The 50 Best Books to Change Your Life And The Way You See The World

Books have the power to teach, educate, change lives, inspire and go much further than what you thought possible. Whether fiction or non-fiction, they transport you to a realm of limitless possibilities. Books can truly show you the way to a new life, to a new you, and also to a new way of seeing things. Many of us have a vision of our world and society entangled in stereotypes, inaccurate facts, and biased statistics. If you want to ignite change (in you or in the world), you probably will want to start with books. To help you do that, I put together a list of the 50 best life-changing and eye-opening books out there.

Let’s get to it.

Disclaimer: I do not make any money from links included in this article. The links are only here to make it easy for you to check out the book if you’re interested. To see a book on Amazon, simply click on its cover image.


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1. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

During flow, people typically experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi demonstrates the ways this positive state can be controlled, not just left to chance. This book teaches how, by ordering the information that enters our consciousness, we can discover true happiness and greatly improve the quality of our lives.

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2. The Productivity Project

Chris Bailey turned down lucrative job offers to pursue a lifelong dream — to spend a year performing a deep dive experiment into the pursuit of productivity, a subject he wanted to study since he was a teenager. After obtaining his business degree, he created a blog to chronicle a year-long series of productivity experiments he conducted on himself, where he also continued his research and interviews with some of the world’s foremost experts, from Charles Duhigg to David Allen. All the while monitoring the impact of his experiments on the quality and quantity of his work.

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3. Born to Run

Isolated by Mexico’s deadly Copper Canyons, the blissful Tarahumara Indians have honed the ability to run hundreds of miles without rest or injury. In a riveting narrative, Christopher McDougall sets out to discover their secrets. In the process, he takes his readers from science labs at Harvard to the sun-baked valleys and freezing peaks across North America, where ever-growing numbers of ultra-runners are pushing their bodies to the limit, and, finally, to a climactic race in the Copper Canyons that pits America’s best ultra-runners against the tribe. McDougall’s incredible story will not only engage your mind but inspire your body when you realize that you, indeed all of us, were born to run.

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4. Deep Work

Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. most people have lost the ability to go deep — spending their days instead in a frantic blur of email and social media, not even realizing there’s a better way. In Deep Work, Cal Newport flips the narrative on impact in a connected age. Instead of arguing distraction is bad, he instead celebrates the power of its opposite. Dividing this book into two parts, he first makes the case that in almost any profession, cultivating a deep work ethic will produce massive benefits. He then presents a rigorous training regimen, presented as a series of four “rules”, for transforming your mind and habits to support this skill.

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5. Born a Crime

Trevor Noah was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother — his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

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6. Boundaries

Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend help you learn when to say yes and know how to say no in order to take control of your life and set healthy, biblical boundaries with your spouse, children, friends, parents, co-workers, and even yourself.

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7. Sleep Smarter

Stevenson shares easy tips and tricks to discover the best sleep and best health of your life. You’ll learn how to create the ideal sleep sanctuary, how to hack sunlight to regulate your circadian rhythms, which clinically proven sleep nutrients and supplements you need, and stress-reduction exercises and fitness tips to keep you mentally and physically sharp. Sleep Smarter is the ultimate guide to sleeping better, feeling refreshed, and achieving a healthier, happier life.

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8. Eat Move Sleep

Quietly managing a serious illness for more than 20 years, Tom has assembled a wide range of information on the impact of eating, moving, and sleeping. Eat Move Sleep features the most proven and practical ideas from his research. This remarkably quick read offers advice that is comprehensive yet simple and often counterintuitive but always credible. This book will help you make good decisions automatic. With every bite you take, you will make better choices. You will move a lot more than you do today. And you will sleep better than you have in years. More than a book, this is a new way to live.

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9. Getting Things Done

Since it was first published almost fifteen years ago, David Allen’s Getting Things Done has become one of the most influential business books of its era, and the ultimate book on personal organization. “GTD” is now shorthand for an entire way of approaching professional and personal tasks, and has spawned an entire culture of websites, organizational tools, seminars, and offshoots.

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10. Do The Work

Do the Work is a weapon against Resistance — a tool that will help you take action and successfully ship projects out the door. It takes the reader from the start to the finish of any long-form project — novel, screenplay, album, software piece, you name it. Do The Work identifies the predictable Resistance Points along the way and walks you through each of them. It’s the stage-by-stage road map for taking your project from Page One to The End.

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11. Smarter Faster Better

At the core of Smarter Faster Better are eight key productivity concepts — from motivation and goal setting to focus and decision making — that explain why some people and companies get so much done. Drawing on the latest findings in neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral economics — as well as the experiences of CEOs, educational reformers, four-star generals, FBI agents, airplane pilots, and Broadway songwriters — this painstakingly researched book explains that the most productive people, companies, and organizations don’t merely act differently. They view the world, and their choices, in profoundly different ways.

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12. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work

Mason Curry compiles together research on the morning rituals of 161 inspired, and inspiring minds. Among them, novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians, who describe how they subtly maneuver the many (self-inflicted) obstacles and (self-imposed) daily rituals to get done the work they love to do, whether by waking early or staying up late; whether by self-medicating with doughnuts or bathing, drinking vast quantities of coffee, or taking long daily walks. Brilliantly compiled and edited, and filled with detail and anecdote, Daily Rituals is a must-read for morning inspiration and motivation.

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13. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

This book was named the #1 Most Influential Business Book of the Twentieth Century. One of the most inspiring and impactful books ever written, it has captivated readers for 25 years. It has transformed the lives of presidents and CEOs, educators and parents — in short, millions of people of all ages and occupations across the world. Read it and see for yourself.

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14. The Power of Habit

In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential. At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

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15. Steal Like an Artist

An inspiring guide to creativity in the digital age, Steal Like an Artist presents ten transformative principles that will help readers discover their artistic side and build a more creative life. Nothing is original, so embrace influence, school yourself through the work of others, remix and reimagine to discover your own path. Follow interests wherever they take you — what feels like a hobby may turn into you life’s work. Forget the old cliché about writing what you know: Instead, write the book you want to read, make the movie you want to watch. And finally, stay smart, stay out of debt, and risk being boring in the everyday world so that you have the space to be wild and daring in your imagination and your work.

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16. The Top Five Regrets of the Dying

After too many years of unfulfilling work, Bronnie Ware began searching for a job with heart. Despite having no formal qualifications or previous experience in the field, she found herself working in palliative care. During the time she spent tending to those who were dying, Bronnie’s life was transformed. Later, she wrote an Internet blog post, outlining the most common regrets that the people she had cared for had expressed. In the book, Bronnie expresses how significant these regrets are and how we can positively address these issues while we still have the time. The Top Five Regrets of the Dying gives hope for a better world. It is a courageous, life-changing book that will leave you feeling more compassionate and inspired to live the life you are truly here to live.

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17. Outliers

Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers” — the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different? His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band. Brilliant and entertaining, this book is a landmark work that will simultaneously delight and illuminate.

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18. Why Nations Fail

Brilliant and engagingly written, Why Nations Fail answers the question that has stumped the experts for centuries: Why are some nations rich and others poor, divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and famine? Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are? Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Based on fifteen years of original research Acemoglu and Robinson combine extraordinary historical evidence from the Roman Empire, the Mayan city-states, medieval Venice, the Soviet Union, Latin America, England, Europe, the United States, and Africa to build a new theory of political economy with great relevance for the big questions of today.

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19. The Righteous Mind

In this book, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explores the origins of our divisions and points the way forward to mutual understanding. His starting point is moral intuition — the nearly instantaneous perceptions we all have about other people and the things they do. These intuitions feel like self-evident truths, making us righteously certain that those who see things differently are wrong. Haidt shows us how these intuitions differ across cultures, including the cultures of the political left and right. He blends his own research findings with those of anthropologists, historians, and other psychologists to draw a map of the moral domain, and he explains why conservatives can navigate that map more skillfully than can liberals. He then examines the origins of morality, overturning the view that evolution made us fundamentally selfish creatures.

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20. Factfulness

When asked simple questions about global trends — why the world’s population is increasing; how many young women go to school; how many of us live in poverty — we systematically get the answers wrong. So wrong that a chimpanzee choosing answers at random will consistently outguess journalists, Nobel laureates, and investment bankers. In Factfulness, Hans Rosling offers a radical new explanation of why this happens, and reveals the 10 instincts that distort our perspective. It turns out that the world, for all its imperfections, is in a much better state than we might think. But when we worry about everything all the time instead of embracing a worldview based on facts, we can lose our ability to focus on the things that threaten us most. An essential read to understand the world better.

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21. 168 Hours

There are 168 hours in a week. This book is about where the time really goes, and how we can all use it better. It’s an unquestioned truth of modern life: we are starved for time. With the rise of two-income families, extreme jobs, and 24/7 connectivity, life is so frenzied we can barely find time to breathe. We tell ourselves we’d like to read more, get to the gym regularly, try new hobbies, and accomplish all kinds of goals. But then we give up because there just aren’t enough hours to do it all. Or else, if we don’t make excuses, we make sacrifices. To get ahead at work we spend less time with our spouses. To carve out more family time, we put off getting in shape. To train for a marathon, we cut back on sleep. There has to be a better way — and Laura Vanderkam has found one.

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22. The Execution Factor

The Execution Factor offers a straightforward approach to success — deliberately designed in a way that anyone can master. Perell flips the notion on its head that success is all about having a great idea, an advanced degree, or a high IQ. Because people around the world have achieved their dreams without any of those things. Perell believes the ability to execute is the difference between success and failure. Perell teaches her unique five traits of execution: vision, passion, action, resilience, and relationships. By the time you’ve completed the book you will have a have a blueprint to achieve your success in business and in life.

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23. The Art of Happiness

This is the book that started the genre of happiness books, and it remains the cornerstone of the field of positive psychology. Through conversations, stories, and meditations, the Dalai Lama shows us how to defeat day-to-day anxiety, insecurity, anger, and discouragement. Together with Dr. Howard Cutler, he explores many facets of everyday life, including relationships, loss, and the pursuit of wealth, to illustrate how to ride through life’s obstacles on a deep and abiding source of inner peace. Based on 2,500 years of Buddhist meditations mixed with a healthy dose of common sense, The Art of Happiness is a book that crosses the boundaries of traditions to help readers with difficulties common to all human beings. After being in print for ten years, this book has touched countless lives and uplifted spirits around the world.

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24. Why We Sleep

Sleep is one of the most important but least understood aspects of our life, wellness, and longevity. Until very recently, science had no answer to the question of why we sleep, or what good it served, or why we suffer such devastating health consequences when we don’t sleep. Compared to the other basic drives in life the purpose of sleep remained elusive. But an explosion of scientific discoveries in the last 20 years has shed new light on this fundamental aspect of our lives. Now, preeminent neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker gives us a new understanding of the vital importance of sleep and dreaming. Among so many other things, within the brain, sleep enriches our ability to learn, memorize, and make logical decisions. It recalibrates our emotions, restocks our immune system, fine-tunes our metabolism, and regulates our appetite. Dreaming mollifies painful memories and creates a virtual reality space in which the brain melds past and present knowledge to inspire creativity.

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25. This Changes Everything

In her book, Naomi Klein argues that climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein argues that the changes to our relationship with nature and one another that are required to respond to the climate crisis humanely should not be viewed as grim penance, but rather as a kind of gift — a catalyst to transform broken economic and cultural priorities and to heal long-festering historical wounds. And she documents the inspiring movements that have already begun this process: communities that are not just refusing to be sites of further fossil fuel extraction but are building the next, regeneration-based economies right now.

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26. Abundance

Since the dawn of humanity, a privileged few have lived in stark contrast to the hardscrabble majority. Conventional wisdom says this gap cannot be closed. But it is closing — fast. The authors document how four forces — exponential technologies, the DIY innovator, the technophilanthropist, and the rising billion — are conspiring to solve our biggest problems. Abundance establishes hard targets for change and lays out a strategic road map for governments, industry, and entrepreneurs, giving us plenty of reason for optimism. Examining human need by category — water, food, energy, health care, education, and freedom — Diamandis and Kotler also introduce dozens of innovators making great strides in each area.

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27. Bold

Bold is a radical, how-to guide for using exponential technologies, moonshot thinking, and crowd-powered tools to create extraordinary wealth while also positively impacting the lives of billions. Exploring the exponential technologies that are disrupting today’s Fortune 500 companies, the authors teach how to design and use incentive competitions, launch million-dollar crowdfunding campaigns to tap into tens of billions of dollars of capital, and build communities. Bold is both a manifesto and a manual. It is today’s exponential entrepreneur’s go-to resource on the use of emerging technologies, thinking at scale, and the awesome impact of crowd-powered tools.

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28. Blink

Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant — in the blink of an eye — that actually aren’t as simple as they seem. Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept? Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error? How do our brains really work — in the office, in the classroom, in the kitchen, and in the bedroom? And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others? Blink reveals that great decision makers aren’t those who process the most information or spend the most time deliberating, but those who have perfected the art of “thin-slicing” — filtering the very few factors that matter from an overwhelming number of variables.

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29. The Geography of Bliss

What makes people happy? Is it the freedom of the West or the myriad restrictions of Singapore? The simple ashrams of India or the glittering shopping malls of Qatar? From the youthful drunkenness of Iceland to the despond of Slough, a sad but resilient town in Heathrow’s flight path, Weiner offers wry yet profound observations about the way people relate to circumstance and fate. Both revealing and inspirational, for the reader, the “geography of bliss” is wherever they happen to find themselves while reading it.

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30. The Path

Astonishing teachings emerged two thousand years ago through the work of a succession of Chinese scholars exploring how humans can improve themselves and their society. The Path opens the mind and upends everything we are told about how to lead a good life. Its most radical idea is that there is no path to follow in the first place — just a journey we create anew at every moment by seeing and doing things differently.

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31. The Compound Effect

The Compound Effect is a distillation of the fundamental principles that have guided the most phenomenal achievements in business, relationships, and beyond. This easy-to-use, step-by-step operating system allows you to multiply your success, chart your progress, and achieve any desire. If you’re serious about living an extraordinary life, use the power of The Compound Effect to create the success you want.

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32. How to Win Friends and Influence People

Since its release in 1936, this book has sold more than 15 million copies. Dale Carnegie’s first book is a timeless bestseller, packed with rock-solid advice that has carried thousands of now famous people up the ladder of success in their business and personal lives. As relevant as ever before, Dale Carnegie’s principles endure, and will help you achieve your maximum potential in the complex and competitive modern age.

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33. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Manson makes the argument, backed both by academic research and well-timed poop jokes, that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better. Human beings are flawed and limited. Manson advises us to get to know our limitations and accept them. Once we embrace our fears, faults, and uncertainties, once we stop running and avoiding and start confronting painful truths, we can begin to find the courage, perseverance, honesty, responsibility, curiosity, and forgiveness we seek.

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34. Big Data

“Big data” refers to our burgeoning ability to crunch vast collections of information, analyze it instantly, and draw sometimes profoundly surprising conclusions from it. A revolution on par with the Internet or perhaps even the printing press, big data will change the way we think about business, health, politics, education, and innovation in the years to come. It also poses fresh threats, from the inevitable end of privacy as we know it to the prospect of being penalized for things we haven’t even done yet, based on big data’s ability to predict our future behavior. Big Data is the first big book about the next big thing.

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35. Think And Grow Rich

Think and Grow Rich has sold over 100 million copies worldwide since its first publication during the Great Depression. Napoleon Hill presents a “Philosophy of Achievement”. In 13 Steps to Riches he offers the shortest dependable philosophy of individual achievement ever presented for the benefit of the man or woman searching for a definite goal in life. It comes directly from the experiences of hundreds of America’s most successful men. Hill interviewed 504 people in total, including three United States presidents. The process of conducting these interviews required an investment of 20 years of Napoleon Hill’s life.

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36. 10% Happier

Nightline anchor Dan Harris embarks on an unexpected, hilarious, and deeply skeptical odyssey through the strange worlds of spirituality and self-help, and discovers a way to get happier that is truly achievable. We all have a voice in our head. Most of us would assume we’re stuck with this voice, but Harris stumbled upon an effective way to change that. Something he always assumed to be either impossible or useless: meditation. After learning about research that suggests meditation can do everything from lower your blood pressure to essentially rewire your brain, Harris took a deep dive into the underreported world of CEOs, scientists, and even marines who are now using it for increased calm, focus, and happiness.

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37. The Happiness Project

Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project. Drawing on cutting-edge science, classical philosophy, and real-world examples, Rubin delivers an engaging, eminently relatable chronicle of transformation. She chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference.

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38. The Last Lecture

A lot of professors give talks titled “The Last Lecture.” When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn’t have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave wasn’t about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment. Because “time is all you have…and you may find one day that you have less than you think”. It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living. In this book, Randy Pausch has combined the humor, inspiration and intelligence that made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible form. It is a book that will be shared for generations to come.

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39. How to Lie With Statistics

The book is a brief, breezy illustrated volume outlining errors when it comes to the interpretation of statistics, and how these errors may create incorrect conclusions. In the 1960s and 1970s, it became a standard textbook introduction to the subject of statistics for many college students. It has become one of the best-selling statistics books in history, with over one and a half million copies sold in the English-language edition. It has also been widely translated. A must read to manage and understand the constant flow of information we face, and to be able to take better decisions and make our own opinion. You won’t read numbers you see in the news the same way.

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40. The Happiness Advantage

When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work. This isn’t just an empty mantra. This discovery has been repeatedly borne out by rigorous research in psychology and neuroscience, management studies, and the bottom lines of organizations around the globe. In this book, Shawn Achor, who spent over a decade living, researching, and lecturing at Harvard University, draws on his own research to fix this broken formula. Isolating seven practical, actionable principles that have been tried and tested everywhere from classrooms to boardrooms, he shows us how we can capitalize on the Happiness Advantage to improve our performance and maximize our potential.

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41. Sapiens

Most books about the history of humanity pursue either a historical or a biological approach, but Dr. Yuval Noah Harari breaks the mold with this highly original book that begins about 70,000 years ago, with the appearance of modern cognition. From examining the role evolving humans have played in the global ecosystem to charting the rise of empires, Sapiens integrates history and science to reconsider accepted narratives, connect past developments with contemporary concerns, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas. Dr. Harari also compels us to look ahead, because, over the last few decades, humans have begun to bend laws of natural selection that have governed life for the past four billion years. We are acquiring the ability to design not only the world around us but also ourselves. Where is this leading us, and what do we want to become?

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42. Thinking, Fast and Slow

Two systems drive the way we think and make choices, Kahneman explains: System One is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System Two is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. Examining how both systems function within the mind, Kahneman exposes the extraordinary capabilities as well as the biases of fast thinking and the pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on our thoughts and our choices. Engaging the reader in a lively conversation about how we think, he shows where we can trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking, contrasting the two-system view of the mind with the standard model of the rational economic agent.

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43. The Tipping Point

The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate. This widely acclaimed bestseller, in which Malcolm Gladwell explores and brilliantly illuminates the tipping point phenomenon, is already changing the way people throughout the world think about selling products and disseminating ideas.

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44. Man’s Search For Meaning

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl’s theory-known as logotherapy holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful. A 1991 reader survey for the Library of Congress that asked readers to name a “book that made a difference in your life” found Man’s Search for Meaning among the ten most influential books in America.

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45. Educated

Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

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46. Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Thomas Piketty analyzes a unique collection of data from twenty countries, ranging as far back as the eighteenth century, to uncover key economic and social patterns. His findings will transform debate and set the agenda for the next generation of thought about wealth and inequality. Piketty shows that modern economic growth and the diffusion of knowledge have allowed us to avoid inequalities on the apocalyptic scale predicted by Karl Marx. But we have not modified the deep structures of capital and inequality as much as we thought in the optimistic decades following World War II. The main driver of inequality today threatens to generate extreme inequalities that stir discontent and undermine democratic values. A work of extraordinary ambition, originality, and rigor, Capital in the Twenty-First Century reorients our understanding of economic history and confronts us with sobering lessons for today.

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47. The Road to Character

Looking to some of the world’s greatest thinkers and inspiring leaders, Brooks explores how, through internal struggle and a sense of their own limitations, they have built a strong inner character. Blending psychology, politics, spirituality, and confessional, The Road to Character provides an opportunity for us to rethink our priorities, and strive to build rich inner lives marked by humility and moral depth.

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48. The Myth of The Strong Leader

All too frequently, leadership is reduced to a simple dichotomy: the strong versus the weak. Yet, there are myriad ways to exercise effective political leadership — as well as different ways to fail. We blame our leaders for economic downfalls and praise them for vital social reforms, but rarely do we question what makes some leaders successful while others falter. In this wide-ranging survey of political leadership over the past hundred years, Archie Brown challenges the widespread belief that strong leaders — meaning those who dominate their colleagues and the policy-making process — are the most successful and admirable.

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49. Upheaval

Diamond compares how six countries have survived recent upheavals — ranging from the forced opening of Japan by U.S. Commodore Perry’s fleet, to the Soviet Union’s attack on Finland, to a murderous coup or countercoup in Chile and Indonesia, to the transformations of Germany and Austria after World War Two. Because Diamond has lived and spoken the language in five of these six countries, he can present histories experienced firsthand. These nations coped, to varying degrees, through mechanisms such as acknowledgment of responsibility, painfully honest self-appraisal, and learning from models of other nations. Looking to the future, Diamond examines whether the United States, Japan, and the whole world are successfully coping with the grave crises they currently face.

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50. Enlightenment Now

Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, which play to our psychological biases. Instead, follow the data: In seventy-five amazing graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise, not just in the West, but worldwide. This progress is not the result of some cosmic force. It is a gift of the Enlightenment: the conviction that reason and science can enhance human flourishing. Enlightenment Now makes the case for reason, science, and humanism: the ideals we need to confront our problems and continue our progress.

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