The best books that will change the way you live your life

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been interested in high performers and the psychology behind success, and my time at the CIA - during which I served in hostile and unpredictable environments - showed me that success and excellence at anything requires mastering one’s “head game.” When I transitioned into the private sector, I consciously chose to challenge myself and stretch myself to be bigger, better, and bolder than I would naturally be, and that lived experience combined with my CIA career inspired the work I do now in helping leaders and organizations push themselves into their discomfort zones and make the seemingly impossible possible.

I wrote...

From CIA to CEO: Unconventional Life Lessons for Thinking Bigger, Leading Better and Being Bolder

By Rupal Patel,

Book cover of From CIA to CEO: Unconventional Life Lessons for Thinking Bigger, Leading Better and Being Bolder

What is my book about?

Drawing on the unique skills I developed as a woman and field agent in the high-stakes, alpha-male world of the CIA and the hard-won lessons I learned as a CEO and business advisor, From CIA to CEO is a toolkit for high-performance and mastering your "head game". I share innovative techniques like ‘Profiling’ and ‘Situational Awareness’ and revolutionary new frameworks such as ‘Identity Driven Leadership’ and ‘Personal Energy Mapping’ that arm readers with unshakeable confidence to meet life head-on and chart their own path. Packed with relatable stories, practical tips, and engaging exercises, this is a guide for rising, thriving, and becoming unstoppable.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Rupal Patel Why did I love this book?

I recommend this book to everyone from CEOs to artists to students because Liz Gilbert’s reflections on “creative living” are relevant for anyone who struggles with self-doubt, feeling adrift, or finding meaning in their day-to-day lives (and let’s face it, that’s pretty much everyone at some point in their lives), and she offers relatable tough-love advice that is full of humor and humanity.

Big Magic has helped me process the mental and emotional rollercoaster of being a leader, an author, a parent, and a human, and every time I read or listen to the book it somehow delivers exactly what I need in the moment (which is why I’ve read/listened to it more than a handful of times).

If you’re feeling “stuck”, get some Big Magic in your life. 

By Elizabeth Gilbert,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked Big Magic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration from Elizabeth Gilbert's books for years. Now, this beloved author shares her wisdom and unique understanding of creativity, shattering the perceptions of mystery and suffering that surround the process - and showing us all just how easy it can be. By sharing stories from her own life, as well as those from her friends and the people that have inspired her, Elizabeth Gilbert challenges us to embrace our curiosity, tackle what we most love and face down what we most fear. Whether you long to write a book, create…

Book cover of The Art of Exceptional Living: Your Guide to Gaining Wealth, Enjoying Happiness, and Achieving Unstoppable Daily Progress

Rupal Patel Why did I love this book?

This is technically an audiobook only (sorry!) but another unexpected gem full of insights that have changed the way I view life and live life.

His delivery takes some (a lot of!) getting used to, but the substance is powerful in its simplicity. As the title suggests, it’s about “the art of exceptional living” and offers lots of tips about how to live a more thoughtful, fulfilling life and is timeless in the topics it explores (happiness, relationships, fulfillment, discipline, success).

Another audio that I go back to again and again and that delivers something important and new each time.

By Jim Rohn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Art of Exceptional Living as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jim Rohn’s exceptional personal and business solutions culminate in this powerful yet simple and direct book, The Art of Exceptional Living. His more than thirty years of studying human behavior and presenting well-received self-development seminars worldwide resulted in this guidebook on turning ideas into positive action to make every dream a reality.
Inspirational insights and strategies place readers on the fast track to harnessing the power of personal ambition and innate motivation to achieve the highest levels of success.

A dozen focused, concise, and practical chapters cover topics such as: Five Essential Abilities Developing Your Personal Philosophy Goal Setting Designing…

Book cover of Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization

Rupal Patel Why did I love this book?

Neil de Grasse Tyson is one of the most compelling writers of our times, and has an unsurpassed ability to make astrophysics digestible and still magical.

All of his work reminds us how incredible our universe is and this book in particular provides a “cosmic perspective” on some of the knottiest issues facing humanity so that you see the world differently and - perhaps - live in it differently too. 

By Neil Degrasse Tyson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


Bringing his cosmic perspective to civilization on Earth, Neil deGrasse Tyson shines new light on the crucial fault lines of our time―war, politics, religion, truth, beauty, gender, and race―in a way that stimulates a deeper sense of unity for us all.

In a time when our political and cultural views feel more polarized than ever, Tyson provides a much-needed antidote to so much of what divides us, while making a passionate case for the twin chariots of enlightenment―a cosmic perspective and the rationality of science.

After thinking deeply about how science sees the world and about…

Book cover of The Body: A Guide for Occupants

Rupal Patel Why did I love this book?

Bill Bryson is a national treasure and all of his books make seemingly mundane things incredibly interesting.

In The Body he takes us into ourselves in ways that made me appreciate how complex and fragile and robust our bodies are and gave me a new appreciation for the skin we call home. It’s funny, it’s unexpected, and it is powerful in some of its simplest observations.

One of those observations that shook me and will stay with me forever is how incredibly miraculous it is that any one of us exists because we are the result of a chain of life that has remained unbroken for billions of years. Billions. Of. Years. If that doesn’t change the way you live your life, I don’t know what can.

By Bill Bryson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Bill Bryson, bestselling author of A Short History of Nearly Everything, takes us on a head-to-toe tour of the marvel that is the human body—with a new afterword for this edition.

Bill Bryson once again proves himself to be an incomparable companion as he guides us through the human body—how it functions, its remarkable ability to heal itself, and (unfortunately) the ways it can fail. Full of extraordinary facts (your body made a million red blood cells since you started reading this) and irresistible Brysonesque anecdotes, The Body will lead you to a deeper understanding…

Book cover of The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level

Rupal Patel Why did I love this book?

This book introduced me to the powerful concept of “upper limit problems” which helped me see some of the self-sabotaging behavior I used to engage in (picking fights for no reason, finding things to be annoyed about, giving too many f*cks about silly things) for what it was.

The idea goes that we all have internal “thermostats” that regulate how much success, happiness, and fulfillment we allow ourselves. Then, as we get close to the upper limit of those self-set limits, we engage in sabotaging behavior to bring things back down to a level we are comfortable with.

This one concept alone changed my own behavior and helped me help others see where they might be “upper limiting”. An unexpected life-changing book.

By Gay Hendricks,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"The Big Leap" reveals a simple yet comprehensive model of life fulfillment, presented in a way that engages both mind and heart. Gay Hendricks, a major voice in the fields of relationship transformation, and body-mind therapies, developed these methods over the last thirty years by working closely with more than one thousand extraordinary achievers in business and the arts. Readers will discover what prevents them from fulfilling their true potential so they may enjoy the highest levels of success. Through a step-by-step program, Hendricks shares his proven method for identifying and breaking through our personal upper limits to achieve ultimate…

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Book cover of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

Michael Bungay Stanier Author Of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Coaching is a wonderful technology that can help people be a force for change… and is often wrapped up in mystic and woo-woo and privilege that makes it inaccessible and/or unattractive to too many. I want being more coach-like—by which I mean staying curious a little longer, and rushing to action and advice-giving—to be an everyday way of being with one another. Driven by this, I’ve written the best-selling book on coaching this century (The Coaching Habit) and have created training that’s been used around the world by more than a quarter of a million people. I’m on a mission to unweird coaching.

Michael's book list on unexpectedly useful books about coaching

What is my book about?

The coaching book that's for all of us, not just coaches.

It's the best-selling book on coaching this century, with 15k+ online reviews. Brené Brown calls it "a classic". Dan Pink said it was "essential".

It is practical, funny, and short, and "unweirds" coaching. Whether you're a parent, a teacher, a leader, or even a coach, you can stay curious longer.

By Michael Bungay Stanier,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Coaching Habit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Look for Michael's new book, The Advice Trap, which focuses on taming your Advice Monster so you can stay curious a little longer and change the way you lead forever.

In Michael Bungay Stanier's The Coaching Habit, coaching becomes a regular, informal part of your day so managers and their teams can work less hard and have more impact.

Drawing on years of experience training more than 10,000 busy managers from around the globe in practical, everyday coaching skills, Bungay Stanier reveals how to unlock your peoples' potential. He unpacks seven essential coaching questions to demonstrate how-by saying less and…

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