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10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by James Clear — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Let’s learn from the past!

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by James Clear — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Great gems lie in the past.

Whether it is a lesson from history or the thoughts of an ancient philosopher, all of them can provide us guidance for our life here and now.

James Clear studied biomechanics and started out as a performance coach. The trajectory of his career took him to being a writer and a speaker. Ultimately, he also wrote his own book, ‘Atomic Habits’.

Today, we are going to cover his recommended reads.

The books range in a variety of topics. They include the history of the universe, Stoic principles for a good life, and advice from the accomplished.

Let’s go!

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by James Clear — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Story of humans.

The genus Homo (humans) had several species. But Homo sapiens rose above all. How?

The author tells us that Homo sapiens had extraordinarily large brains as compared to other mammals. Due to the cognitive revolution 70,000 years ago, humans developed social skills, language, and the ability to communicate ideas.

“There are no gods, no nations, no money and no human rights, except in our collective imagination.”

The ideas included religion, government, and many more. The author terms these ideas myths.

Then came the agricultural revolution. Sapiens domesticated plants and settled down. This led to good things and bad things.

Humans were able to reproduce and create more copies of their DNA. Their diet became less varied, reducing their immunity. Settling together led to the spread of infectious diseases.

“Domesticated chickens and cattle may well be an evolutionary success story, but they are also among the most miserable creatures that ever lived.”

Along with history, the author also discusses concepts such as happiness and tolerance.

This book is a good contribution to the history genre.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by James Clear — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Classic but potent advice from ancient Greece.

Epictetus was a Greek Stoic philosopher. He lived from 50 to 135 AD.

This book offers reflections on life from the perspective of Stoicism.

“Do not expect to equal anyone in effect without putting forth a similar effort. A person who rarely leaves home, who doesn’t converse with, praise, and encourage others, will not attract friends.”

The message is about controlling ourselves and our thoughts in response to external events. We can’t control everything. There are things that are outside our power.

If we don’t accept this reality we will be unhappy.

But if we learn how to handle our responses and perceptions, we can have a content and happy life.

“Black and white thinking may seem powerful in speeches and debates, but real life is mostly gray areas”

The book offers an interesting view of others’ suffering as well. We should offer sympathy and support. But we cannot allow that to affect ourselves internally. The same event can be viewed differently in different people’s minds.

This book brings us ancient but timeless wisdom.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by James Clear — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Forces that shaped history…

Will and Ariel Durant are a husband and wife duo. They are known for their massive contribution, ‘The Story of Civilization’. It is an 11-volume set of books on history.

“Normally and generally men are judged by their ability to produce — except in war, when they are ranked according to their ability to destroy.”

‘The Lessons of History’ is a book that they wrote on completion of the 10th volume.

This book extracts patterns and lessons from human history. The content is a testament to the authors’ balanced and informed opinions.

Based on 128 pages, the authors start with this disclaimer:

“Only a fool would try to compress a hundred centuries into a hundred pages of hazardous conclusions. We proceed.”

This book discusses various forces that have shaped the past of our world. That includes, but is not limited to science, religion, geography, economics, and war.

“History is subject to geology.”

If you don’t like long and arduous history books, this short read is a good trade-off.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by James Clear — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Learn from those who excelled!

Ray Dalio brings us all that he has learned while heading his company, Bridgewater.

“Listening to uninformed people is worse than having no answers at all.”

The book is divided into ‘life principles’ and ‘work principles’.

“Choose your habits well.”

The most laudable thing is Dalio’s commitment to the truth. He motivates us to accept reality and to deal with it instead of fooling ourselves.

The author also tells us to embrace change.

Understanding people is an important part of navigating this world. Everyone thinks differently. Hence they all have different strengths.

For a good manager, it is imperative that he understands people.

“Managers who do not understand people’s different thinking styles cannot understand how the people working for them will handle different situations.”

This book will bring you tried and tested actions from the playbook of a billionaire.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by James Clear — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Does the world follow a pattern?

Our world is more random than predictable. This is the proposition made by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

“People do not realize that the media is paid to get your attention. For a journalist, silence rarely surpasses any word.”

Humans, however, love to assign patterns to things. They want to predict the future.

They are caught in the cycle of probabilities and predictions.

The author warns us of our limited view. We might think that a decision is wrong based on its outcome. But… It can just be bad luck. And vice versa.

“The quality of a decision cannot be solely judged based on its outcome.”

We might want to keep things simple. But in reality, complexity rules. And oversimplification causes issues.

Taleb gives us a litmus test for determining whether a certain success was a result of skill or random luck.

If one can replicate it, it’s skill. But if one is unable to do so, then it is pure luck. Makes sense to me!

This book will show you the shortsightedness of humans and the fallibility of human knowledge.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by James Clear — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

A Stoic’s reflections on life.

Marcus Aurelius was a Stoic philosopher.

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”

This book of his was actually his personal journal. In this, he reflects on various ideas.

Aurelius’ words teach us how to deal with haters, accept death, and control our minds.

They also motivate us to get rid of distractions and to focus on the task in front of us.

Remember that whatever Marcus Aurelius says, he is actually saying it to himself. That brings a certain charm to this book.

“Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?”

We learn to ask for help when we need it. We also learn about not sweating on the small stuff.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by James Clear — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

About adulthood and character…

In 2005, Wallace gave a commencement speech at Kenyon College. It gained popularity and was published in the form of a book.

Wallace acquaints us with adult life. He discusses the purpose of education and the true meaning of freedom.

“The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.”

Adulthood requires discipline. Whether it is working, going to the grocery store, or spending leisure time.

The author tells us that there is no atheism in adult life. Everyone worships something.

Whether it is money, looks, or things. It can even be your favorite baseball team.

“If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth.”

The author suggests that worshiping a spiritual entity is a better option. Worshiping anything else will harm you.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by James Clear — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Reclaiming spontaneity and creativity.

Keith Johnstone was a theater educator.

This book explores improvisation in theater. It is divided into 4 sections:

  1. Status

  2. Spontaneity

  3. Narrative Skills

  4. Masks and Trance

“In a normal education everything is designed to suppress spontaneity, but I wanted to develop it.”

The author blames education for the lack of spontaneity and creativity in adults. He believes that formal education makes people dull.

He also tells us to judge people not for their thoughts (or intelligence) but for their actions.

We also learn of Johnstone’s teaching methods. They are a bit unconventional but fascinating.

“… sanity is actually a pretence, a way we learn to behave.”

Johnstone tells us that we all are a little cuckoo but we pretend to be sane. We understand this about ourselves but do not give others the benefit of the doubt.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by James Clear — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

A journey of enlightenment.

This is a 1922 novel that tells the story of a young man Siddhartha and his buddy Govinda.

“I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.”

Siddartha is religious but he always feels like something is missing. His search to fill the void makes him join the Samanas who reject the body’s needs and desires. Govinda joins him.

Then they both go on to join the Buddhist path. Siddartha is still not satisfied.

Siddhartha throws himself into the pleasures of the world. But this leads him to unhappiness.

“Wisdom cannot be imparted.”

Through many twists and turns, our protagonist finds enlightenment in the unlikeliest of places.

The novel is allegorical. Some might find it a bit too symbolic. Others equate Siddhartha’s journey to their own journey in life.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by James Clear — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

A scientist takes us on a tour of the universe.

You have to give it to Hawking for writing such an accessible book.

Not all people can understand the physics jargon. But many are interested in unlocking the universe and its many secrets.

“The universe doesn’t allow perfection.”

Hawking helps us do just that. He discusses our universe, black holes, time, space, and other concepts.

The author tells us about man’s search for the origin of the universe. Ultimately, the discovery of the fact that the universe is expanding provided a new scientific dimension to it.

He also talks about space and time. Newton believed in absolute time. Whereas Einstein taught us about the warping of space-time due to gravity.

“The rate of progress is so rapid that what one learns at school or university is always a bit out of date. Only a few people can keep up with the rapidly advancing frontier of knowledge, and they have to devote their whole time to it and specialize in a small area.”

Hawking also touches on the search for a unified theory in physics, a theory that will explain everything.


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