Over the course of my reading years, several non-fiction books have stood out for me that I have referred to time and time again. Whenever I get the ‘blues’ or need some motivation with my writing or my business projects these are the books that give me the juice I need to create and persevere. I love reading and I love the ‘idea’ of books – the idea that this one thing can impart so much knowledge, information, advice and pleasure, is what keeps me writing in the hope that I too, one day, will create a book that people might want to read more than once. I get a real thrill that something in a book I wrote ‘spoke’ to the reader and helped them through a rough patch, or at least gave them a smile or an idea that helped them get through their day. This is what drives me forward to create books for my readers – that they may entertain, impart a bit of information or wisdom that might benefit them, and that one of my books will give someone, somewhere, the right words to make their day just that little bit better or more interesting. I started my writing career with poetry and this really set me up for writing prose in a way – the understanding of condensing both meaning and eclectic word choices into the best possible economic sentence/line structure, has served me well in both my fiction and non-fiction works. Hell, I think it has even give me a slight edge with my Twitter posts! Writing big things with only 140 characters at your disposal is definitely an acquired skill, when I get stuck a bit of poetry never goes amiss. It is my view that poets make the best Tweeters (tongue in cheek). 

Anyway, back to the books – I’m sure you have your own ‘go to’ reference library, you may even have some of these books in your own top-ten list. I hope you enjoy these recommendations and I’m quite sure that if you haven’t read any of these that you would only be adding to (as opposed to detracting from) your life by reading them. Please make sure to add your own top ten motivational/inspirational books in the comments below and to share this with your friends and networks. Happy reading and stay tuned for the next list which will be my recommendations for the ‘Top Ten Indie Non-Fiction Entrepreneurial Books.’ If you would like to be notified when the next post is published, please subscribe now to my website (I’ll even throw in a free copy of my collected short fiction for you as a thank you)

Best wishes

William Cook

The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts

In this fascinating book, Alan Watts explores man's quest for psychological security, examining our efforts to find spiritual and intellectual certainty in the realms of religion and philosophy. The Wisdom of Insecurity underlines the importance of our search for stability in an age where human life seems particularly vulnerable and uncertain. Watts argues our insecurity is the consequence of trying to be secure and that, ironically, salvation and sanity lie in the recognition that we have no way of saving ourselves.

A fantastic book that addresses modernity’s woes with sound logic and reasoning while emphasizing the positives of encouraging ‘spirituality’ into everyday life. This book made things in my mind go ‘click.’ The ideas and succinct philosophy are essential reading for anyone interested in a way forward for humanity – the blueprint is written here, but unfortunately – the people that need to read this book will more-than-likely never pick it up. If you have questions about life and spirituality and the ‘meaning’ of things, I highly recommend that you read this book and share it with someone you love.

The Outsider by Colin Wilson

As relevant today as when it originally published, THE OUTSIDER explores the mindset of characters who exist on the margins, and the artists who take them there. Published to immense acclaim, THE OUTSIDER helped to make popular the literary concept of existentialism.  Authors like Sartre, Kafka, Hemingway, and Dostoyevsky, as well as artists like Van Gogh and Nijinsky delved for a deeper understanding of the human condition in their work, and Colin Wilson’s landmark book encapsulated a character found time and time again: the outsider.

How does the Outsider influence society?  And how does society influence the Outsider?  It’s a question as relevant to today’s iconic characters (from Don Draper to Voldemort) as it was when initially published.  Wilson’s seminal work is a must-have for those who love books and are fascinated by that most difficult to understand of characters.  

This book blew my mind when I read it. Wilson nails the intersection of art, life and philosophy and puts forward his reasoned argument that highly creative individuals bordering on genius (writers, painters, philosophers, leaders etc.) are plagued with self-doubt and existential angst and that this is what drives them on to confront deep and sometimes terrible issues that the rest of us would rather ignore. And it is through this courageous confrontation of the dark side of life that beauty and meaning are discovered. As a lover of books that confront difficult issues and tough conceptual theories and ideas, this book is a fantastic ‘must read’ that answered so many of my own questions about life and art. Highly recommended – ‘Beyond the Outsider’ is also worth reading as a follow-up to this book.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

"Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the craft. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

As an author who first wrote horror stories, this book was/is my bible. The information is entertaining and informative but, most of all, inspirational. King wrote this book while recuperating from a serious injury; for me, what makes this book great is that his determination and humor shine through as he looks back on his life while taking the time to offer advice to aspiring writers. For one of the most popularly successful authors in the world to lay it all on the table with this book is incredibly generous (and clever) – if you are a writer you’d have to be dead inside not to glean at last one or two profoundly insightful pieces of advice or inspiration from On Writing. If you ever wanted to be an author, read this book also – there is no BS, the hard road ahead is expertly mapped out in a way that will have you turning the last pages before you know it. I am up to my tenth reading with this book and it never gets old – always find something inspiring or useful.

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

"It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured."

So begins this epic, mesmerizing first novel by Gregory David Roberts, set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay. Shantaram is narrated by Lin, an escaped convict with a false passport who flees maximum security prison in Australia for the teeming streets of a city where he can disappear. Accompanied by his guide and faithful friend, Prabaker, the two enter Bombay's hidden society of beggars and gangsters, prostitutes and holy men, soldiers and actors, and Indians and exiles from other countries, who seek in this remarkable place what they cannot find elsewhere.
As a hunted man without a home, family, or identity, Lin searches for love and meaning while running a clinic in one of the city's poorest slums, and serving his apprenticeship in the dark arts of the Bombay mafia. The search leads him to war, prison torture, murder, and a series of enigmatic and bloody betrayals. The keys to unlock the mysteries and intrigues that bind Lin are held by two people. The first is Khader Khan: mafia godfather, criminal-philosopher-saint, and mentor to Lin in the underworld of the Golden City. The second is Karla: elusive, dangerous, and beautiful, whose passions are driven by secrets that torment her and yet give her a terrible power.

Burning slums and five-star hotels, romantic love and prison agonies, criminal wars and Bollywood films, spiritual gurus and mujahideen guerrillas – this huge novel has the world of human experience in its reach, and a passionate love for India at its heart. Based on the life of the author, it is by any measure the debut of an extraordinary voice in literature.

Fiction or fact, it does not matter, this tome is a masterpiece of prose that will leave most people (with a pulse), breathless. This is truly an epic tale filled with intrigue, adventure and humanity. If it wasn’t so long I would’ve read this in one sitting – it is the kind of book that makes you want to leave your life behind and join the French Foreign Legion or take up base-jumping. It reminds me of James Michener’s ‘Caravans’ mixed with Louis L’Amour’s swash-buckling adventure ‘The Walking Drum,’ placed in a contemporary setting it has a resonance and immediacy that makes it all the more believable and epic as a result. This book encouraged me to be more adventurous – to realize that life does not have to be boring and without excitement and, ultimately, the road to realizing your dreams and achieving something truly worthwhile, is paved with danger and obstacles that might seem insurmountable but are not impossible to overcome.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

'Man's Search for Meaning’ has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 psychiatrist Viktor Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the stories of his many patients, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl's theory—known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos ("meaning")—holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful. "What man actually needs," Frankl writes, "is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task . . . the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him."

In the decades since its first publication in 1959, Man's Search for Meaning has become a classic, with more than twelve million copies in print around the world. A 1991 Library of Congress survey that asked readers to name a "book that made a difference in your life" found Man's Search for Meaning among the ten most influential books in America. At once a memoir, a meditation, a treatise, and a history, it continues to inspire us all to find significance in the very act of living.

This book is one of the most powerfully emotional reading experiences of my life. It is beautifully written and its message is profoundly powerful. Whenever I feel low or like the world has dealt me a bad deal, I pick up this book and I know that life is good. Not because Frankl went through some really horrible and tragic life events and wrote about it really well – but because he experienced these things and he emerged from his tragic experiences with a hope for humanity stronger than ever. His insights into human nature and the struggle between good and evil will leave a deep impression on your heart and mind. Whenever you think you have it tough, or the way ahead is too difficult – pick up this book and read it – it is bound to change your perspective on life for the better.

Worldly Wisdom: Confucian Teachings of the Ming Dynasty by J.C. Cleary

The philosophical, religious, and sociopolitical teachings of Confucianism have played a central role in East Asian culture for many centuries. This book presents a selection of passages from leading Chinese thinkers of the later Ming dynasty (sixteenth-seventeenth centuries), a peak period of Confucian creativity influenced by Buddhism and Taoism. Chosen for their practical interest and universal appeal, the passages are concerned with how to develop the personality, conduct social relations, and order society. In contrast to the common misconception of Confucianism as a formalistic ideology linked to authoritarian political regimes, these passages emphasize the cultivation of spiritual qualities as a means of operating harmoniously and successfully in the world.

This book ‘spoke to me’ – I can’t explain exactly why but this one is my ‘dip’ book. When I need some ideas or some motivation, I ‘dip’ into it and always come up with a new insight or an idea that inspires me. The wisdom provided in mostly short aphorisms, are brimming with logical positivity and a timeless intelligence and humanity that is as important and meaningful now, as it was when these great thinkers first penned their thoughts.


48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene


Amoral, cunning, ruthless, and instructive, The 48 Laws of Power is the definitive manual for anyone interested in gaining, observing, or defending against ultimate control. In the book that People magazine proclaimed “beguiling” and “fascinating,” Robert Greene and Joost Elffers have distilled three thousand years of the history of power into 48 essential laws by drawing from the philosophies of Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, and Carl Von Clausewitz and also from the lives of figures ranging from Henry Kissinger to P.T. Barnum.

Some laws teach the need for prudence (“Law 1: Never Outshine the Master”), others teach the value of confidence (“Law 28: Enter Action with Boldness”), and many recommend absolute self-preservation (“Law 15: Crush Your Enemy Totally”). Every law, though, has one thing in common: an interest in total domination. In a bold and arresting two-color package, The 48 Laws of Power is ideal whether your aim is conquest, self-defense, or simply to understand the rules of the game.

Aside from the beautiful aesthetic of this superbly crafted manuscript, when you need a push forward with your business or social life, this book packs a powerful punch. Filled to the brim with an eclectic selection of the best quotes regarding fundamental laws of human nature, it will inspire you to lift your game, step up and stand out from the crowd with assertively positive mantras and knowledge that you can use in everyday situations. If you are in a leadership role or use strategy in your business (or personal) life, this book is perfect for giving you the edge in combative or negotiation techniques. Knowledge is power and this book is full of both. Read it.  

The Tao of Jeet Kune Do by Bruce Lee


Compiled from Bruce Lee’s notes and essays and originally published in 1975, Tao of Jeet Kune Do is the [leading] best-selling martial arts book in the world. This iconic work explains the science and philosophy behind jeet kune do—the art Lee invented—and includes hundreds of Lee’s illustrations. Topics include Zen and enlightenment, kicking, striking, grappling, and footwork. With introductions by Linda Lee and Editor Gilbert Johnson, Tao of Jeet Kune Do is essential reading for any practitioner and offers a brief glimpse into the mind of one of the world’s greatest martial artists.

This book is the fight-club of enlightened philosophy. Bruce Lee’s unwavering determination, intelligence, humanity and enlightenment shouts (or should I say, speaks softly with great authority) from these pages. Despite being a manual for his self-defense martial art system, this book is so much more. If you’ve ever felt like giving up or seem to take the wrong route every time, read this book and take time to understand the very simple but highly effective principles he espouses and you are bound to change your perspective on life and how you live it. This book teaches you how to command respect, take control of your life and emotions, and to take the most economical and effective steps forward. Aside from the practical fighting and self-defense applications he teaches, Lee always imbues his thoughts and suggestions with a philosophical twist that is both profound and poetic. A fantastic book the will motivate your mind as well as your body.

Freedom From The Known by J.D. Krishnamurti

Born in poverty in India, Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986) became a leading spiritual and philosophical thinker whose ideas continue to influence us today. George Bernard Shaw declared that he was the most beautiful human being he had ever seen and Aldous Huxley was one of his close friends. Whether debating politics with Nehru, discussing theories with Rupert Sheldrake and Iris Murdoch, or challenging his students not to take his words at face value, Krishnamurti engaged fully with every aspect of life. He is regarded by many modern religious figures as a great teacher, an extraordinary individual with revolutionary insights; Joseph Campbell, Alan Watts, Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra are all indebted to his writings.

Freedom from the Known is one of Krishnamurti's most accessible works. Here, he reveals how we can free ourselves radically and immediately from the tyranny of the expected. By changing ourselves, we can alter the structure of society and our relationships. The vital need for change and the recognition of its very possibility form an essential part of this important book's message.

This book should be required reading in all schools and for all politicians. It is soaked in a very human message and provides amazingly powerful and simple solutions, for people willing to change their lives for the better and who want to let go of recurring negative thought/life patterns. If you want to truly understand yourself, as an individual and as a human, read this book. It won’t necessarily make you rich or more successful financially, but you would benefit immensely from it as a leader or mentor. Freeing oneself from the social constructs, bad habits, enforced stereotypes and expectations of a lifetime, is a key part of personal growth and original thinking. This book will open your eyes and mind to the possibilities of a ‘new you’ – perhaps it is a very eastern way of thinking (philosophically and socially) which makes it seem like a wholly original and unique concept, but to my western mind it shouted truth and a fresh way of thinking that has me constantly referring back to this book when wanting personal growth and development.   

Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman


Known as the father of the new science of positive psychology, Martin E.P. Seligman draws on more than twenty years of clinical research to demonstrate how optimism enhances the quality of life, and how anyone can learn to practice it. Offering many simple techniques, Dr. Seligman explains how to break an “I—give-up” habit, develop a more constructive explanatory style for interpreting your behavior, and experience the benefits of a more positive interior dialogue. These skills can help break up depression, boost your immune system, better develop your potential, and make you happier.. With generous additional advice on how to encourage optimistic behavior at school, at work and in children, Learned Optimism is both profound and practical–and valuable for every phase of life.

This book operates on many levels; a discourse on the various negative human traits (emotional, intellectual, psychological, social etc.) and a practical work-book to achieving a more positive outlook in your life and activities. It is a very deep, thorough and insightful work that is well worth the effort to read and take the time to fully grasp the methods and suggestions Seligman offers. If you are like me and one of those people who seem to be born pessimists, this book is for you. The logical reasoning, lack of fluff and use of real-world examples, worked really well to illustrate his theories and to show how the applications discussed in this book can be implemented. It has helped me become a lot more optimistic and to see things in a much more positive light and for that reason alone I list it here as one of the most influential and positive self-development books I’ve read.

Thanks for reading and I hope that by sharing these book recommendations that you find something that will add to your life. Best wishes and please remember to subscribe (click on image below) for the next post/s and your free book. Have a great day.


The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts, The Outsider by Colin Wilson, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, Worldly Wisdom: Confucian Teachings of the Ming Dynasty by J.C. Cleary, 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, The Tao of Jeet Kune Do by Bruce Lee, Freedom From The Known by J.D. Krishnamurti, Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman

The moon speaks to me of you (a love poem)

Apologies for the lack of recent posts. I have been writing and have also been quite active on lately. For those of you who are o...