“We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.” — Anaïs Nin 

In January, Huw left the Welsh countryside to come to London to move in with me. He did the move in two journeys. First, he brought his books, and then he brought everything else.

You'd think he'd only bring enough books for a shelf or two, but no. He had to pump his tyres with extra air to get this selection of his 150+ favourite books east along the M4 from Wales to London. (Above is a picture of Huw's car boot before making his first trip.)

When things get tough, we find it useful to flood our minds with positivity, philosophy and creative thinking to find out how others in history have overcome similar problems. Because we're often not the first to feel the type of pain that we're feeling. Many people have walked similar paths. Hopefully through reading these books we'll absorb some of their learnings to help keep us get through tough times and bounce back when things get better. 

Over the last couple of weeks we've been re-reading some of our favourite books specifically to help us get through tough times and we've put together this list for you in case you find them helpful too.

These are books we've discovered and re-read over the years, covering creativity, personal development, small business, big business and some philosophy too.

Though the list is small, it’s taken years to distill and put together. 

We hope you enjoy them.



1, The Obstacle Is The Way,  by Ryan Holiday

I’ve re-read this book at least once a year since it was published in 2014. It’s full of timeless advice and historical anecdotes for overcoming obstacles and keeping your head during unpredictable times. And it’s all rooted in the roman philosophy of stoicism. 

It’s a reminder that while we can’t control what’s going on outside of ourselves, but we can choose to find opportunity in the pain we might be feeling. So rather than complaining, can we take time to practice excellence, courage and patience?

If you only read one book from this list, let it be this. It’s short enough that you can read in one day.

The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday.



2, Failed It!, by Erik Kessels

If you don’t fancy anything too dense right now and want something to get the ball rolling, this book is a great place to start. Erik celebrates experimentation, imperfection and failure. 

He reckons we should stop aiming for perfection, follow our energy and open up to making mistakes. It’s time to try new things. It's time to fail more.


3, Man’s Search For Meaning, by Victor Frankl

A good read for perspective.

Victor Frankl shares his experience as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp during WW2 and what it taught him about the people who survived those camps. 

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” - Victor Frankl.


4, Keep Going, by Austin Kleon

Turn up. Do the work. Not only when you’re inspired, but every day. And especially when you don’t feel like it. 

This book is full of simple strategies for getting creative work back on track when it feels like you’ve been pushing a boulder up a hill for far too long. Read any of Austin’s books to get your creative juices flowing. Make sure you’ve got a notebook nearby for the ideas you’re going to have.

+ The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz.


5, What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars, by Jim Paul and Brendan Moynihan

As well as learning from success, it’s just as important to learn from the things that didn’t go to plan. Sure failure is a bit of a buzzword and it’s definitely not as sexy as success, but the lessons will help us make smarter decisions in the future.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Anthony Horowitz

+ Billion-Dollar Lessons by Paul B. Carroll and Chunka Mui


6, The Sticking Point Solution, by Jay Abraham

This is a business book and a great one for finding ways to weasel yourself out of the problems you’re in. 

Before writing, Jay gathered experiences working in 400 different industries so the chances of you finding something useful in this book are high.

Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You’ve Got by Jay Abraham


7, Tribes, by Seth Godin

Tribes is as much about leadership as it is about community. 

In tough times we need you to become a leader. People need to connect with people. We need hope. This book will show you how to do just that.

The Dip: The extraordinary benefits of knowing when to quit (and when to stick) by Seth Godin


8, Can’t Hurt Me, by David Goggins

David’s story starts with a tough upbringing but he transforms himself by pushing his mind and body to its limits, through Navy Seal training and ultra endurance events. 

70 miles into his first 100 mile ultra marathon, he brakes all of the bones in his feet and fractures his lower legs. But he finished the race. 

This is next level mental toughness. Read it if you need a kick up the ass.

*Tip - Listen to the audio book instead of reading this. After every chapter the narrator questions David Goggins himself on what’s just happened, there’s deeper insights and stories that will shock and fascinate you.

Extreme Ownership by Joko Wilnik



9, The 5 Minute Journal 

Ok so this isn't a book, it’s a journal. It’s super simple and is a very easy way to form good habits when times get tough.

The 5 Minute Journal is designed using proven strategies to instill gratitude, set your purpose for the day, and create empowering beliefs. We use the app rather than the notebook.


10, Letters From A Stoic, by Seneca

If you like ‘The Obstacle Is The Way’ by Ryan Holiday and want to learn more about Stoicism, start here. 

In a series of letters, Seneca the most insightful Roman philosopher and an advisor to the Roman Empire shares his lessons on living a stoic life. Though these letters were written thousands of years ago, they read as though they were written today.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Discourses by Epictetus


4, Do Pause, by Robert Poynton

There’s never been a better time to get comfortable with pausing. 

Do Pause includes practical tools to help us slow down and, well, pause. Pausing allows us to do our best work and making a habit of it will make sure we still do it decades from now.

If we don’t pause, our energy will dwindle. Read it for your sanity.

 StillnessIs Is the Key by Ryan Holiday



12, Unfuck Yourself by Gary John Bishop

Did you know that 80% of the conversations we have every day take place in our heads?

What you say in those conversations can decide how your day or your life plays out. This book teaches you how to take control of those conversations.

How To Stop Worrying And Start Living by Dale Carnegie 



13, Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

A lesson in how to thrive during chaos. 


14, Comfortable With Uncertainty by  Pema Chodron

I’m no Buddhist, but there are some great things we can learn about how to stay calm and get comfortable with the inevitable challenges of life.

+ Oh, The Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss 


*Bonus - The Control of Nature by John McPhee

This is a very timely read. John tells three stories of humans trying to control nature: A volcano eruption in Iceland, an earthquake in LA and changing the course of the Mississippi river. 


Next on our list is Essentialism by Greg McKeown.


Whether you read one of these books, or a sci-fi trilogy that gets you hooked, reading is helping us clear our minds and explore new ways of thinking.

If you have any book recommendations for us, please let us know by dropping us an email to - hello@paynterjacket.co.uk with the subject ‘You Have To Read This’.