Deep Thinking: 10 Books That Will Help You Understand The World Differently
To live is to learn, and to read is to learn from the experience of others. Reading is my favourite way to learn new worldviews, principles, ideas, mindsets, perceptions and mental models.
A good book may have the power to change the way we see the world, but a great book goes beyond the change of perception; it can easily become part of our daily consciousness, guiding our every choice and judgement.
“Books are an extraordinary device, transitioning through time and space, moving from person to person and leaving behind insight and connection,” says Seth Godin. Thought-provoking books are the treasured wealth of the world.
I don’t aim to finish every book I start. I tend to read a lot of books at the same time but only finish a few of them — the very good ones. And re-read my favourite books.
Francis Bacon once said, “Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.”
When you expose yourself to a broad range of ideas, you heighten the chances of understanding the world and improving how you perceive it.
The more you read the more curious you become. Seeking knowledge and understanding things you never understood is deeply satisfying. If you can’t find time to read, the best way is to listen to audiobooks.
These books by deep thinkers might change how you think about the world, work, other people, and yourself. They are perfect for anyone with a curious mind and a passion for learning. I’ve added one or two of my favourite quotes from each book.
The definitive guide on how to prepare for any crisis — from global financial collapse to a pandemic
1. How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It: Tactics, Techniques, and Technologies for Uncertain Times by James Wesley Rawles
“The modern world is full of pundits, poseurs, and mall ninjas. Preparedness is not just about accumulating a pile of stuff. You need practical skills, and those come only with study, training, and practice. Any armchair survivalist with a credit card can buy a set of stylish camouflage fatigues and an “M4gery” carbine encrusted with umpteen accessories. Style points should not be mistaken for genuine skills and practicality.”
This book uncovers the hidden consequences of free-market capitalism
2. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang
“Equality of opportunity is not enough. Unless we create an environment where everyone is guaranteed some minimum capabilities through some guarantee of minimum income, education, and healthcare, we cannot say that we have fair competition. When some people have to run a 100 metre race with sandbags on their legs, the fact that no one is allowed to have a head start does not make the race fair. Equality of opportunity is absolutely necessary but not sufficient in building a genuinely fair and efficient society.”
“The free market doesn’t exist. Every market has some rules and boundaries that restrict the freedom of choice. A market looks free only because we so unconditionally accept its underlying restrictions that we fail to see them. How ‘free’ a market is cannot be objectively defined. It is a political definition.”
Rovelli invites us to imagine a world where time is in us and we are not in time
3. The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli
“Before Newton, time for humanity was the way of counting how things changed. Before him, no one had thought it possible that a time independent of things could exist. Don’t take your intuitions and ideas to be ‘natural’: they are often the products of the ideas of audacious thinkers who came before us.”
“Because everything that begins must end. What causes us to suffer is not in the past or the future: it is here, now, in our memory, in our expectations. We long for timelessness, we endure the passing of time: we suffer time. Time is suffering.”
How often have you asked yourself: What is the meaning of life? Sasha finds it everywhere
4. For Small Creatures Such As We: Rituals and reflections for finding wonder by Sasha Sagan
“No matter what the universe has in store, it cannot take away from the fact that you were born. You’ll have some joy and some pain, and all the other experiences that make up what it’s like to be a tiny part of a grand cosmos. No matter what happens next, you were here. And even when any record of our individual lives is lost to the ages, that won’t detract from the fact that we were. We lived. We were part of the enormity. All the great and terrible parts of being alive, the shocking sublime beauty and heartbreak, the monotony, the interior thoughts, the shared pain and pleasure. It really happened. All of it. On this little world that orbits a yellow star out in the great vastness. And that alone is cause for celebration.”
This great end-of-the-world novel captures the generalised panic of 2020
5. Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
“Theirs was a failure of imagination, though, two overlapping but private delusions. G. H. would have pointed out that the information had always been there waiting for them, in the gradual death of Lebanon’s cedars, in the disappearance of the river dolphin, in the renaissance of cold-war hatred, in the discovery of fission, in the capsizing vessels crowded with Africans. No one could plead ignorance that was not willful. You didn’t have to scrutinize the curve to know; you didn’t even have to read the papers, because our phones reminded us many times daily precisely how bad things had got. How easy to pretend otherwise.”
A beautifully written book that explains difficult and complex topics around race
6. So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
“When we identify where our privilege intersects with somebody else’s oppression, we’ll find our opportunities to make real change.”
“When somebody asks you to “check your privilege” they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing and may in fact be contributing to those struggles.”
An indispensable guide to thinking clearly about the world
7. Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World — and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Hans Rosling, and Ola Rosling
“human beings have a strong dramatic instinct toward binary thinking, a basic urge to divide things into two distinct groups, with nothing but an empty gap in between. We love to dichotomize. Good versus bad. Heroes versus villains. My country versus the rest. Dividing the world into two distinct sides is simple and intuitive, and also dramatic because it implies conflict, and we do it without thinking, all the time.”
“Factfulness is … recognizing that a single perspective can limit your imagination, and remembering that it is better to look at problems from many angles to get a more accurate understanding and find practical solutions. To control the single perspective instinct, get a toolbox, not a hammer. • Test your ideas.”
A guide to the fallacy of the obvious in everyday life
8. How We Know What Isn’t So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life by Thomas Gilovich
“A person’s conclusions can only be as solid as the information on which they are based. Thus, a person who is exposed to almost nothing but inaccurate information on a given subject almost inevitably develops an erroneous belief, a belief that can seem to be “an irresistible product” of the individual’s (secondhand) experience.”
“People will always prefer black-and-white over shades of grey, and so there will always be the temptation to hold overly-simplified beliefs and to hold them with excessive confidence”
Tools from 60 great thinkers to improve your life
9. Great Thinkers by The School of Life Press
“…simplicity is really an achievement — it follows from hard-won clarity about what matters.”
“Aristotle also observed that every virtue seems to be bang in the middle of two vices. It occupies what he termed ‘the golden mean’ between two extremes of character.”
“The primary thing we need to learn is not just maths or spelling, but how to be good: we need to learn about courage, self-control, reasonableness, independence and calm.”
Why has human history unfolded so differently across the globe? Jared provide expert insight into our modern world
10. Guns, Germs and Steel: A short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years by Jared Diamond
“History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves”
“All human societies contain inventive people. It’s just that some environments provide more starting materials, and more favorable conditions for utilizing inventions, than do other environments.”
“My two main conclusions are that technology develops cumulatively, rather than in isolated heroic acts, and that it finds most of its uses after it has been invented, rather than being invented to meet a foreseen need.”