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Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Jonathan Haidt - Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Let’s spread peace

Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Jonathan Haidt - Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

You can make the world a better place.

You might not solve world hunger or fix climate change. But you can affect the people around you. And by changing minds, one at a time, you will be doing your part.

To get the right information, we are bringing you a list of book recommendations from none other than Jonathan Haidt.

Jonathan Haidt is a social psychologist and the author of many books. The most notable ones include ‘The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion’ and ‘The Coddling of the American Mind’.

Let’s go through his book recommendations.

Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Jonathan Haidt - Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

A strong case for academic freedom.

Jonathan Marks hits the nail on the head when he lays bare the issues with higher education.

The extremism on the left and the right is hurting what? Education.

True education allows for uninhibited debates and the exchange of ideas, enriching the minds of those who are there to learn and grow.

“…reason is not only an authority but also the kind of authority that is an honor to obey and a disgrace to betray, the sense that there’s such a thing as conduct unbecoming a reasoner.”

That is not the case.

The author makes us laugh as he gives examples of the often bizarre behavior of those on the left and the right end of the spectrum.

The author is a conservative defending higher education.

Even if you disagree with some of his views mentioned in the book, you’ll have to admit that with nuance and wisdom, he makes a pretty strong case.

Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Jonathan Haidt - Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

A guide for turbulent times…

From the presidency and Civil War to his final days and assassination, the author traces Abraham Lincoln’s legacy, especially his plans for lasting peace.

“America is both North and South, White and Black, Republican and Democrat. We are laughter and loss, Saturday night and Sunday morning, Old Testament and New.”

The writer analyzes Lincoln’s personality and his approach to chaotic issues. Even in war, Lincoln was looking to establish peace and end slavery.

Lincoln was the 16th president of America who dealt with quite a few crises. Despite that, he was a strong proponent of the fact that what unites us is stronger than what divides us.

While he lent a firm hand to his opposers asking for unconditional surrender, he was also someone who reconciled and built bridges.

Americans can learn a lot from his example. Instead of sowing seeds of hate amidst a culture war, Lincoln’s example needs to be followed.

This book is history combined with inspiration.

Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Jonathan Haidt - Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

We are the drivers of positive change.

Wright argues that natural selection leads to the creation of complex systems and enhances cooperation.

“…complexity breeds complexity.”

He says that in nature and humans, complexity and growth allow the reaping of “non-zero-sum gains”. That means win-win situations. For example, I get money, you get ice cream.

Electronic communication allows us to trade globally which is beneficial for everyone.

The author says that in case of an alien attack, thanks to interconnectivity, the people of Earth will be able to band together and defend themselves.

Well, I also imagine people claiming that the attack is a hoax.

Anyways, the propositions that the author makes are interesting.

“Your brain may give birth to any technology, but other brains will decide whether the technology thrives.”

There is no denying humans have progressed socially and economically creating large systems. And yes, this progress is mostly positive.

Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Jonathan Haidt - Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

A new role for men…

The author is a father of three boys. Makes sense why he wrote this book.

Reeves tells us, with data, that boys are falling behind in education. Significantly. Girls and women are dominating.

There are developmental differences between the genders for sure. But the author also suggests that we should have more men in the early years classroom. Most of the kindergarten teachers are females. We need male teachers.

“Progressives resist the idea that fathers have a distinct role to play, afraid that this will somehow undermine mothers or belittle same-sex couples. …Conservatives meanwhile lament an epidemic of fatherlessness but simply want to restore traditional marriage, with clear and separate roles for men and women.”

Not only education and adolescence, the author also touches on the role of males as an adult. Traditionally the role has always been of a provider.

But, since more and more women are earning. They are not dependent on men to provide.

This leaves a vacuum of identity and a new one needs to be created which is in line with modern social and economic realities.

Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Jonathan Haidt - Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Science is not flawless and other truths.

Yesterday, I saw a documentary about a supposed miracle healer from Nigeria who conned, manipulated, and abused many people.

It was mind-blowing how people with common sense were manipulated into thinking that this person could make a cripple walk with only a touch.

Science is meant to be the opposite of blind belief and trust.

But scientists have their own issues.

“Science, the discipline in which we should find the harshest scepticism, the most pin-sharp rationality and the hardest-headed empiricism, has become home to a dizzying array of incompetence, delusion, lies and self-deception.”

The author confronts the topic of fraud in scientific research head-on in this book. He talks about things like errors, biases, issues in the peer review process, and the hyping of results for media sensation.

He gives the example of the book, ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’. The author Daniel Kahneman later admitted that the evidence for priming effects was weaker than he initially understood.

“The social neuroscientist Tania Singer resigned as Director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig in 2018 after allegations that she had viciously bullied her research team for years…”

I understand and laud the purpose of the book.

To me, it confirms this… scientists are humans and we shall not expect their work to be free of human flaws.

In short, don’t make science your religion so that you believe in everything blindly.

Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Jonathan Haidt - Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

It’s the parenting book you need.

All good parents are afraid. Afraid that their kids will turn out to be losers, fall in with the wrong crowds, etc.

We want our kids to be well-rounded, well-adjusted, smart, and successful. We want them to be good with their money, to do good in the world, and to have a happy life.

In short, we want them, ‘not spoiled’.

“…there’s no shame in having more or having less, as long as you’re grateful for what you have, share it generously with others, and spend it wisely on the things that make you happiest.”

The author details 4 primary things that are common in spoiled kids:

  1. Few responsibilities and chores

  2. Lack of rules

  3. Too much assistance from parents

  4. Abundance of material possessions

This list made me ponder on my parenting choices for sure. Still, I know I am trying my best.

“Curiosity, patience, thrift, modesty, generosity, perseverance, and perspective — don’t belong to any one religion, region, or race.”

The book discusses various ways to help kids cultivate virtues that will make them more generous and less materialistic.

It goes into detail on how to handle allowances, birthdays, charity, college tuition, and more.

This book must be read by every parent.

Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Jonathan Haidt - Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

More of the good ones, please…

We have good days and we have bad days.

There is good news though. Through science, you can try to make each day of yours better.

“We know the reality we perceive is highly subjective; we might as well seek out the more interesting aspects of reality if we want to feel more energized by everyday life.”

The author touches on the following things that can help our days be good:

  1. Priorities

  2. Productivity

  3. Relationships

  4. Thinking

  5. Influence

  6. Resilience

  7. Energy

“…psychologists have long observed something they call the Einstellung effect, where having an existing solution in mind makes it harder for us to see a radically different but better way to solve our problem.”

Webb tells us to set our intentions for the day. Having clear goals for the day can minimize our frustrations at the end of the day. ‘I didn’t do anything today’, as we sometimes say.

This book is a good guide to organization, productivity, and happiness.

Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Jonathan Haidt - Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Navigating the divide online.

We think social media is addictive because of the constant stream of stimuli.

Bail offers a different view. He says that social media is addictive because it allows us to create identities and observe people’s reactions to them.

“We care so much about our identities because they give us something that we all strive for: a sense of self-worth.”

In the world of social media, extremists from all sides dominate the space. The moderates are invisible. When an extremist from one side goes to attack, he engages with the extremist from the other side.

The author’s theory makes sense.

He likens social media to a prism that distorts and divides.

The author wants us to hack the prism. Firstly, by observing how it distorts. Secondly, looking at our own behavior which plays a role in the online world.

This is how we can break down bad habits online. This will allow us to have quality discussions with people whom we disagree with.

Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Jonathan Haidt - Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

You can’t have good without the bad.

Recently, I have been thinking about pain. After learning that pain and pleasure are connected in our brain and the brain seeks to maintain a balance between them, I have a new view of suffering.

The topic of this book is from the same area.

It explores emotions like sorrow, sadness, and longing. It also talks about why these emotions come to be and their purpose.

“The tragedy of life is linked inescapably with its splendor.”

Life cannot have joy without sadness. Love without loss. Inspiration without despair.

Negative emotions are only half of the deal. Look at the other half.

“You hurt because you care.”

The author recommends that to deal with despair and grief, we have to lean into them. Sit with them. We cannot ignore them.

This book is teaching a lesson that I am finally beginning to understand about life. You and I can’t be happy, upbeat, jovial all the time. And neither is life.

Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Jonathan Haidt - Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Is there a ‘way out’ of polarization?

Coleman is a social psychologist.

In this book, he uses the concept of attractors to explain human behavior.

“Attractors are stable patterns that draw us in repeatedly and resist change — like a strong attitude, habit, or addiction.”

Coleman asserts that attractors are neither good nor bad. They are facts. They can result in healthy patterns as well as toxic ones. According to the author, in today’s time, we are all stuck in the us-vs-them attractor.

The author tells us that due to our ‘confirmation bias’, we make sense of new information only in a way that is consistent with our worldview.

“We prefer to take in information that affirms our existing beliefs and values, both for consistency and so we can boost our feelings of self and group-based esteem.”

The book explores the importance of overcoming social and political divides. It covers overcoming conflicts in our home life, work life, and communities.

I endorse the message of this book.


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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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