August Reading List: 5 Good Books to Read This Month | James Clear

August Reading List: 5 Good Books to Read This Month

It’s time for another edition of my reading list.

In addition to the five books reviewed below, I maintain a complete list of the best books I’ve read across a wide range of disciplines.

Here are a few of the top books I’ve read recently.

A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen

Print | eBook | Audiobook

The Book in Three Sentences: The only thing you have that nobody else has is control of your life. The hardest thing of all is to learn to love the journey, not the destination. Get a real life rather than frantically chasing the next level of success.

Key Ideas: This is a list of key ideas that I recorded while reading the book. These notes are informal and include quotes from the book as well as my own thoughts.

  • The only thing you have that nobody else has is control of your life. You job, your day, your heart, your spirit. You are the only one in control of that.
  • “Show up. Listen. Try to laugh.”
  • “You cannot be really good at your work if your work is all you are.”
  • “Get a life, a real life. Not a manic pursuit of the next promotion.”
  • “Turn off your cell phone. Keep still. Be present.”
  • “Get a life in which you are generous.”
  • “All of us want to do well, but if we do not do good too then doing well will never be enough.”
  • “Knowledge of our own mortality is the greatest gift God gives us.” It is so easy to exist rather than to live… Unless you know a clock is ticking.
  • We live in more luxury today than ever before. The things we have today our ancestors thought existed for just the wealthy. And yet, somehow, we are rarely grateful for all this wealth.
  • The hardest thing of all is to learn to love the journey, not the destination.
  • “This is not a dress rehearsal. Today is the only guarantee you get.”
  • “Think of life as a terminal illness.”
  • “School never ends. The classroom is everywhere.”

3 Reasons to Read This Book

  1. You need a reminder of why you should be grateful for the life you live.
  2. You need a reminder of why it is important to live a balanced life.
  3. You want to be inspired and you like short books.

Buy This Book: Print | eBook | Audiobook

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida

Print | eBook | Audiobook

The Book in Three Sentences: This book is an autobiography written by a 13-year-old boy from Japan about what it is like to live with autism. The way autistic people view the world is very different than the way we may perceive them to view the world. This disconnect between how we view and treat people with autism and how they actually view the world makes living with autism is even more difficult than it already is.

Key Ideas: This is a list of key ideas that I recorded while reading the book. These notes are informal and include quotes from the book as well as my own thoughts.

  • “When you see an object, it seems that you see it as an entire thing first, and only afterwards do its details follow on. But for people with autism, the details jump straight out at us first of all, and then only gradually, detail by detail, does the whole image float up into focus.”
  • “On our own we simply don’t know how to get things done the same way you do things. But, like everyone else, we want to do the best we possibly can. When we sense you’ve given up on us, it makes us feel miserable. So please keep helping us, through to the end.”
  • “But I ask you, those of you who are with us all day, not to stress yourselves out because of us. When you do this, it feels as if you’re denying any value at all that our lives may have–and that saps the spirit we need to soldier on. The hardest ordeal for us is the idea that we are causing grief for other people. We can put up with our own hardships okay, but the thought that our lives are the source of other people’s unhappiness, that’s plain unbearable.”
  • “True compassion is about not bruising the other person’s self-respect.”
  • “To give the short version, I’ve learnt that every human being, with or without disabilities, needs to strive to do their best, and by striving for happiness you will arrive at happiness. For us, you see, having autism is normal — so we can’t know for sure what your ‘normal’ is even like. But so long as we can learn to love ourselves, I’m not sure how much it matters whether we’re normal or autistic.”
  • “Everybody has a heart that can be touched by something.”
  • There is a fantastic story that Higashida tells about learning to wave goodbye to a friend. People kept telling him that he was doing it incorrectly, but he didn’t understand why until someone had him look in a mirror. He finally realized that he was waving goodbye to himself with his palm facing toward his own face rather than his palm facing away and toward the other person. He was simply mimicking what he saw when someone waved goodbye to him (the other person’s palm), but couldn’t fully translate what he saw into the correct behavior.
  • He spends much of his day feeling like a failure and knows he screws up often.
  • Childish behavior does not equal childish intelligence.
  • My biggest takeaway was that when it comes to many everyday circumstances Higashida “gets it,” but he can’t act on it. Perhaps I was just ignorant about autism, but I feel that we often assume that autistic people are “out of it” and aren’t really following what’s going on. (And how would we know when we have no outward or physical indication otherwise?) But he does understand. He gets context and subtlety. He knows what is happening even if he can’t take appropriate action.

3 Reasons to Read This Book

  1. You don’t know much about autism or what it’s like to live with autism and you’re interested enough to learn more.
  2. You’d like a glimpse inside the mind of someone who is likely very different from you.
  3. You want to be reminded of how every life has value.

Buy This Book: Print | eBook | Audiobook

The Martian: A Novel by Andy Weir

Print | eBook | Audiobook

Summary: Hot damn. This is my favorite fiction book that I’ve read this year. If you like space, read this book. If you like science, read this book. If you like the idea of humans somehow landing on Mars, read this book. The book has a great premise and the author did a fantastic job of blending his fictional world with believable engineering and real-world science. I thought it was great. (Plus, it’s being made into a movie starring Matt Damon. Here’s the trailer.)

Buy This Book: Print | eBook | Audiobook

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid

Print | eBook | Audiobook

Summary: I read this book after venture capitalist Chris Sacca recommended it. The novel begins with a poor child living in rural Asia and progresses through his life as he moves to the city and takes step after step in the pursuit of wealth and success. My biggest takeaways were 1) most people in the world live very differently than you do, 2) there is a lot of corruption and cheating in business, 3) there are many people who sacrifice love and relationships to achieve success and it rarely seems to be worth it.

3 Reasons to Read This Book

  1. You want a sobering reminder of the sacrifice success often requires.
  2. You want to follow an exciting story that carries you through many different stages of life.
  3. You want to learn how to get filthy rich in rising Asia.

Buy This Book: Print | eBook | Audiobook

The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo

Print | eBook | Audiobook

Summary: The Redbreast is one of a series of novels by crime writer Jo Nesbo. All of the mystery novels feature Harry Hole as the primary detective. This one spans 60 years and involves all of the plot twists you would expect in a mystery novel. It’s a good book although I personally enjoyed Stieg Larsson’s books more, if we’re splitting hairs over Scandinavian fiction writers.

2 Reasons to Read This Book

  1. You like thriller and mystery novels.
  2. You want to start reading Jo Nesbo, who is considered one of the top Scandinavian crime writers alive.

Buy This Book: Print | eBook | Audiobook

How to Get Free Audiobooks

I have shared my strategy for how to read more books previously, but I also love listening to audiobooks. I have a monthly subscription to Audible and I really enjoy it.

Good news: if you start a 30-day free trial with Audible right now, you can get your first 2 audiobooks free. Here’s the best part: You get to keep the 2 audiobooks, even if you cancel the trial. It’s a no-brainer. You can sign up here.

More Book Recommendations

Looking for more good books to read? Browse the full reading list, which lists the best books in each category.

Enjoy!