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These Books are So Good — You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces At Least Once

A unique blend of books whose lessons you cannot ignore.

These Books are So Good — You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces At Least Once

Life is full of regrets.

Don’t add one more by NOT reading these books. Let me tell you why.

We all want happiness. We want to be healthy. We want to make wise decisions. We want to be talented.

Today’s books discuss all this and more.

Spoiler alert: Things don’t make you happy. Flow does.

Here are the book summaries to convince you of their importance.

These Books are So Good — You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces At Least Once

Don’t judge a human by his actions!

Your actions are not what they seem.

This book asserts that human behaviors evolved to help us live in social groups. It is often beneficial for us that we are not aware of the real reason for our behaviors.

“Our brains are built to act in our self-interest while at the same time trying hard not to appear selfish in front of other people.”

The book is divided into two parts:

  • Why We Hide Our Motives

  • Hidden Motives in Everyday Life

In the first part, the authors discuss animal behavior, signaling, and social norms.

“Actions speak louder than words, and expensive actions speak the loudest.”

In the second part, they discuss various behaviors and how we deceive others and ourselves when exhibiting those.

The second part has topics like body language, laughter, consumption, etc. For example, we don’t buy stuff for practical use. We buy it to signal wealth, the book says.

This book is a fascinating one. It will make you look at your own actions in a different light.

These Books are So Good — You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces At Least Once

What is cancer?

This book was written in response to a question posed by one of the cancer patients. He wanted to know what it was that he was fighting.

Siddhartha Mukherjee is an oncologist.

He tells us what cancer exactly is, and details its history. He also tells us about the research done on it since the start and the quest for cures.

“Cancer, we now know, is a disease caused by the uncontrolled growth of a single cell.”

Our cells divide to make new cells, a process called mitosis. Under normal circumstances, mitosis is regulated. Biological signals control its start and end.

Cancer cells however do not respond to the signals, leading to uncontrolled growth.

“Cancer’s life is a recapitulation of the body’s life, its existence a pathological mirror of our own.”

Then cancer expands, invading organs.

When you read this book, it will be like reading a biography of cancer.

These Books are So Good — You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces At Least Once

Glass, plastic, paper, concrete…

Look around you!

You’ll see many different materials around you. Maybe you are sitting in a blanket or duvet, that’s fabric. The walls that surround you. Concrete. Your bed. Probably wood. If you are on a bus or a subway… metal.

“One day whole rooms, buildings, perhaps even bridges may generate their own energy, funnel it to where it is needed, detect damage, and self-heal. If this seems like science fiction, bear in mind that it is only what living materials do already.”

Through this book, the author explores many different materials, the science behind them, and interesting facts related to them.

Did you know some potato chip manufacturers increase the crunchiness of chips and the noisiness of chip bags to make the whole experience more enjoyable?

“… studies of “crispness” have shown that the sound created by certain foods is as important to our enjoyment of them as their taste.”

This book will provide a new depth to your understanding of this world.

These Books are So Good — You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces At Least Once

Is everything determined at birth?

‘Social mobility’ refers to the change in socioeconomic status of an individual through life or in comparison to ancestors.

“…the good society would have a low rate of inheritance of social status and correspondingly low variations in income and wealth.”

To study social mobility, Clark follows several successful and unsuccessful families around the world, tracing their surnames in various records.

He claims that social competence is largely inherited from parents. Many noble families have maintained their social status for hundreds of years.

Meaning, that social mobility (movement between socio-economic statuses) is very low.

“Social status is inherited as strongly as any biological trait, such as height.”

The author challenges the work of previous scientists and claims that his research results are based on long-term data.

He also claims that economic growth, free public education, and various advancements have not affected social mobility.

“…the twenty-seven adult great-great grandchildren of Charles Darwin, born on average nearly 150 years after Darwin, are still a surprisingly distinguished cohort.”

The hypothesis put forth in this book will make you pause and think. Are the poor destined to be poor forever? Are the rich destined to be rich forever? And if so, who is to be blamed?

These Books are So Good — You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces At Least Once

Understanding the connection between the brain and food.

With a background in biochemistry and neuroscience, Guyenet analyzes the effect of our brains on our eating habits.

Everyone is different… Their genetics matter. But so do their actions.

“Genetics loads the gun, and environment pulls the trigger.”

Guyenet discusses the food reward loop. Various receptors in our gut recognize various types of nutrients like carbohydrates and fats etc. Some trigger dopamine release.

Our ancestors had unrefined diets. Meaning less dopamine release.

We, on the other hand, have purified various nutrients. As a result, we have created the perfect cocktails of concentrated nutrients that release more and more dopamine, making us addicted.


“It appears that exercise helps keep the lipostat happy at a lower set point.”

The author discusses ‘immediate benefit’ and ‘delayed cost’. He tells us about the famous kids’ marshmallow experiment. Those who held off on eating the marshmallow were leaner as adults.

Honestly, this book will blow your mind. It will also help you understand your brain and behavior towards food. In turn, you can apply this knowledge to benefit your health.

These Books are So Good — You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces At Least Once

Is education just a formality?

Well, well, well… a controversial subject indeed.

Honestly, I understand the benefits college education and higher education bring. But I am also painfully aware of the disconnect between real-life learning and classroom learning.

“Education can be glorious.”

This book hits the nails on the head. It discusses various shortcomings of college education. The author says that a college degree doesn’t increase your skills and knowledge substantially.

It just serves as a signal to potential employers that you possess certain desirable traits.

The author gives an example of a sculptor and an appraiser. A sculptor can raise the market value of a stone by shaping it. The appraiser can judge it and raise its market value.

He then asks:

“Teachers need to ask ourselves, “How much of what we do is sculpting, and how much is appraising?”

A fair question indeed. It makes all the sense to me.

I think most high schools or colleges take credit for what a student already possesses. They just appraise his/her value.

A much-needed book that analyzes the gap between real-life skills and formal education.

These Books are So Good — You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces At Least Once

Getting to know God in a different way.

Jack Miles explores the Jeudo-Christian God’s identity.

He uses the Hebrew Tanakh and Old Testament of the Bible to detail the qualities and attributes of the divine deity. He does so in sequence benefitting the reader who might not have read those texts.

“Religion […] may be seen as literature that has succeeded beyond any writer’s wildest dreams.”

The author has written this biography while looking at God as a literary figure. While doing so he also dives into other theological issues.

Miles also includes the stories of various prophets as they have appeared in religious texts.

“…the writer who first brought monotheism to full formulation and who so clearly felt that this idea was destined to sweep the world was, in point of historical fact, quite correct.”

This book won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography.

These Books are So Good — You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces At Least Once

Bizarre human behaviors and the science behind them.

We are wired to be irrational. We can’t help being so.

But our irrational behaviors are systemic and predictable, the book says. We make the same mistakes again and again.

“…the more we have, the more we want.”

For example, we always make comparisons.

And this cognitive bias of ours is exploited by marketers by introducing decoy products at a higher price. As a result, we buy what seems to us the less expensive option. We are easily fooled.

Comparison helps us make decisions but it also makes us unhappy. We want what other people have and then we want the next big thing, and the next, and the next.

“There are many examples to show that people will work more for a cause than for cash.”

The author brings us many examples of strange human behavior based on research and studies. Many of them will surely leave you wondering… What would have I done?

These Books are So Good — You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces At Least Once

Mindful living with a purpose.

We can experience joy by paying attention and being committed.

Mihaly tells us that optimal activities are those where we neither feel anxious nor bored. They match our skill level. And we attain a state of flow. This is where we lose sense of self and time and are focused on instant feedback.

“…success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue…as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.”

The author is clear. Enjoyable activities demand effort. We might be reluctant to start on them. But they do end up being rewarding.

The book says that people feel useless and dull in their free time. Yet, most would prefer leisure over work at any time.

“On the job people feel skillful and challenged, and therefore feel more happy, strong, creative, and satisfied.”

Why is that? The author says that people see work as a constraint and something to be avoided.

The book motivates us to remove our attention from outside indicators like wealth and power. It teaches us to find happiness and enjoyment by experiencing flow.

These Books are So Good — You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces At Least Once

Anyone can be a master.

Talent is not innate. It can be gained.

Mastery is learned through dedication, focus, and practice. This is what the book tells us.

“The key thing is to take that general goal — get better — and turn it into something specific that you can work on with a realistic expectation of improvement.”

Break down your goal of achieving a certain level of mastery into attainable goals, the authors say.

The authors draw the difference between naive practice, purposeful practice, and deliberate practice.

Naive practice is just repetition. Purposeful practice focuses on achieving goals.

Deliberate practice is a purposeful practice that uses information from skilled performers to understand what they did and how they did it.

“This is a fundamental truth about any sort of practice: If you never push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will never improve.”

The book also discusses motivation, overcoming roadblocks, finding the right teachers, taking naps, and more.

This book is a concise guideline for anyone who wants to become skilled and talented.


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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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