Top 10 Non Fiction Books To Make You Smarter

There’s no doubting the fact that a good book can change our lives. The books on this list are light reads conveying persuasive messages. They are insightful, compelling, empowering and easy to incorporate in our daily lives. Before we jump on to the list of best non fiction books with mass appeal, a special mention to two other books, The Year Of Magical Thinking(Memoir) and Games People Play(Psychology) that are equally concise and powerful and among my favorites non fiction books.

1. Thinking Fast And Slow

Thinking Fast and Slow

Genre: Psychology, BehavioralEconomics
About Author: Daniel Kahneman is a renowned psychologist who was awarded Nobel prize in Economics in 2002 for his work on Behavioral Economics,  Psychology of judgement and Decision making.
Synopsis:To put it in plain and non-gimmicky words, the book is regarding how our thought process works. The purpose of the book is to understand how and where we can go astray in our day to day pursuits, and how to guard against the flawed choices. According to Kahneman, decision making is governed by two systems in our brain – System 1 works faster, is summoned more frequently and requires minimal processing while System 2 involves reasoning and assessment and hence it’s slower.

The interplay of these systems and the trumping of one over another is what results in cognitive biases, and a sound or poor judgment. There are enough empirical proofs and hypotheses in the book, to enrich you with the fundamentals of how a brain functions. Since it’s a long read, you’ll get enough time to let the theories immerse into the depths of your mind.

P.S. You will be surprised to know how often our decision-making is irrational and biased!

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2. A Brief History Of Time

A brief History of Time

Genre: Science, Physics
About Author: Stephen Hawking was a cosmologist and theoretical physicist with path breaking work in the fields of general relativity and quantum relativity.
Synopsis: I’ll not say I followed every word of the book esp. bits about quantum physics, black holes, and gravity which were a bit of an intelligent mumbo-jumbo for me. Yet, reading the book by the genius of our times is a magical experience.

A brief history of time is like a trailer to an enticing science fiction movie. This miniature science tour with Stephen Hawkins will take you through major breakthroughs (by Newton and Einstein) in cosmology and physics, talk about elements of cosmos in details, and elucidate where we stand today and where we are heading. While reading the book I felt unintelligent at times  (it made me realize there is so much to know and also highlighted my ignorance), but I am much closer to the subject of cosmology now than I ever was. It makes me want to delve deeper into truths about the universe.

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3. Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!

Surely You're jokinf, Mr Feyman

Genre: Science, Autobiography
About Author: Richard P. Feynman was a theoretical physicist who was awarded Nobel Prize in physics in 1965 for his contributions to development of electrodynamics. His fields included quantum mechanics and particle physics.
While reading a book by a Nobel prize awardee, you’d expect a certain amount of seriousness and high-handedness. This book falls short in that sense. The book is a funny, easygoing string of episodes from the life of Mr. Feyman from his childhood days, through his days of assistant-ship while working on an atomic bomb, to his days as a professor.

Feynman talks about his passion for science and learning and at the same time reveals his adventures of picking up women, a stint as a drummer in Brazilian samba band, episode of selling his own drawings, phase of lock-cracking, and what not.  The book is really fun to read! However, what really makes me appreciate Mr. Feynman is his undying curiosity, tenacity, enthusiasm, and fascination for learning, be it Japanese culture or subjects related to his discipline of work. If you are into these kind of books (autobiographical) , you may check out other popular biographies.

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4. Sapiens- A Brief History Of Humankind


Genre: History, Science
About Author: Yuval Noah Harari is a historian with specialization in World History, medieval history and military history. His writings have a philosophical bent and apart from Sapiens his another highly acknowledged work includes Homo Deus.
Synopsis: The book intends to present a neat, succinct and enlightening description of the course of human evolution dating back to first humans of Africa 2.5 million years ago to the present day humans. At the same time, it reviews future possibilities of the mankind.

The book systematically explores how three most significant revolutions: cognitive revolution (70, 000 years old), the agricultural revolution (12, 000 years old), and scientific revolution (youngest and just 500 years old) molded the existence of homo sapiens to current form and shape from non-discerning animals. Owing to its generous offerings of knowledge on the subject of anthropology combined with sound reasoning and scientific backing (without which homo sapiens fail to believe anything), the book will satiate your hunger on the subject. There are certain books which incite interest in a subject matter and you feel like exploring it more, but after reading this book I felt complete and satisfied.  Everything Harari says makes perfect sense. One of the reasons could be  his exceptional story-telling technique. I didn’t for once feel like I was reading a book on anthropology. Moreover, the book offers life-changing perspective and is highly thought-provoking. It is going to rewire your brain, whether you are ready for it or not. In the end, I’d just say Yuval Noah Harari and his book are simply amazing!

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5. How To Win Friends And Influence People

How To Win Friends And Influence People

Genre: Personal Development, Psychology
About Author: Dale Carnegie was a celebrated writer and developer of courses in individual development(self-improvement, public speaking, and interpersonal skills) and business development (salesmanship and corporate training).
Synopsis: You may be introvert, gregarious, socially awkward or sociable, this book is excellent when it comes to knowing the right way of interacting and associating with people. It offers practical and doable advice on how to handle people and relations whether it be personal relationships with friends and family or professional ones with boss, colleagues, and acquaintances.  I took away a lot of lessons on how to understand people better, why people act the way they act  and some obvious ground rules about human behavior that should not be overlooked. Apart from these practical suggestions, I also liked the overall theme and all that Carnegie was implying throughout the book. It’s one book that must be read without too much deliberation or delay!

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6. The Art Of War

The Art of War

Genre: War, Philosophy, History
About Author: Sun Tzu was a Chinese general and a military strategist whose work has survived centuries since 500 BC, and is still popular.
Synopsis: I would like to see it as an art of winning more than as an art of war. The book talks about stratagems like picking the right battles, knowing when to fight and striking at the right moment. It urges you to know yourself and your strengths and weaknesses as profoundly as you know your enemy’s. So you see, it’s a book about how to win the conflicts and adversaries with your mind rather than abilities or physical prowess. I found the book indulging and fascinating.

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7. Freakonomics


Genre: Economics, Psychology, Business
About Author: Steven D. Levitt is an economist in the area of crime while Stephen J. Dubner is a journalist who has authored several books of various genres
Synopsis: If nothing else, the book gives you an urge to challenge assumptions and norms and look for the answers. It is a compilation of articles on the commonplace social events seen at finer levels through the lens of economics. The book expounds on how people react to incentives and opportunities, what are the impacts of information asymmetry, and how socioeconomic status of parents impacts the future success of a child. It also delves into subjects like the possibility of a name of a person in determining his success in life, the “actual” reason behind the inexplicable drop in crime rate in the USA 1990s and the prevalence of cheating in the sport of wrestling.

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You can check out some best reads on Personal Finance in non fiction books category.

8. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat

The man who mistook his wife for a hat

Genre: Psychology, Neurology
About Author: Oliver Sacks was a neurologists, naturalist and historian of science. He has has authored a number of books including Awakenings. His works are centered around case-studies of his patients.
Synopsis: The book is centered around the case studies of patients in the area of neurology, science that deals with the study of the nervous system. Oliver Sacks narrates  the case histories of unsuspecting patients caught in a strange universe of neurological disorders which range from inability to identify people and objects, memory loss to screaming uncontrolled profanities and limb becoming an alien object. Sack’s description of these patients’ outrageous afflictions is sensitive and humane and incites a sense of compassion in the readers.

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9. Outliers


Genre: Psychology, Business
About Author: Malcolm Gladwell is an acclaimed writer and has been into writing for more than two decades now. His famous works include The tipping point, Blink, and Outliers among others.
Synopsis: This book is thoroughly motivating and puts one into action. For all of us that don’t have absolute confidence in our capabilities and feel that there’ a dearth of talent and innate ability in ourselves, this is the book to read. According to Gladwell, success is not an outcome of aptitude or intelligence that one is born with. Instead, it is a result of various parameters which he discusses in detail over the course of the book. The 10,000-hour rule of mastering anything is indeed an interesting concept and sounds extremely logical.

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10. The Power Of Now

The Power of Now

Genre: Spirituality, Self Development
About Author: Eckhart Tolle is a spiritual guide and public speaker on issues of spirituality and mindfulness.
Synopsis: It’s a book that reminds you to be easy on yourself. A book like this brings your life back into perspective and helps you sort out the important from the unimportant. Eckhart Tolle talks about how life is a sequence of moments and how needless it is to spend these moments worrying, regretting or grieving. The book probes into matters like ego, surrender, consciousness, enlightenment, an illusion that time is, and the power of now. As you might have got an idea, by the time you are done with the book, all the clutter trapped inside your mind will be gone.

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Did you like the list of non fiction books? Do you think I missed out on any must read non fiction books that you think falls in this category? Then kindly comment. In case you think the list resonates well with you, please like, share and subscribe.

Keep Reading. Chao!


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