9 Books which will Broaden Your Horizons

The Art of War, A Brief History of Time, Sapiens…

I still find the current global state of affairs a fascinating thing, never has anyone on the planet experienced anything on this scale before, and we’re all in this together.

Most of us find ourselves self-isolating with a bit more time on our hands and we must practice social distancing; no bars, restaurants or non-essential shops, so we’re at home.

Masturbation is one way to go (that joke is directed toward the fairer sex as much as it is the rougher), but one could also use the time to catch up on a bit of reading.

The following is a fairly diverse list of excellent reads. Classic, modern, fact, fiction, all guaranteed to pass some time and bring some form of enjoyment and enlightenment.

A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking

The late, great Stephen Hawking. When he says brief, 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 but 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 great book, but obviously not the most relaxing of reads, unless you’re a physicist. Still, thoroughly recommended.

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 through the ages by many a strategist, from ancient times through to the modern day.

Contrary to what the title may suggest, The Art of War is actually mainly about conflict resolution. The mantra of the mysterious, ancient author being ‘to win without fighting is best’, affirming that war is often detrimental to all, 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 minimise damage to all involved. The strategies are relevant right the way from interpersonal relationships and conflict, through to the corporate suit, all the way to the army general.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini

The seminal work of psychologist Cialdini is far less a how-to manual on how to persuade, and more a deep, insightful study into the underlying psychological principles which make us human. These are also the principles which can be exploited to persuade — used by us or against us.

Boiled down to 6 principles that 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 how not to be caught by the manipulation of them.

This book gives an amazing insight into how one’s own behaviour is directed by invisible forces which pull at our emotions and learnt behaviours. 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 read.

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 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 true stories of love, seduction, attraction and persuasion through history, and literary stories based on real life. Each story beautifully illustrates the underlying psychological principle and gives a real insight to how we may have felt at certain times in our lives; when we’ve loved, been in love, felt attractive and equally when we’ve felt 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. Enjoy the book for its stories and its huge psychological insights to human attraction. And also to figure out what your own seductive character is.

The Alchemist, Paul Coelho

Fiction focused on a shepherd named Santiago who goes on a journey to find his ‘personal legend’.

Essentially a book focused on the importance of finding ones purpose in life. It echoes the idea that greatness isn’t a mystical thing which exists only within a select few — everyone has it within them if they only follow their dreams.

Particularly inspiring for those looking for meaning in life, wondering what they should do next or in which direction to go. Quite a short and easy read.

Why Does E=mc2, Brian Cox & Jeff Forshaw

Einstein’s most famous equation, and probably the world’s most famous equation, is one which is still relatively little understood throughout the majority of humanity.

These three small letters, e, m and c, when arranged as the famous e=mc2, describe the nature of reality itself.

Brian Cox is a physicist and TV personality who truly loves his work. His passion shines through in all of his documentaries and it’s no different here. The book takes complex scientific concepts and breaks them down in digestible nuggets, starting from the very beginnings of physics.

There is some maths and some equations, but they’re explained simply, beautifully and have the potential to provide a true appreciation of the subject matter. After digesting this book you’ll understand why the speed of light is constant, why it travels at the speed it does, what energy means, what mass is and the rules of reality as we currently understand them.

This book ignited my passion for science, which then led me down the rabbit hole of quantum mechanics and string theory. Amazing stuff.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari

There’s a reason why Sapiens is a bestseller. I’d seen it on bookcases, being read on trains, an entry on numerous reading lists, but 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.

Yuval writes vividly, memorably and simplistically without being simple — his approach is incredibly measured, logical and unbiased. He discusses a myriad of intensely thought provoking subjects with a level of depth you don’t quite realise you’re actually 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 Female Brain & The Male Brain, Louann Brizendine

Two books, both written by Louann Brizendine, neuropsychiatrist and neurobiologist.

Each book outlines the stages of brain development of the two opposing genders in terms of their 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 for social contact and validation whereas boys have more of a need for solitude and problem solving.

I initially read the female brain years ago, in a bid to understand what I thought was the erratic behaviour of one of my exes. 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, by the way), which taught me more about myself than I would’ve wanted to admit. I gave the female brain to my mum and sister, to which both told me (more my mum, actually), that reading it was an exercise in a much deeper understanding of oneself.

I recommend reading either or both, whether you’re male, female or anywhere in between.

The Richest Man in Babylon, George S. Clason

A classic book about financial sense written in the form of parables set in ancient Babylon.

Obviously this is a book if you fancy reading about how best to think about money, but it’s quite an easy read nonetheless and the lessons are intuitive and straightforward.

Financial lessons like how to generate wealth and how to protect and invest it are illuminated, along with classic pieces of wisdom regarding how to keep your wealth. Pay yourself first, live within or below your means, invest in what you know, save long term and the importance of property.

A short and fairly easy read but an important one. Money is all around and we all need to know how to make it work best for us. This is wisdom not taught in the classroom but which is incredibly important. If you’re a complete beginner to managing your own money or even if you manage billions for others, the lessons in the richest man in babylon are timeless.

Happy Reading :)

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Rajeet enjoys mixing cocktails and bombarding strangers with philosophy. (Aspiring) Polymath. London

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