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10 Best Nonfiction Books of All-Time According to Mark Manson - Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Our yesterday is not that different from today

10 Best Nonfiction Books of All-Time According to Mark Manson - Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)
Photo: Maria Midoes

Let’s blow the dust off the old books!

Humans have been the same throughout history. We think we have changed. In reality, we have not.

Today’s booklist will show how similar we are to older generations. You’ll read political tricks from a 16th-century diplomat and roam among thinkers of the past.

Let’s go!

10 Best Nonfiction Books of All-Time According to Mark Manson - Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Deep thoughts of a thinking soul.

Montaigne is a 16th-century French thinker, jurist, and author. The compilation of his various essays reflects his deep thoughts about the world.

“I quote others only in order the better to express myself.”

The 107 Essays cover a wide variety of topics. Some of these are solitude, death, science, children, and friendship.

Montaigne is humble. He talks about his poor memory, his inability to manage finances, and that he understands simple games only.

He is also skeptical of scientists. He wonders that since man is wrong about so many things, should we believe what they say? He has a disdain for anyone who claims to have the absolute truth.

“I am afraid that our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, and that we have more curiosity than understanding. We grasp at everything, but catch nothing except wind.”

The author is a fan of meditation and contemplation and lists its benefits.

Reading Montaigne is like benefitting from the innermost thoughts of a philosopher.

10 Best Nonfiction Books of All-Time According to Mark Manson - Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Society vs individual, an eternal struggle.

In one of his best-known and most-read works, Sigmund Freud discusses society and its relationship to an individual.

“It is impossible to escape the impression that people commonly use false standards of measurement — that they seek power, success and wealth for themselves and admire them in others, and that they underestimate what is of true value in life.”

The author believes that religion is how societies function. But he is not religious himself. Freud explores the ‘religious feeling’ that people experience.

The book also talks about how societies are formed through smaller groups. People connect to each other sexually (i.e. as a couple) and then raise children.

These units form societies.

“My love is something valuable to me which I ought not to throw away without reflection.”

The various relationships in societies, according to Freud, are driven by the love drive (Eros) and the death drive (Thanatos).

This book is very important for psychology and philosophy students.

10 Best Nonfiction Books of All-Time According to Mark Manson - Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Reflections from nature.

This book causes nostalgia for a life unlived.

The author went and lived in a cabin by a pond for 2 years. The area was Walden Pond, after which the book is named. To me, that just sounds dreamy.

“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”

Thoreau reflects on the time he spent there. Away from materialism, he was able to connect with nature and himself. He tells us what he learned in his time.

“Things do not change; we change.”

The author tells us how he made his cabin, planted a bean field, and how he spends his time. He reflects on the society that is still present around him in the apparent wilderness. The train that goes by and the people he meets.

He also makes trips to the city.

“Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.”

The author is a nature lover. This can be easily observed through his writing. He talks in detail about the turn of seasons and the animals he hears or watches.

If you love nature and dream of living in a cabin far away, this is the book for you.

10 Best Nonfiction Books of All-Time According to Mark Manson - Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Political advice from the 16th century.

A 16th-century Italian diplomat wrote this book as a guide for Prince Lorenzo di Piero de’ Medici.

He talks about how a prince should govern his state. Machiavelli advises the prince to keep alert even in times of peace. To keep an eye on threats.

“There is no other way to guard yourself against flattery than by making men understand that telling you the truth will not offend you.”

Something that the author says stands true for political reality anywhere. He says that deception can be used when necessary. But the ruler should maintain an outward appearance of being virtuous and upright so as not to be hated.

The author also talks about cruelty and clemency.

Too much clemency isn’t good. He says that punishing a few bad people can bring good to the whole population. Now ain’t that the truth?

“Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good.”

He advises the prince to learn how not to be good. And use that when needed.

Reading this book will take you to 16th-century politics. Perhaps you’ll feel that it is not much different than the politics of today.

10 Best Nonfiction Books of All-Time According to Mark Manson - Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

What does history teach us?

This book was written in 1968.

Will and Ariel Durant are the historians behind the 11-volume The Story of Civilization.

They wrote this book after completing the 10th volume.

“It is not the race that makes the civilization, it is the civilization that makes the people: circumstances geographical, economic, and political create a culture, and the culture creates a human type.”

In this, they analyze some of the trends they observed in their research and writing.

They talk about how geographical realities shape history. The authors also talk about the role of religion and morality in maintaining social order.

“The historian always oversimplifies, and hastily selects a manageable minority of facts and faces out of a crowd of souls and events whose multitudinous complexity he can never quite embrace or comprehend.”

When laws are weak, religion plays a bigger role in maintaining social order. This makes sense, right?

History buffs and deep thinkers will appreciate this book.

10 Best Nonfiction Books of All-Time According to Mark Manson - Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

A Black girl’s coming-of-age story.

Did you know that Maya Angelou was reluctant to write this book?

But after being challenged, she set out to do it. This book is the story of a young Black growing up in Southern America in the 1930s.

“Anything that works against you can also work for you once you understand the Principle of Reverse.”

Angelou shares her experiences with racism in her childhood.

She and her brother were sent to live with their grandmother. Being abandoned by their parents hurt them a lot.

But when they were taken back to their mom by their dad, something bad happened.

The mother’s boyfriend raped Maya. He was sentenced in court and later murdered.

“Life is going to give you just what you put in it. Put your whole heart in everything you do, and pray, then you can wait.”

The author faced a lot of ups and downs in her relationships but eventually started working as the first black streetcar conductor.

She also becomes pregnant and hides it. The book ends with her child being born.

10 Best Nonfiction Books of All-Time According to Mark Manson - Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

This book was written during the Holocaust.

Anne Frank was from a Jewish family. This family was hiding in order to save themselves from Nazi persecution.

“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”

Another family was also with them.

Through her time in confinement, Anne regularly wrote a diary, journaling and compiling her thoughts.

Some of her thoughts are those of a young teenage girl. Others are of a wise old soul.

I mean, just read this quote:

“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”

I understand this quote now. I don’t think I understood it when I was 14. That’s how old Anne was.

Sadly though, the family was found out and taken to concentration camps. The only one who survived was Anne’s father, Otto Frank.

He was given the diary by his friends after the war. They had found it after the family was taken and kept it safe. Otto Frank decided to publish it.

10 Best Nonfiction Books of All-Time According to Mark Manson - Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

What is your ‘immortality project’?

Religion and culture have helped us face the reality of death.

We will die one day. In order to live though, we deny that we can ever die.

“Beyond a given point man is not helped by more “knowing,” but only by living and doing in a partly self-forgetful way.”

Fear of death is behind everything. People also show interest in being connected to things that will help them live in some way, even after their death. Becker calls these ‘immorality projects’.

He discusses various psychological ailments in the context of ‘immortality projects.’ For example, he says that depression comes when a person feels like they are failing in their immortality project.

“Mother nature is a brutal bitch, red in tooth and claw, who destroys what she creates.”

This book was awarded the 1974 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. This happened two months after the author’s death.

10 Best Nonfiction Books of All-Time According to Mark Manson - Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

He survived, so can you!

Victor Frankl is a psychiatrist. He was taken prisoner by the Nazis and sent to the concentration camps. His wife and other family members were also taken.

“An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.”

The author reflects on the abuse he and his fellow prisoners endured. He reflects on the mindset that was needed to survive the brutal treatment.

Despite the hardships, the author keeps on going. He starts to write his manuscript again on pieces of scraps and whatnot.

“Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment.”

Frankl is the founder of Logotherapy. Logotherapy focuses on people finding meaning in their lives.

Having a ‘why’ to life is something that benefits everyone. The author tells us that anyone can find meaning through:

  1. Work/Cause

  2. Love

  3. Suffering

This book will leave you in awe of the resilience shown by survivors of the Holocaust.

10 Best Nonfiction Books of All-Time According to Mark Manson - Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Is AI truly intelligent?

This book explores the connection between the human mind, music, and more.

“Sometimes it seems as though each new step towards AI, rather than producing something which everyone agrees is real intelligence, merely reveals what real intelligence is not.”

It also talks about AI i.e. artificial intelligence. The author is skeptical that AI is real intelligence. Makes sense to me.

The author explores what it truly means to be intelligent.

He talks about how consciousness arises in a human. He labels this process ‘strange loops’ in the brain.

“A computer program can modify itself but it cannot violate its own instructions — it can at best change some parts of itself by obeying its own instructions.”

This book discusses many different mathematical ideas. From them are Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems.

Those who appreciate math and philosophy will like this book.


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If you enjoyed these book recommendations, check out the rest of my book lists on my blog-

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