to add to your shelf

May 2020

I love to read. I will read almost anything. Some books distract me from the troubles in life, but there are others which give me perspective, and the power to face those troubles. Here are 10 books that changed the way I think about the world.


1. Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

If there is one book you read from this list, let it be this. Nobel laureate, Daniel Kahneman, presents the decades of research he did with Amos Tversky on human cognition and behavior that revolutionized the field of economics. Kahneman will show how astonishingly irrational you are and just why your brain behaves the way it does. It isn't meant to be a self-help book, but at the end of the 400-something pages, you will find a new version of yourself.

2. Illusions by Richard Bach

You can tell a book is good when you learn something new about the world, and yourself every time you read it. Illusions is one such book. Bach will repeatedly question your conception of reality, and as a result, you will question your purpose, your calling, and where you are headed.

3. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

I strongly believe that one should read anything that Malcolm Gladwell writes, but I may be biased because he is my favorite author. Nonetheless, Outliers is, by far, his best work. Gladwell will redefine how you pursue your goals. He presents multiple success stories, all of which lead to the following conclusion:

“It is not the brightest who succeed. Nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is, rather, a gift. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities — and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.”

4. Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Why are we not as happy as we ought to be? Why are people that we think should be sad are actually quite happy? Why are the neighbors of lottery winners more likely to go bankrupt? Why do we keep chasing the next best thing? And why do we believe this next best will make us happy? Daniel Gilbert answers all these questions and more in one of the best-written books I have read. If you aren't as happy as you wish you were, read this.

5. The Defining Decade by Meg Jay

Meg Jay has a hot take - your twenties aren't meant for self-exploration. She thinks that society's new view of indulging in finding yourself during your 20's will wreck you in your 30's. She writes a playbook on how to grab your 20's by the horns and set yourself up for success. You may or may not agree with her, but she does make a compelling case about why you should be working your butt off and making the most of this decade of your life. Hear her out.

6. Just Kids by Patti Smith

Patti Smith's memoir about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, their early struggles in New York City, and their eventual rise to fame is a beautifully written, feel-good story that will leave you feeling hopeful and inspired.

7. 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson

Of all the self-help books I have read, this is the only one that gives advice that is backed by really good claims. Jordan Peterson covers science, ethics, mythology, and personal stories to give you a guide book on how to live your life. Even if you don't agree with all his rules, his book will provoke you to make a list of your own rules for life and follow them.


8. Darwin's Dangerous Idea by Daniel Dennett 

I don't usually mess with books in the science genre. But I was assigned readings from this book for 3 different classes, and ended up reading the whole thing. It was fabulous, and this is coming from someone who barely understands biology. The book takes a uniquely philosophical approach to evolution and reinformed my assumptions of what it means to be human. 

9. Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

I read this book for a class on The Science of Happiness, which was one of my favorite classes at Harvard. One of the biggest reasons we aren't happier, healthier, and more productive is because our lives are fraught with distractions, most of which come from our devices. Newport shows you what tech and social media companies are doing to constantly capture your attention and gives you an actionable blueprint on how to change your relationship with technology.


10. Good Economics for Hard Times by Abhijit Bannerjee and Esther Duflo.

In my opinion, everyone should know some basic economics, and how it relates to global problems and one's life. And there is no better way to learn economics than from two Nobel prize winners. If you're worried that the book will be dry or boring, let me reassure you it won't. The first chapter is titled MEGA: Make Economics Great Again and begins with the following joke:

A woman hears from her doctor that she has only half a year to live.

The doctor advises her to marry an economist and move to South Dakota.

WOMAN: "Will this cure my illness?"

DOCTOR: "No, but the half year will seem pretty long."

There is no way two economists willing to open with that joke will write a boring book about economics.


If you have read or end up reading these books, tell me what you think in the comments below! Or, let me know which books I should add to my shelf.