Richard Reis's Virtual Stack of Self Help Books
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I got a lot of great feedback on Anji’s snippet so I decided to do another one. This snippet of knowledge is from Richard Reis, who has a company called Most Recommend Books. Richard stumbled upon the idea for Most Recommend Books because he keeps personal lists of all the books he would hear famous people recommend in print and on podcasts.
Of course, there are lots of different lists of books, like the Los Angeles Review of Books and Reddit Books but what Richard has created at Most Recommended Books is a way to see across all sorts of different disciplines and figure out a canon of knowledge for those that want to be better writers, entrepreneurs, designers, actors, or investors.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things
One of the key insights that Richard gleaned from Most Recommend Books is that successful people tend to “stumble into opportunities” and while that might seem like a lot of luck, you still have to have the skills to take advantage of the opportunity. It’s like in Ben Horowitz’s book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things when confronted with making tough decisions, there are no easy answers but thankfully, Richard’s virtual stack of self-help books can help you along the way.
This part of our conversation starts at 16:33 (you can hear the full interview here) when we start to talk about how Richard stumbled into creating Most Recommend Books and what he has learned from all the books on his list.
Now, let’s get better together.
Jarie: And so right now you're doing this thing called most recommended books, which I found pretty darn cool because again, I read a lot. So Ah, and I write books and I always want to figure out what other people are reading. Um, can you tell us a little bit about that kind of what that's about?
Richard: Yeah. So, with most recommended books, the, uh, it's two things. One. I was always saving these lists of books on my Evernote. Well, now, emotion. I guess I was always saving these lists to myself, and I decided to just share them on, uh, and to, uh, I used to write Oh, I used to blog a lot more. I still blog occasionally, but I used to blog a lot, especially 2017- 2018. And one day, I wrote this blog of all the books that you know most recommended on Twitter and that one post made more money than the other 50 plus post that I wrote. I spent all of 2017 writing.
So I was like, OK, people are clearly interested in books, So maybe I should do this since I have all these notes, you know? So and these notes came from reading all these biographies, you know? So you read someone's biography and the biographer says, and he read this book and it changed his life for her life. Right? Um, so I would write it down, you know, and you wouldn't find these lists anywhere else on the internet.
So I decided to put it all in one place on debt and also came from Tim Ferris podcast. At the end of every podcast, he asked his guests one of their favorite books. So I decided to also put all of that in one place and combine it. And that's where Most Recommended Books came from.
Jarie: Wow. So did you code it up yourself?
Richard: Partly. So I have, one of my best friends. We did a blog post on how to think like a programmer and it did really well. And so he and I talked about working together, and we tried all these little projects.
So remember what I said about stumbling onto opportunity? Um, we kind of thought, you know, let's fill these little projects until something just clicks, you know? And this is something. This is something we can talk about later. Because I've noticed this as a pattern amongst, um many, if not all successful people. They stumble onto these opportunities
Jarie: So they get lucky?
Richard: There's a lot of hard work and skill, but ultimately you never know. Um, I don't know if you read. There's a book called the Facebook effect about how Mark built Facebook. The most interesting part of the book to me was early on at Harvard. How many projects did he build before Facebook? Yeah. So he built a ton of websites, and even before Harvard, even when he was younger, he would just keep building a website after website until Facebook was a hit.
So this guy was just building and building until something hit, and I noticed this pattern. So one thing my friend and I decided is let's just keep building projects and not be romantic about any of them. You know, if any of them doesn’t succeed after three months, we would just take it behind the barn.
And, uh, so with most recommended books, um, we noticed that every month it was making more money, and we weren't very focused on that, you know, We just left it there. And every month it was getting more views and making more money. And sometime in November, I thought, um, okay, we should go into this. Ah, full time. So now I'm working on Most Recommended Books full time.
Jarie: Oh, wow. And how do you guys make money off of it?
Richard: So every time someone buys a book, we got a percentage from Amazon.
Jarie: Oh, Okay, so it's sort of like an affiliate referral link. So if you are put, I'll put a link to the site in the show notes too because it's the cool thing is that you can kind of scroll through that. I don't know. Famous people, I guess, would be the word I would use. Um, Then you can figure out what they recommend and click through. So okay, so, um, so affiliate model clicks through. And you and you source all these, like recommendations through, like, the books. How do you get set up? You alluded to a little bit before about how you get all the recommendations, but can you kind of dig a little deeper into that?
Richard: Yeah, It started with, like I said, some verses podcast. So I went through every episode. He did, and I got older recommendations from the people there and then for people like Oprah and Bill Gates. So it depends either. Either I found them on a biography, or you can find them online. So, like Bill Gates has on his website, the list of books he reads every year. So that was easy. Oprah had the Oprah Book Club. Um, Ev Williams from Twitter. Has a Good Reads account. Yeah, I could just go there to see what he is reading.
Jarie: Ah, I mean, I have obviously a Good Reads account, and it’s linked to Amazon. So it knows what I'm reading, and I'm not famous or anything. Wondering if there are other places to grab it?
Richard: Yeah, so? So not many of these people use Good Reads. But EV Williams from Twitter is one of them. And Emma Watson, the actresses has a Good Reads account. So I got quite a lot of books from those two people on Good Reads. So you know, it's every place is different. And every now and then, like you see an interview on YouTube or you read in the interview online and, you know like Peter Thiel will say this book blah, blah, blah. And he quotes the book. So I'm like, Oh, you read that book, let me add it to the website.
Jarie: I haven't dug super deep into it. But are you then, like doing aggregate list? So, like, these are the top 10 books across all these famous people. You working on something like that?
Richard: Yes. So what I'm most interested in more than knowing which books specific people have read. Um, and this is because everyone is different, right? So, like the things that will motivate you and push you to work your best are different from the things that will motivate me and push me. And so I thought, instead of me just focusing on like, you know what, Bill Gates, his favorite books and go read those.
What are the books that all these, you know, call them successful people, world-class performers? What are the books that they all recommend the most? And there's a page on my words like um called top books, where you can see that list and you can see which are the books that all these 300 plus world-class performers across all sorts of different fields. It doesn't matter which field you're in.
What are the books that they all recommend the most in common? And that, to me, is a very interesting list.