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These Books are So Phenomenal - You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces

Science of obesity, psychology of decisions, and more…

These Books are So Phenomenal - You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko

Books can be found everywhere.

But the key is to find phenomenal books. To make this task easier for you, we are bringing you a list of 10 amazing books. Each of the books tackles an interesting subject matter.

From cancer to obesity, and from social status to talent, you’ll find fascinating information on each.

Let’s dive in!

These Books are So Phenomenal - You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces

The ‘why’ behind our ‘how.’

Why do you do charity?

Perhaps you’ll say that you feel others’ pain. Or that you want to play your part in making this world a better place. Or you want to share your blessings.

“When we notice someone suffering and immediately decide to help them, it “says” to our associates, ‘See how easily I’m moved to help others?’”

None of these answers provide your real motive.

The authors tell us that our brains evolved to act in our self-interest while appearing to be non-selfish. This is so we can bond socially.

With our donations and giving, we signal our generosity and kindness to our associates.

“It is a wonderful quirk of our species that the incentives of social life don’t reward strictly ruthless behavior.”

The book discusses many different behaviors including laughter, body language, and our attitudes towards education and art. In every case, the authors show us the true reasons for our behavior.

This information in this book is truly fascinating and will make you think long and hard about human behavior.

These Books are So Phenomenal - You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces

Story of cancer and of the people it affects.

Cancer happens when mutated cells keep multiplying.

Why is it finding its cure so hard?

The author, an oncologist himself, tells us that there are many poisons that can kill cancerous cells. The issue is that we have to kill cancerous cells while saving the healthy ones. And that is not an easy feat.

“The secret to battling cancer, then, is to find means to prevent these mutations from occurring in susceptible cells, or to find means to eliminate the mutated cells without compromising normal growth.”

Mukherjee says that aging is one of the reasons that cancer surfaces. With aging, cancer mutations begin accumulating in the cells’ DNA. This increases the chances of a person having cancer.

“Medicine… begins with storytelling.”

We also learn about patients that Mukherjee has treated. He says that medicine begins with storytelling. Patients describe illness through stories. Doctors tell stories to understand the disease.

One of the patients in the book is Steve Harmon. He had esophageal cancer. His family visited him regularly. This included his wife, kids, and brother. When Mukherjee asked him if he wanted chemotherapy alone, this is what he said:

“I know what the statistics are… Left to myself, I would not even try. I’m doing this because of the kids.”

This book is full of information and touching stories.

These Books are So Phenomenal - You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces

The chemistry all around us…

This book literally discusses ‘stuff’.

That includes plastic, metal, glass, concrete, and more.

It makes sense because Mark Miodownik is a materials engineer. It is apparent that he is very enthusiastic about the subject material.

He discusses the chemistry of different materials and how they are used. Along with this he also shows us the evolution that each material went through.

We learn about many interesting facts.

“If gathered together, all the gold ever mined would fit inside a large town house.”

Why is gold valuable? Because gold exists in a limited quantity.

The author tells us how glass transformed chemistry. It is inert and transparent. Hence, it is easy to perform chemical reactions in it.

“Chemistry was transformed by glass perhaps more than any other discipline.”

Regardless of your relationship with material engineering, if you like learning new ‘stuff’, you should pick up this book.

These Books are So Phenomenal - You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces

Inheritance of nobility.

This book argues that children inherit their parents’ social status. And that is determined largely by the genes of the family.

The author has studied the social statuses of various families across many countries. To do this, he tracks unique surnames across generations and how they appeared in enrollment records, lists of members of parliaments, etc.

“The persistence of high and low status for some groups in various societies would seem to contradict the simple law of mobility for social status.”

Social mobility is the change in families’ wealth and financial status. The author tells us that it is way lower than generally accepted.

Clark shows us that the social status of families persists across generations transcending centuries. For example, the 27 great-great-grandchildren of Charles Darwin are notable people. They are born 150 years after him.

“The proposition that elites and underclasses are not created by religion, culture, or race is supported by evidence from the United States on current elite and underclass populations.”

This inheritance of status is true in different countries, cultures, and political ideologies.

This book makes sense. But one feels for the so-called ‘underclass’.

These Books are So Phenomenal - You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces

Why do we eat?

This book explores how our brain manages hunger. It is interesting to learn the science behind our bodies wanting food.

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

The author tells us how we have become overeaters. Our environment is to be blamed. We have much easier access to delicious, commercialized foods as compared to our ancestors.

We get to know about ‘lipostat’.

Lipostat is the body’s mechanism for hunger and weight. It tries to bring the body to its set point. If we lose weight, it sends a starvation response, making us hungrier.

“In this book, I’ll argue that overeating and obesity are caused by a mismatch between ancient survival circuits in the brain and an environment that sends these circuits the wrong messages.”

The thing is that lipostat makes it easy for us to gain weight. It has a lesser effect on us trying to lose weight.

By helping you understand the biology and science behind our body’s weight gain and weight loss, this book will help you make healthier decisions.

These Books are So Phenomenal - You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces

Does education serve a purpose?

Education is not for skills and learning, says Bryan Caplan.

Instead, having degrees signals the presence of desirable traits in a person. That is why employers prefer someone with a college education.

The author reminds us that those with an undergraduate degree earn more in the market as compared to those who don’t.

“The labor market doesn’t pay you for the useless subjects you master; it pays you for the preexisting traits you reveal by mastering them.”

Students themselves know why the degree is important. Instead of focusing on learning and gaining skills, they want it to be over with.

True learning happens in real life.

“Students fail to learn most of what they’re taught. Adults forget most of what they learn.”

If you believe in the value of higher education, get ready to challenge your assumptions through this book.

These Books are So Phenomenal - You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces

Who is ‘God’?

Jack Miles explores God as a literary figure.

Islamic, Christian, and Judaism texts paint a picture of a strictly monotheistic entity. This God doesn’t share his role with anyone.

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

The author traces the development of God in religious texts, particularly Tanakh or the Hebrew Bible.

Miles shines a light on the contradictory aspects of God’s nature. God is harsh and kind. He punishes and He forgives. He rewards and He holds back.

The complexity of God’s nature is in line with the complexities of human emotions and actions.

“Philosophers of religion have sometimes claimed that all gods are projections of the human personality, and so it may be.”

This book paints an interesting portrait of God as we know him through holy books.

These Books are So Phenomenal - You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces

Irrationality is coded in our brains.

Human behavior is not rational… But it is predictable. We are enslaved to how our brains work.

This is what Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics, tells us.

“Our irrational behaviors are neither random nor senseless- they are systematic and predictable. We all make the same types of mistakes over and over, because of the basic wiring of our brains.”

The author shows us through examples that humans do not choose in absolute terms. Humans think in relative terms.

For example, when we buy something new, we become anchored to the price of that thing. And our future decisions are made relative to that.

“…we focus on the relative advantage of one thing over another, and estimate value accordingly.”

Ariely tells us to question our repeated behaviors and find out why we are doing them.

By understanding our irrationalities, this book helps us in making informed decisions.

These Books are So Phenomenal - You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces

Once you understand flow, you’ll want to live in that state forever.

What are the best moments in our lives?

They are not when you are kicking back, relaxing, and watching Netflix.

This book from 1990 tells us that the best moments of our lives come about when we have stretched our minds or bodies to accomplish something difficult.

“Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen.”

The author inspires us time and again to immerse ourselves deeply in meaningful pursuits.

Imagine reading a book so enjoyable that you forget about time and space. Or what about working on a home project that you will really enjoy?

Maybe adventure is your thing. Perhaps hiking or mountain climbing will be your meaningful experience.

In each of the cases, flow can be achieved. Flow is the psychological state when a person is fully involved. And they are doing this action for the sake of the action itself.

“By stretching skills, by reaching toward higher challenges, such a person becomes an increasingly extraordinary individual.”

This book teaches us the importance of controlling our attention and focus in order for more meaningful experiences.

These Books are So Phenomenal - You Have to Dive Into These Masterpieces

Anyone can become talented.

No one is born with an ability or a talent. But it can be inculcated. This is the whole premise of the book.

“The brain is adaptable…”

The author proves his argument with research and data.

Parts of this book will remind you of the book ‘The Talent Code’ if you have read it. Just like ‘The Talent Code’ argues for deep practice, ‘Peak’ argues for deliberate practice.

It means rehearsing an activity in order to gain mastery.

“I can report with confidence that I have never found a convincing case for anyone developing extraordinary abilities without intense, extended practice.”

The authors also tell us about mental representations. Mental representation is the ability to process large amounts of data which is otherwise impossible.

Through practice, one can build mental representations of different situations that will be encountered in his/her line of work.

This is how one improves and achieves things previously thought impossible.


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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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