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10 Books That Shattered My Reality (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

Open your mind to new possibilities

10 Books That Shattered My Reality (But I’m Glad I Read Them)
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Everyone builds their own view of the world.

As we move through life, our view changes. It adapts according to new information.

Once in a while, a very strong revelation strikes, shattering our reality to pieces. That may be uncomfortable but it opens new avenues. Light starts to shine through the cracks.

That is why we should all be ready to challenge our worldviews.

The following books will help you do just that.

10 Books That Shattered My Reality (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

Overprotection hurts education.

Have you heard the phrase, ‘The pendulum has swung too far on the other side’?

It might stand true for today’s culture of overprotection. The focus is not on the open discussion and dialogue. The focus is on not offending others.

The authors list three great untruths that have gained popularity:

  1. What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker

  2. Always trust your feelings

  3. Life is a battle between good people and evil people

The prevalence of these three untruths in society is hurting us.

“Free speech and the ability to tolerate offense are the hallmarks of a free and open society.”

The book tells us that regardless of our background, we should do the opposite of these three untruths.

That means we have to seek out challenges instead of avoiding anything unsafe. Do not trust your feelings only. Look for nuance when understanding people. Avoid thinking in binary.

“Education should not be intended to make people comfortable, it is meant to make people think.”

The authors label the culture of overprotection as ‘safetyism’. Safetyism is harming our kids by hindering their development. It is hurting education because college campuses are more concerned with coddling their students.

Even if you stand at odds with the authors’ viewpoint, you have to give their views a fair chance by reading this book.

10 Books That Shattered My Reality (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

Defending democracy and freedom…

Televisions have power over us. And we should be wary of that.

When a politician uses emotional chants and slogans, it affects us. And these overshadow the facts and truth. This is what Timothy Snyder warns us of.

He tells us to opt for reading so we can build a vast variety of concepts.

“Politicians in our times feed their clichés to television, where even those who wish to disagree repeat them.”

The author extracts lessons from the history of governments, dictatorships, and wars.

Snyder warns us that established democracies can turn authoritarian. He gives us practical steps that can be taken to save ourselves from tyranny and to preserve liberty, freedom, and public good.

“Modern tyranny is terror management. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that authoritarians exploit such events in order to consolidate power.”

There are 20 lessons in this book. I’ll include three of them:

  1. Beware the one-party state.

  2. Contribute to good causes.

  3. Listen for dangerous words.

“To abandon facts is to abandon freedom.”

This book is an important and enlightening read that will make you re-evaluate the political structures in your country.

10 Books That Shattered My Reality (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

You have got it all wrong.

The common narrative is that the world is getting worse by the day.

“Think about the world. War, violence, natural disasters, man-made disasters, corruption. Things are bad, and it feels like they are getting worse, right?”

But is it really?

I remember when I first came across the facts put forth by Hand Rosling, I was elated. I wasn’t on the far end of the spectrum of thinking that it’s all doom and gloom. But I was reasonably concerned about the state of the world.

Rosling made me realize there are many good things happening. And in order to form a realistic view of the world, we have to take them into account.

“Step-by-step, year-by-year, the world is improving.”

The world is getting better. Not in all aspects, all the time. But there are significant improvements in different areas.

Child mortality has been getting lower and lower over the years. Violence is in decline. Poverty is being reduced.

But why do most people think that the world is worse off than before? That is due to the 10 dramatic instincts of the human mind.

The information in this book will restore your faith in humanity.

10 Books That Shattered My Reality (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

Ready or not, here comes AI!

Max Tegmark is a physicist and a cosmologist.

In this book, he discusses AI research and what it will lead to. There is no question that AI will change our world.

“…intelligent agents: entities that collect information about their environment from sensors and then process this information to decide how to act back on their environment.”

But will this change be beneficial for humans? We have to make sure it is otherwise we are doomed.

Tegmark tells us what intelligence really is. He predicts that AI will become more intelligent than humans. Then he goes on to talk about superintelligence, the intelligence that goes far beyond the human level.

“The term “AGI” was popularized by the AI researchers Shane Legg, Mark Gubrud and Ben Goertzel to more specifically mean human-level artificial general intelligence: the ability to accomplish any goal at least as well as humans.”

According to the author, there are four important operations for AI safety:

  1. Verification

  2. Validation

  3. Security

  4. Control

This book will update you on AI research and the many complex issues that will face humans in the future.

10 Books That Shattered My Reality (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

The musical chairs of politics.

Politicians are selfish.

I kinda knew that. But a part of me hoped that there must be honest and dedicated people out there who genuinely want to bring about a positive change in their country.

Masquita and Smith ruthlessly broke my rose-colored glasses.

“This is the essential lesson of politics: in the end ruling is the objective, not ruling well.”

Those in politics want to come into power and stay in power.

And to achieve that they have to keep their coalition happy. A coalition is a group of supporters that help leaders stay in power.

The case is the same for authoritarian governments and democracy.

“The difference between doing a good job and doing a lousy job is driven by how many people a leader has to keep happy.”

The difference is that in democracy, the elected person has to keep a bigger group of people happy in order to be elected again.

This book paints a very interesting image of the political cycle.

10 Books That Shattered My Reality (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

Of incentives and correlations…

The behavior of humans is driven by incentives. Incentives are of three types.

“There are three basic flavors of incentive: economic, social, and moral.”

People have a strong incentive not to steal. They know that they’ll suffer moral, social, and economic consequences.

They will be doing wrong. (Moral) Their social standing will be marred by their action of stealing. (Social) They will lose their job. (Economic)

“Once a name catches on among high-income, highly educated parents, it starts down the socioeconomic ladder.”

The authors discuss many interesting correlations that exist all around us.

For example, data shows that names can predict life outcomes. This is not because the name has something to do with it.

It’s because high-class people choose unique names. Their children obviously have more opportunities and often have better life outcomes. Then this name starts to get common. And the cycle is repeated.

With unique propositions, this book is sure to make you scratch your head.

10 Books That Shattered My Reality (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

Choose truthfulness over lying, always and forever.

I cannot agree more with what is said in this book.

From a totally religious perspective, my parents taught me not to lie. And that has served me pretty well in life.

I have made mistakes but for the most part, I have stayed far away from lying.

“Unlike statements of fact, which require no further work on our part, lies must be continually protected from collisions with reality.”

Harris tells us about the mental accounting required to keep up lies. That’s a tough job. So why don’t we stick with being truthful?

The author is not against big lies only. He comes after white lies too.

He warns us of lying to our friends. We think we are doing them a favor by falsely flattering them. Instead, we are denying them our true view.

“Honesty is a gift we can give to others.”

Embarrassment, mistrust, and more can be avoided if we decide to get rid of lying once and for all.

This book makes a very strong case for being truthful, no matter what.

10 Books That Shattered My Reality (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

When the going gets tough, pick up this book!

We can change our view of tough times.

Either we can be bummed out, or we can view them as opportunities. Ryan Holiday’s book motivates us to do the latter.

“Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.”

We cannot control what comes in front of us. We might work hard for an exam and still fail. We might master a dish, only to screw it up in front of guests.

Anything can happen at any time.

But here is the thing. We might not be in control of our circumstances, but we are in control of how we respond to them.

Holiday also shares examples, anecdotes, and stories of historical leaders.

“We control our perceptions, thoughts, and actions, not the obstacles themselves.”

Using Stoic philosophy, this book teaches us how to be resilient and strong in the face of odds.

10 Books That Shattered My Reality (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

Who drives life?

Who am I?

This is the age-old question that plagues humans.

Dawkins tells us something interesting. Something that baffles him too.

He says that we are nothing but survival machines for genes. Genes are the ones driving life forward. Their aim is to make as many copies of themselves as possible. For that, they use the bodies of living organisms.

“The genes are master programmers, and they are programming for their lives.”

Genes are selfish. And all the altruism that we see among living things is for selfish reasons too. To ensure survival.

Dawkins proposes the word ‘meme’. Meme is a culture replicator.

When we die, we leave genes and memes behind. Our genes dwindle with passing generations because of the shuffling of chromosomes. But… the memes live longer. A meme can be an innovation, a literary contribution, or an idea.

“Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are all born selfish.”

This book will teach you a lot about your biology. Perhaps, it will make you question your own existence too.

I believe in God and a meaningful existence. Nonetheless, I find what Dawkins says interesting.

10 Books That Shattered My Reality (But I’m Glad I Read Them)

Can the divides be bridged?

Most people are good. There are very few who are downright evil. This is what I honestly believe.

Why do good people stand at odds with each other? That is the question that Jonathan Haidt attempts to answer.

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

We have our own view of morality. And since we think we are right, we consider others immoral.

But the reality is not so simple.

Through the foundational theory of morality, Haidt makes us realize how different ideologies or political groups focus on different foundations. This is why they have different views of right and wrong.

“Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second.”

The author also tries to bridge the gap between the political right and left.

By understanding those who are different from us, we can defeat the culture of hate and name-calling.

“People who devote their lives to studying something often come to believe that the object of their fascination is the key to understanding everything.”

I find Haidt’s argument quite convincing. I am all for understanding the nuance and complexity of the world. We should not opt for a black-and-white view.


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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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