The Most Valuable Book You Ever Read

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As BookCamp Toronto is about to start, it go me thinking about what, exactly, books are and what they really mean (why do people love them so much)?

Lately, some very smart people (like Jeff Jarvis – author of What Would Google Do? and Blogger over at, BuzzMachine), has pleaded for the modernization of books and the book publishing industry. Jarvis commented at the O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishers conference in New York City this past year that for books to make it in a world of new media, they have to be findable, clickable, editable, commentable, updatable, searchable, linkable, etc…

It makes perfect sense, or does it?

Is it possible that books hold a two-step layer of appreciation, where that initial phase (the one where you simply read the book) is a very personal and intimate experience? It could be one of the few things in our world of online social networks and constant tweets that you share solely with yourself, and once that phase is complete, the discussion and sharing about your emotions (both online and in places like real-world book club meet-ups), is the part that needs to focus more on the new media and social aspects we’re seeing online?

Books are going to have to figure out their way in this new world where individuals co-create, collaborate and manipulate their own media.

Still, books hold tremendous value to most people. They are objects to be honoured, cherished and even passed down from generation-to-generation. It is still the primary way we – as a society – preserve our stories, cultures, history and intellect.

In getting in the mood for the BookCamp Toronto unconference, I wondered:

What was the most valuable book you ever read?

I’m still grappling with the question, so I figured your most powerful read might inspire me.


  1. Rohinton Mistry’s ‘A Fine Balance’. Incredible story of misery and poverty tempered by improbable friendships.

  2. For me its equal
    The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
    Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton
    both change the way one looks at the world, society and the way we interact

  3. The Agony and the Ectasy, I was amazed to learn about Michelangelo and waht he accomplished and how he lived. I was also inspired by his passion for art and life.

  4. Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam
    I now see the concept of ‘social capital’ in everything I do, work and personal…

  5. It’s a close call between Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers and What Would Buffy Do?

  6. Daniel Pink “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future”. Helped me understand the direction the world is going. Really intense Big Picture stuff. Loved it.

  7. Three books immediately pop to mind for me:
    The Millionaire Mind by by Thomas J. Stanley
    Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins
    The Art of War by Sun Tzu

  8. 1) To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
    2) East of Eden – John Steinbeck

  9. The Game by Neil Strauss. It opened a lot of paths to other book in self improvement.

  10. The most valuable book I ever read was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson. Especially if the illustrations by Ralph Steadman count towards the value.

  11. I read an average of four books a month (not counting fiction). I simply love ideas and books are the best way for me to find them.
    Here are a few of my “must reads”
    Jack Canfield’s “The Success Principles”.
    “Think & Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill
    “Now, Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton
    “The Whuffie Factor” by Tara Hunt
    And, I am currently reading “What Would Google Do” and I find it to be tremendously thought provoking.

  12. If you would like to implement some of Stephen Covey’s best ideas, you can use this web aplication:
    You can use it to manage and prioritize your Goals (in each of your life’s categories), projects and tasks, in an intuitive interface. It has a Checklists section, for the repetitive activities you have to do, important but not urgent (Quadrant II, for example your routines/habits). Also, it features a Schedules section and a Calendar, for scheduling you time, activities and for the weekly review.
    Some features from GTD are also present, like Contexts and Next Actions.
    And it’s available on the mobile phone too, so you can access it wherever you are.

  13. Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. It scared the crap out of me when I was 15 but have read it at least 5 times since and see something different and deeper in it each time, with a new layer of life experience behind me.
    But what I find interesting is that what you’re talking about above is essentially electronic marginalia — jotting down your thoughts on a text and interacting with it to make it your own. It becomes a new text with the palimpsest of your interpretation overlaid on it. Then it becomes a new work.

  14. If I had to chose one it would be
    The Prophet by Kahill Gibran
    But these are valuable too –
    Candide by Voltaire
    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Repair by Robert Pirsig
    The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s

  15. The Bible, and I mean what some call “The Old Testament.” Everything that’s ever been is coming from there, but be sure to include the Talmud and the Zohar (i.e. the “Commentaries”), or you’ll be missing out big time and what it’s really saying.

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