7 books that shaped me

Igor IZotov
7 min readJun 5, 2020


Some time ago I was challenged to post about my favorite 7 books, every day a different post why I have chosen that specific book. It was a daunting task as I consider myself a book-worm who has read over 2000 books in his lifetime. In that week I spend an hour a day thinking what book shaped me at the moment of reading to that level that it deserved a place on the list. Without further ado, here are the top 7, by order of time when they were read, starting from high school till now.

A study in Scarlet original cover

The first book on the list is and will always be, my all-time favorite book Sir Artur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet. The book /novel marks the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson or as many people know them nowadays the guys from the hit series Elementary or Sherlock.
The novel first appeared in a magazine in 1887 and after a while was a massive flop. It turned out not many adult people were ready for an ecocentric drug addict with Asperger’s syndrome posing as a private detective to be solving complex crime scenes from the comfort of his armchair. But that changed at the turn of the century, as younger readers got their hands of Sherlock’s stories and errands, making him and his author worldwide success.
A study in Scarlet is the book that gives us an opportunity to peak the brains of Sherlock, learn who he is, and why and HOW he is doing everything that he is doing. For example, we learn how Sherlock stores information that is of importance to him by comparing his brain to an attic, where you put only things that might be of use one day to you. That’s why has is exceptional in Anatomy, poisons, soil, mathematics and geometry but he sucks at geography. Or as he says, It is to no importance to my work if the Sun moves around the Earth or the moon. Some of the tricks and tips about dedication used by Sherlock, I still use to this present-day in management and consulting.

Gulliver’s Travels original book cover

I have always been a politically aware person and I always tried to used satire and humor in my political stances. It was not until this challenge that I realized that might comes from one book I did my IBO extended essay on. Originally written as a children’s book, Gulliver’s Travels was the ultimate satire for European politics, state, and religion believes during the 18th century. Some of Gulliver’s travels were too distant unrealistic places that were nothing more than an allegory of real-life situations and people that the author encountered in his home country of Irland, as part of the UK. One great example are the Yahoo’s (Yahoo.com got the name from there), who were primitive creatures obsessed with “pretty stones” that they find by digging in the mud, thus representing the distasteful materialism and ignorant elitism Swift encountered in Britain. Kardashians I am looking at you here;). Making this book as relevant today as it was 300 years ago.
P.s. I got 0 points on my extended essay, guess someone didn’t like how I connected political satire of the 18th century to 2005.

2001 Space odyssey

People who know me, know that I hate movies based on books and that I have never seen a movie based on a book I have read. It just destroyers my imagination and the whole scenery I have created in my mind. And this goes for all movies/books, EXCEPT ONE — 2001 Space Odyssey by Artur C. Clark and/or Kubrick.
To this day, I don’t know which is better, the book or the movie. There is one famous incident while I was on a national Chemistry exam and the question was “ what is the strongest element found in nature or produced in a laboratory”. Unlike everybody else, I knew the answer right away, as Clark’s Space elevators were made out of them — C60 Buckminsterfullerene nanotubes. (ok he predicted them and they originally appeared in the final Odyssey 3001, but you get my point)

John W. Gardner

There are few books out there that will define you as a person, manager, and leader. I read “On Leadership” while on my exchange semester at the University of Ljubjana in 2009, I think the only book I read there, and some of the principles and advice on how to lead, I still use to this day while managing teams and organizations. That’s why I rank this book so high on my reading book list. But how is this book so different than the others “leadership books”, you might ask.
First of all, it is not your ordinary business book that includes the CEO hero-worshiping high tech silicon valley bullshit that you find in Amazon bestsellers these days. (it was written in the 80s when I guess people, managers, and leaders were different).
The author is just a nice guy that was fighting all his life to make the life of other people better by creating policies and foundations that mattered, in the book who might be his autobiography he mentions tons of political examples how countries and organizations were changed under different leaders, TRUMP anyone ;) .
Lastly, he based leadership on some old school values that we, as humanity, lost down the road such as justice, liberty, equality of opportunity, the dignity of the individual, and sanctity of private religious beliefs — I guess things have changed, eh.

I remember reading this book on a train from Delhi to Varanassi, it was a crowded coupe with 10 people and the trip 18 hours. I don’t know was it the book or the nothingness to do but 600 pages just disappear in that one ride. Nevertheless, It is the absolute bible for every financial and investment professional — The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham. There is not much to say for this book except that it was written in some other time in ’49 when people didn’t care that much for investing their money and helped change that trend. Warren Buffet once said my investment strategy is 80% Graham and called Graham the father of value investing. It is interesting that some investment concepts and formulas such as Margin of safety, Value growth, security analysis (he wrote a book in 62 just for this) were first introduced in this book. If I am, to sum up, this book in 3 principles, they would be:
Analyze for the long term, protect yourself from losses, and don’t go for crazy profits.

I have a strange reading habit that I picked up at University of Antwerp. My investment analysis professor loved noble price laureates in Economy, so he used to give us homework/forced us/ to read either their Ph.D dissertations or the book/article that got them the nomination. So when in 2018 Richard Thaler got the Noble Price for his groundbreaking work in behaviour economy, I rushed to ordered his most famous book called simply Nudge. I didn’t know what the hell is behaviour economy or why is it so important that someone receives such an award for it. It was unreal how such an estimated professor used simple experiments to explain human behaviour in the economy or in finance. I remember reading the book in an instant, then Misbehaving then all his articles he ever wrote. It was like I was trapped by behaviour economy.
And then his buddies followed, Amon Twersky, Dan Ariely, Daniel Kahneman, George Loewenstein, the Heath brothers, and their most famous books or articles….
Don’t get me wrong, There are maybe better books than Nudge when it comes to behavioural economics but this was the book that started it all for me, thus it is on this list.

I will close the list with a true anthropological masterpiece Guns, Gems, and Steel from Jared Dimond. The book tries to answer a simple question asked by Yali, a New Guinean, to the author some 40 years ago “Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?” In the following 500+ pages, Jared manages to compress 13 000 years of human history and have a philosophical, historical, anthropological debate about why some regions in the world are more prosperous than others. Why is Zambia underdeveloped compared to the Netherlands, or why was Papua New Guinea never conquered or become what Australia is today, although they are so close. Why is Africa black or who is the Japanese and so on and so forth…
If you are interested in history, especially one that is connected with real unbiased history then this book is the one.
P.s. If you consider Harare’s Sapience a masterpiece, then Guns, Germs, and Steel is a must, as it was this book in 1998 that inspired Harare to become who he is today.

At the end of this loooooong post, I challenge you all to do a similar list coz you know what they say, books made you who you are today.



Igor IZotov

W.R.I.T.E.R - "Not particularly intelligent, but passionately curious by nature"; FYI I make typos all the time