If there’s anything I love more than being outside and exploring the world, it’s
Well, I have some suggestions for you! While I used to read mostly fiction, I’ve started becoming addicted to good, informative nonfiction books as well. Here are a few of my favorites – so maybe next time you’re on the road and have some time to yourself, you’ll enjoy one of these just as much as I did when I first read them…
Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed
By Jared Diamond
A little over two years ago, I was traveling through
I bought it right when I got back home and read through it in what felt like just a few hours. In it, Jared Diamond explains the five most important factors for societal collapse in both the ancient and the modern world, and then goes on to show his hypothesis with the examples of several fallen empires or struggling states. From the Greenland Norse or the Easter Island all the way to modern-day
Bottom line: Read this if you want to know more about the (self-)destructive powers hidden in our world, both in the past and now.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business
By Charles Duhigg
I’d very much like to be the best version of myself, and judging by the number of TED Talks, books, and articles about it, I’m far from alone in this. Building good habits is a big part of being successful, whatever that may mean to you – but starting and keeping them can be so, so hard. Charles Duhigg’s book
Bottom line: Read this if you want to understand behavioral patterns in your life – and how to change them.
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores The Hidden Side Of Everything
By Steven Lewitt and Stephen J. Dubner
When I first started university, I enrolled for a business program – and hated every second of it. For the longest time afterwards, I thought that I just disliked everything that had to do with business and economics, but halfway into my second degree program (the one I ended up actually finishing), I found myself taking more and more economics, at some point even choosing an economics minor. Turns out, I don’t hate the field – I just hated the business students around me whose only goal in life was to drive a Porsche.
Thank goodness I figured that one out – because economics are awesome, and if you’re not already convinced,
Bottom line: Read this if you want to see how awesome economics can be (and to find out in which non-traditional circumstances the science can be useful, too).
Poor Economics: A Radical Re-Thinking Of The Way To Fight Poverty
By Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo
Since we’re already talking about the beautiful science that is economics, let’s throw in one more book about it. The main idea of
Poor Economics is especially interesting if you yourself live in or have been to countries where poverty rates are high – besides teaching you a lot about how global development works, it will put your life and your travels into a whole new perspective.
Bottom line: Read this if you want to get a deeper insight into the lives of people who live well below the poverty line, and to find out about ways to help.
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness
By Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein
While I’m very much interested in the topic, it’s been hard to come across good books about social policies. This one is an exception –
The general idea is that if you design the right choice architecture around your social policies, you can ‘nudge’ people in the right direction (granted, defining what this “right direction” actually is, is a different story entirely). Thaler and Sunstein identify several fallacies and biases that lead people to make choices that are suboptimal. By working around these fallacies, policy makers can ensure that people automatically choose what is best for them – like making retirement savings the default plan for employees, instead of having them actively have to opt-in. Nudge is definitely controversial – I personally agree with the authors, but even if you don’t, it’s a good read to understand the way social policies are designed a bit better.
Bottom line: Read this if you want to learn about choice architecture in social policies, and how it can greatly affect individual people’s choices in life.
Thinking, Fast and Slow
By Daniel Kahnemann
My second favorite part of reading this book was by far the opportunities it gave me to check myself – am I really so reluctant to use my System 2? Even better was asking everyone around me the sample questions Kahnemann provides and watch them fail. To be fair, I couldn’t solve them correctly any more than they could, so I guess we are all just happily running on System 1.
Bottom line: Read this if you’re interested in how we make decisions, and why it’s sometimes almost impossible to actually think rationally.
P.S.: If you can’t get enough of research that shows that actually, we make the silliest decisions sometimes, you might want to read Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely as well. It’s fascinating.
Danubia: A Personal History Of Habsburg Europe
By Simon Winder
Back when I was in high school, history seemed like a semi-important, very bothersome subject to me. I always figured it was good to know where we came from, but I never understood why learning all those dates by heart and trying not to mistake one confusingly-named ruler for the next was useful.
Fast forward almost ten years later, and I couldn’t think any differently. History is one of my favorite disciplines now – I love drawing connections between historical events, understanding the intricate relations between different points in time, and seeing the effects of decisions long past in today’s world. While I became pretty versed in European history, I always felt like I didn’t know enough about the inner workings of the Habsburg empire – until I read
Bottom line: Read this if you want to get to understand Europe better – and how a large part of it has been shaped by this one family that was in power for centuries.
By Jonathan Safran Foer
Clearly, if the above list is any indication, my preference in nonfiction books lies in the social sciences. This last one,
Bottom line: Read this if you’re interested in how our meat and dairy are produced, and what this means for human health.
To be honest, it was a bit hard to limit myself to only 8 books to recommend, since there are so many great others out there. Much of which I still need to read! Do you have any suggestions, or favorite nonfiction books to share? I’m always happy to add some to my To Read list. Can’t wait to find out what your favorites are!