10 Books That Changed My Life

Volunteering in Bolivia
Reading books to a group of kids in a library outside Sucre, Bolivia – where I lived for 6 months, helping to build libraries and promote education.

I wasn’t always a reader. Long story short, going into my second year of University, I realized I needed to change my life. Until this point, all I did was party and play basketball. I didn’t take life seriously. I didn’t take my education seriously. I was self-confident with no self-awareness – not a good combination.

In my life, there has only been two ways that I’ve known to fast track personal growth (outside of life experience itself) – reading and travel.

Hopefully, you’ll find at least one of these books helpful in your own personal development.

I was going to call this post “the best books to inspire you to travel,” but I think these cover much more than that.

This is a list of the 10 most impactful books that I’ve ever read…

10. Thinking Body, Dancing Mind by Chungliang Al Huang

Let’s start this list at the beginning of my self-improvement phase. I started taking T’ai Chi classes after college to try and reduce the stresses of running a start-up with friends at 21 years old.

These classes got me interested in eastern philosophy and that brought me to this book.

Written by a sports psychologist and a renowned T’ai Chi master, Thinking Body, Dancing Mind is a guide to enriching all of life’s pursuits through the practice of its simple mental tools and wisdom.

Using stories of success from athletes and businesspeople, the author presents techniques and exercises to promote relaxation and enhance performance.

Don’t take my word for it, ask renowned basketball coach Phil Jackson – “This gives you a positive mental perspective and provides good focus for your mind—unconscious and conscious.”

If you’re into this book, I would also highly recommend the Art of War and Miracle of Mindfulness, which have both been incredibly helpful for different reasons. The Miracle of Mindfulness teaches you to be ever-present in all actions and events, and the Art of War teaches valuable life lessons through strategies of war.

“Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Must Read Books - Crush it

9. Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk

Taking the opposite of a “zen” approach to life is Gary Vaynerchuk. You may know him from YouTube, Twitter, Instagram Wine Library or all of the above.

As the subtitle suggests, Crush It is all about cashing in on your passion by leveraging the digital age of social media.

Gary shares his experience of how he took his small family business a local wine shop into a national industry leader. For those who don’t know already, he now runs a 200+ Million Revenue Marketing Agency.

If you’re interested in Marketing, also read Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and Seth Godin’s Purple Cow (really anything from these two are golden).

“Building and sustaining community is a never-ending part of doing business.” ― Gary Vaynerchuk, Crush It!: Why Now Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion.

Must Read Books - Loosing My Virginity

8. Loosing My Virginity by Richard Branson

This is a story of riding the waves of failures and success. Richard Branson’s waves are just bigger and bolder than most. He follows his heart and has created businesses based on his passions in life.

This book taught me to take more calculated risks – To try and fail is great, but to never try is the worst thing possible.

“I can honestly say that I have never gone into any business purely to make money. If that is the sole motive then I believe you are better off not doing it. A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.” ― Richard Branson, Losing My Virginity: How I’ve Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way


Must Read Books - The Kid Who Climbed Everest

7. The Kid who Climbed Everest by Bear Grylls

Say what you will about his TV Shows; they’re fake, he has help…. whatever it may be, but this book confirms that Bear Grylls is a certified badass.

Not only did it give me a new appreciation and respect for the (now) TV Host, but it also reconfirmed that I will never attempt to summit Mt. Everest.

This is the grueling story of how Bear Grylls became the youngest person ever (at the time) to summit Mt. Everest.

I have successfully hiked to Mt. Everest base camp, and that was one of the hardest physical tests of my life.

From the demanding training schedule to the crazy trials and tribulations he faced on the mountain, it was such a fascinating read.

“I’ve seen extreme bravery from the least likely of people. Life is about the moments when it’s all gone wrong. That’s when we define ourselves.” – Bear Grylls


Must Read Books - Vagabonding6. Vagabonding by Rolf Potts

If I wrote a book about travel, this is what (I hope) it would sound like.

“The value of your travels does not hinge on how many stamps you have in your passport when you get home — and the slow nuanced experience of a single country is always better than the hurried, superficial experience of forty countries.” ― Rolf Potts, Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel

That is everything to me. That is why I have traveled over the past nine years with the simple “Travel Deeper” mantra.

It actually wasn’t until just recently that I read Vagabonding. I have known about it for a long time, but never thought to pick it up – weird, I know. 

This book reaffirmed many of my own thoughts about travel, and broke it all down very nicely.

I don’t look back and think about what I’ve done very often, so this was a nice reminder for me to feel very proud about what I have accomplished with travel and committing to the message I try to deliver through YouTube, Instagram, and this blog on a daily basis.

If I could recommend one travel book to buy before your next travel experience, it would definitely be Vagabonding.

Must Read Books - 4 Hour Work Week

5. The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

Once you get over the title, it’s a great book. If you read this book trying to figure out how to work less, you’re in the wrong place.

If you’re reading this book to find out how to be more efficient, leverage your passion, and create a business beyond the normal 9 to 5, you’re in the right place.

Tim Ferriss has created three of these “4-Hour” books at this point; including the 4-Hour Body and the 4-Hour Chef. He has also written Tools of Titans and Tribe of Mentors.

All of his books are incredible well researched and pull in information from world class performers, successful entrepreneurs and the brightest minds he can find.

The 4-Hour Workweek is his first book, and I read it while living in Colombia when I was just starting to gain traction with this site.

This book gave me step-by-step instructions and case studies on how to become more efficient and profitable with my online businesses. After reading the 4-Hour Workweek I bought two other travel sites and start leveraging sponsored posts.

Want more information? Check out How I Make Money 

“For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. “Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way.” ― Timothy Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek

Must Read Books -How To Win Friends and Influence People

4. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

I have always been a pretty outgoing guy, and can hold a conversation with most people, but this book took that to the next level. It sharpened my communication sword. It taught me to be present in every conversation, and actually listen to what people have to say.

This book helped me discover how to make friends while traveling.

Of this list, this is probably the book I go back to most often for reminders. This should be a mandatory read for all high school or college students.

How you deal with people ultimately decides your life. It is a very simple concept, that can be very difficult to execute on a daily basis.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” ― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

Read that quote again.

Must Read Books - Leaving Microsoft To Change The World

3. Leaving Microsoft to Change the World by John Wood

I read this book right after leaving the book business (watch My Story for context). I was going through a major life change and needed answers.

Another long story short, I had been working on a business that I didn’t love; Something I wasn’t inspired by or passionate about. I was in search of substance.

John Wood’s story about how he left a comfortable life and job to start Room to Read was exactly the answer I needed, and this became a major catalyst for starting this travel blog and focusing on people.

This also inspired me to live in Sucre, Bolivia and help build libraries (first photo) for six months back in 2012.

“The biggest risk is that a lot of people will try to talk you out of pursuing your dream. The world has too many people who are happy to discuss why something might not work, and too few who will cheer you and say, “I’m there for you.” The more time you spend navel-gazing, the longer you give those negative gravitational forces to keep you in their tether.” ― John Wood, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur’s Odyssey to Educate the World’s Children

Must Read Books - The Alchemist2. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

This book gave me the courage and inspiration to start “writing my own legend.”

It teaches you about love, the importance of following your dreams, and decisiveness.

Do not underestimated the importance of decisiveness in travel. Hopefully this book will inspire you to never say “I don’t care, what do you want to do” again! LOL

I had to add two quotes for this one, because it’s so damn good. This is also the fastest read on the list.

“I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man. Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living now.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

“When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he has never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the unknowns and finer details of your dreams. Actions will flow out of having confidence in your decision; sitting on the fence will get you nowhere.

Must Read Books - Celestine Prophecy1. The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield

This must read book recommendation came from an interesting source – Jay-z inspired me to read this. In some interview somewhere, I remember him saying that The Celestine Prophecy was his favorite book, so, I bought it out of just out of curiosity.

Fast forward a few years on a trip through Peru and I decided to pick it up. This is absolutely CRAZY if you know the book – the entire thing is based in Peru (I had no idea).

Like The Alchemist, it is a fictional book with a very deep message.

I don’t want to say too much because I want everyone to read it and see for themselves, but it is all about people’s ENERGY. How to recognize your own, how to see the energy of other people, and how to gain energy from nature.

I have had some read this book and say that it’s nonsense, and those are the people I figured would say that.

I am not a super religious or spiritual guy, but I do believe very strongly in the power of energy. This book just confirms it for me and I’ve read it many times now.

Control your own energy and you can control the energy around you. The most powerful tool in the world.

“When love first happens, the individuals are giving each other energy unconsciously and both people feel buoyant and elated. That’s the incredible high we call being ‘in love.’ Unfortunately, once they expect this feeling to come from another person, they cut themselves off from the energy in the universe and begin to rely even more on the energy from each other–only now there doesn’t seem to be enough and so they stop giving each other energy and fall back into their dramas in an attempt to control each other and force the other’s energy their way.” ― James Redfield, The Celestine Prophecy


Be sure to visit the T2T Travel Resources Page for more resources, camera gear and all of my travel accessories.

My name is Gareth Leonard, a Marketing Director turned World Traveler with a passion for slow, meaningful travel. I have been traveling the world full-time for the past 9+ years and document it all on Instagram and YouTube. Come join me!


  1. Thanks so much for sharing! Definitely adding the first ones to my list of books to read.

    Every book published by Paulo Coelho has some part of his own mystical life adventures that really inspired me to move forward, I have read most of them (still have a few pending) and two books that really got to me were The Pilgrimage and By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept. Highly recommend them.

    I’m not a very religious person either, but the Celestine Prophecy open a whole new door, when reading that book with an open mind and open heart you get really good life lessons.

  2. Such a great list! I’m a professional book collector. I get inspired to read but go through long phases of not doing it and the books just pile up. How do you fit reading into your day?

  3. Wow, what a beautiful post. This is the first time I visited your blog and its so amazing. Keeping it bookmarked for your next tour. I am highly motivated. Thanks for sharing the information.

  4. Thank you for sharing. I know 3 out of these and two of them had a great impact on my life. I’m definitely going to check the one about Richard Branson, it sounds inspiring!

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