For a book lover, reading books is like marrying the person you love.
I love reading different kinds of books. Books around the topic of psychology, evolution, communication or purpose keep me intrigued.
One challenge I have faced as a book lover is picking the right book to read. Though I love spending a few hours each day reading, I run into the confusion of which book do I read next.
At times I end up confused if I should buy a specific book or not. In some other cases, I wonder if the free book on Kindle Unlimited is worth my time.
I like to read on a diverse set of topics that help me expand my knowledge and broaden my horizons. Therefore, I read reviews and check ratings on GoodReads before picking up a book to read. Reading a book is a bigger investment of time than watching a movie without checking the IMDb rating.
Many other book lovers like me go through the same problem. People want to read from different topics but end up confused about which ones to pick. To help solve this problem, I created a list of 15 books I loved reading from various topics.
The list does not contain novels. All the books listed below help you increase your knowledge, gain insights, ask thought-provoking questions, shed light from a new perspective and improve as a person.
Understanding how humans think:
As human beings, we tend to overestimate our own brainpower. We assume we are smarter than the average and that we apply careful thought before making decisions. We believe we have the intelligence of a wizard while we, in reality, have the IQ of an average moron.
The human brain has some inbuilt biases ingrained within. For example, you like to read articles and books which confirm with your existing belief. You prefer discarding any proof that proves your belief wrong. For the same reason, you speak about things your favorite political party has done well while contradicting any negative facts.
Similarly, various such factors alter the choices you make every day. You do not even realize that your human mind is under such influence.
The book, the art of thinking clearly, presents 99 such flaws of the human mind along with real-life examples. The awareness of such flaws helps you identify whenever you are about to make a biased decision. Without the knowledge of the biases, you do not even realize making the bad decision and end up paying the price.
Each of these 99 biases is present as a chapter of 2-3 pages each. The writing is crisp and interesting making it easy to go chapter after chapter taking a break whenever you feel like.
The Importance of Sleep
In the current generation, the amount of hours people sleep is reducing day by day like the length of the skirts since the 1980s. Due to the advent of technology, entertainment, and work schedules, our days have grown longer and nights shorter.
It is now a common practice to sleep where most working professionals for 6 hours. Besides, schools start earlier, work hours stretch longer and late-nighters are common.
Matt Walker, a sleep scientist for over 20 years, explains the magic which happens within your body while you fall asleep. If you think sleep was only about rest, you are mistaken. Matt explains how sleep makes you smarter, helps you learn new skills, fight diseases and helps you get over an emotional heartbreak.
The facts presented in this book are both mesmerizing and terrifying. The power of your brain will make you feel proud of yourself. On the other hand, the harmful and irreversible damage caused by lack of sleep will make you think again before compromising on sleep.
At close to 400 pages, the book takes longer to read but is worth the time spent. It might just save you from the damage caused by a lack of sleep.
How some parts of the world dominated the rest
Since the day human beings first stepped on earth, a long time has elapsed. If you look at the world today, some societies and parts of the world turned into powerhouses while some others remained primitive.
Jared Diamond explains how various geographical and environmental factors influenced the success and downfall of various civilizations. Isn’t it surprising to know that the reason why some parts of the world have advanced today is as random as a number on the roulette table?
For example, the places suiting agriculture helped the population grow. The volume of people led to other inventions and advancements such as language, tools, weapons, immunity to diseases and so on.
Some of the seemingly trivial attributes have contributed to your and my existence today. The book is over 400 pages and some might find it a tad slow at times. However, the information provided about why things are the way they are today is unique.
Many authors have written books on persuasion and how to influence people. This book stands out because the approach used in the book is unconventional. Moreover, many of the techniques work like a charm when implemented in real life. The techniques are as fresh and powerful as a recently released smartphone compared to the first launched smartphone.
Chris Voss, who was a former FBI negotiator, has written the book. He has spent 24 years working in FBI negotiating with terrorists. Chris explains various tricks that work based on his experience of handling the negotiation with the terrorists during a hostage situation.
During a normal negotiation, if 2 parties cannot agree, both parties reach the middle ground. For example, if a seller expects 150 dollars, while the buyer wants to pay only a 100, the final price ends up near 125. Diving the disagreement into two equal parts is called splitting the difference.
However, during a hostage situation, Chris could never say “I will give you half the price, you give me half the hostages.” Hence the title Never Split the Difference. Chris teaches everyone to negotiate like your life depends on it.
The summary of the book is available here – How to Negotiate.
This book is weird but interesting. The book answers a stupid question with scientific proof and a crazy climax. For example, it answers questions like “From what height should you drop a steak for it to arrive cooked to the ground?”
The answers go deep into science and physics which can make it complicated for a reader from a non-science background. The book still turns out to be a lot of fun and information.
The book is like a hot and sour soup. Neither would you like it only hot or sour alone, but the combination makes it tasty. The book has a tinge of the same taste by mixing absurdity with real science.
I read this book a few years ago. Today, all I remember about the book is that there is magic in thinking big. You might wonder why would I put such a book as a recommendation? Because the book changed my perspective on the power of my dreams.
A ton of other books exist on the same topic. I had read similar books before and I read more after, but none conveyed the message better. The book barely has any action items or concrete details but still, a book that everyone needs to read. Once you read this, no matter what your dream is, you will feel like putting some effort into it.
The book is like a bungee jump. A few years later you will not exactly remember how every detail felt like but you would still recall the awesome experience.
The summary of the article is present at – How to dream big.
Most presentations end up with the participants dozing off waiting for the last slide. The slides are loaded with data while the presenter and the audience are nowhere in sync.
Presentation skills help you learn the skill of presenting powerfully. Some of the tips presented are unconventional while some are minor details that seem like no big deal. But, when you apply them to a presentation the whole thing comes together like a well-cooked stuffed turkey.
I had used the techniques from the book for a presentation to the senior management. The executive told me after the presentation that it was among the best presentations he had heard.
These skills work like toppings and chocolate sauce on an ice-cream. These seem small and strange but they change the complexion and flavor of the ice cream making it stand out.
The important tips from the book have been outlined at – How to give a presentation in office.
“Falling in love is easy, but staying in love is tough,” says Gary Chapman. The book presents the 5 languages of love in a relationship. He describes five different ways a human being expects love from his/her partner. One or two are prominent for each of us.
When couples do not know their partners’ language of love and try to fulfill the wrong need, both end up unsatisfied in the relationship. For example, the husband is angry that his wife was not appreciating the gifts he gave her, while the wife expected the husband to give her more time.
The book is practical and thoughtful. The book helped me understand the love language of my wife.
Personality – Introverts/Extroverts
Susan Cain describes the power of introverts in her book Quiet. While the world looks at extroverts as the champions, the book clarifies how the introverts have their own style.
The book explains how the extrovert thinking differs from introvert thinking. Reading this book will give you a good insight into some of the people around you. You will understand why some people act so different than you expect.
I am an introvert myself but I do feel the book glorified introverts to an extent. But well, given that so many books speak in the favor of extroverts, we can let that pass. Chances are you live with or work closely with a person of the opposite personality type. Knowing the difference between extroverts and introverts will you live a better life.
The book sheds some light on areas where we are not as good as we think we are. The book provides action items as well as attributes where we tend to make mistakes every day.
For example, you believe you are approachable and you welcome ideas from everyone. But if you count the number of times you start a sentence with “No, But or However,” you will know how flawed you are.
The first time I counted, I had started sentences with one of those three words, I ended up with a count of 30+ in one day. It took me a few months to bring it down to a healthy number.
The book covers various factors that other self-help books do not get into. If you have the discipline to follow the book and the humility to accept your flaws, you can bring a significant change in yourself.
Working without distractions with an intense focus
We live in a world of distractions. The open workspaces, the notifications from our smartphones and the popups of email/chat distract us within a fraction of a second. In such a distracted world, people have forgotten the importance of working with focus.
Cal Newport explains the starking difference between working amidst distractions(shallow work) and working with intense focus. His book provides different models of Deepwork to achieve intense focus to get things done.
Most people will dismiss the need for intense focus thinking it makes no difference. Make no mistake, if you apply Deepwork, you can do more in one hour than what you would do in three.
Skipping this book would be similar to skipping the protein and opting for the sugary food during breakfast. Not only will you miss the benefits of Deepwork but also continue to work with the detrimental effects of shallow work.
You can learn how to apply the technique by reading – How to apply Deepwork.
How the universe, planets, stars, and life came into existence
For people who love to know interesting facts, the book will serve as a galore of scintillating facts. The book explains how things came into existence and how things are the way they are today.
Once you read this book you will understand how massive the universe is and how minuscule we are in comparison. You will realize how the magnitude of the universe has the possibility to permit life in many planets, yet, we have no conclusive evidence to prove life has ever existed.
A series called ‘Cosmos’ exists based on this book. Both the series and the book will give you a plethora of information which will get your spine-tingling.
Finding happiness in all situations
Viktor writes about his experiences in the concentration camps of the Nazis during World War II. He narrates the sequence of events from the time the Nazis forced him and his family into the camps until his rescue.
The book speaks about the horror, torture and suffering the victims had to undergo at the concentration camps. Some are heart-wrenching and some are too hard to digest.
Amidst all the suffering, Viktor speaks about how we found meaning and purpose in such suffering. He speaks about how such an experience can affect you mentally. Your problems might seem like a prick of a needle compared to what Viktor faced.
Before you complain that there are an endless number of books on productivity, I must tell you how different the book is. If you apply the principles in this book, you will get things done. It will transform the way you work.
The techniques mentioned in the book are simple and easy to implement. The only challenge is that the process needs discipline until it becomes second nature. Due to the lack of discipline, half the people who read the book will not apply even a single tip. If you do, I can guarantee you that you will notice a significant improvement in your productivity.
You will face two challenges though.
First, the book does not help you prioritize tasks. So, if you’re not careful, you might end up completing a ton of tasks that you never should have done at all.
Second, the author has written the book based on an old model. You can apply the tips with a pen, paper, and a paper tray. In today’s world of technology, you might have to tweak it to use apps instead of paper.
The method has been summarized on the article – How to capture your thoughts.
Differences between Men and Women
This book explains the difference between the way men and women think with hilarious examples. The purpose of the book is to help couples realize such differences and accept them. Doing so will help avoid conflict.
Reading this book helped me understand how women think and how I had unnecessary arguments in the past.
The book has mixed reviews because the author generalizes certain aspects of men and women. Many people find this book sexist. Some claims in the book might indeed be sexist. But people bash this book left, right and center because a few things do not apply to them. Some people have rated this book low because the facts seem to have offended them.
Not all the facts presented in the book maybe true. But, if you read this book with an open mind, it will help you avoid conflicts and foster relationships.
Reading the same type of books can make reading itself boring. When I was on a spree to complete one self-improvement book after another, I realized I was reading the same information in different ways. After I decided to include some diversity in my reading, my overall knowledge improved.
While a book on evolution might feel useless to some, the know-how of why things are the way they are, make you a wiser person. Knowing how human beings think will help you make better decisions. Understanding why extroverts differ from introverts will help you see a relationship in a new light.
I do not read novels or fiction because I find very little takeaway for improvement for the time spent on such books. That is just my style and if you find value in novels, you can add them too.
Reading on diverse topics of the world has helped me grow in my career, in my relationships, and as a person. It will help you too.
What I am not:
What I am:
Continuously improving self-learner
Productivity/Time Management Obsessed