top of page
  • Writer's pictureNovel Nest

These Books are So Exceptional — You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces

Let’s learn history and science outside of school

These Books are So Exceptional — You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces
Photo by Max Böttinger on Unsplash

I want you to read the best books out there.

The books that touch your soul. The books that enrich your brain. And the books that leave you a better person than you were before them.

Today’s books are from the genre

of history and biology. Some of them will acquaint you with people of the past. Others will put you in touch with your own body.

One thing is for sure. Each of them has a wealth of knowledge and experience to offer.

Let’s dive in!

These Books are So Exceptional — You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces

Coming to terms with death.

As an 8-year-old, Caitlin Doughty saw a toddler fall to her death in a mall. Doughty’s parents quickly took her away. That event was not explained to her.

That incident remained unresolved in young Doughty’s mind. She began exhibiting signs of OCD.

“Sifting through an urn of cremated remains you cannot tell if a person had successes, failures, grandchildren, felonies.”

As she grew older, she got fascinated with death and dying. That led her to take a job at a crematorium.

This book tells Doughty’s story in her own words. The author shares her experiences as a mortician.

The book also discusses the prevailing attitude toward death.

Doughty motivates us to come to terms with our ultimate demise. She wants us to view death positively, instead of viewing it as something awful.

“Mother Nature is indeed a real mother, creating and destroying in a constant loop.”

Death will come for all of us. Looking the other way will not be of benefit.

Understanding what will happen after death and making peace with it is the best thing to do.

Despite the heavy subject, the book uses humor which keeps the reader engaged.

These Books are So Exceptional — You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces

Different societies have different fates.

How do societies develop? How come some societies advance more than others?

The answer lies in this book. Jared Diamond shows us that the development of a society is highly dependent on its geographical location.

A centrally located society will be able to collaborate with its neighbors and build on their technology as well. Contrary to this, a society in a faraway location might not have contact with other people for long stretches of time.

“Almost all studies of child development emphasize the role of childhood stimulation and activity in promoting mental development, and stress the irreversible mental stunting associated with reduced childhood stimulation.”

Similarly, all areas differ in the amount of plants and animals available for domestication. Those who had a more favorable climate for food production surpassed others in progress.

“I am thus optimistic that historical studies of human societies can be pursued as scientifically as studies of dinosaurs — and with profit to our own society today, by teaching us what shaped the modern world, and what might shape our future.”

This book will make you look at history with a new lens.

These Books are So Exceptional — You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces

When the mind goes nuts…

Oliver Sacks is a neurologist.

In this book from 1985, we get to know his many patients and the neurological disorders that plague them.

“Neurology’s favourite word is ‘deficit’, denoting an impairment or incapacity of neurological function: loss of speech, loss of language, loss of memory, loss of vision, loss of dexterity, loss of identity and myriad other lacks and losses of specific functions (or faculties).”

The title of this book refers to one of Sacks’ patients who had visual agnosia. This left him unable to accurately recognize faces. He grabbed at his wife’s face thinking that it was a hat.

We also get to know a sailor who had Korsakoff’s syndrome. He was stuck in the past and thought that he was still young. Due to his condition, he was also unable to form new memories.

“The pleasure we obtain from music comes from counting, but counting unconsciously. Music is nothing but unconscious arithmetic.”

The author gives us a breakdown of each of the cases from a neurological standpoint. He also comments on the cases from a psychological perspective.

These Books are So Exceptional — You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces

We lie to ourselves. Here is how!

We deceive ourselves and others. Not knowingly though.

The authors argue that we evolved to be social. When we don’t know the true intentions behind our actions. That helps us connect with others.

“Biology teaches us that we’re competitive social animals, with all the instincts you’d expect from such creatures.”

How so?

Here is one example from the book.

We think laughter is a sign of humor. We laugh when we find something funny.

In reality, laughter is a play signal. It tells the other party that we don’t harbor feelings of hostility. People laugh more in groups. And those who are speaking laugh more than the listeners.

“When Provine studied 1,200 episodes of laughter overheard in public settings, his biggest surprise was finding that speakers laugh more than listeners — about 50 percent more, in fact.”

This book lays bare the true motives of many of our actions. It includes charity, education, art, and more.

These Books are So Exceptional — You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces

What is cancer? This book gives the answer.

Cancer rises because other causes of death have been minimized.

“Indeed, cancer’s emergence in the world is the product of a double negative: it becomes common only when all other killers themselves have been killed.”

Mukherjee, an accomplished oncologist, wrote this book in response to a patient’s question. That patient wanted to understand cancer.

The author tells us all about cancer. It’s history, it’s biology, and the work on its cure.

Cancer is formed when a mutated cell doesn’t respond to inhibition signals and continues to multiply. The growth isn’t controllable. It expands and invades organs.

“Cancer is an expansionist disease…”

This book stands true to its title and gives us an in-depth biography of cancer.

The author also explores the source of carcinogens. He criticizes the rampant availability of cigarettes.

“We are chemical apes: having discovered the capacity to extract, purify, and react molecules to produce new and wondrous molecules, we have begun to spin a new chemical universe around ourselves.”

This book will help you understand cancer in a way that you would have never done so.

These Books are So Exceptional — You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces

She was labeled ‘crazy’. Was she?

In the 1860s, husbands could commit their wives to asylum without any proof of their insanity.

As outrageous as it sounds, it was true for Elizabeth Packard who was having disagreements with her husband Theophilius. Theophilius was a preacher.

Kate Moore tells us her story.

“A lot has changed. A lot hasn’t.”

Packard spent three years at the Jacksonville Insane Asylum. During that time, she refused to admit that she was insane. She also refused to change her religious beliefs.

After her release, Packard went on to write books detailing her experience.

She was also declared sane in court.

“In many instances it is not insanity, but individuality that caused women to be committed.”

This book inspires us with the strength of the woman who refused to give up even when all odds were stacked against her.

These Books are So Exceptional — You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces

Your guidebook to keeping yourself safe.

There are all sorts of people in this world. We wish to not encounter the bad ones. But obviously, we cross paths with all.

Still, we can keep ourselves safe. Because violence is predictable.


Gavin de Becker teaches us to identify the warning signs in someone’s language and behavior.

“You have the gift of a brilliant internal guardian that stands ready to warn you of hazards and guide you through risky situations.”

Most of all, he teaches us to be in touch with our intuition. This gift guides us through many situations so we should not ignore what it says.

Criminals use charm, forced teaming, and typecasting to get close to their victims.

The author once witnessed these tactics firsthand on a flight when an old man struck up a conversation with a teenager. He warned her not to take a ride from the man.

“Every human behavior can be explained by what precedes it, but that does not excuse it…”

This book is enlightening and should be read by everyone.

These Books are So Exceptional — You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces

Who needs ghosts when you have viruses?

This book describes in gory detail, what the Ebola virus does to a human.

“Ebola Zaire attacks every organ and tissue in the human body except skeletal muscle and bone.”

The filoviruses which include Ebola and others, are Biosafety level 4 agents. It means they are extremely dangerous to humans. Also, they have no cure.

The author also tells us about the monkey house in Washington DC. 29 out of 100 monkeys died in 4 weeks. Turned out they were infected. Around 450 monkeys were ultimately euthanized.

It was determined though, that this virus didn’t affect humans. It was named the Reston virus.

“You can’t fight off Ebola the way you fight off a cold. Ebola does in ten days what it takes AIDS ten years to accomplish.”

Preston also visits the Kitum Cave in Kenya in a hazmat suit. Why?

Because that cave is known to have the host organism for the Ebola virus.

These Books are So Exceptional — You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces

Same circumstances, different ends.

Joan Druett is a New Zealand historian.

In this book, she brings us the story of not one but two shipwrecks. These took place on Auckland Island.

“Often, it is not the destination that matters, but the journey itself.”

One of the ships was led by Capt. Thomas Musgrave. A total of 5 men were stranded.

The other ship under George Dalgarno wrecked on the opposite side of the island.

There were 19 survivors out of 25 members of the crew.

The story of these two groups progressed in opposite directions. The earlier banded together and built a cabin with the wreck. They also divided duties. Their working together helped them survive extreme weather and other elements.

All 5 of these men survived more than a year on the Island.

“Solitude can be a gift in disguise.”

Whereas the second group fell into anarchy and cannibalism. Only 3 of the 19 men ultimately survived.

“Life is a constant balancing act between courage and vulnerability.”

The conflicting stories in the book show us the importance of good leadership and brotherhood.

These Books are So Exceptional — You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces

The rise and fall of Mongols.

According to this book, there is more to Genghis Khan than the stereotype of a brutal warrior.

Genghis Khan and the Mongol civilization led to lasting changes that have shaped our world today.

“Genghis Khan recognized that warfare was not a sporting contest or a mere match between rivals; it was a total commitment of one people against another.”

Genghis Khan’s original name was Temujin. He grew up surrounded by tribal conflict. His wife was Borte who was kidnapped by a rival and later rescued.

We learn of the various alliances and animosities that Genghis Khan had with other tribes. Ultimately he rose to be the ruler of Mongolia.

“Genghis Khan was a doer.”

He implemented progressive laws such as the legitimacy of children born to concubines, the promotion of religious tolerance, and the reduction of taxes.

“Fate did not hand Genghis Khan his destiny; he made it for himself.”

The writer also contrasts the Mongol civilization with the current European civilization.


If you found this article useful and want to support NovelNest, join my email list below to get notified whenever I publish something new.

If you enjoyed these book recommendations, check out the rest of my book lists on my blog-

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


bottom of page