The best books that bring meaning to your life

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.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Skin in the Game

Vitaliy Katsenelson Why did I love 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.

By Nassim Nicholas Taleb,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Skin in the Game as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A bold work from the author of The Black Swan that challenges many of our long-held beliefs about risk and reward, politics and religion, finance and personal responsibility

In his most provocative and practical book yet,one of the foremost thinkers of our time redefines what it means to understand the world, succeed in a profession, contribute to a fair and just society, detect nonsense, and influence others. Citing examples ranging from Hammurabi to Seneca, Antaeus the Giant to Donald Trump, Nassim Nicholas Taleb shows how the willingness to accept one’s own risks is an…

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

Vitaliy Katsenelson Why did I love 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.

By William B. Irvine,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked A Guide to the Good Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the great fears many of us face is that despite all our effort and striving, we will discover at the end that we have wasted our life. In A Guide to the Good Life, William B. Irvine plumbs the wisdom of Stoic philosophy, one of the most popular and successful schools of thought in ancient Rome, and shows how its insight and advice are still remarkably applicable to modern lives.

In A Guide to the Good Life, Irvine offers a refreshing presentation of Stoicism, showing how this ancient philosophy can still direct us toward a better life. Using…

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

Vitaliy Katsenelson Why did I love 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.

By Donald Robertson,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked How to Think Like a Roman Emperor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"This book is a wonderful introduction to one of history's greatest figures: Marcus Aurelius. His life and this book are a clear guide for those facing adversity, seeking tranquility and pursuing excellence." --Ryan Holiday, bestselling author of The Obstacle is the Way and The Daily Stoic

The life-changing principles of Stoicism taught through the story of its most famous proponent.

Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius was the final famous Stoic philosopher of the ancient world. The Meditations, his personal journal, survives to this day as one of the most loved self-help and spiritual classics of all time. In How to Think…

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

Vitaliy Katsenelson Why did I love 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.

By Mitch Albom,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Tuesdays with Morrie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'Mitch Albom sees the magical in the ordinary' Cecelia Ahern

Maybe it was a grandparent, or a teacher or a colleague? Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and searching, and gave you sound advice to help you make your way through it? For Mitch Albom, that person was Morrie Schwartz, his college professor from nearly twenty years ago.

Maybe, like Mitch, you lost track of this mentor as you made your way, and the insights faded. Wouldn't you like to…

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

Vitaliy Katsenelson Why did I love 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.

By Alice Schroeder,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Snowball as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The personally revealing and complete biography of the man known everywhere as “The Oracle of Omaha”—for fans of the HBO documentary Becoming Warren Buffett

Here is the book recounting the life and times of one of the most respected men in the world, Warren Buffett. The legendary Omaha investor has never written a memoir, but now he has allowed one writer, Alice Schroeder, unprecedented access to explore directly with him and with those closest to him his work, opinions, struggles, triumphs, follies, and wisdom.

Although the media track him constantly, Buffett himself has never told his full life story. His…

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Why We Hate: Understanding the Roots of Human Conflict

By Michael Ruse,

Book cover of Why We Hate: Understanding the Roots of Human Conflict

Michael Ruse Author Of Why We Hate: Understanding the Roots of Human Conflict

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Teacher (professor) Author Darwin specialist Charles Dickens fanatic

Michael's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Why We Hate asks why a social animal like Homo sapiens shows such hostility to fellow species members. The invasion of the Ukraine by Russia? The antisemitism found on US campuses in the last year? The answer and solution lies in the Darwinian theory of evolution through natural selection.

Being social is biology’s way of ensuring survival and reproduction. With the coming of agriculture 10,000 years ago, new conditions – primarily much-increased population numbers – meant that sociality broke down as we battled for our share of much-reduced resources. But, as cultural change brought about our troubles, so culture offers prospects of a future where our social natures can emerge and thrive again.

Why We Hate: Understanding the Roots of Human Conflict

By Michael Ruse,

What is this book about?

An insightful and probing exploration of the contradiction between humans' enormous capacity for hatred and their evolutionary development as a social species

Why We Hate tackles a pressing issue of both longstanding interest and fresh relevance: why a social species like Homo sapiens should nevertheless be so hateful to itself. We go to war and are prejudiced against our fellow human beings. We discriminate on the basis of nationality, class, race, sexual orientation, religion, and gender. Why are humans at once so social and so hateful to each other? In this book, prominent philosopher Michael Ruse looks at scientific

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