The best books that bring meaning to your life

Vitaliy Katsenelson Author Of Soul in the Game: The Art of a Meaningful Life
By Vitaliy Katsenelson

Who am I?

I am an investor who happens to love writing, music, and simply life in general. I was born in Murmansk, Russia, where I spent my first 18 years. My family moved to Denver in 1991, and I have lived there since. I’m CEO of IMA, a value investing firm where I have creative freedom to focus on things I love. I was so fortunate to stumble into writing; it has completely rewired my mind by providing a daily two-hour refuge for focused thinking. I am constantly on the lookout for new stories and fresh insights. Writing is what keeps me in student-of-life mode, and there is so much to learn!


I wrote...

Soul in the Game: The Art of a Meaningful Life

By Vitaliy Katsenelson,

Book cover of Soul in the Game: The Art of a Meaningful Life

What is my book about?

Soul in the Game is a book of inspiring stories and hard-won lessons on how to live a meaningful life. Drawing from the lives of classical composers, ancient Stoics, and contemporary thinkers, it is my exploration of practical wisdom that has helped me overcome my greatest challenges: in work, family, identity, health – and in dealing with both success and failure.

Part autobiography, part philosophy, part creativity manual, Soul in the Game is a unique and vulnerable exploration of what works, and what doesn’t, in the attempt to shape a fulfilling and happy life.

The books I picked & why

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Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life

By Nassim Nicholas Taleb,

Book cover of Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life

Why this book?

Taleb has been hugely important to me as an investor, thinker, and writer. I picked Skin in the Game because a chapter in it called “Soul in the Game” had a tremendous impact on me and even spilled into the title of my book. I would advise readers to start their journey into Taleb’s books with Fooled by Randomness, which is a very accessible and easy read. His later books, The Black Swan, Antifragile, and Skin in the Game, are packed with insight and wisdom but require patience and should be read slowly.


A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

By William B Irvine,

Book cover of A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

Why this book?

This book is solely responsible for hooking me on Stoic philosophy, prompting my deep exploration of practical aspects of life in my own book and, most importantly, the application of them to my daily life. William’s writing is easy to follow, and his advice is very practical. I’d advise you to start reading the book from chapter four; and then when you are done with the book, come back to the first three chapters.


How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius

By Donald Robertson,

Book cover of How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius

Why this book?

While William Irvine’s book introduced me to Stoic philosophy, Donald took me further into the incredible life of Roman emperor and Stoic Marcus Aurelius. This book takes you deeper into Stoic philosophy. I get asked whom I’d want to have lunch with, dead or alive, and I answer Marcus Aurelius. During his reign he was the most powerful person in the Western hemisphere. History is littered with examples that prove Lord Acton’s quip “Power corrupts; absolutely power corrupts absolutely.” Marcus is a rare exception.


Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson

By Mitch Albom,

Book cover of Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson

Why this book?

What would you do and what would you share with others if you only had months to live? This is the theme of the book Tuesdays with Morrie. In the book, terminally ill teacher shares his life lessons with readers. This book is not about death, it is about living life. Steve Jobs said, “Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent.” This book made me inhale life more deeply.


The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

By Alice Schroeder,

Book cover of The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

Why this book?

This is an authorized biography of Warren Buffett. I am not sure this is the best book to read if you want to learn to invest like Mr. Buffett, but it gives a fascinating view of his life. There are many great lessons we can learn from Mr. Buffett that go far beyond investing, for example about honesty and treasuring one’s reputation. But I thought this book was important for a very different reason: it shows that Warren Buffett is not a perfect human being and that we can also learn from the maestro by not repeating his mistakes. He achieved his unparalleled success in his business life at the expense of his personal life.

I find myself wanting to work 24/7. I bring my laptop home, or start reading The Wall Street Journal on my iPad at the dinner table – and my work life starts pushing out my personal life. This book made me realize that no professional success is worth regretting 20 years down the road that you didn’t spend enough time with your kids. Unfortunately, Buffett has that regret.


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