I'm surprised by the number of tech books on this list, I found I had an appetite for finding them myself pretty much when I was ready for each of them.
I took that at face value, and tried to find a manual for how to interact positively with others, and I found H2WF&IP.
I treated it like a text book, and it changed my life completely. I was happier, more able to be sociable, and I could get along with people.
Now, after a further 30 or more years, I can still see the book's influence as I negotiate deals, manage employees, broker agreements, and generally "do stuff."
It's now out-of-date, but if you can make the effort to read it in the context it was written, and to ignore the obvious anachronisms, it's still valuable. The more recent versions try to be more up-to-date, but they lose something as far as I can tell, and I return to the original.
- The e-Myth Revisited
- Rich Dad, Poor Dad
I've found these very useful in terms of how money works and also about the value of passive income
But something like Francis Bacon’s Essays might be more important. Seeing that lively and methodical a mind right at the horizon of easy readability would have been a powerful clue about how people think and how far afield it’s useful to look for interesting things.
I had already started small businesses and knew I wanted to do a web software company, but I just didn't have a mental framework to work from.
Paul Graham's startup essays (and later many other sources) gave me an idea of how to go about making a startup work.
+ Masters of Doom by David Kushner
+ The Millionaire Mind by Dr. Thomas Stanley
+ The Intelligent Investor by Ben Graham
+ The Essays of Warren Buffet by Lawrence Cunningham
+ Buffet by Roger Lowenstein
+ The Knack by Norm Brodsky
+ Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar by Thomas Cathcart, Daniel Klein
+ The Return of the Great Depression by Vox Day
+ Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman
+ Road to Serfdom by Hayek
+ Iacocca:An Autobiography by Lee Iacocca
I would also give him the practical limitations of only trying to read one book at a time, to take his time with it, and to start a new one not long after finishing. Then again, I'm not sure I should mess with the space-time continuum.
I would give this book to myself because it's a bridge between finishing the final class in high school math and learning how to read proofs on arXiv. The world would be a better place today if I'd known how to manipulate mathematical proofs a decade ago.
During fourth grade and fifth grade, i walked across the street to the other school for my math classes. To this day, people i never knew recognize me on sight as "that kid from math class". When sixth grade ended at age 12, the school ran out of math to teach me (at pre-calculus). I was offered a choice: bus to the high school miles away for math classes, or take music instead. I worried that the bus would ostracize me further from my peers. I would be someone else today if i had chosen the bus. Fluent in math, certainly!
In the years since, I've harbored a desire for a textbook that will teach advanced mathematics to someone with my experience. I've had this dream of understanding how to consider and construct equations with Hilbert spaces. I know it sounds arcane and weird, but it's just a few steps away from cosines and bitwise operators. You can reach into an equation and "flip" things over into this weird space with dimensionality that is not constant, enabling solutions that cannot be had simply from high school algebra alone.
Two months ago, while surfing a used bookstore's Math section, I came across a textbook with the singularly direct title "A Transition To Advanced Mathematics". It is amazing. I am reading sections, doing the exercises, checking against the teacher's guide, redoing until I get a right answer or at least "get it". So far, I can handle one section a week, which means I will complete the book in 39 weeks. (Coincidentally, 39 weeks is precisely 75% of a year, just like American school years.)
So short of that, i'd give my 16 year old self the missing pages from the Dabs C book which I spent far too long trying to figure out!
Any way, if I really must, I would have given back 'Founders at Work' to my 18 self. I only got to read it once I was 21.
Age doesn't matter. :)
1) Read less, code more.
2) Major in math, minor in comp sci.
3) Every time you learn something, write it in this book.
Going back in time to around 12-16, I'd send one of:
* Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
* 1984 - George Orwell
* To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
* Catch 22 - Joe Heller
* Slaughterhouse Five - Kurt Vonnegut
* Of Mice and Men - Steinbeck
* Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
* The Call of Ctulhu - H.P. Lovecraft
* Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
Some of those I actually read in school and loved (but wish I read earlier), others I didn't. I think any of those books would've interested me at the time. There's plenty of time for Rich Dad, Poor Dad, SPIN Selling and all the business books later in life.
You are a product of what you did and read at the time, different influences would have produced a different person.
Neither of us were (or are) objectivists, but it's one of those books that poke your buttons. Either you agree, you disagree, or you think it's insipid. :-)
 Yeah, screw those looters who aren't as smart as I am! I mean, he is!
 Jeez, I hope someone drops a rock on these anti-social bastards. And what a floozy!
 You needed 80 pages for that speech? Weren't you reading this book while you wrote it?
Along with this, I would insist on The Law, by Frederic Bastiat. Written in 1850, this book still wows me.
Or just about anything by Martin Gardner, along with a note to write him sometime before 2010.
I think something by someone like Brian Tracy, on getting started, would have been good. Start something. Start today. Fail. Fail often. Much better than the 'wait till you have planned yourself to death' advice I got when I was a kid.
the Aubrey/Maturin canon - Patrick O'Brian
any book in the Discworld series - Terry Pratchett
anything by Iain M. Banks (although, strangely, I don't find his non-SF as compelling; perhaps it is too dark for my tastes).
and something to stimulate me to learn Lisp then instead of now.
the timeless lessons of the Toa Te Ching in a very accessible presentation
I and Thou - Martin Buber - Age 18
Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand - Age 17
Real answer, I can't think of better books to have read than what I did then, unless I could force myself to memorize a language book or something.