Charles F. Haanel, The Master Key System


Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook


James Redfield, Celestine Prophecy


Kevin Gates is never tired of reading; the saying “never judge a book by its cover” is prevalent in the life of the Baton Rouge MC. While most rappers look to their life and surroundings for inspiration, Gates uses literature to broaden his horizons and thinking. Last year, he shared with XXL his reading list that included Robert Greene's The 48 Laws Of Power and Sun Tzu's Art Of War, where he admitted that he was a bookworm. “I know with my physical appearance that I don’t look like the typical reader,” he told us. “I’m in Barnes & Noble all the time and you can look at people that look like they are supposed to be in there. I am in there, pants sagging, hat backwards.”

To catch up with Gates, we had him stop by during his promotional run for his latest mixtape By Any Means to give us some new recommendations. From self-help to romance books, Gates schools us on the authors he likes right now. —Tzvi Twersky & Eric Diep

XXL: We get a ton of fan mail from people in prison. As someone who’s spent a significant amount of time locked up, does that surprise you at all?
Kevin Gates: It really don’t surprise me. Most of the individuals that are avid readers don’t exist in this society; they exist in that realm, in the incarcerated realm. Truth be told, those are some of the most intelligent individuals you are ever going to sit down with, so it don’t surprise me.

What about you—what did you read when you were inside? What do you read now?
I’m re-reading The Master Key System, by Charles F. Haanel.

So I assume you liked it the first time around?
No, I ran through it. It was a good read, so I was excited about trying to hurry up and get to the end of it. I ran through it, so I didn’t really get to the process at all. I’m just re-reading. When I have time, I touch it.

Have you always been an avid reader?
Since I was a child.

Do you think that’s helped you develop as a rapper and as a person?
I believe my word usage is different because of it. When I encountered a word I didn’t know, I’d underline it, go look it up and then add it to my word bank. So I believe I have more range as a writer because I read. But does it make me better? No. I feel like art is an expression of one’s individual creativity. I know a lot of people that just know a million words but can’t express it in art.

What are some of your favorite books and what books have influenced you?
I don’t believe any books have influenced me, but I’m a fan of Nicholas Sparks and I’m also a fan of Anne Rice. Other than that, I like non-fiction based on betterment. I’ve been into meditation lately, not because I want to be a Buddhist monk or be a karate kid. I used to box, and being an athlete I know how important breath is physically, so I was like, How much more important is it mentally? That’s what made me start reading about meditation.

Do you think your time as a boxer has played into your rapping at all, just in terms of breath control when you’re recording or when you’re on stage?
I don’t know. When you box, everything becomes second nature, becomes reflex. So it was natural, and me rapping is a natural act, too. So I can’t really say, because I’ve done both I can’t compare and contrast the two.