Some books leave us greatly confused, while others bring us a sense of peace. But rare are the books which completely change our view of the world.
Here are ten books which will help you see the world in a new light – each of these books opens a window to a secret world, hidden from us by mistake or design, and allows us, the readers, to learn more about the world that surrounds us. These are all bestselling books, and there are more such as these. A word of caution: after reading these books, the world as you know it will transform forever.
1. Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell
Have you ever wondered what makes some people succeed beyond imagination, and whether highly successful people are geniuses, extremely lucky, or just very hard-working? If so, this is the book for you. By reading it you'll learn that success is often simply the product of culture, timing, opportunity, date of birth (!) and other privileges. While this may sound frustrating, the book's core idea is rather optimistic: if everyone were granted the same opportunities in life, perhaps we'd start seeing success in unexpected places.
2. Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch and Jeff Zaslow
In 2007, many people around the world were deeply moved by a YouTube video titled: "The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams", a lecture given by Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch, shortly after he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. In the lecture, Pausch shared his own childhood dreams and how he achieved them, providing insights about hard work, overcoming obstacles, living generously and finding the good in other people. Following the video's great success, Pausch quickly set to work about compounding his ideas into a book with the same title, co-authored by Jeff Zaslow from the Wall Street Journal. Humorous and inspiring like the lecture, this book is a must-read for those of us who need encouragement and perspective on the way to achieving our dreams.
3. The World is Flat: The Globalized World in the Twenty-first Century, by Thomas L. Friedman
In the last two decades or so, we have all witnessed the world becoming increasingly globalized. Geographical boundaries are melting away as we use the Internet and new technologies to share information and cultural phenomena across the globe. Pulitzer-winning journalist Thomas L. Friedman refers to this process as the "flattening" of the world, and explores its advantages and disadvantages; how it is affecting history, foreign policy and economic issues; and how individuals, communities, businesses and countries can adapt accordingly. Reading this book is essential for those who do not want to merely live in the age of globalization but also understand it and use it to their advantage.
4. Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman
Daniel Kahneman, who won a Nobel Prize in 2002 in Economic Sciences, is known for his work on behavioral economics, specifically the psychology of judgment and decision-making. In this book he explores the way our minds work, centering on the two ways we make decisions: slow (rational) thinking and fast (intuitive) thinking. This rich, intellectually-stimulating and highly-insightful book talks about the many biases which influence our thinking, and provides the reader with practical tips for using slow thinking in order to make better decisions in all areas of our lives.
5. Hallucinations, by Oliver Sacks
Renowned psychologist and author Oliver Sacks has published many popular, best-selling books, many of them dealing with neurological disorders like The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Awakenings. In this book he explores hallucinations – a phenomenon that can happen to everyone under certain circumstances, and ranges from feeling like someone is following us to outer-body experiences and religious epiphanies. If you're interested in our brain's potential for acting extraordinarily, and the way this ability has influenced our culture, you should read this book.
6. A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson
Ever wanted to learn how the world has developed from the big bang until today, but do so in a fun, light-hearted way? Bryson's book is a great summary of popular history. In the book, he explores basic questions like what black holes are and how cells work, as well as relating the stories of famous scientists throughout history, including their debates, their mistakes and their curious personalities. This is no dry textbook – the mysteries and complexities of the universe will unfold before your eyes in an entertaining, awe-inspiring way.
7. Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer
Into the Wild is the mesmerizing, powerful true story of Christopher McCandless, a young man who in 1992, following his graduation, decided to renounce his bright future and material comforts and instead, head into the wild. His journey, during he which he gradually "freed" himself from his car and money, took him from the Mojave Desert into the mountains of Alaska, where he tragically died of starvation, hiding from the elements in the wreckage of an old bus, mistakenly thinking he is trapped by snow and mere miles away from the civilization he so wished to denounce and without which he could not survive, where shelter and food were readily available. In his book, Krakauer artfully tries to trace McCandless' steps, follow his journey and its meaning for the young man, showing us that the desire to disappear and re-discover one's self and the world can be found in each and every one of us. This is both an exploration of the soul and a dark cautionary tale, which everyone should read.
8. Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely
Similarly to Thinking Fast and Slow described above, Predictably Irrational explores the way in which many of our decisions, sound as they may appear to us, are actually quite irrational. Ariely explains why this irrationality is predictable and systematic, and argues that acknowledging this phenomenon can lead to a greater understanding of consumer choice and personal motivation. He further provides advice on how to make better, more rational decisions. If you've always wondered why your seemingly good decisions turn out badly, this is a book for you.
9. Flash Boys: a Wall Street Revolt, by Michael Lewis
What's really going on in Wall Street, the world's financial nerve center? Lewis provides an insight to the way in which the stock market is rigged for the financial benefit of insiders, and how a small group of investors decides to investigate and expose these shady occurrences. The book came out in 2014 and immediately caused a big stir, with some prominent Wall Street figures claiming the allegations were false, and others claiming they were true. Whatever the reader chooses to believe, this is, no doubt, a book of great importance, in the way it skillfully illustrates the currents and under-currents operating in the financial market.
10. A Little History of the World, by Ernst H. Gombrich
For those interested in history, this book is a true gem. Originally published in 1935 and published again 30 years later with the addition of a new chapter, the book tells the history of the world from the ascent of mankind to WWII and the first atomic bomb; this account includes famous works of art and scientific discoveries that were made during that time. Vivid, colorful and entertaining, A Little History of the World will delight history buffs as well as anyone wishing to educate themselves about history in an enjoyable manner.