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12 Best Nonfiction Books Of All Time According To Peter Thiel: Business, History, Philosophy

When it comes to nonfiction literature, the choices are vast and varied.

For those seeking to expand their knowledge across a spectrum of disciplines, venture capitalist and entrepreneur Peter Thiel offers his curated list of the 12 recommended nonfiction books.

These books delve into the realms of business, strategy, history, philosophy, and societal issues, offering profound insights into the human experience.

Let's explore this eclectic list and the wisdom it contains.

Affiliate Disclaimer: This post features Amazon affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through these links.

In "The Decadent Society," Ross Douthat presents a thought-provoking analysis of contemporary Western culture. He argues that societies in the 21st century have become stagnant, characterized by a lack of innovation, economic sclerosis, and a sense of malaise. Douthat's exploration of the societal and cultural factors that contribute to this decadence encourages readers to reflect on the need for renewal and progress in an era marked by uncertainty.

“Big Brother doesn’t have to watch everyone because everyone is always watching everybody else.”― Ross Douthat, The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success

Ben Horowitz's "The Hard Thing About Hard Things" is a candid and brutally honest account of the challenges faced by entrepreneurs and business leaders. Drawing from his experiences in Silicon Valley, Horowitz provides valuable insights into the art of leadership, making tough decisions, and navigating the unpredictable terrain of the business world. This book is a must-read for anyone aspiring to succeed in the world of entrepreneurship.

“Hard things are hard because there are no easy answers or recipes. They are hard because your emotions are at odds with your logic. They are hard because you don’t know the answer and you cannot ask for help without showing weakness.”― Ben Horowitz, The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

"Originals" by Adam Grant explores the concept of originality and how non-conformists drive change in the world. Through a blend of psychology, sociology, and real-world examples, Grant delves into what sets innovators apart and how they can challenge the status quo. His work offers a blueprint for fostering creativity and innovation in both personal and professional endeavors.

“In the deepest sense of the word, a friend is someone who sees more potential in you than you see in yourself, someone who helps you become the best version of yourself.”― Adam M. Grant, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World

"The Sovereign Individual" provides a visionary perspective on the future of society, particularly in the digital age. Authors James Dale Davidson and William Rees-Mogg argue that technological advancements will empower individuals to transcend traditional institutions, ushering in a new era of sovereignty. Their insights into the implications of digital transformation on economics, politics, and personal liberty make this book a compelling read.

“In the Information Society, no one who is truly able will be detained by the ill-formed opinions of others. It will not matter what most of the people on earth might think of your race, your looks, your age, your sexual proclivities, or the way you wear your hair. In the cybereconomy, they will never see you. The ugly, the fat, the old, the disabled will vie with the young and beautiful on equal terms in utterly color-blind anonymity on the new frontiers of cyberspace.”― James Dale Davidson, The Sovereign Individual: Mastering the Transition to the Information Age

Hamilton Helmer's "7 Powers" is a comprehensive guide to understanding the foundations of business strategy. He introduces readers to seven fundamental sources of power that drive competitive advantage in the business world. Helmer's clear framework and real-world examples make this book an indispensable resource for entrepreneurs, executives, and strategists seeking to formulate effective business strategies.

“Power: the set of conditions creating the potential for persistent differential returns Power is the core concept of Strategy and of this book, too. It is the Holy Grail of business—notoriously difficult to reach, but well worth your attention and study.”― Hamilton Wright Helmer, 7 Powers: The Foundations of Business Strategy

"Bloodlands" by Timothy Snyder is a harrowing exploration of the atrocities that took place in Eastern Europe during the 20th century. Snyder meticulously examines the brutalities committed by both Nazi and Soviet regimes, shedding light on the lesser-known but equally significant tragedies of this turbulent period. This book serves as a stark reminder of the human capacity for cruelty and the importance of understanding history's darkest chapters.

“It is easy to sanctify policies or identities by the deaths of victims. It is less appealing, but morally more urgent, to understand the actions of the perpetrators. The moral danger, after all, is never that one might become a victim but that one might be a perpetrator or a bystander.”― Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin

Sonia Arrison's "100 Plus" offers a provocative glimpse into the potential for extending human lifespan. Drawing on cutting-edge science and futuristic thinking, Arrison explores the ethical, social, and economic implications of people living well beyond 100 years. This book challenges our conventional notions of aging and healthcare, prompting readers to contemplate the profound changes on the horizon.

“This book assumes that human life expectancy will one day reach 150 years and that health span will extend along with it.”― Sonia Arrison, 100 Plus

Norman Angell's "The Great Illusion" is a classic work on international relations that challenges the prevailing belief in the benefits of war. Written before World War I, Angell argues that war is economically futile and that nations are interconnected, making conquest and aggression counterproductive. While the world has evolved since its publication, this book remains a thought-provoking exploration of geopolitics and the pursuit of peace.

“War has no longer the justification that it makes for the survival of the fittest; it involves the survival of the less fit. The idea that the struggle between nations is a part of the evolutionary law of man's advance involves a profound misreading of the biological analogy.

The warlike nations do not inherit the earth; they represent the decaying human element.”― Norman Angell, The Great Illusion

John Locke's "The Reasonableness of Christianity" is a foundational work that delves into the compatibility of reason and religion. Locke's treatise advocates for religious tolerance and emphasizes the role of reason in matters of faith. His ideas laid the groundwork for Enlightenment thought, influencing debates on the relationship between faith and reason that continue to this day.

“it seems a strange way of understanding a law, which requires the plainest and directest words, that by death should be meant eternal life in misery.”― John Locke, The Reasonableness of Christianity, As Delivered in the Scriptures

While Niccolo Machiavelli is often associated with "The Prince," "Discourses on Livy" offers a deeper insight into his political philosophy. In this work, Machiavelli analyzes the rise and fall of republics, providing readers with a nuanced understanding of governance, leadership, and the complexities of political power. "Discourses on Livy" is essential reading for those interested in political theory and history.

“Men are driven by two principal impulses, either by love or by fear.”― Niccolò Machiavelli, Discourses

Rene Girard's "Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World" is a groundbreaking exploration of mimetic desire and its role in human behavior and culture. Girard's interdisciplinary approach challenges conventional wisdom, offering a unique perspective on the dynamics of human society. This book encourages readers to reconsider their assumptions about imitation, rivalry, and the origins of culture.

“There is no culture without a tomb and no tomb without a culture; in the end the tomb is the first and only cultural symbol. The above-ground tomb does not have to be invented. It is the pile of stones in which the victim of the unanimous stoning is buried. It is the first pyramid.”― René Girard, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World

Edward Creasy's "The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World" is a historical masterpiece that examines pivotal battles that shaped the course of human history. Creasy's vivid narratives and insightful analysis provide readers with a deeper appreciation for the impact of warfare on civilization. This book offers a compelling journey through key moments in world history, shedding light on the outcomes that shaped our world.

“Through the whole epoch of her prosperity, through the long Olympiads of her decay, through centuries after her fall, Athens looked back on the day of Marathon as the brightest of her national existence.”― Edward Shepherd Creasy, The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World: from Marathon to Waterloo


If you enjoyed these book recommendations, check out more similar list on my on my blog —

In conclusion, Peter Thiel's list of the "12 Best Nonfiction Books Of All Time"

encompasses a wide array of themes and disciplines, offering readers the opportunity to explore the depths of business, strategy, history, philosophy, and societal issues.


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