Dan John (website) is the quintessential academic strongman. He exemplifies the idea of being strong and smart, with the unique ability to write about his endeavors in a meaningful way.
His books are easy to read, yet packed full of quality information. Despite his academic background as a Fulbright Scholar and university professor, he writes like a best friend’s letter. When you read his advice, you almost feel like he is speaking directly to you. He doesn’t cite research studies but often talks about how he discovered these ideas in the early 1970s, giving him over 30 years of empirical evidence. He also competes as an Olympic Weightlifter, Highland Games athlete, and discus thrower, giving him the insights of a performer and not just an observer.
Fitness writers are rarely able to provide such unique perspectives.
NEVER LET GO: A PHILOSOPHY
His first book (amazon) on philosophy, lifting, and learning impressed me in ways that I am still realizing and have yet to realize.
I learned that you do not have to be 3% body fat to write about fitness. I learned that even the greatest of the greats struggle with things like a daily drinking habit. I learned that fitness writing doesn’t have to look like a research paper. And I learned that fitness is a lifelong journey that includes ups & downs, where the downs are encouraged in order to provide more learning opportunities.
I learned from one book that I will never fully learn enough. Dan talks about discerning information as a skill that requires lots of exploration. When you read tons of crap, you have to learn to realize that you are reading tons of crap. The only way to do that is to read tons of crap, experiment, learn, and then the skill is realized. “You need to learn to discern the material. It helps to read stuff you absolutely disagree with to develop this skill.”
BOOKS BY DAN JOHN
These books will change your life. At a minimum, they will severely alter the way you look at the world. At the very minimum, they will change the way you think about fitness. Why? Because they are written by a religious study professor that routinely speaks to professional athletes and trainers about training and performance. (click on image to view book)
The following list comes as recommendations by Dan John. Many of these books are not normally on recommended reading lists, which is part of the reason I find it to be of particular interest.
Keys to Progress by John McCallum. Dan John considers McCallum the Socrates of weightlifting. Everything published since is just a footnote of this defining text.
Power to the People and Enter the Kettlebell by Pavel Tsatsouline. The simplicity in Pavel’s writing cannot be overstated. His influence has propelled the Russian Kettlebell to the forefront of functional training in America.
Kiss or Kill by Mark Twight. This book is a wild ride. Dan appropriately calls it a “line in the sand.”
Brother Iron, Sister Steel by Dave Draper. Subheading: A Bodybuilder’s Book.
The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White. In every possible way, young King Arthur is readied to become the King of England. It is a story of learning and mastery, the journey of a king to be.
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Published in the 1840s, this story of suffering and retribution transcends the test of time.
The Road by Cormac McCarty. I love books that produce divided opinions and The Road invokes the extremes of emotions; most influential book of all time or the worst book ever written.
The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman. A story about the universal quest for happiness.
Do not go Gentle into that Good Night by Dylan Thomas. Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.
Check out the Outwork Book Club for more book lists like this one.