Personal Growth Books

“Personal development is the belief that you are worth the effort, time and energy needed to develop yourself.” ―Denis Waitley

Poor Charlie's Almanack by Charlie Munger - 10/10

If you only ever read one book, this should be it. No book contains more wisdom or practical advice. Charlie Munger is among the handful of people that I would want at my dream dinner table. Poor Charlie's Almanack is a culmination of Munger's most influential speeches. It closes with an essay recounting the mental models and psychological tendencies Munger finds most impactful in daily life. Munger is a true lifelong learner and he uses this book to impart as much of his wisdom as he can. He reflects on his successes, his failings, and the mentors who have influenced him. The margins contain insights from influential thinkers, business leaders, and historical events. You could re-read this book every year and glean new insights. I cannot think of a single person who would not benefit from reading this book.

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankle - 9.5/10

Few books have impacted my life as much as this one. It has been especially applicable during the COVID-19 pandemic. Vicktor describes his life in a concentration camp and how his mental fortitude allowed him to not only survive, but take his experience to positively impact millions of people. Whenever I face a challenging circumstance, I reflect on this book and the power of the mind and perspective.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius - 9/10

Don’t let its size fool you. While it may not contain many pages, it is a dense book that will cause you to frequently pause and reflect. I nearly burned through an entire highlighter marking this book. Stoicism is a valuable mindset, and Marcus Aurelius was one of the master stoics. I immediately read this after completing Man's Search for Meaning. Reading both allows you to see an ancient and modern application of stoicism. This book applies to nearly every life situation and can help when faces the stresses of a career.

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World - 9/10

Do we need to specialize to succeed? This book throws cold water on the specialization movement we are witnessing in the sports world. This does not mean deliberate practice and homing specific skills is unnecessary or a waste of time, they are necessary to excel in a given arena. But there is great value in processing a range of skills. Additionally, when starting out, whether it is a child ready to begin organized sports or a new graduate seeking their first "real world" job, we benefit from a "sampling period." This book uses research to show the benefits of developing a range of skills and experiences to excel in your career endeavors.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck - 9/10

This was one of two books the Emory University DPT program gave its graduates. It very succinctly provides two paths you can take in your career and personal life. You can view life from a growth mindset, one that sees opportunity in everything, or a fixed mindset, one that believes the cards are dealt and we cannot change as people. It was a great book to read prior to the start of the rigors of residency.


Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead  by Brené Brown- 9/10

Brené Brown burst onto the scene with her TedTalk on vulnerability. The success of her talk leads to this book, which provides in-depth insight into why we experience shame and vulnerability. Vulnerability is inescapable and learning how to manage it helps us grow and develop relationships. Shame, which is often used as a strategy to manipulate people, only breaks down relationships. It should never be a tactic in debate or education. This book is full of emotion and provides immediate applicable mindsets and strategies.


Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jarod Diamond9/10

This was a fascinating, beast of a book. Taking on 13,000 years of human history in a 400-page book is a bold endeavor, but Jared Diamond manages to capture big picture lessons while using specific details to support his arguments. In the beginning, he provides a one-sentence summary of the book: “History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among people's environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves.”


The book sought to determine why some regions of the world (e.g. Eurasia) developed faster than others (e.g. North America). He boils down the reasons to four primary themes:


  1. Food production (availability of domestic animals and plant species)

  2. Migration rates (east-west continental orientation is superior to north-south)

  3. Isolation of continents (ability to collaborate and build off neighboring technological advances)

  4. Continental and area population size (rapidity of farming and governmental growth and invention capacity.


“All other things being equal, technology develops fastest in large productive regions with large human populations, many potential inventors, and many competing societies.”


At the end of the book, Diamond acknowledges human history cannot be explained with only four broad themes. Yet, the larger the time scale you observe, the easier it is to notice and understand trends. This information can be useful in understanding human behavior and potential future actions. By no means is history a perfect blueprint of the future, but the lessons learned from history are valuable, nonetheless. I highly recommend this book.


“We tend to seek easy, single-factor explanations of success. For most important things, though, success actually requires avoiding many separate possible causes of failure.”


The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant9/10

The title says it all. We have so much to learn from history. As the saying goes, "history repeats itself." Will and Ariel Durant succinctly summarize common themes in history across a variety of topics. Regardless of your profession, the lessons gathered from past events are applicable to our lives. When viewing events over centuries, themes of cause and effect are more observable. You don't need to be a history buff to garner valuable lessons from this book.


The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown - 9/10

This book tells the story of an incredible rowing team and recounts the 1936 Olympics and events leading up to it. We often read stories of great sports teams and marvel at their athletic prowess. Occasionally we learn of remarkable backstories that add to the intrigue. The rigors the rowers endured and the current events (the great depression and rise of Nazi Germany) adds to the remarkable feat of achieving gold at the Olympics in Berlin. This book is both entertaining and enlightening. It showcases the ability of an individual and team to endure many challenges and persevere.


White Fragility by Robin Diangelo- 9/10

This book was eye-opening for me. I have never considered myself a racist, yet this book challenges how my thoughts and actions contribute to a systemic issue. When Diangelo refers to systemic racism, she is not saying all whites hold a conscious dislike of people of race, but instead, that we are complicit to a system. "When a racial group's collective prejudice is backed by the power of legal authority and institutional control, it is transformed into racism, a far-reaching system that functions independently from the intentions or self-images of individual actors." White fragility explains why whites often throw up barriers, become defensive, and separate themselves from racism. This book is only the start, but it is a good one. It is our responsibility to self-educate and embrace challenging conversations. We have a lot of work to do.


The Gifts of Imperfections by Brené Brown - 9/10

This is the third Brené Brown book I have read (Daring Greatly and Dare to Lead). This one is the most compact of the three but no less valuable. I had something underlined on every other page. We often define success by the wealth and possessions we obtain, the progression of our careers, and the overall business of our lives. Wholehearted living challenges this position. The traditional view of success is full of the following traits: perfection, numbing, certainty, exhaustion, self-sufficiency, being cool, fitting in, judgment, and scarcity. Conversely, Wholehearted living focused on worthiness, rest, play, trust, faith, intuition, hope, authenticity, love, belonging, joy, gratitude, and creativity. Brown provides stories and research to substantiate recommendations and steps to living a Wholehearted life. This book is full of gut punches and challenging moments. It makes you question where your priorities lie, but in a good way.

The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday- 8.5/10

If you haven't read any of the stoics, this is a great introduction to Stoicism and emotional regulation. Holiday is a true lifelong learner, having read hundreds of books and publishing multiple before the age of 30. In this book, Holiday discusses the power of Stoicism and finding benefits from challenges. He takes lessons from many leaders who have employed Stoicism - Roosevelt, Lincoln, Shakespear - and succinctly applies them to modern-day life. 


Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris - 8.5/10

Tool of Titans is a book comprising of curated segments from the Tim Ferris Show. The book is full of advice and anecdotes from experts in health, finance, and leadership. The book is divided into the sections 'healthy,' 'wealthy', and 'wisdom.' The pace of the book varies greatly. Some sections cause me to pause and reflect while others I skim through or skip altogether. It is a book that can be tailored to the season of life you are in. This, along with Tribe of Mentors, could be reread multiple times and teach new lessons on each occasion.

Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferris - 8.5/10

Like Tools of TitansTribe of Mentors is a compilation of advice from some of the world's leaders in business, finance, art, athletics, and technology. Tim Ferris sent out 11 questions to every leader in the world he had a desire to learn from. The book is a curation of the responses he received. Many of the responses were from leaders in industries not related to healthcare, but the advice provided was still valuable. It is a thick book, and some of the advice becomes redundant as you near the end, but it is well worth the read.


Letters From a Self-Made Merchant to His Son by John Graham - 8/10

Most books that provide advice write to a wide audience. Authors want their message spread and publishers want to sell lots of copies. What if a book was intended for a single reader? Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to his Son is just that.  In this book, the owner and leading man of a meatpacking company in the early 20th century writes 20 letters to his son. The letters largely focus on career advice, with some school and family life advice mixed in. The author draws on his experiences and includes short stories about past acquaintances in each letter. While you don’t get the responses, you receive a little snippet about the event that lead to the development of the letter. The book is full of valuable advice that cuts to the point. No ‘5 step processes’ or ‘see this website for a useful quiz,’ rather, personal and authentic advice from a successful businessman to his son. Sure, the advice is largely anecdotal, but it pairs well will current research on human psychology and business practices. It is a quick and insightful read.

Mastery by Robert Greene - 8/10

Who doesn't want to master their craft? Most new graduates who pursue a residency or an aggressive mentorship/continuing education combination aim to be expert clinicians. This takes time. The apprenticeship model (7 years) has been used for centuries to develop masters. It necessitates formal mentorship - real mentorship, not simply side-by-side treating - deliberate practice, and willingness to be creative. This book provides examples in a variety of fields to highlight various common themes among masters throughout history. It is an interesting contrast to the book Range. They can co-exist, but it depends on your career goals and the skills you are trying to master. Becoming a master physical therapist is more than perfecting manual therapy.

Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life by Nir Eyal - 7.5/10

Distraction is ever-present in today's society. Open design office spaces, apps with push notifications, email, text, group chats, social media, and Netflix all vie for our attention. How do we manage distractions? How do we become Indistractable?


The book “Indistractable” provides research-backed strategies and stories to help anyone overcome distractions. Some fixes require complete overhauls of a work environment and mindset while others are minor adjustments to a smartphone or desktop. I have started implementing many of the recommendations and have found improvements in my productivity, reductions in my work-related anxiety, and greater overall peace of mind. I highly recommend this book to everyone. It even has a valuable section about helping children manage device usage.


E.Q. 2.0 by Jean Greaves and Travis Bradberry - 7/10

This book provides foundational knowledge of emotional intelligence. More research has been conducted since the publishing of this book, but many of the primary concepts remain valuable. We cannot simply rely on intelligence for achieving success. There will be the occasional Sheldon Coopers of the world, but the amount of success will still be limited without emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is a skill to be developed and refined.


Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to You Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy - 7/10

Talk Like Ted provided me detailed, actionable strategies to implement and practice to improve my delivery of a message, especially in a formal setting; Presence is the foundation those strategies are built upon. Like Brené Brown, Amy Cuddy provided a TedTalk on her research that went viral. Cuddy currently sits at #2 on the all-time watched list with 58 million views (Brown is #4). This book expands on her ideas of presence. Presence influences our confidence, both internalization and external perception. It is one of four books all our residents read and I encourage any student or new graduate to grab a copy. Watch the TedTalk at the very least (same with Brown and Simon Sinek, who sites at #3 all-time)


Talent Code by Daniel Coyle - 7/10

The Talent Code explores the biology of improving skills. Coyle visits talent "hot spots" to interview and learn from some of the most successful coaches and the techniques they use. He pairs this with the biological basis for forming and enhancing neural connections for the activities we perform. The book contains some of the key concepts of deliberate practice, flow, coaching psychology, and habit formation. The final chapter loses credibility with the failure of JaMarcus Russell's career, but overall the book provides some good take-aways that can be immediately applied.