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10 Books That Completely Dismantled My Worldview (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

It’s time to clean our lens

10 Books That Completely Dismantled My Worldview (But I’m Glad I Read Them)
Photo by cottonbro studio

Seeing things in a new way is uncomfortable.

But it is also enlightening.

If we don’t challenge our preconceived notions, we will always be stuck. Stuck like the frog in the well who never saw the outside world.

The following books will help you hop out of the well and see the world in a new light.

Let’s go!

10 Books That Completely Dismantled My Worldview (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

Is global warming a lie?

This book is interesting but not without controversies.

Let me explain why this book is interesting. The authors show us varying correlations with the help of data that we otherwise miss.

Why controversial?

Every data set and study has its limit. Correlation can at times be mistaken for causation. And that is a slippery slope.

“…knowing what happens on average is a good place to start.”

The world is complex. Human behavior cannot be predicted 100%. But knowing the averages is considered a good place to start, the authors say.

There is a chapter on ‘Global Cooling’ that has drawn much criticism. The authors question the exaggerations made regarding the global warming phenomenon.

One of the people quoted by the authors is Ken Caldeira. Someone even contacted Caleira to confirm his views.

“When the solution to a given problem doesn’t lay right before our eyes, it is easy to assume that no solution exists. But history has shown again and again that such assumptions are wrong.”

The authors propose unconventional solutions to global warming and hurricanes.

10 Books That Completely Dismantled My Worldview (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

Building connections instead of divisions!

This book serves a great purpose. It builds bridges where we have built walls.

The author shows us the pitfalls of our moral reasoning. We all like to think of ourselves as pretty reasonable people. But we are not ready to open our minds to those who might think differently than us.

“Anyone who values truth should stop worshipping reason.”

Each political or ideological group focuses on a different moral foundation. Haidt lists six of them:

  1. Care/Harm

  2. Fairness/Cheating

  3. Loyalty/Betrayal

  4. Authority/Subversion

  5. Sanctity/Degradation

  6. Liberty/Oppression

“People bind themselves into political teams that share moral narratives. Once they accept a particular narrative, they become blind to alternative moral worlds.”

This is the reason why liberals and conservatives stand at odds with each other. But progress is possible, if we truly hear what the other party is saying.

I really applaud the author for bringing nuance where people are usually intolerant and divided.

10 Books That Completely Dismantled My Worldview (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

The harsh reality of politics.

What truly matters in politics?

“Coming to office and staying in office are the most important things in politics.”

Whether it is a democracy or an authoritarian rule, the ruling party everywhere wishes to come into power and stay in power.

Those who choose not to cheat are beaten by those who resort to dirty tactics.

This book explores it all.

“There’s nothing better than a rigged election, so long as you’re the one rigging it.”

Every leader in power needs a group of loyal people. When their tummies are full, the leader has their full support.

Lee Kuan Yew was the prime minister of Singapore from 1959 until 1990. He is one of the longest-serving prime ministers in the world.

Lee Kuan Yew’s party was the People’s Action Party (PAP). It won the elections again and again. How?

Those neighborhoods that didn’t vote for him had maintenance and provisions of their public housing cut-off.

“For autocrats, money spent on people — like infants and little children — who are years away from contributing to the economy is money wasted.”

This book will provide you with a new and improved perspective of politics.

10 Books That Completely Dismantled My Worldview (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

Dealing with death…

This book puts forth an interesting proposition. Whatever we do, we do so in order to escape our ultimate demise.

“The prospect of death… wonderfully concentrates the mind.”

We want to deny death.

Every society has a mythical hero system. People serve it to feel useful and give meaning to their lives. For example, building a temple, advancing one’s family, etc. Even secular causes serve as humans’ efforts to create their worth.

In modern-day, the old hero systems of religion are outdated. Man is trying to find meaning in capitalism, consumerism, and in psychology.

“The child who has good maternal experiences will develop a sense of basic security and will not be subject to morbid fears of losing support, being annihilated, or the like.”

The book builds on Freudian psychoanalysis and modern philosophy to make its case.

10 Books That Completely Dismantled My Worldview (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

Why do people join ideological movements?

Through history and psychology, the author explains how mass movements rise and challenge the status quo.

Hoffer says that regardless of the movement’s ideology, the same type of people are attracted to each one. These people do not trust the current practices and want ‘change’.

“The game of history is usually played by the best and the worst over the heads of the majority in the middle.”

They are motivated by feelings of self-sacrifice or ‘self-renunciation’. The author calls them true believers.

Another group of people who join these movements are those who are in the minority and are not fully assimilated into the mainstream. Interestingly though, those living a fully conservative lifestyle have no issues. Perhaps because they accept themselves as outliers.

The author discusses how these movements focus on the collective over the individual and faith over fact.

“A mass movement attracts and holds a following not because it can satisfy the desire for self-advancement, but because it can satisfy the passion for self-renunciation.”

Hoffer also takes us through the lifecycle of mass movements.

10 Books That Completely Dismantled My Worldview (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

When was the word ‘meme’ first used?

Dawkins is the proponent of the gene-centric view of evolution.

Genes are the ones who want to survive i.e. they are selfish. And for that purpose, they use the body of organisms.

“We are survival machines-robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.”

The author says that he has known this truth for years. But it still astonishes him.

Even the altruistic behavior in different species is selfish, he says. It aims to preserve and transfer genes.

Although DNA has been here for almost forever, Dawkins doesn’t dismiss that a new replicator will enter the picture. He says that when a new replicator is formed, it will start its own evolution.

“For more than three thousand million years, DNA has been the only replicator worth talking about in the world.”

Interestingly, the word ‘meme’ was coined in this book for the first time. The author proposes this word to denote the unit of cultural transmission, similar to ‘gene’.

Many editions of this book have been published. It has also been translated into many languages.

10 Books That Completely Dismantled My Worldview (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

What happened to the horses?

The world is uncertain of the future.

There is uncertainty about the rise of artificial intelligence and the future of humanity.

“The jury is out on whether machine intelligence will be like flight, which humans achieved through an artificial mechanism, or like combustion, which we initially mastered by copying naturally occurring fires.”

Nick Bostrom is a philosopher who is known for his work on existential risk.

Artificial intelligence can pose a risk to humanity’s survival. Preparing for an AI future is important to ensure that humanity doesn’t get wiped out.

This is why Bostrom has dedicated this book to the discussion of AI technologies and what they mean for humanity.

There is a chance that humans can be rendered obsolete by superintelligence.

The author tells us about horses. They were the source of transportation and movement.

But they became obsolete. When that happened, what was their fate?

Many of the horses were sold off to meatpackers. There, they were processed into dog food, bone meal, leather, and glue.

“In the United States, there were about 26 million horses in 1915. By the early 1950s, 2 million remained.”

That’s a future humans do not want.

This book argues for global collaboration to prevent authoritarian control of AI technology.

10 Books That Completely Dismantled My Worldview (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

Why are our university students unable to handle differences?

True education requires freedom of thought and expression.

Why is it that campus culture in American universities is becoming increasingly intolerant? Speakers are being banned. There is increased use of trigger warnings and safe spaces.

“I don’t want you to be safe ideologically. I don’t want you to be safe emotionally. I want you to be strong. That’s different.”

The authors argue that the reason is overprotection. This overprotection which the authors term as ‘safetyism’, starts from childhood.

This interferes with a child’s social and intellectual development. As adults, they are unable to handle debates and ideological differences.

Lukianoff and Haidt warn us against us-versus-them thinking. They say that we exist online in eco chambers. Because we are physically and electronically isolated from people who hold different opinions, we are unable to understand them.

“In our identitarian age, the bar for offense has been lowered considerably, which makes democratic debate more difficult…”

What is the solution?

We need to make sure that our children and college students are not accustomed to physical and ideological safety only. They should be prepared to handle various challenges of life.

10 Books That Completely Dismantled My Worldview (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

A renewed perception of failure!

Good and bad are a part of life.

But when we allow our thoughts and emotions to take over, they turn bad things into really bad things, says the author.

“Like any good school, learning from failure isn’t free. The tuition is paid in discomfort or loss and having to start over.”

Instead, we can choose to take our failures as opportunities. Opportunities to learn and grow. Every failure shows us what isn’t the way.

Ryan Holiday teaches us not to take failure personally. Just like we accept failure as a part of our journey in business, we can also take failure as a part of our life.

“Too often we react emotionally, get despondent, and lose our perspective.”

The author motivates us through examples of entrepreneurs. Steve Jobs once fired a designer who thought a mouse with fluid movement would be commercially impossible.

This book is an invitation to try and to keep trying.

It’s okay to fail. But it is not okay to quit.

10 Books That Completely Dismantled My Worldview (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

Wisdom from space!

Chris Hadfield is a former astronaut. He is also the first Canadian to walk in space.

This book details his experiences as an astronaut and what he learned from them.

“Over the years I’ve learned that investing in other people’s success doesn’t just make them more likely to enjoy working with me. It also improves my own chances of survival and success.”

The author teaches us that helping others succeed helps us succeed. People might view this as counterintuitive. Why should we help anyone else win?

Hadfield tells us his own experience. His performance improves when he helps others.

This reminds me of my time at university. My friends and I would teach different concepts to each other and share notes. And yes, teaching a concept to someone else improves our own understanding of it.

Space flight is stressful. No kidding!

The author says that it can kill you. The astronauts are taught to look at a situation and imagine the worst possible scenario. This helps them reduce stress.

“In fact, in simulators, one of the most common questions we learn to ask ourselves is, ‘Okay, what’s the next thing that will kill me?’”

This reminds me of my personal experience again. My parents taught me to look at a situation and imagine that it could be worse. So be thankful it isn’t.

This book has important life lessons for everyone.


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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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