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10 Books Recommended by Naval Ravikant That Will Expand Your Brain (No, I’m Not Kidding)

Lessons in life, business, and physics

Flickr: Christopher Michel

Let’s take advice from a half-philosopher, half-businessman!

Naval Ravikant is an entrepreneur, investor, and podcaster. He is also the co-founder, and former CEO of AngelList, a website that connects startups with investors.

Ravikant is an angel investor who has invested in many companies. Some of them are Uber, FourSquare, Twitter, SnapLogic, Stack Overflow, and Clearview AI.

Known for his deep thoughts, he is also called, ‘The Angel Philosopher’.

Let’s give his recommended reads a walk-through!

The path of man.

Yuval Noah Harari is an Israeli author, historian, and professor.

In this book, he takes us down the history of human evolution. We learn how humans went through various revolutions and dominated the Earth.

“Biology enables, Culture forbids.”

Harari goes into detail about the imagined truth or ‘myths’ that allow humans to collaborate. It includes concepts such as religion, political orders, ideologies, and even money.

The author also discusses the role of science. It changed our understanding of the world and fast-forwarded our progress.

“People are liberated from suffering not when they experience this or that fleeting pleasure, but rather when they understand the impermanent nature of all their feelings, and stop craving them.”

History buffs are going to enjoy this book a lot.

Pessimism or optimism?

According to this book, the world has prospered through non-zero-sum bargains, exchanges in which both parties benefit.

Due to these exchanges, humans were able to access better options. Imagine a farmer and a carpenter exchanging the fruit of their respective labors. Both got something out of it.

The farmer got a wooden plow. The carpenter got grains.

“Specialisation encouraged innovation, because it encouraged the investment of time in a tool-making tool. That saved time, and prosperity is simply time saved, which is proportional to the division of labour.”

These exchanges kick-started specialization. And specialization pushed innovation.

The book traces the economic development of the world.

Ridley talks about pessimism and its reasons. As you can guess, the author is optimistic about the future. He believes human prosperity will continue to improve, as it has done so before.

He says that pessimism and bad news attract more attention than positive ones. The author argues for rational optimism.

“In 1900, the average American spent $76 of every $100 on food, clothing and shelter. Today he spends $37.”

This book will make you look at this world and global trade with a positive outlook.

If they aren’t going to face consequences, don’t trust them.

This book explores another one of Nassim Taleb’s concepts.

He tells us to not trust those who are advising us while they will not bear the brunt of putting that advice into action i.e. they don’t have skin in the game.

“Those who talk should do and only those who do should talk.”

Most of Taleb’s ideas to me are common sense really. We should be wary of the podcast bros and YouTube gurus.

The author applies the concept of accountability in all scenarios. He suggests a unique way of combating suicide terrorism. He says that such attackers should know that their dying is not the end and that their families would financially pay for their crimes.

This will make them take accountability because now they are facing the consequences.

As we see in Antifragile, Taleb is in favor of the practical steps instead of theory. This book chronicles his approach again.

He tells us that the only thing you can learn from a professor is how to be a professor.

The only thing you can learn from an inspirational speaker is how to become one.

“For studying courage in textbooks doesn’t make you any more courageous than eating cow meat makes you bovine.”

This book has good insights. Those who like deep thoughts would appreciate it.

Wisdom crunched into sentences.

This is a book of aphorisms.

Aphorisms are short clever sayings that convey truth and wisdom. We have heard them since childhood. For example: ‘Actions speak louder than words.’ ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’

“Academia is to knowledge what prostitution is to love; close enough on the surface but, to the nonsucker, not exactly the same thing…”

The title of this book is taken from a Greek Myth. Procrustes was a robber who had a bed. He used to invite people to stay over. And then, he tried to fit them in his bed. Like literally.

If they were too tall, he would cut their extra limbs. If they were too short, he used to stretch them. This obviously resulted in their death.

“What organized dating sites fail to understand is that the people are far more interesting in what they don’t say about themselves.”

The author criticizes modern society’s attempt to define intelligence through classroom measures, battling diseases by creating them, and more.

“The best revenge on a liar is to convince him that you believe what he said.”

His quotes will unravel many truths. You will appreciate the wisdom they hold.

“…complain too loud about wrongs done you; you may give ideas to your less imaginative enemies.”

Taleb’s words will help you better your personal life, and your view of the modern world.

Physics for everyone!

Richard Feynman was an American Theoretical Physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1965.

He was a professor at the California Institute of Technology, where he delivered several lectures from 1961 to 1963.

“…the only thing that can be predicted is the probability of different events.”

This book compiles the 6 most accessible lectures of his for the general reader.

The topics are:

  1. Atoms

  2. Basic Physics

  3. Energy

  4. Gravitation

  5. Quantum Mechanics

  6. Relationship of Physics to other topics

Among many other things, Feynman tells us about knowledge. He says that while it is true that experiment is the sole judge of scientific truth, something else is needed to guess the laws of physics.

That is imagination. We imagine and take guesses at identifying patterns and broadly applying the laws that experiments hint at.

“Things on a very small scale behave like nothing that you have any direct experience about.”

The book explains concepts with examples and illustrations that make them easier to understand.

To be honest, some might still find the book dense. It also comes down to individual taste.

Are we any different from our ancestors?

Historians husband and wife have done a great job of writing this book.

Through this, they bring us lessons from 5000 years of world history.

“The present is the past rolled up for action, and the past is the present unrolled for understanding.”

The book discusses the effect of geography on success or lack of it for certain civilizations. No race is superior to another. It’s just that some were endowed with access to trade routes via seas etc.

Make no mistake though. The authors tell us that technology has done a lot in diminishing the effect of geography.

“Man, not the earth, makes civilization.”

Another important lesson of the book is that man is the same as he was before. Our habits might have changed, but our instincts have not.

Due to social evolution, social factors have also undergone transition. But not our biology.

The authors also tell us that civilizations might disappear over time but their progress isn’t lost. In fact, it gets embedded into the next civilization and its progress. For example, we still rely on the same fire and wheel that our ancestors did. But we have progressed on it.

This book is a combination of history and wisdom.

Was this 1997 book right about the modern world?

This book at its time of publishing discussed the looming future.

It made many predictions on how humans will be earning and living.

“An entirely new realm of economic activity that is not hostage to physical violence will emerge in cyberspace.”

The book tells us that human economic advancement can be divided into the following eras:

  1. Hunting-and-gathering societies

  2. Agricultural societies

  3. Industrial societies

  4. Information societies

The authors considered that the ‘Information Societies’ era was about to dawn.

They made bold predictions about cyberspace and how transactions will be taking place there.

They were not wrong. We order food through the Internet. We call a cab through the internet. We pay through the Internet.

“Cyberspace is the ultimate offshore jurisdiction. An economy with no taxes. Bermuda in the sky with diamonds…”

While some predictions like no taxes in cyberspace haven’t turned out to be true, many have.

Just read this quote:

“you’ll even be able to order a nightly news report that simulates the news you would like to hear. […] You’ll see any story you wish, true or false, unfold on your television/computer”.

I mean… whoa!

This book will show you what the people from 25 years ago hoped for our world.

What can Warren Buffet’s business partner teach us?

Charlie Munger is Warren Buffet’s long-time business partner.

This book is a compilation of his talks given over 30 years.

“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none, zero.”

Munger tells us about the importance of reading books. No argument there. He says that his children laugh at him with the amount of books he read.

He also talks about finances and decision-making. Munger tells us about 25 cognitive biases that impair our decision-making skills.

“It takes character to sit with all that cash and to do nothing.”

Another wholesome piece of advice given by Munger is this. Life is brutally hard and only these things help:

  1. Having low expectations.

  2. Having a sense of humor.

  3. Surrounding one with the love of friends and family.

  4. Living with change and adapting to it.

There are so many people we haven’t met and benefitted from. Charlie Munger is one of them. It’s great that we can read his book and benefit from his experiences.

Understand the universe and its working.

This book was originally published in Italian. Carlo Rovelli is an Italian theoretical physicist and the founder of loop quantum gravity theory.

This book discusses general relativity and quantum mechanics.

“What are we, in this boundless and glowing world?”

Rovelli tells us about the theory of relativity, thermodynamics, and more.

He tells us that the two theories on how the universe works i.e. general relativity and quantum mechanics are at odds with each other.


And that is beneficial for science. Because this allows scientists to come up with many new theories.

The author also tells us about Einstein who spent a year of his youth with no particular direction.

“You don’t get anywhere by not ‘wasting’ time- something, unfortunately, that the parents of teenagers tend frequently to forget.”

Although a book of physics, the book also talks about ‘nature’ and ‘home’.

Have we progressed enough?

Knowledge is infinite. This is the idea that the author explores in this book.

He tells us about the thinkers of the past who thought human progress would stop soon. But it hasn’t. This is because we don’t know what is yet to be discovered, he says.

“Optimism is, in the first instance, a way of explaining failure, not prophesying success. It says that there is no fundamental barrier, no law of nature or supernatural decree, preventing progress.”

Deutsch talks about AI technology and renewable energies, both fairly recent advancements. He even discusses literature and its role in driving human advancement.

The author tells us about the benefits of challenging existing ideas and keeping our minds open.

“Trying to rely on the sheer good luck of avoiding bad outcomes indefinitely would simply guarantee that we would eventually fail without the means of recovering.”

If there is one lesson that this book gives us, it is that there is no stopping human curiosity and thirst for knowledge.


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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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