STUFF MINDS ARE MADE OF— 15 Most Influential Books in My Life

Jonas Hafner - Mine


The books we read form our inner world, they help structure the way we think and help us to determine our values.These are fifteen of the most influential books in my life.

I inherited a little bit of a ravenous appetite for books from my dad who bewildered his teachers when he read through his entire school library in his teen years— or maybe from my mom who filled our story times with enchanting Fairy Tales.  Regardless of where the appetite came from, I am glad to have it because books are such stuff as minds are made of; and our observations are rounded with their depth.

Recently, I got asked for book recommendations, and while perusing the reading list, I started back in 1996 to keep track of my readings I chose fifteen books that shaped, ravished and influenced me most.

These are mostly classics and may seem outdated, but they are not because wisdom is timeless.  Here is why I recommend them:

  1. The Bible— Yes yes, this one is crucial. Read it cover to cover at least once. It’s not that long, it’s not that hard, and one should not argue for, nor against God, until this is done. Half of the world’s disagreements would get avoided if people knew what they were talking about when it comes to the Bible.  This is also imperative for anyone interested in literature by say, Milton, Shakespeare, Edith Wharton, etc. everyone quotes the Bible so reading it in context adds depth to just about every other significant work of literature.
  2. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith— This one, on the other hand, is very long, and very hard. Still, it is not hot to be ignorant about economics, so I highly recommend reading all five volumes. Just once.  After all, this is the fundamental work on capitalism and always will be, so it is worth the effort.  Smith settles the questions of the origin of money, how value is determined, the division of labor, taxes and all that other stuff, logical putting things into their places. This book is guaranteed to save you from falling into the pits of contemporary conspiracy theories and all sorts of get-rich-fast schemes.
  3. The Laws of Winners by Bodo Schäfer– Schäfer outlines the principles and habits which distinguish successful people from those who are merely lagging through life. He shares stories, facts, and principles which, if put into practice, will propel success in all areas of life.  P.S. Reading is one of his tips for success.  He reads around 150 books per year himself and highly recommends it to everyone else.
  4. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie — Everyone who is anyone has read this (Warren Buffet still credits Carnegie for helping him overcome certain fears) and so should you. This book will behoove you and everyone you meet.
  5. The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm— Because love is an art and as with all arts, mastery requires knowledge.
  6. The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis— This is an eloquent explanation of the various types of love to help you understand how to love your friends, your parents, your God, and your lover differently, but powerfully.
  7. Etiquette by Emily Post— Because vulgarity is neither charming nor pleasant.
  8. The Personality of a House by Emily Post— Because creating a beautiful house or a delightful room does not happen by accident and learning the basic principles of architecture and design is key to avoiding all sorts of interior and exterior faux pas.


  1. Camille: the Lady of the Camellias by Alexander Dumas, fils– Because this is the greatest French love story of all time.
  2. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin– Because this is the greatest Russian love story of all time. In fact, it is so great that it is worth learning Russian just to appreciate the full effect of Pushkin’s luscious verse.
  3. Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare— Because this is the greatest English love story of all time. It is timeless, classic, and everyone should know where over-quoted lines like, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet ” originated.
  4. The Complete Works of Dorothy Parker— Because her wit is like a double-edged sword.
  5. Measure for Measure by Shakespeare— Because reading Shakespeare is the best way to understand human nature and learn to discern the twists and turns of character which divide a nobleman from a self-righteous ass.
  6. Travel Essays— I love them all. From Vladimir Gilyarovsky’s ramblings through Moscow, to the world travels of Francis Mayes. Seeing cities through the eyes of different travelers introduces hidden places, fresh insights and allows me to see the world from many perspectives, not just the shadowy limits of my own.


  1. The Wisdom of SolomonThis book is found in the Apocrypha. I’ve been reading this short set of Proverbs over and over for as long as I can remember and every time I come to Solomon’s descriptions of Wisdom— everything inside of me burns from the radiance of his words.

These books contain the lines I want to quote, the thoughts I want to think, and the world I want to live in.