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These Books Will Teach You More Than a College Degree — Without the Crushing Debt

Learn about life!

These Books Will Teach You More Than a College Degree — Without the Crushing Debt
Photo by Yaroslav Shuraev

College degrees give value to one’s CV.

But do they serve the purpose of imparting practical knowledge? That’s the question we all should be asking.

Today’s article features books that are bound to get your brain cells going. They are not only informative but also transformative. If you want to transform your life for the better, you should not miss them.

Let’s go!

These Books Will Teach You More Than a College Degree — Without the Crushing Debt

Think fast, think slow, think right!

This is a comprehensive book about the brain’s decision-making process.

The author tells us about the two systems in our brain. They both affect how we make decisions.

These Books Will Teach You More Than a College Degree — Without the Crushing Debt
Table Image Made by Author

These systems are interlocked in an eternal struggle. But system 1 is the one we usually use. The brain is also lazy so it conserves its cognitive power by reverting to system 1 even when system 2 is needed.

“Familiarity breeds liking.”

The author also goes into detail about what makes System 1 fallible. That can be attributed to heuristics i.e. mental shortcuts. These heuristics give rise to biases and errors. We assign patterns where there are none. We turn correlations into causations.

System 1 takes in tonnes of stimuli and processes it so it needs the mental shortcuts.

“We are prone to blame decision makers for good decisions that worked out badly and to give them too little credit for successful moves that appear obvious only after the fact.”

Whatever we do, we will make mistakes based on our mental shortcuts and whatnot. But we can deliberately try to engage system 2 more.

These Books Will Teach You More Than a College Degree — Without the Crushing Debt

An ode to creativity.

Rick Rubin is a seasoned musician. His book is an exploration of creativity.

Rubin is an advocate for art. His fascination with the creative process and commitment to it are apparent from his writing.

“One of the greatest rewards of making art is our ability to share it. Even if there is no audience to receive it, we build the muscle of making something and putting it out into the world.”

The author not only discusses the inspiration and conclusion of the creative process, but he also discusses insecurities and roadblocks.

He motivates us to finish our work and put it out there. He also recommends drawing ideas from the natural and the spiritual world.

“Without the spiritual component, the artist works with a crucial disadvantage.”

Science is limited but spirituality is endless.

The book also explains the pitfalls of the artistic process. Those include focusing on commercial gains, perfectionism, and competing with fellow creatives.

These Books Will Teach You More Than a College Degree — Without the Crushing Debt

Surviving horror.

Dr Edith Eva Eger (Edie) is a Holocaust survivor and a therapist.

This book details her experiences.

“We don’t know where we’re going, we don’t know what’s going to happen, but no one can take away from you what you put in your own mind.”

Aboard a cattle cart, and going to a concentration camp, Edie’s mother advised her that no one can take away whatever is in her mind. These are the words that Edie survived by.

Edie’s parents were murdered. She survived the camps along with her sister. They both were eventually rescued.

“We can choose what the horror teaches us. To become bitter in our grief and fear. Hostile. Paralyzed. Or to hold on to the childlike part of us, the lively and curious part, the part that is innocent.”

Recounting her experiences, the author doesn’t adopt a holier-than-thou approach. She says grief cannot be compared.

This book shines a new light on suffering in life.

These Books Will Teach You More Than a College Degree — Without the Crushing Debt

Preserve your peace!

This book compiles wisdom from Naval Ravikant, who is also dubbed The Angel Philosopher.

“I have lowered my identity. I have lowered the chattering of my mind. I don’t care about things that don’t really matter.”

From meditation to money, it covers many different aspects of life.

Ravikant teaches us to take responsibility. He tells us to save ourselves. No amount of doctors, nutritionists, teachers, or gurus can help us if we don’t step up.

The interesting part is Ravikant’s focus on inner peace. He says he doesn’t hang around unhappy people anymore and neither indulges in political discussions.

Similarly, his definition of happiness is about accepting what is coming our way without letting our inner peace take a nosedive.

“Intentions don’t matter. Actions do. That’s why being ethical is hard.”

Whether it is health, wealth, or happiness, Ravikant has advice for every part of life.

These Books Will Teach You More Than a College Degree — Without the Crushing Debt

Creation over consumption.

I doubt that there is anyone out there who doesn’t like the prospect of being rich.

Who doesn’t love money?

Well, here is a book that claims to teach you all about it.

The author describes three paths taken by people when pursuing wealth. They are:

  1. The Sidewalk

  2. The Slowlane

  3. The Fastlane

“Value your time poorly and you will be poor. When time is wasted as a lifestyle choice you will be stranded in places you don’t want to be.”

People on the sidewalk are more concerned with instant gratification. Their aim is to flaunt their money. They even take on debt to buy more.

People in the slowlane rely on paycheck and investment. This group sees debt unfavorably.

People in the fastlane are the ones who execute ideas and bring them into the world.

Their focus is on building assets that grow. To them, time is way more valuable than money. They use debt to grow their systems.

“You could own the best hotel in the world located on the best beach in California, but if customers are treated like inconveniences and requests go unfulfilled, they won’t return.”

The book might not do for you what it promises. Let’s face it! All of those who read it are not going to end up millionaires.


It certainly has great lessons when it comes to financial decision-making.

These Books Will Teach You More Than a College Degree — Without the Crushing Debt

Become a magician of communication!

What we say and how we say it matters. It has the power to change outcomes.

And if we want to improve our lives, we need to learn the tricks of the trade. This book serves as a guide in doing just that.

“Magic Words are sets of words that talk straight to the subconscious brain.”

The author tells us about the important role of our subconscious brain in decision-making. Since it plays a key role, it is important to take it into account when communicating.

The subconscious brain is preprogrammed and it doesn’t overanalyze.

“If you give me a chance in the role, then I am confident you will thank me later.”

For example: If we give a reason for our action, the likelihood that people will agree increases significantly.

Jones gives us exact phrases that are bound to sway the other person in our favor.

Whether it is a sales transaction or a job negotiation, the book has words for every occasion.

These Books Will Teach You More Than a College Degree — Without the Crushing Debt

Behind the stage of marketing.

Persuasion exists all around us. Whether it is the ads on our phones or the salespersons in the mall, we are bound to come across it one way or the other.

“All things being equal, you root for your own sex, your own culture, your own locality…”

As a psychologist, Robert Cialdini shows us how the choices of others can be influenced.

Cialdini’s accolades can be understood by the fact that he is one of the behavioral scientists hired for Obama’s presidential campaign in 2012.

Wait a second! Do politicians hire behavioral scientists to make their campaigns effective? That’s crazy, man.

Back to the book!

The author shows us that persuasion is governed by the following principles:

  1. Reciprocity: Returning the favor (buying after receiving free product samples)

  2. Commitment and consistency: Staying true to commitment (sign-ups and subscriptions)

  3. Social proof: Seeing others do it (‘xyz% of people trust our product’)

  4. Authority: Believing the experts (doctor recommending toothpaste in an ad)

  5. Liking: Agreeing with people that we like (build rapport first)

  6. Scarcity: The less something is, the more valuable it becomes (‘limited edition’ and ‘exclusive’ spark a buying response)

“It is much more profitable for salespeople to present the expensive item first…”

This book is an important resource for all marketers and salespeople.

These Books Will Teach You More Than a College Degree — Without the Crushing Debt

Understanding the history of the universe.

We have learned a lot about our world and the universe. And we continue to do so.

Bill Bryson explores the journey of mankind in discovering and learning more. He takes us to the outer edges of space and to the archeological dig sites.

“Once in a great while, a few times in history, a human mind produces an observation so acute and unexpected that people can’t quite decide which is the more amazing — the fact or the thinking of it.”

The author tells us about the existence of the universe and the Big Bang. He goes on to discuss different theories of physics. It includes the theory of relativity and quantum theory.

The book also discusses the existence of life on Earth and the evolution of humans.

“The Moon is slipping from our grasp at a rate of about 1.5 inches a year.”

Here is an interesting tidbit.

The moon will be far away from us in 2 billion years. Oh well, I won’t be alive by then anyway.

These Books Will Teach You More Than a College Degree — Without the Crushing Debt

Empathy, active listening, and mirroring…

We all have seen nail-biting scenes from crime movies or dramas where the authorities and the hostage-taker are in negotiations. Emotions are high, and time is short.

Well, this book is written by a real-life negotiator. Chris Voss has served as an FBI hostage negotiator. His experiences helped him understand negotiations in a way that very few of us can.

Our negotiations only revolve around salary raises and diaper duties.

“Negotiate in their world.” 

The author impresses on the importance of empathy and active listening. He advises us to build trust and rapport with the other party.

The author also tells us to label the emotions of the other person in order to help them see what it is about.

“Conflict brings out truth, creativity, and resolution.”

If someone answers no, that is not such a bad thing. Instead, it is the start of something.

The book also has practical strategies. One of them is ‘mirroring’. Mirroring means repeating the last three words or the most important three words from what the other person has said.

“We fear what’s different and are drawn to what’s similar. Mirroring is the art of insinuating similarity, which facilitates bonding.”

In fact, I have started to apply this technique with my spouse. (Shhh… Don’t let out my secret, okay?)

These Books Will Teach You More Than a College Degree — Without the Crushing Debt

Hacking the habit loop.

I am a flexible person by nature. Things going a little awry don’t bother me.

But as I have matured, I have started to appreciate the benefits provided by routines and habits.

“Habits never really disappear.”

Habits are a very important part of life. They are ‘encoded’ into our brains. And that is to our benefit. How?

The author gives the example of driving. We don’t have to relearn it after we go on a holiday each time. That is because of the power of habit.

“Cravings are what drive habits.”

The downside? The brain doesn’t know whether a habit is good or not. But don’t lose hope just yet. We can reprogram a habit loop, hence turning a bad habit into a good one.

“The truth is, the brain can be reprogrammed. You just have to be deliberate about it.”

This book will help you understand your habits. It will also teach you to use that knowledge to your advantage.


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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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