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These Books are So Good - You Have To Read Them At Least Once

Redefine your life with these 10 must-reads

These Books are So Good - You Have To Read Them At Least Once

Get ready for a counterintuitive showdown!

The mark of a good book is that it will make you question your presumptions. When you look up from the pages of a good book, the world seems different.

The curtain lifts, leaving you to stare into a new reality.

The following booklist will do exactly that.

These Books are So Good - You Have To Read Them At Least Once

Life is a game of poker.

I grew up hearing, ‘Marriage is a gamble.’

That is precisely the message of this book. Every decision that we make is a bet.


Because we can never know all the facts or have all the knowledge.

Playing poker involves uncertainty, risk, luck, and at times deception. Whereas, in chess, all is known and luck has a minimal role.

The author likens our daily decision-making to poker. She warns us of likening it to a game of chess.

“Thinking in bets starts with recognizing that there are exactly two things that determine how our lives turn out: the quality of our decisions and luck.”

She also warns us about our biases and default ways of thinking. For example confirmation bias, hindsight bias, etc.

The surprising thing is that higher IQ people are more prone to confirmation bias. The reason is that they find information to support their arguments more easily.

“Identifying a negative outcome doesn’t have the same personal sting if you turn it into a positive by finding things to learn from it.”

A good decision doesn’t automatically mean that the outcome will be positive too. A good decision is a result of a ‘good process’, Duke says.

This book will help you redefine your decision-making strategies and make them more realistic.

These Books are So Good - You Have To Read Them At Least Once

What valuable lessons can you learn from a book written in 1964?

Viktor Frankl is a holocaust survivor.

You’ll see surprising similarities in his psychological approach to Edith Eva Eger, the writer of ‘The Choice: Embrace the Possible’. Both of them survived the Nazi oppression.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

The lesson is the same. In any given situation, we cannot change our circumstances. What we can change is our attitude, response, and thoughts.

Sometimes we feel stuck.

For example, you want to travel the world but work, family, and financial limitations hold you back. Either you can be miserable about the disjoint between what you want and where you are.


You can choose to change your attitude about the whole situation.

The author pushes us to live a meaningful life. Everyone has to find their own meaning, he says. By having ‘why’ in life, we can survive any ‘how’.

“Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality.”

Perhaps the most heartwarming passage in the book is about Frankl thinking of his wife and letting his love for her be his life’s meaning.

This book will make you re-evaluate your life’s meaning and hold hope in even the direst of circumstances.

These Books are So Good - You Have To Read Them At Least Once

It’s okay to be ‘food for worms.’

I grew up being comfortable with the idea of death.

Being from a religious household, the message that was given to us was that God gave us life. He can decide to take it away at any time.

In this book, Ernest makes us confront an interesting fact. Human civilization is man’s attempt to have meaning. We want to keep living with arts, museums, and books.

He also points to the role of religion in helping man be comfortable with his mortality.

Due to the fall of religion, there is a vacuum. We want to outrun death and become immortal.

“Man cannot endure his own littleness unless he can translate it into meaningfulness on the largest possible level.”

We can’t. Death is a reality.

The author defines being ‘self-conscious’ as coming to terms with the fact that we are ‘food for worms’.

Ernest talks about the need to define a new belief since religion doesn’t satisfactorily answer the questions anymore. This belief should be based on science and philosophy and integrate ritualistic practices from religions.

This book will make you reflect on life and death in a new way.

These Books are So Good - You Have To Read Them At Least Once

Why do humans rule the world?

Harari brings us an enlightening read on human history.

Humans have been able to collaborate and create the modern world because they believe in shared imaginations, which the author calls ‘myths.’

“How do you cause people to believe in an imagined order such as Christianity, democracy or capitalism? First, you never admit that the order is imagined.”

Myths include religions, structures like democracy, and money.

Through collective belief, humans collaborate. No other species can do that.

Harari pokes fun at the human tendency to believe in religions by saying:

“You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven.”

Harari calls the ‘agricultural revolution’ the biggest fraud. Instead of us domesticating plants, it was plants that domesticated us. The writer thinks that being a hunter-gatherer was a more fulfilling life for Homo Sapiens.

For the future, Harari predicts the creation of a new human that will combine our human traits with technology.

Even if you disagree with the author at times, this book is insightful and will leave you with much to think about.

These Books are So Good - You Have To Read Them At Least Once

Coins, cash, and cards, the history of money.

Barter trade was the precursor to the formation of money, as we learned in economics.

Graeber disagrees. He put forth an interesting new theory. Money was created to measure debt.

The book starts by discussing debt. Debt that doesn’t exist in the financial realm only. It also exists in our social and moral interactions.

The simplest example I can come up with is as follows. Your friend gives your child a gift on her birthday. You know that you’ll have to give the friend’s child a present on his birthday too.

You’ll be under the friend’s debt until you pay it off by returning the favor.

“Solitary pleasures will always exist, but for most human beings, the most pleasurable activities almost always involve sharing something: music, food, liquor, drugs, gossip, drama, beds.”

Graeber says that debt allowed us to trust each other hence leading to social and economic development. If someone didn’t have food other people gave him so with the intention that he would return the favor when others were in times of need.

In contrast, the author criticizes capitalism.

He traces the origin of the coinage system (coins) to state violence. That is a very interesting theory, to say the least.

This book views money with a different kind of lens which you are sure to enjoy.

These Books are So Good - You Have To Read Them At Least Once

A message of hope.

In 2012, Bill Gates called this book, ‘one of the most important books I’ve read — not just this year, but ever.’

The author, Steven Pinker jolts us to reality through fact-based analysis.

We have a pessimistic view of the current state of world affairs. The world seems unsafe and violent.

“If the past is a foreign country, it is a shockingly violent one.”

Pinker says we are wrong. Bloodshed was rampant in the past. Even for leisure, people used to watch bloody spectacles.

He points the reason for violence to psychological forces. Pinker defines five inner demons of human nature:

  • Practical Violence

  • Dominance

  • Revenge

  • Sadism

  • Ideology

Modernity and increased understanding of humans from different backgrounds have proven to be good. Violence has declined.

The following are the better angels of our nature, according to Pinker:

  • Empathy

  • Self-control

  • Morality

  • Reason

Interestingly, Pinker gives credit to women’s empowerment for the decline in violence as well.

“Since violence is largely a male pastime, cultures that empower women tend to move away from the glorification of violence and are less likely to breed dangerous subcultures of rootless young men.”

This book will acquaint you with history while filling you with wonder and hope for the future.

These Books are So Good - You Have To Read Them At Least Once

Stranger danger!

As children, we were told to not talk to strangers. As adults, it’s part of our everyday life.

Whether we are hiring someone for work or interacting with fellow parents at the part.

Gladwell tells us that trusting other people is the default of human nature.

Research shows that convincing people that strangers are lying is surprisingly difficult.

Sometimes unquestioned trust leads to disastrous consequences. For example, Larry Nassar was able to abuse the kids he was supposed to care for.

Still, we cannot let tragic incidents destroy our trust in other humans. That is needed for the functioning of society.

“Those occasions when our trusting nature gets violated are tragic. But the alternative — to abandon trust as a defense against predation and deception — is worse.”

At the same time, we misunderstand strangers. We are not aware of their circumstances and conditions. Yet, we claim to accurately judge their motivations and actions.

The author recommends keeping our ‘default to truth’ while recognizing that we don’t know a lot about the other person.

“Don’t look at the stranger and jump to conclusions. Look at the stranger’s world.”

If you are into human psychology, you’d love reading this book.

These Books are So Good - You Have To Read Them At Least Once

Do we really know what we want?

Humans are the only ones from the animal kingdom who can look towards the future, Gilbert says.

But there is a surprising downside. We are inaccurate when we predict our future.

The author cites many researches including his own to make that point.

Still, we indulge ourselves in thinking of the future. Because it is gratifying to think that we can shape it.

“Each of us is trapped in a place, a time and a circumstance and our attempt to use our mind to transcend those boundaries are more often than not ineffective.”

Imagination and experience are different.

We imagine our happiness when we get that new gadget or buy a bigger house. In reality, we don’t know what our reaction will be when we achieve what we are dreaming of.

The imagination vs experience dichotomy reminds me of young love. The lovers believe with their hearts and soul that the other person is their whole world. Later on, they learn that this was not the case.

The author stresses the importance of experiences, even if they are bad. They leave us with something to learn. We can still find positives in them.

A fascinating book that will help you understand your happiness.

These Books are So Good - You Have To Read Them At Least Once

Avoid stagnation or you will be left with the scent of missed opportunities.

The author compares and contrasts two mindsets.

  • The Fixed Mindset

  • The Growth Mindset

People with fixed mindsets believe that their traits and talents are fixed. They fear challenges and failures.

Individuals with a growth mindset believe that through effort and hard work, they can learn and grow.

Which one is better?

The growth mindset.

“Picture your brain forming new connections as you meet the challenge and learn. Keep on going.”

Innate ability is not a predictor of success. Hard work and perseverance play a much more important role.

The author goes on to show the benefits of a growth mindset in sports, business, parenting, and teaching.

“When people…change to a growth mindset, they change from a judge-and-be-judged framework to a learn-and-help-learn framework.”

The key takeaway from this book is to not fear failure. Take it as an opportunity to learn and keep trying.

These Books are So Good - You Have To Read Them At Least Once

Love, is it really the foundation of marriage?

We have grown up listening to stories of love and marriage. A prince falls in love with a girl and marries her.

Coontz, a professor, historian, and author, smashes our ‘true love’ dreams.

She tells us that marriage wasn’t done for love. Love in marriage wasn’t a ‘necessity’ but a ‘bonus’.

“People have always loved a love story. But for most of the past our ancestors did not try to live in one.”

Similarly, she calls into question our nostalgia for the perfect past. A past where the divorce rate was minimal and people lived happily.

There is no truth to such an assumption. This sort of thinking goes way back to ancient Greece. It seems as if during every period in history people have felt that the past was better than the present.

The author takes us on a tour of marriage throughout the ages. She tells us about the laws and customs in different times and what it meant for the rights of both parties.

“I do not believe, then, that marriage was invented to oppress women any more than it was invented to protect them. In most cases, marriage probably originated as an informal way of organizing sexual companionship, child rearing, and the daily tasks of life.”

A well-written book that will open your eyes to new revelations about the institution of marriage.


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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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