15 books billionaire Ray Dalio says you should read to understand today's world - and have a fulfilling life

Ray DalioHollis Johnson/Business Insider

Billionaire investor Ray Dalio is known for his principles on everything from power dynamics to running an office with radical transparency. He even published a best-selling book titled "Principles: Life and Work" that elaborates on what he's learned in the 40-plus years of his career.

However, Dalio draws inspiration from more than just his own ruminations. He's fond of reading, and scouring through interviews and even the pages of "Principles" yields a number of book recommendations from Dalio himself.

Whether you're a college student trying to figure out your next steps or an experienced investor looking for a career boost, you're sure to glean meaning from the following 15 book recommendations from Ray Dalio.
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“The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers” by Paul Kennedy

“The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers” by Paul Kennedy

In a July 2019 interview with Business Insider, Dalio called this book the best thing he'd read in the past year. The book tracks the arc of world powers since 1500. Dalio is of the opinion that the US is in a position of decline while China is on the rise. He found this book the most interesting out of the many he read to understand where we are in history.

"That dynamic has happened many, many times in history," he said, "and understanding that well, I think is very important."

Find it here »

“The Hero with a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell

“The Hero with a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell

Campbell melds psychology with mythology in this book that outlines the phases of a hero's journey.

Dalio's son Paul gave him this book in 2014, and he immediately identified with it. He used Campbell's roadmap of a hero's journey to understand where he is along that path, and what he should do next.

Dalio even writes in "Principles" that he gave this book to China's vice president Wang Qishan "because he is a classic hero."

Find it here »

"The Lessons of History” by Will and Ariel Durant

"The Lessons of History” by Will and Ariel Durant

This is another book that Dalio gave Qishan, and he describes it in "Principles" as "a 104-page distillation of the major forces through history." The book was published in 1968 by a Pulitzer Prize-winning husband-and-wife duo that studied thousands of years of Western history.

This work tracks the cycles of history, and Dalio writes that it shows "how the same things happened over and over again throughout history."

Find it here »

“An Unquiet Mind” by Kay Redfield Jamison

“An Unquiet Mind” by Kay Redfield Jamison

Dalio's son Paul struggled to manage his bipolar disorder for three years, and the worried father soon realized that it was due to no fault of Paul's: it was simply the way his brain chemistry worked. Dalio's personal experience taught him that many mental differences are physiological.

"The experience not only taught me a lot about how brains work but why creative genius often exists at the edge of insanity," Dalio writes in "Principles." He then lists creative, productive people who have bipolar disorder, including Kay Jamison, the author of this book.

Jamison "has written frankly about her own experiences with the disease in her book 'An Unquiet Mind,'" Dalio writes.

Find it here »

“River Out of Eden” by Richard Dawkins

“River Out of Eden” by Richard Dawkins

Dalio gave Qishan this book as well. It describes how evolution works, and as Dalio told Tim Ferriss on an episode of Ferriss' podcast, he thinks evolution is "the greatest force in the universe."

"I think the purpose of everything is to evolve," he said. "I think individuals are just vessels for our DNA evolving."

Find it here »

“Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” by Adam Grant

“Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” by Adam Grant

Adam Grant of the Wharton School has written extensively about Bridgewater, and the unique way Dalio runs it. Dalio writes that this was necessary because the way he operated "was so unusual." Grant was one of a number of behavioral psychologists who came to Bridgewater to evaluate their operational style.

Dalio urges people to read their evaluations, which he describes as "overwhelmingly favorable."

Find it here »

“Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman

“Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman

This New York Times best-seller was written by a Nobel Prize winner in economics, and is helpful in understanding the way people think. Kahneman draws upon psychological research to show when we can and can't trust intuition, and how we can make the best choices professionally and personally.

The book won the National Academy of Sciences Best Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Find it here »

“Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World” by the Dalai Lama

“Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World” by the Dalai Lama

Dalio had a conversation with the Dalai Lama in which they discussed the overlap between spirituality and religion.

"His view was that prayer and meditation seemed to have similar effects on the brain in producing feelings of spirituality (the rising above oneself to feel a greater connection to the whole)," Dalio writes, "but that each religion adds its own different superstitions on top of that common feeling of spirituality."

Find it here »

“Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life” by Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt

“Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life” by Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt

This is the first book listed in Dalio's bibliography in "Principles" and in it, neurologists Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang outline the truth about our minds. They address common questions we've probably all thought of, like "can a head injury make us forget our own names?" and dispel myths, like the idea that we only use 10% of our brains.

Find it here »

“Einstein's Mistakes: The Human Failings of Genius” by Hans C. Ohanian

“Einstein's Mistakes: The Human Failings of Genius” by Hans C. Ohanian

Dalio read this book in 2011, and it offers an analysis of Albert Einstein's failures.

The pitfall with genius, according to Ohanian, is that people gifted with it naturally have a more difficult time believing or accepting that they're wrong. They become blind to their mistakes, and if they are stubborn, cling to a mistake forever without correcting it.

Find it here »

“Leadership the Outward Bound Way: Becoming a Better Leader in the Workplace, in the Wilderness, and in Your Community”

“Leadership the Outward Bound Way: Becoming a Better Leader in the Workplace, in the Wilderness, and in Your Community”

Dalio practiced different leadership strategies before choosing "radical transparency" for Bridgewater. This book communicates the leadership principles at Outward Bound USA to a larger audience through real-life events, case studies, and key principles current or future leaders can take away.

Find it here »

“My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey” by Jill Taylor

“My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey” by Jill Taylor

This New York Times best-seller was within the bibliography of "Principles" and with good reason: it describes how a brain scientist's stroke led to enlightenment. It took the author eight years to fully recover, but she considers the stroke a blessing.

Find it here »

“The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds” by Michael Lewis

“The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds” by Michael Lewis

Lewis delves into the partnership between Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, who were pioneers in the field of behavioral economics.

The friendship between Kahneman and Tversky revolutionized science, and Lewis explores it in this 369-page volume.

Find it here »

“Why We Believe in God(s): A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith” by J. Anderson Thomson

“Why We Believe in God(s): A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith” by J. Anderson Thomson

This is another book referred to in Dalio's "Principles," and it aligns with his exploration of belief and its link to physiology. Dr. Thomson investigates belief as a natural effect of human physiology and presents the idea that god(s) were created by man.

Find it here »

“The Upside of Inequality: How Good Intentions Undermine the Middle Class” by Edward Conard

“The Upside of Inequality: How Good Intentions Undermine the Middle Class” by Edward Conard

Dalio has voiced his concern about the state of America, and said that inequality is an urgent problem. According to Dalio, inequality should be treated as a "national emergency," and this book explores the nuances of inequality as it relates to the middle class.

Find it here »

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