10 Must-Read Non-Chess Books Every Chess Player Should Explore

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  • GM Avetik Grigoryan GM Avetik Grigoryan

10 Must-Read Non-Chess Books Every Chess Player Should Explore

I wish I knew how to perform at my peak earlier in life. I also wish I would have read these books earlier than I did… I missed out, but it’s not too late for you.

Psychology and Mental Toughness | 8 min read
10 Must-Read Non-Chess Books Every Chess Player Should Explore

Your chess rating is not equivalent to only your knowledge. It’s equivalent to your knowledge AND performance.
And it’s somewhere between when you perform at your worst and at your peak.

What if you could always perform at your peak? Or come very close to it? 🙂

What many people don't realize is that often, a single impactful mindset book can have a 10x bigger impact on your chess than 10 chess books combined.

I wish someone had enlightened me about this when I was climbing the ranks on my way to becoming a Grandmaster.

My chess would’ve been a lot better. My life would’ve been a lot better…


I began delving into non-chess reading, and learning, only after transitioning to a professional chess coaching career.

Since then, I've collaborated with top high-performance coaches, completed numerous courses, and read hundreds of books about enhancing performance and what top athletes do differently.

It’s impossible to share all the knowledge I acquired during these last years in one single article. I wouldn’t even be able to do it in a single book. However, what I'm excited to share with you are my top 10 recommended non-chess books—ones I wish I had read earlier…

So you can have the advantages I didn't have.
So you can improve at a faster rate than I ever even thought possible.

NOTE: I’ve added all the links to Amazon. They are not affiliated links, I just included them to make it easier for you to find the books.
Feel free to check other sources for potentially better prices or your preferred websites.

And please, refrain from seeking these books for free. Authors have dedicated years to writing them, and they've spent decades learning what they share. Let's show them the respect they deserve.
(If you said, I don’t have money, below you’ll find a book about the excuseless mindset.)

Thanks! Let’s get started!

📗 Unlimited Power by Tony Robbins

💡 Motivation, achievement

Unlimited Power - Tony Robbins
See on Amazon

When I finished this book, I didn’t feel my power was unlimited. But I felt 10x more powerful. And it wasn’t that I was temporarily motivated. I’ve learned important stuff and important techniques that absolutely changed my performance in every aspect of my life from that point forward.

From ChessMood to relationships, everything took on a new shape.

This is the absolute best thing Tony has done for the world.

Not surprisingly, it ranks as the top book recommendation for numerous high achievers, elite athletes, and CEOs.

📗 Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins

💡 Motivation, achievement

Awaken the Giant Within - Tony Robbins
See on Amazon

And this is the 2nd best thing Tony has done 🙂

If you feel you’re in the river of life, and it takes you somewhere you don’t want to end up, this is your 2nd read after the “Unlimited Power.”
It’ll help you to wake up and take control of your chess career and life.

I read this at a time when I was losing confidence in myself. I realized that sometimes, these moments are just the seeds of finding that “giant within.”

📗 High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard

💡 Peak performance

High Performance Habits - Brendon Burchard
See on Amazon

I’ve read many books on high performance and worked with different high-performance coaches.

Brendon is one of the few who really knows what he’s talking about and has really worked with lots of high achievers.

In this book, he explains his HP6, which was very effective for me, my team, and many of our students.

Before reading his book, you can go through his high-performance indicator assessment test, see your results and then track your progress after finishing the book.

Also, he has created a cool performance management tool, and I happily pay him.

Think about it only after finishing his book.

And you can also check out his YouTube channel, where he has lots of good stuff.

📗 Discipline is the Destiny by Ryan Holiday

💡 Discipline, personal development

Discipline is Destiny - Ryan Holiday
See on Amazon

“Lack of discipline puts you in danger; it also colors who and what you are.” — Seneca

Many chess players come up with a training plan, create a system, make a decision to start the next Monday, do it for a few days and then… Fail to keep the discipline.

I was just one of them. Always making clear plans, and never following them.

In this book, you’ll find lots of interesting and inspirational stories about different people, from Marcus Aurelius to Napoleon as well as many athletes who became superstars by studying the power of discipline.

This is the key to who becomes the great chess players and which players can’t move past their plateaus.

📗 Atomic Habits by James Clear

💡  Discipline, habits

Atomic Habits - James Clear
See on Amazon

Being disciplined, getting rid of bad habits and installing good ones — go hand in hand.

Not only was I often undisciplined, but I had many bad habits too. From playing bullet all night, to watching porn and other harmful stuff.

Many books have been written about habits, but nothing comes close to the brilliant work James Clear has done with his book.

If you improve your habits, your chess, just 1% a day, that’s 3700% a YEAR when compounded.

The power of tiny gains

Notice what happens when you lose just 1% of your habits per day. You lose everything you’ve worked hard for.

If you also have bad habits, here is half of the solution. The other half is in your hands.
Will you read it and practice what you study there?

📗 Essentialism by Greg McKeown

💡 Dealing with information overload

Essentialism - Greg McKeown
See on Amazon

I would buy a book. Without finishing it, I would then find myself starting another one. Then another.

Sounds familiar?
Nowadays, you’re bombarded with even more stuff. There are hundreds of more books, Grandmaster-made courses (there were none, when I was climbing to my GM title), and lots of other things that promise to raise 100s of ratings.

Well, 99% of that is BS.

The key is to remove all useful activities, and focus on the most effective ones ONLY! To say “NO” to many resources, and keep your “YES” to a few essential ones.

Anyway, you can’t read all of the books and watch all of the courses. So you need to make a smart choice in this world of information chaos.

I wish I’d read this book earlier, saved money on books that I bought and never finished, and focused on the essential only activities and not the useful ones.

(The book was recommended to me by my friend GM Noel Studer, when I was trying to do too many things at the same time at ChessMood, and I can’t thank him enough for it.)

📗 Boundless by Ben Greenfield

💡  Health & superbrain

Boundless by Ben Greenfield
See on Amazon

I would eat french fries before my games, watch a movie before sleeping and do all sorts of harmful stuff for my brain.

I never knew the importance of good sleep and how to get it. How to maintain a healthy diet and boost the brain before and during my games.

I have done so many things wrong…

As soon as I realized this (only in my 30s, idiot me…) and started to ask my peak performance coaches about it, everyone said, “Ben is the guy!”

Now I say it too 🙂

If the book is too long for you, you can check out his YouTube channel or visit his website, where you can find articles on topics you’re interested in the most.

(or check out the soon-to-be-released podcast I am doing with him.)

📗 The 3rd Door by Alex Banayan

💡  Excuseless, creativity

The Third Door - Alex Banayan
See on Amazon

Just like almost everyone, I had many excuses.

“I can’t afford to play in International tournaments and dozens of other stuff.”

If you’re a normal person, and also have excuses, please check out this book.
It has so many amazing stories from how Steven Spielberg jumped onto a bus and sneaked into a Hollywood studio, to how Bill Gates sold his first piece of software…

And if at the end you are not wowed, and will still live with your excuses, I will buy you a beer when we meet.

📗 Skip the Line by James Altucher

💡 Personal development

Skip the Line - James Altucher
See on Amazon

I was born in a former Soviet Union country. I went to school, and just like everyone, I have been taught things that I never used in life. I have also been told many wrong things, like it’s all about hard work.

It is. But it’s a combination of hard and smart work.
It’s not only the quantity. It’s quality.

James is a successful entrepreneur, investor, standup comedian, podcaster and also… a chess master!

He has many techniques that served him to get to the top in everything he touched. And in this book, he generously shares them.

Many of those techniques will significantly help you to cut the road to success in chess too.

James was also a guest on the ChessMood Podcast, you can listen to the episode here.

And here is the link to the podcast where I was his guest.

📗 Alter Ego by Todd Hermann

💡 Performance boost, legal cheating

Alter Ego - Todd Herman
See on Amazon

“This guy gets it. And this book is what I did to dominate on the court!” - Kobe Bryant. Todd is an award-winning performance expert who has coached legends such as Kobe Bryant, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rafael Nadal, and many other top athletes, teams, and companies.

I should mention that he also had a significant impact on my performance.

In this book, he shares how you can create an Alter Ego to boost your performance. It's a somewhat advanced topic, which is why I've placed it at the end of the list. You need to be very open-minded to grasp the concept. But if you are… the sky's the limit.

Todd has been a guest on the ChessMood podcast, and you can listen to the episode here.

And to get started with the idea of alter ego, you can read my article “The Legal Cheating.”

I wish you…

Dear friend,
I don’t want you to win your chess game but lose in the main game of life.
I also don’t want you to hide under chess, avoiding the challenges of life.

Getting better at life will get you better at chess. And in order to truly master chess, you must improve your life.

I hope these books will assist you in winning both games.
I hope they will contribute to you becoming a better person.
I hope you'll achieve greater health in your body, soul, and spirit.

And if you gain an extra few hundred rating points or achieve the title you've dreamed about, that will be an added bonus.

With love,
GM Avetik

P.S. You can discuss the topic or share your best non-chess reads in our forum.

P.S.S. I read about 5 books a month, and I’m constantly going to update this list.
If you haven't already, subscribe to our newsletter, and I'll provide you with all the updates. No spamming, no bombardment with "buy x, y, z" 🙂

Originally published Aug 29, 2023

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