5 Incredibly Useful Books to Enhance Your Life Knowledge
One thing the world’s most successful people have in common is that they read, endlessly. And, since you’re on Medium, I can safely assume you enjoy a good read too (just like those ridiculously successful people).
The following books aren’t just excellent reads — they provide immeasurable insight into life’s essential skills. From persuasion and conflict resolution to financial wisdom and understanding oneself.
Read these carefully; the power and understanding they’ll give you will change the way you view the world and how you successfully navigate it.
1. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini
The seminal work of psychologist Robert Cialdini is a deep, insightful study into the underlying psychological principles which make us human. These are also the exact same principles which come into play when others persuade us, or when we want to persuade others.
The author boils human social interaction down to 6 simple, easy to understand headings. These exist due to the human need to survive in social groups, which seem fairly simple at first glance, but all have a huge underlying potential to direct how we behave.
Influence succinctly outlines and explains each principle, like reciprocity and scarcity, then gives practical methods on how to (ethically) use them and not be caught out by them.
This book offers amazing insight into how your own behaviour is directed by invisible forces which pull at your emotions and learnt belief-systems. It particularly taught me the power of scarcity and social proof, and how to resist persuasion when I seem to be overwhelmed by my emotions. A great, and very useful read.
2. The Art of War, Sun Tzu
Written in the 6th Century BC by a mysterious warrior-philosopher, The Art of War is a premier classic in strategy.
The original is a collection of short, sharp poems which have been interpreted many strategists throughout the ages, from ancient times to the modern day.
Contrary to what the title may suggest, The Art of War is actually about peace — how to avoid conflict. The mantra of the mysterious, ancient author is; ‘to win without fighting is best’, affirming that conflict is often detrimental to all involved, even the victor.
The text and interpretations outline the best methods to make conflict altogether unnecessary, but, if conflict is inevitable, how to strategise correctly and be victorious, while minimising the damage to all involved. The strategies are relevant right the way from interpersonal relationships and friendships, all the way through to the corporate suit and the army general.
3. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari
There’s a reason why Sapiens is a bestseller. I’d seen it on bookcases, trains, and multiple entries on reading lists, but I wasn’t ready for what was in store. It is, quite possibly, one of the best books I’ve ever read.
It details humanity’s journey as a species, beginning from our early evolution from chimpanzees, through the cognitive, agricultural and industrial revolutions, right up to scientific and information revolutions of the present day.
The author writes vividly and memorably with a measured, logical and unbiased approach. He discusses a myriad of intensely thought provoking subjects with simplicity and a level of depth you don’t quite realise you’re reaching within your own interpretation.
Difficult and polarising subjects like racism, imperialism, gender dynamics and religion are discussed with the utmost impartiality and reason. All this without a whisper of being overly politically correct, like much writing is plagued in our age of over-sensitivity.
This is a book ideal for anyone interested in what it means to be human, and since we’re all humans, that’s all of us. The facts of our history gives tremendous insights into why we are the way we are and why we act the way we do.
4. The Art of Seduction, Robert Greene
Less of a ‘how to sleep with anyone you want’ guide and much more a study into seduction and attraction throughout the ages. Although, it does contain the particulars of the seductive process, if that’s what you’re looking for. Get the full text, don’t bother with the concise version.
The first half of the book outlines seductive character — the fact that everyone has something in themselves which naturally attracts others. The author defines 10 characters to which you’ll see yourself one or two (or three of four, you saucy thing). The second half outlines the seductive process and the underlying psychological principles of each stage.
This book is packed full of well-researched and true stories of love, attraction and persuasion through history, and literary stories based on real life. Each one beautifully illustrates the underlying principle and gives a real insight to how you may have felt at certain times in your life; when you’ve loved, been in love, felt attractive and equally unattractive.
The author has somewhat of a Machiavellian style — sometimes it can be a bit too much of ‘do this at all costs and step over everyone else’, but take these statements with a pinch of salt. Read the book for its stories and its huge insights to human attraction.
With this you’ll be able to figure out what your own seductive character is and subsequently how to enhance it. This will help you become more charismatic, enticing others to want to be around you and also give you great insight into how and why we’re all attracted to each other.
Use the power it gives wisely, though, for it can also easily be used for nefarious purposes.
5. The Female Brain & The Male Brain, Louann Brizendine
OK, these are two books, but they’re two sides of the same coin. Both are written by Louann Brizendine, neuropsychiatrist and neurobiologist.
Each book outlines the stages of brain development of the two opposing genders, in terms of chemical composition and what that means for human experience.
The author describes what happens in the brain at different times in life and how that practically effects behaviour — for example how teenage girls have an almost crushing need for social interaction whereas boys have a far greater need for solitude.
I initially read the female brain years ago in a bid to understand (what I thought) was the erratic behaviour of an ex. It enlightened me to her behaviour and so much more. It allowed me, as a man, to gain a far better understanding of the processes of the female mind and to become more understanding and sensitive to the female experience.
I then read Brizendine’s follow up book, the male brain (which is half the size of the first one), which taught me more about myself than I care to admit. I gave the female brain to my mum and sister, to which both told me that reading it was an exercise in a much deeper understanding of themselves.
I recommend reading either or both, whether you’re male, female or anywhere in between. It will give you a massive understanding into yourself and anyone else you know.
Bonus: A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
And finally, a bonus book from the late, great Stephen Hawking. When he says a brief history of time, though, he’s not joking.
All about the universe, the fundamental forces of nature, black holes, time and generally how everything works, he goes through some pretty complex physical concepts in relatively short word counts.
He explains them so beautifully, however, one cannot help become hooked to the complexity and uncertainty that is the fabric of reality, and humanity’s comparatively little knowledge of how it all works.
A fantastic book and an exercise in perspective. When you’re faced with the astonishing and impossibly vast nature of the universe, you realise how insignificant your problems are in comparion. Thoroughly recommended.
These excellent texts will give you enough insight to expand your knowledge and skills in navigating life — practically and philosophically.
Happy Reading :)