8 Books I’d recommend to my younger self

Here is why I think mandatory reading system is broken.

“We read to know we’re not alone” William Nicholson — it comforts me everytime I open a book.

Actually I’ve always hated the “must read lists”, for me it always had opposite effect. If I’d choose, I’d never read the books that people said I needed. Well, before you think I’m a “hater”, let me express my opinion: Maybe it comes from our educational system (especially in brazil) that imposes for all super-fast thinking teenagers that classic reading lists of boring and outdated dialogues which narrates slow events and figurative language that will never be used again. I believe classic literature has an immeasurable value as cultural heritage, but I think in many ways it’s misunderstood and misapplied, as they are forced into an audience that is not actually prepared for all of that.

For the student it’s like a torture and I’m sure lots of them get traumatized, just like I did studying for “vestibular”. The “Vestibular” (from Portuguese: vestíbulo, “entrance hall”) is an exam and is the primary entrance system used by Brazilian universities to select students, and it usually requires the reading of +20 ultra-classic books from Brazilian/Portuguese literature. It goes totally against the main point about reading. Remember what the old ones always said: “Reading will set you free”.

OK, passed the trauma.

Then suddenly I grew up, my sense of analysis got more accurate, by curiosity I started reading what I wanted and the magic happened before my eyes. The same boredom that I was feeling at that time as a teenager student, nowadays I heal by reading.

Check below my list of personal book recommendations, all of them somehow changed the way I see things and changed my life (of course there are lots of classics and bestsellers, and they are awesome).

Siddartha - Hermann Hesse (1922)

Eleven years after his trip to India (1922), Hermann Hesse published this masterpiece inspired by the tradition of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha. It narrates the life of a wanderer who, not agreeing with the values in which he was created, stands on the road of the world, searching for a new life and new values. This book was adopted by the hippie community in the early 60’s as the “Peace and Love” guidebook, when they were living all that vibe of denying materialistic and consumerist principles. I think, as time passes, this book becomes more and more current and important to read: while society sees "evolution" as economic growth, the book asks the reader what is actually the essence of living and "evolving".

Sapiens, a brief history of humankind — Yuval Noah Harari (originally 2011 in Israel)

In 2016, I saw this book being recommended by Bill Gates in his blog, I borrowed it from a friend and it’s the best book I’ve ever read. The challenge: Harari simply tells the story about us (homo sapiens) in only 400 pages. It might sound a bit boring, but actually the author brilliantly connects the dots between all that has happened since the beginning and how it has changed the way we are today. I can say it opened my eyes for many “obvious” things about being homo sapiens that were not told me at any point of my life, and I didn’t realize by my own either. Once you finish this book you’ll seek for other homo sapiens to discuss all of that. I’m doing that still. If you have read this book, let’s talk.

Life of Pi — Yann Martel (2001)

Big time — You will experiment many different sensations by reading this book. Horror, fear, surprises, happiness and mainly faith. Yann Martel has the incredible ability to put in the paper all this feelings without a minimal gap. The book succeeds in dealing with spirituality without being an evangelist of any specific religion. It is inevitable to empathise with Pi and all his thoughts. For sure you’ll feel inside his boat too. Forget about the movie and read the book :)

100 Days Between Sea and Sky — Amyr Klink (1985)

Originally in Portuguese (“100 dias entre o céu e o mar”), Amyr Klink goes from the coast of Namibia to southern coast of Bahia in Brazil, by — ROWING — a small boat across the Atlantic in 1984. In this book, Klink shows how he designed the boat, planned the trip, and all the tiny details that made the crossing possible. As a reader, in the beginning I felt like it was just another crazy dude tired of living in this society, but in the end I was there with Klink on that trip and it was equally significant for me. Somehow during the reading I felt like it merges with the story of Life of Pi, the thoughts and inside struggles are somehow connected. It would be cool to read both in a row.

Hector and the search for Happiness — Francois Lelord (2002)

This book is usually underrated because of its cover. Try not to judge it as a childish book. It’s about another dude not very satisfied with his life and all the nonsense going on in France, who decides to take a trip around the world trying to understand what is happiness in every and each culture he visits. Very easy and quick reading, it’s a refreshing book for a raining sunday morning. It asks big critical questions about life on simple terms. It’s nice to see how easily François can explain happiness and make it look like so simple.

Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now — Gordon Livingston (2008)

This is an easy-going reading about things that randomly people realize probably too late, which makes us think about how we’d have had better choices if we knew all of that before. The author has a strong experience: after returning to the U.S. after service in Vietnam, he became a psychiatrist where he listened to endless stories of how life works. I’m sure most of the concepts presented we already know, but we have not articulated to ourselves yet. It might help you to get closer to the person you want to be.

The Design of Everyday Things — Donald Norman (First edition 1988)

It’s a design book, but the critical thinking used by the author can be applied to any field. It goes beyond the concepts and design guidelines: After reading the book you will start thinking in an ever-questioning mindset. You will never look at any manmade object the same way. Most of the examples that are presented may be dated already, but it’s incredible that it has strong psychology explanations about how our mind works and how our mental models are built.

Don’t Make Me Think 3rd edition — Steve Krug (3rd edition 2014)

I love the title as much I love what’s inside this book. This is another design book that I recommend for non-designers. The web usability is now part of our new language and a new way of human interaction. It’s one of the classics, extremely well written, easy, clear and with doses of humor, but also very complete. It might be hard to write about the internet because of the speed that things change. I can’t wait for the next edition.