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These Unique Non-Fiction Books are So Good — You Shouldn’t Miss out on them

Learn about the human body, our food, and the environment

These Unique Non-Fiction Books are So Good — You Shouldn’t Miss out on them

Get ready for an intellectual treat.

Today’s assortment of books will answer a wide range of questions. How many hearts does an octopus have? Is Democracy good? How do penguins bring back food to their young ones? (They don’t have backpacks, obviously.)

If you like finding things out, you have to get your hands on these books.

Let’s go through a brief overview of each of them.

These Unique Non-Fiction Books are So Good — You Shouldn’t Miss out on them

An overview of the artificially intelligent future.

Nick Bostrom is a Swedish philosopher at the University of Oxford.

In this book, he explores the future of mankind if we are indeed able to make a machine as smart as us.

Bostrom thinks that given the current technological strides, such an innovation is quite possible. He puts forth a ‘singleton’ hypothesis where a single force runs everything in the world.

“An emulation operating at a speed of ten thousand times that of a biological brain would be able to read a book in a few seconds and write a PhD thesis in an afternoon.”

He discusses the human effort at replicating flight. But the airplanes don’t flap their wings, says Bostrom. He invites us to think about whether machine intelligence will be like flying, an artificially achieved mechanism, or like fire, a replication of naturally occurring phenomena.

I incline towards the artificial side of the argument.

“The existence of birds demonstrated that heavier-than-air flight was physically possible and prompted efforts to build flying machines.”

The author also discusses ways in which AI can be controlled like using a tripwire or boxing. Boxing means limiting the contact of the AI agent with outside things.

The book is pretty elaborate and covers a lot of ground when it comes to AI.

These Unique Non-Fiction Books are So Good — You Shouldn’t Miss out on them

It’s time to fix your breathing.

James Nestor opens our eyes to something important.

We do it every second of the day but we never wonder if we are doing it right. Yup, I am talking about breathing.

“Smell is life’s oldest sense.”

The author calls breathing the ‘intimate connection’ to one’s surroundings. He says that because of how the sense of smell plays an important part in discerning what’s happening around us.

The author cites various experiments and studies that prove how mouth breathing is dangerous for our physical health. It leads to raised blood pressure, sleep apnea, stress levels, you name it.

“Breathe normally through the nose and hum, any song or sound. Practice for at least five minutes a day, more if possible.”

When we breathe slowly and deeply, more oxygen enters our lungs. On the other hand, if we breathe fast and shallow, the amount of oxygen inhaled drops.

Reading this book will make you fix your breathing.

These Unique Non-Fiction Books are So Good — You Shouldn’t Miss out on them

Why democracies aren’t as good as you think?

I am one of those who appreciate the freedoms that a democracy offers.

Honestly, this book has made me doubt my beliefs.

“Democracies are not lucky.”

Humans want power and money and if they get it, they are going to do their best to keep it.

This is exactly what the book discusses. When any ruler comes to power, be it a democratic leader or a dictator, there are certain textbook things he does to make sure he stays on top.

One of them is paying the supporters. Loyalty is highly valued in this small concentrated group which forms a leader’s ride or die.

“Paying supporters, not good governance or representing the general will, is the essence of ruling.”

If a ruler can keep his supporters happy, his regime is safe. In the case of America, the authors say that the Democrats siphon money from Republicans to the Democrats while Republicans do the opposite.

I appreciate how the authors’ theory has made me think about the power games of the world.

These Unique Non-Fiction Books are So Good — You Shouldn’t Miss out on them

Survival of the most selfish.

In this 1979 book, the evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins explains the gene-centric view of evolution.

“Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish.”

He says that when two individuals are genetically related, they are more likely to behave cooperatively with each other.

This makes sense from my anecdotal experience. We side with our families even when they are wrong.

Dawkins says this is because we want our genes to spread. So even under the facade of loyalty, there is selfishness.

“Many of us shrink from judicial execution of even the most horrible human criminals, while we cheerfully countenance the shooting without trial of fairly mild animal pests.”

This happens in cross-species too. Like ants milking aphids and aphids benefitting from the protection that ants offer. This mutually altruistic behavior benefits the survival of genes in both species.

Dawkins shows us the importance of cooperating in the long run which will benefit all of us, humans and non-humans.

This book is your gateway to understanding evolution.

These Unique Non-Fiction Books are So Good — You Shouldn’t Miss out on them

A slide-down human gastric tract.

Mary Roach gives us all the knowledge about the workings of the human digestive tract.

The author discusses the whole system in detail starting from the very first steps i.e. smell and taste.

“Penguins can shut down digestion by lowering the temperature inside their stomach to the point where the gastric juices are no longer active.”

Did you know that dog food manufacturers use canine tasters to find out the appropriate balance of scents that will appeal to the dog but won’t overpower their owners?

Similarly, we learn a very fascinating fact about penguins. They shut down their digestive system to prevent the food from being digested so they can bring it back for their young ones.

We also learn about the work of Alexander Khoruts, a physician-scientist. He uses transplantation of colon bacteria aka gut microflora, from the host to the patient for curing gut infections.

Yup, it involves poop. Duh.

This method works and has a high success rate (above 90%). But there is a reason why it is not being embraced by the mainstream.

“Pharmaceutical companies make money by treating diseases, not by curing them.”

This book is written in a light-hearted but informative way. Many will appreciate the humor and knowledge in it.

These Unique Non-Fiction Books are So Good — You Shouldn’t Miss out on them

What goes on in the kitchens of upscale restaurants?

This book is a memoir of the American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain.

Bourdain’s love of food, cooking, and as well as drugs and alcohol, as can be seen in his memoir.

“People confuse me. Food doesn’t.”

Bourdain was born into an affluent family. He cleared high school but due to his party lifestyle, he dropped out of college.

His fascination with food started when he took up a dishwashing job in a restaurant. He saw the chefs at work which inspired him to explore this career.

“Cooking is a craft, I like to think, and a good cook is a craftsman — not an artist.”

He worked very hard and reached the top of his game. He shows the ups and downs of his career as well as sordid details of what actually goes in the kitchens of so-called high-end restaurants.

This book reads like an adventure novel. There are drugs, brawls, and everything in between.

These Unique Non-Fiction Books are So Good — You Shouldn’t Miss out on them

One woman’s story of befriending octopuses.

Sy Montgomery meets an octopus on her visit to an aquarium.

This inspires her to explore these fascinating creatures. She studies and interacts with them with the help of staff and volunteers at the New England Aquarium.

She forms bonds with 4 different octopuses, Athena, Octavia, Kali, and Karma. She tells us about their personalities and lives.

“But what is the soul? Some say it is the self, the “I” that inhabits the body; without the soul, the body is like a lightbulb with no electricity.”

Along with detailing her observations, the author tells us many mind-blowing facts about octopuses. They have three hearts. The color of their blood is blue. Their life span is very short i.e. 3 years. Some species live up to 5 years.

“… I am also aware that in animals, as well as people, there is an inborn temperament, a way of seeing the world, that interacts with the environment, and that shapes personality.”

Montgomery even goes scuba diving in the Caribbean Sea to observe octopuses in their natural habitat.

This book covers a lot about the intelligence of these amazing creatures but fails to address the subject of their captivity.

The sad thing is that one of the octopuses in the book, Kali, actually dies while trying to escape.

These Unique Non-Fiction Books are So Good — You Shouldn’t Miss out on them

Get to know one of the controversial foods. Milk.

This book comes from the author of ‘Salt’ and ‘Cod’.

Just like his approach in his other books, he explores history, sociology, industrialization, and politics with milk as the center point.

“Our galaxy is called the Milky Way, and both it and the word “galaxy” have their origins in the Greek word for milk, gala.”

Milk didn’t used to be that common because it would go bad. Usually, it was converted into dairy products for easier transportation.

Along came pasteurization and it allowed milk to go from farms to homes over long distances.

“French butter makes better pastry than American butter because it contains more fat and less water.”

Milk is also the center of the debate. Should we be drinking it at all?

As someone who grew up drinking milk and still does, I always side with yes, we should. Albeit the milk that is organic and healthy.

The author tells us that not every human can digest lactose. For some, milk is good, while for others, not so much.

All in all, this book provides a very interesting timeline of the ebb and flow of milk’s popularity.

These Unique Non-Fiction Books are So Good — You Shouldn’t Miss out on them

A much-needed wake-up call for humans.

The author tells us about the 5 historic extinction events that occurred on Earth.

  1. Ordovician-Silurian Extinction

  2. Devonian Extinction

  3. Permian-Triassic Extinction

  4. Triassic-Jurassic Extinction

  5. Cretaceous-tertiary Extinction

The last one happened about 65 million years ago and finished off the dinosaurs.

“It is estimated that one-third of all reef-building corals, a third of all freshwater mollusks, a third of sharks and rays, a quarter of all mammals, a fifth of all reptiles, and a sixth of all birds are headed toward oblivion.”

The author warns us that due to our actions, the sixth extinction is happening.

We have acidified the oceans due to our Carbon dioxide production. We have been over hunting since the Ice Age. We are introducing non-native plants and animals, thanks to the global trade and pet industry.

“…having freed ourselves from the constraints of evolution, humans nevertheless remain dependent on the earth’s biological and geochemical systems.”

The author wants us to see reality for what it is. We have to fix it now if we want humans to survive.

These Unique Non-Fiction Books are So Good — You Shouldn’t Miss out on them

Have you shown gratitude to the earth?

Robin Wall Kimmerer explores the relationship between humans and their natural environment.

There are many themes in this book but the most noteworthy one is to be grateful and respectful of the earth. Mother Earth loves us and provides for us, even when we have hurt her, says the author.

“In some Native languages the term for plants translates to “those who take care of us.”

Being from a Native American tribe, the author brings us wisdom from her ancestors and what we can learn from them.

Living in harmony with nature is perhaps the most important lesson we need to internalize and preach. This will not only be good for the earth but also for the survival of humans.

“This is really why I made my daughters learn to garden — so they would always have a mother to love them, long after I am gone.”

The author is from the Potawatomi tribe. She tells us about her efforts to learn her native language as well as learning how to make sweetgrass baskets.

The lesson of the book is to embody gratitude and stay away from greed, which is pertinent in order to establish a sustainable lifestyle.


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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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