Popular authors share the books that most influenced them as they stepped into the real world.

Brian Grazer's Pick:

The Complete Book of Five Rings

"The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi was written in 1643 and it’s all about the strategy of warfare, intent, and ultimately, commitment. It was introduced to me in 1984 by my friend Pat Morita who played Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid movies. He gave me a copy of the book, which he had signed, and said, "This will change your life." It taught me how to create strategy and do battle in the cutthroat world of Hollywood. It has guided my life and my ability to focus creatively and be impenetrable to the failure of intent." —Brian Grazer

Brad Thor's Pick:

Unlimited Power

The book that best prepared me for life after graduation was Tony Robbins’ Unlimited Power. It has been compared to Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking and Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, but it is so much more. A large part of who I am and the success I have achieved are because of what Unlimited Power taught me. It has changed the way I look at the world and at myself. I loved this book and highly recommend giving it as a gift and downloading your own personal copy." —Brad Thor

Jeff Shaara's Pick:

My Life in France

"In the early 70s, cooking was never cool for guys. I read My Life in France, a memoir by Julia Child, learned just what a "recipe" was, and to this day, I love being in the kitchen." —Jeff Shaara

Leigh Bardugo's Pick:


"Frank Herbert's Dune was my real world survival guide, the one I needed most as a teenager. I was surrounded by people telling me that to be valuable or successful I had to be cheerful and cute—and I was ill-suited to both. Dune taught me there was a wider world where learning mattered, where smarts and courage could carry you. Be prepared. Be political. And of course, fear is the mind killer. Okay, it's a little intense for a trip to Trader Joe's, but Dune definitely helped me navigate some tricksy situations." —Leigh Bardugo

Elizabeth Kolbert's Pick:

The Metamorphosis and Other Stories.

"What is the real world? I’m still not sure, but for guidance on this question I recommend Franz Kafka's "An Imperial Message," "The Judgment" and "Before the Law," all of which can be found in The Metamorphosis and Other Stories." —Elizabeth Kolbert

Matthew Quick's Pick:

The Little Prince

"The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry taught me vital life lessons when I first read it in 1991. I was a high school French student who could not even read children’s novels in French, so I secretly read it in English. I learned how to leave my planet once I made up my mind, about the dangers of encroaching baobabs, and that it is possible to be lonely with people. "Grown-ups are certainly very, very strange." There are plusses and minuses to taming and being tamed. The most beautiful things are always ephemeral. It’s absolutely absurd to follow ridiculous orders. The stars can laugh. And "anything essential is invisible to the eyes" so "you have to look with the heart." Also, how to love a children’s novel until it hurts." —Matthew Quick

A.G. Riddle's Pick:

The Road Less Traveled

"The Road Less Traveled offers a new way of looking at life, love, and your relationships. If you're interested in knowing yourself and understanding the world around you, the four hours you'll spend listening to it could very well change your life forever." —A.G. Riddle

Emma Chase's Pick:

If Life Is Just A Bowl of Cherries What Am I Doing In The Pits?

"Looking back now, Erma Bombeck’s If Life Is Just A Bowl of Cherries What Am I Doing In The Pits? was the book that best prepared me for the "real world". It was a graduation gift from my grandmother because, although I was a college graduate ready to tackle a career, I was also a twenty-two year old fiancé – engaged to the wonderful man who’s still my husband today. Cherries showed me that no matter the decade, no matter your life’s plan, some things haven’t and will never change. Best of all, it made me laugh. And that is the most important lesson in navigating the "real world". Sometimes things get messy, disappointing, scary, crazy and unpredictable – but if you can laugh about it, you can survive it." —Emma Chase

Jennifer Estep's Pick:

Where the Red Fern Grows

"This is such a great, but heartbreaking book. As a kid, I remember enjoying the story so much. I think every kid wants a pet, and I cheered when Billy finally got Old Dan and Little Ann, and I eagerly followed their adventures. But if you’ve read or listened to this book, you know how it ends—and I cried and cried at the ending. But the book taught me that love, loyalty, and friendship are beautiful things. Sometimes, friendships end, and people and pets that we love leave us far too soon, but we carry the memory of them with us forever." —Jennifer Estep

Gloria Gaynor's Pick:

The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?

"Other than the Bible, the book that I have read that most prepared me for life in the real world is The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren. The Purpose Driven Life helped me to understand that life in what we call “the real world” is for us a temporary place of preparation for a "forever" world. It helped me to understand that peace, joy, and happiness in this temporary world all come with and from determining what God’s purpose is for my life. By the end of this book, I was at peace in knowing that I could communicate with God, and He would guide me in following my passion and thereby accomplish what I am meant to do with the gifts, talents, and abilities He has placed in me." —Gloria Gaynor

Michael J. Sullivan's Pick:

Start with Why

"I first discovered Simon through his amazing Ted Talk where in just a short 20 minutes he blew my mind by explaining it's not about what we do, but why we do it. The expanded seven plus hour full-length book delves deeper into the subject of finding your passion and how to rally people around what motivates you. It revolutionized the way I think about every aspect of my professional career and made me a better author and a better person. Listen to it, you won't be disappointed." —Michael J. Sullivan

Bob Mayer's Pick:

The Prophet

"I took Arabic at West Point and eventually we read The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran in the original language. His words are on target for so many of life’s events. Brilliant and insightful. A way to peace and understanding. I keep a copy of it on my desk and refer to it often." —Bob Mayer

Christina Baker Kline's Pick:

A Room of One's Own

"The book that most prepared me for the real world is Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own. Woolf is so clear about the traps women fall into that keep them from producing creative work. Her rallying cry: "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." (That room, of course, is both literal and metaphorical.) Over the years I have returned to this manifesto again and again as I’ve struggled to make money and raise children and carve out time and space to write, and it always inspires me anew." —Christina Baker Kline

Lauren (Christina Lauren)'s Pick:

She's Come Undone

"Without question, the book that had the greatest impact on me when I graduated from college was Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone. It is a vivid, emotional story that begins when Dolores is thirteen, and follows her into her thirties, detailing her battle with obesity, self-loathing, manipulation, guilt and much more. What I loved—and what truly inspired me—was seeing someone struggle, fail, and eventually work so hard to make her life better. It was often painful to read (though Lamb breaks it up brilliantly with the occasional splash of dark humor) but watching Dolores—who had far fewer resources and many more roadblocks than I did—take responsibility for herself and her happiness was an incredibly powerful thing to witness at an impressionable, head-into-the-world-and-conquer time in my life." —Lauren (Christina Lauren)

Ken Liu's Pick:

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

"In high school, my favorite book was Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard. An account of her year spent wandering through the fields and woods near her cabin spent thinking, observing, reading, and writing, the book was a revelation. Dillard connects the smallest details of nature with advanced science and classical philosophy, and reveals the mystical poetry embedded in every blade of grass, in every flick of a fish’s tail. Paradoxically, it is this book, so far removed from “the real world” of jobs and money and flickering screens, that has given me the most peace and joy in the years since. Whenever I’m overwhelmed by life, thinking about this book has reminded me of what is truly spiritual and important in our brief time on this planet." —Ken Liu

Chrysler Szarlan's Pick:

The Chronicles of Narnia

"When I was 12, my cousin brought from England a set of C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. I read each book so many times the covers fell off. So it was that books of fantasy written for children prepared me for the great adventure of life, as an adult in the 'real' world. Those books made me expect magic, and so I do, every day. Expecting it, I often find it. They taught me that even in the worst of times, around the next corner, or perhaps in an old wardrobe, I might be met by wonder. " —Chrysler Szarlan

Carmine Gallo's Pick:

How to Win Friends and Influence People

"The book that prepared me most for the real world has been relevant since it was first published in 1937: How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie. While I was studying journalism at Northwestern I remember reading Carnegie’s chapter on “an easy way to become a good conversationalist.” The secret is to ask a lot of questions, be interested in the other person, and always make other people feel important. As a journalist this made sense to me and it’s helped me in my career and in my life. Over 25 years of studying leadership and communication, I’ve paid attention to the traits of inspiring leaders. Some people can be financially successful without being “inspiring,” but only inspiring people can truly move mountains and encourage people to be their selves. Inspiring leaders—almost to a person—make others feel important. When they speak to you they make you feel like you are the most important person in the room. It’s a quality they certainly don’t teach you in school, but it means everything in life." —Carmine Gallo

Paul Doiron's Pick:

War and Peace

"As a novelist, I believe in the power of fiction to transform the way we look at ourselves in relation to the world. Probably no book had a more profound impact on my understanding of how insignificant the ego is than Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, which portrays even Napoleon Bonaparte as helpless before forces he doesn’t understand. Each of us is less important than we would like to believe, but that doesn’t mean our lives are meaningless. Nor does it absolve us of the responsibility to choose love over hate, peace over war. In college I would hear people say, "It’s not always about you." Tolstoy’s point is that it almost never is. In fact, humility can be a great gift." —Paul Doiron

B.V. Larson's Pick:


"The audiobook Freakonomics by Levitt and Dubner helped prepare me for the real world. Unfortunately, life isn't fair, and sometimes things are rigged. This can be proven, according to the authors, by logic and statistics without much investigative reporting. The book has a mostly negative message, but it also helps organize your thinking. Part of my success as an author included a careful study of the realities of the book market." —B.V. Larson