a way of thinking with someone else's mind if that makes sense. At the very least, while you are reading you are experiencing what it is to think differently, even if it's just momentarily.

Anyways my $0.02.

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  1. Jonathan Roseland

You make a good point about memory, 300-400 pages is so much information, how much of it are we actually going to commit to memory, recall when we need it and apply? I've got a lifehack for this problem that takes advantage of the 'memory spacing...

You make a good point about memory, 300-400 pages is so much information, how much of it are we actually going to commit to memory, recall when we need it and apply? I've got a lifehack for this problem that takes advantage of the 'memory spacing effect'.
It requires Kindle (either the App or the device), Evernote and an App called Spritz
I read in Kindle and highlight passages that I want to remember or find actionable.
When I finish a book, I open up the Kindle web browser, and copy/paste my highlights into an Evernote note which going in a Books Notebook, if a book is particularilly good it gets it's own Evernote Note, if not I just put it in a general note.
I have a shortcut on my Android homescreen for this Notebook, so it's just a tap (or click) away from me at any moment.
Spritz is a free App for your smartphone or Google Chrome that allows you to read at 500-1000 words per minutes via rapid serial presentation of words. With just a little practice you'll be able to drastically increase the speed at which you can speed read. Obviously, your reading comprehension takes a hit speed reading at this velocity, however we are just reviewing material that we've already read at normal speeds, which Spritz works great for.
From my smartphone I just 'Share' the note to the Spritz app (For Android I recommend an App The Faster Reader) which then super speed reads me the note.

Yes, it takes about 5 tedious minutes of copying and pasting the quotes to my Evernote file, but if I can significantly improve the retention of the knowledge in a book that I spent 10-20 hours consuming it's well worth it!

I'm a pretty liberal highlighter of the books I read and it takes me maybe 60 seconds to review my favorite parts an entire book. I do a lot of super speed reading while on the toilet.

I also use the same method to learn pickup lines and clever expression in Spanish to seduce Colombianas

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  1. RevLifestyleDesign

Sick, I just bought them all. Can't get enough good books especially ones with pre made summaries, saves me the trouble of doing it myself.

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  1. Fynn

I highly recommend Tai Lopez's youtube videos as well, he does a video/email summary of a good book almost daily.

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  1. Omar

Good shit Chris - I may purchase these

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  1. Thomas

Tai Lopez also has a video on how to read a book in 10 minutes along with his book summaries and a smart reading course. I find it extremely helpful since I don't have to read the less important books.

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