5 Little Books with Big Ideas

Jordan Gross

Don’t let their size fool you.

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“That was the first book I’ve actually finished in nine years.”

My roommate, an attorney who reads fifteen hours per day, flipped beyond the “About the Author” page just to make sure he didn’t miss anything. He laid the book on the table in front of him and spoke.

“This is the kind of book I need,” he said matter-of-factly. “Short, sweet, to the point, but a powerful message. I want to be able to read it in one sitting. I want to feel compelled to turn the page, to put off a call or meeting because I’m just dying to find out what happens next. These are my favorite kinds of books.”

I couldn’t agree more with his sentiment. I often find books, especially in the personal development space, to be verbose. They use too much extra fluff to share a simple message. Tiny, little books with a hard-hitting message are the ones for me. Finishing each short chapter provides a great sense of completion. Finishing the entire book is a wonderful accomplishment.

The following are a few little books with big ideas. Hopefully just like my roommate and I, you’ll devour them quickly and feel compelled to read more.

1. Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson

Question this book answers: Can change actually be good?

Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese? has helped me time and time again in my personal and professional life. A short parable about four different mice finding cheese in a maze, it reveals how we all react and respond differently to change.

Sometimes we hem and sometimes we haw. Sometimes we sniff out when change is coming and sometimes, we scurry toward the change. But what this book mainly teaches is there’s a person deep inside us all who’s not afraid of change. There’s a person who’s not afraid of anything. And this person realizes that after great change occurs in life, there’s a chance something will happen that was even greater than before.

Approximate read time: 48 minutes

2. Dinner with a Perfect Stranger by David Gregory

Question this book answers: What if a stranger could help you see what’s right in front of you?

Nick Cominsky thinks it’s a joke when a man shows up at the dinner table and claims to be Jesus Christ himself. But regardless of who he actually is, the man helps Nick realize his blind spots. He makes him aware of what he’s doing right and wrong in his relationships, career, and life.

This perfect stranger may or may not be who he says he is. But this book helps us see the importance of guidance. Sometimes we need somebody else to show us what’s already right there for us to see.

Approximate read time: 1 hour 33 minutes

3. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy

Question this book answers: What is the best way to push forward?

I’ve read this book six times in seven months. It’s that easy to fly through. Especially in the midst of a pandemic, the book serves as a beacon of hope. It’s a reminder that we can still control being kind to others. Our actions now will be remembered later.

One of my favorites of the many exchanges between characters is when the Boy asks the Horse the bravest thing he’s ever said. “Help” the Horse replies. If you need help, don’t keep it bottled up inside. Reach out to others. This is what real bravery looks like.

Approximate read time: 18 minutes

4. This is Water by David Foster Wallace

Question this book answers: What does it mean to really learn?

To be fair, this book was actually first a commencement speech at Kenyon College. But David Foster Wallace presented such a transcendent soliloquy that it was transcribed and published as a little book. Wallace begins his talk with a parable about a couple fish:

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

Wallace equates learning with awareness. He believes that education is not best delivered through academia and textbooks, but rather is experienced through living, being conscious, and being cognizant and appreciative of the world around you.

Approximate read time: 26 minutes

5. What Happens in Tomorrow World? by Jordan Gross

Question this book answers: How do we live in a world with so much uncertainty?

“You should write some more of these.” My roommate smiled at me and let me know he had to get back to work. My book had distracted him. He wanted to know the fates of all these characters who seemed lost in a world full of so much uncertainty.

What Happens in Tomorrow World? is a tribute to my grandparents. It’s a study of human behavior. It’s an introspective journey into how you act during unprecedented times.

The short, modern-day fable chronicles the life of Cayla “Catch” Alltoys as she attempts to grab four different prizes inside a giant crane game at an arcade called ‘Tomorrow World’. Each of these four prizes (based on my four grandparents) has a different reaction to the possibility of getting caught and introduced to the outside world. As you read, you’ll be able to see which character you relate to most and assess if this behavior is beneficial in our quest against life’s greatest question marks.

Approximate read time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Continued Reading

I stumbled upon another article of a similar concept while I was doing research. Vincent Carlos has more options for little books with big ideas in his piece about books you can devour in a single day.

Doing a full load of laundry. Watching a movie. Driving across all of Long Island. You can read a little book and gain some big ideas in less time than it takes to do these three tasks. So please, give them a look, and share any other short reads that have impacted you as well.

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Reimagining Personal Development

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