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10 Nonfiction Books That Trump a College Degree

Improve your life and people skills

10 Nonfiction Books That Trump a College Degree
Photo by Pierre Bamin on Unsplash

Real-life learning is important.

We all need to improve our people skills, decision-making skills, and the like. The right skills propel us forward, helping us win in life.

Today’s list of books will help you build up those skills.

Let’s go through them one by one.

10 Nonfiction Books That Trump a College Degree

Is our assessment of people correct?

This book will humble you by making you face your own shortcomings.

We judge people by whatever limited interactions we have had with them. If we have a positive one, we are more likely to assign good traits to them. If we have a bad interaction, we are more likely to assign unfavorable traits to them.

Obviously, in reality, they might be opposite to our assessment.

“…when we are uncomfortable and unhappy, we lose touch with our intuition.”

Why does this happen? Due to our intuition.

Kahneman tells us about the two different ways our brain makes judgments. One is intuition, and the other is analytical.

Intuition can take a variety of cues from the environment and then make a decision quickly. Analytical thinking takes more time.

“A divorce is like a symphony with a screeching sound at the end — the fact that it ended badly does not mean it was all bad.”

This book shows us the contrast between the two and the common pitfalls of human decision-making.

10 Nonfiction Books That Trump a College Degree

The importance of myths and imagined orders.

Why did humans end up ruling the world?

The humans went through a cognitive revolution. This allowed them to form ideas and connect with each other like no other species could.

“Money is the most universal and most efficient system of mutual trust ever devised.”

Humans live in the physical world along with an imagined world. The imagined world allows them to create myths such as religion, government, and other ideologies.

Harari explains how myths help humans collaborate on a large scale.

And what happened after the cognitive revolution? The agricultural revolution happened. It allowed humans to settle down in one place and grow food.

The third revolution was the industrial revolution.

“This is the best reason to learn history: not in order to predict the future, but to free yourself of the past and imagine alternative destinies.”

Through these revolutions, the author traces the ups and downs that human civilization went through.

He predicts that the evolution of humans hasn’t stopped and will continue. The tech will integrate with the biological giving rise to a whole new species.

10 Nonfiction Books That Trump a College Degree

Health, wealth, and happiness.

To me, rich people seem miserable.

Their financial success takes away the ability to enjoy simple things. They have to keep a certain standard when it comes to clothes, behavior, and more.

Are they happy or are they pretending to be, I wonder.

“The three big ones in life are wealth, health, and happiness. We pursue them in that order, but their importance is reverse.”

I have never met Naval Ravikant, another one of the rich people. But his thoughts paint him as a reasonable and happy person. I imagine him to be someone who has found the balance between the material and the spiritual.

This book is a compilation of his thoughts from various talks, speeches, and interviews. You’ll find many gems in it.

“The hardest thing is not doing what you want — it’s knowing what you want.”

Naval talks about the importance of reading, building skills, meditating, and more.

While describing happiness, he says that a happy person isn’t the one who is happy all the time. He is the one who doesn’t let his/her inner peace be affected.

10 Nonfiction Books That Trump a College Degree

There is a science behind the art of convincing.

Robert Cialdini studied and researched the phenomenon of influence.

He identifies 6 principles (they later became seven) through which humans are influenced. To be honest the hypothesis makes sense.

For example, the first principle is reciprocation. If someone gives us something for free or does us a favor, we are more likely to agree with that person, ergo we will be more easily influenced.

“Since 95 percent of the people are imitators and only 5 percent initiators, people are persuaded more by the actions of others than by any proof we can offer.”

There are other ways influence can be exercised. One of the other principles is scarcity. When something is rare, we want it even more.

The marketers know exactly what they are doing when they advertise ‘limited stock’, or ‘limited edition’ in bold.

“A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason.”

Whatever ways of influence the book describes, we are bound to find many examples of that around us.

10 Nonfiction Books That Trump a College Degree

Become a magician of words!

This book makes the case that using the right words in the right situations will lead to your desired outcome.

Jones tells us of various exact phrases that will help you persuade people in different settings.

For example, if a customer is concerned about the cost of the product, the salesperson can ask, “What’s most important to you?”. This signals empathy and willingness to listen.

“People are motivated by one of two things: either avoiding a loss or acquiring a potential gain.”

Similarly, the need to convince can also arise in work situations. A lead can be bringing in a new workflow for the team and the team might not be on board with it.

The right question to ask in this circumstance is, “How sure are you that this new process will disrupt your current workflow?” This will make the team reflect on the validity of their criticism.

“Consumers love to be led through the right thing to do, and assisting people in making their minds up is a skill that will help you reach the highest places.”

This book will help you polish your people skills and persuasion skills. I’d say both are pretty useful for life.

10 Nonfiction Books That Trump a College Degree

The role of incentives.

Each of our actions is driven by incentives. Incentives can be moral, social, or economic.

This is the proposition made by the authors of this book.

“Incentives are the cornerstone of modern life. And understanding them — or, often, ferreting them out — is the key to solving just about any riddle, from violent crime to sports cheating to online dating.”

They apply it to various aspects of life. This is how we get to understand human behavior in various settings.

The work of incentives isn’t simple. And we understand this when one of the authors shares his experience of potty training his daughter. He gave her a candy, each time she used the potty.

A few days later, the unexpected happened. His daughter started going to the potty way more frequently. Why?

In her bid to get more candy, she wasn’t emptying her bladder in one go. This shows us that even a child is intelligent enough to find loopholes in an apparent incentive scheme.

“Information is the currency of the Internet.”

This book goes on to use data to show us fascinating and at times unbelievable correlations. All of them show how loopholes are exploited by humans in incentive schemes.

10 Nonfiction Books That Trump a College Degree

Where is the world headed?

The world is not headed for disaster as many believe.

Hans Rosling challenges the popular assumptions. He uses facts and data to show us how the world is in fact getting better.

“There’s no room for facts when our minds are occupied by fear.”

Indeed, it is not getting better in every way every time but there are significant improvements.

Poverty has been decreasing. And the same stands true for child mortality.

“… we should be teaching our children humility and curiosity.”

Rosling acquaints us with 10 dramatic instincts of the human mind. Each of these distorts reality. For example, the Gap instinct makes us think in binary. We classify everything into two distinct groups, for example, rich vs poor.

The real world doesn’t work that way.

This book will give you hope in times of negative news cycles and emotional slogans.

10 Nonfiction Books That Trump a College Degree

Build habits, build life.

Start small, but be consistent.

This is the basic premise of this book. James Clear doesn’t want us to be overwhelmed with the many changes we want to make.

“All big things come from small beginnings”

Clear gives us good advice when it comes to cultivating good habits and getting rid of the bad ones. He asks us to make good choices, obvious and attractive. And to make bad choices, difficult and unappealing.

For example, I don’t keep junk food at home. It doesn’t mean I never have it ever. The choice to have it is not easy and obvious.

Similarly, I keep the fruit displayed in the dining room. When hungry, it is one of the obvious places one picks up a snack.

“The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game.”

If you can implement the important lessons in this book, your life will surely improve.

10 Nonfiction Books That Trump a College Degree

Timeless advice from 80 years ago.

In this classic, Carnegie uses his personal experiences to achieve the goal at hand, making friends.

This book was published in 1936. It has been read widely since.

As a child, I remember seeing its translation on a bookshelf at a vacation resort. I also remember my dad explaining how famous the author is.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Carnegie advises us to become genuinely interested in people. He tells us to smile and offer appreciation because everyone likes to feel good about themselves.

The book also details how one can be an effective leader.

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.”

The advice in this book has helped people for more than 80 years. Some even say Charles Manson used the tricks in this book to make people kill for him.

10 Nonfiction Books That Trump a College Degree

Think like rich to become rich.

The author contrasts the thinking of his dad with that of his best friend’s dad.

Through the analysis of their approach, we learn how to manage money like the rich.

Kiyosaki says that being broke is temporary but being poor is permanent. We have to make choices that don’t keep us in a financial slump.

“Emotions are what make us human. Make us real.”

The author impresses upon the importance of buying assets instead of liabilities. He says that the poor work for money. Meanwhile, the rich make their money work for them.

We also need to stop blaming other people. If we want to change our lives, we need to take responsibility for improvement.

“Most people want everyone else in the world to change themselves. Let me tell you, it’s easier to change yourself than everyone else.”

The book also touches on the importance of education, skills, emotions, and managing fear the right way.


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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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