In the clutter of self-improvement and behavioral theory books, it is becoming increasingly difficult to pick up interesting non-fictions. Here is a list of 5 of our favorite non-fictions, which are not only good for the mind, but also for the soul.
We, as a generation are abscessed with ‘forever young’ phenomenon. We often are too scared to contemplate about what old age might mean for us and even lesser effort is taken to figuring out the state of mind of our aging relatives and the best course of action to support them. If that is the case with you, this is one of the most important books you could get your hands on.
It talks about unpleasant realities of old age and how we are mostly not prepared for it. It provides an insight about need of taking care of our elderly and how should be go about it. Very much in sync with ‘Man’s search for meaning’ by Viktor Frankl, this book explores the need for a reason to live, something which old people might lose as they become fragile, dependent and when they start seeing death as a distinct possibility. Basically, a long life is a means to an end not the objective by itself.
It features a number of case studies from author’s family and his own experience as a doctor. It is somewhat gloomy to read about plight of people who become dependent, pose difficulties for their loved ones by just not dropping dead and largely become incapable of being happy. But as the author points out, it is necessary being aware of your own mortality, planning for later stages of life and having the difficult conversations about those plans with your loved ones.
Fooled By Randomness:
Theoretically this book might be about investment advice, statistics and behavioral economics, but really it is a powerful lesson on humanity. Taleb constantly challenges our current beliefs on objectivism, prejudice, rationality and fortune.
One of the main arguments presented in the book is that while we believe that our successes are a result of our hard work and genius, our failures are almost always resulted from misfortune. Taleb insists that both success and failures are equally caused by chances. We should be humble in our success and more realistic in our failures.
Another constant theme of the book is the hindsight bias and how we all unconsciously suffer from it. The journalists make a living out of rationalizing the past events, the financial advisors try to find trends in market movements where there might be none and we want to recreate success stories of other people by emulating them. But the fact remains, that we cannot predict future by studying the past. Present is just one of the many equally random outcomes of a past action. So let’s stop taking ourselves so seriously!
The God Delusion:
If you’re agnostic, this book might ultimately guide you towards atheism. The author clinically examines the probability of existence of God and presents many logical arguments indicating the improbablity of a God existing as described in religious texts. He asks the readers and followers to clearly define their religion and God and then to defend them.
The main argument appears to be actively denying the absence of God instead of being polite about it. Many of us confuse the humility towards nature as the presence of God. This poetic description of God is further strengthening the fanatic and superstitious beliefs of certain religious followers.
TL;DR- ‘Spiritual but not Religious’ cannot be the way ahead, it is time to deny God and religion and believe in ourselves.
We Should All Be Feminists:
A very short essay defining feminism in the modern day context and underlining its need in today’s milieu. This is not breaking any new ground or telling us something we have not heard before, it is simply putting things in perspective and presenting it in a crisp manner.
While the author writes mostly about her personal experiences in Nigeria, they are equally relevant in India and perhaps most of the other Asian African countries. For me, the most poignant part of the essay was how the stereotyping of gender roles (sometimes subconscious) curbs our individuality and how it is detrimental to our men as well as women.
It also touches upon the taboo surrounding the gender discussions and the baggage that comes with the word feminism, which is much required amidst all the pseudo-feminist rant going on. But in the end, it is an optimistic appeal to all of us- let’s all be feminists, let’s take small steps to change the world around us, let’s raise our daughters differently and let’s also raise our sons differently.
A Short History of Nearly Everything:
This is what happens when a scientific journal meets a gossip magazine. Highly entertaining and engaging, this book does cover a lot of ground. From the beginning of universe to the evolution of humans, it is basic Physics, Chemistry, Geology, Biology, History, – ‘Nearly Everything’ in a nutshell. It would surely take the dust off some concepts you had forgotten since high school.
It is genuinely funny at times (carbon being the party animal of atoms, mitochondria behaving as if things wouldn’t work out between it and the cell). Bryson has a knack for explaining complex topics in simplistic ways that can be understood by everyone. The measure of space, volume etc are represented though various interesting analogies which makes some concepts easy to visualize and remember. Also, the emphasis on the huge number of things that we still don’t know is profound.
- Man’s Search for Meaning: If you have a ‘why’ to live, you can survive any ‘how’. A very important work about finding a meaning for your existence. It is the account of author’s experiences in concentration camp in first part and his theory about meaningful life in second part.
- Freakonomics: Not really about economics, this book is about how seemingly unrelated things might impact each other. This one provides some interesting topics for fun dinner time conversations.
- The Last Lecture: Life wisdom from a dying man grappling with cancer. Though the premise is such, the book is not a pity party. Pausch is earnest, practical and most importantly, humorous throughout the book. A good read in case you need a reason to count your blessings!