Non-Fiction Book Recommendations

I promised some non-fiction recommendations, and here they are! These are not the books I’m reading right now, they are ones that I think could have a huge impact on people’s thinking.

Hans Rosling’s Factfulness - This book is stellar - read it first! Rosling (and his children, he died) delve into the concept that while we think the world is getting worse and worse, it’s actually getting better and better. They have the data to prove it. A lot of it. For example, one hundred years ago, women were allowed to vote in one country. Now, there is only one country they are not allowed to vote in. In the last 30 or so years, 30% more of the entire world has access to clean water! I could go on and on as Rosling has a mountain of examples. This book is key in 1) improving your outlook, and 2) teaching you to really understand data, and how to cut through the statistical noise.

Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise - Speaking of which… In today’s world, it’s gotten more and more difficult to find that signal amongst the noise. Nate Silver, political and sports predicting wunderkind, gives us some pointers in here. This book is about 6 years old now I think, but it’s still relevant. One thing that blew my mind, weather prediction, one of the trickiest forecasting sciences out there, uses computer based modeling that is then adjusted by humans. Really interesting stuff to think about as our world grows more and more algorithmically determined. If Nate writes an update to this around 2020, I’m first in line. Take my money sir!

Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow - Kahneman and his long-time work partner Amos Tversky are the two godfathers of behavioral economics. That is the study of how people REALLY think and act - not how your economics or psychology professor claimed they think and act. This book is chock full if fascinating experiments (seriously) Kahneman has run, and the work he describes is the foundation for most of the behavioral economics studies and books that followed. Start at the beginning, start with this one.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb The Black Swan - A study how improbably seeming events have outsize impacts on the world or our lives. The decade old financial crash is one good example - very few analysts predicted it, but it was a major event that cascaded across the globe and set the table for changes in economic and political policy that we are still adjusting to. A hurricane is another example, where you may not see it coming, but it completely reorders your personal life or the life in your city. They can be positive though, and my writing is a prime example of that (this book is one factor that inspired me to write). My friends and family would have called me becoming a full-time author highly improbably, yet, here I am… This book delves into how these events go unpredicted, and how we can adjust to the unknown. Taleb’s Antifragile digs deeper into that subject, but it’s not quite as good as this one.

Charles MacKay Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds - This book was first published I believe in 1852 and is out of print. The ones I found on Amazon appear to be scams. I have an edition from Three Rivers Press (imprint of PRH), and it’s legitimate, so look for that one if you can. Do Not buy a self-published version of this book, and if it’s less than 300 or so pages, it’s fake! We can get into copyright law and how this is possible another day… Anyway, this book is over 150 years old now, and it tells you everything you need to know about Bitcoin. It’s great stuff, and shows that as much as the world has changed, it really hasn’t changed.

Malcom Gladwell The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers - Three in one! Malcolm Gladwell does an amazing job distilling some really complex concepts and showing them to you in a unique, digestible way. I really loved these three books, but be warned, some of his later books aren’t as strong. David and Goliath, for example, was a bit garbage. Anyway, if you find some of my other recommendations difficult to get through, then check out Gladwell. It’s light, easy reading, and very educational. Some of his concepts have sunk into our collective conscious now - so it’s great to hear it from the man himself.

Stephen King’s On Writing - Stephen King’s “How to Become a Writer” paired with an autobiography. Insightful stuff, though I will warn you, the advice is terribly out of date now. Self-publishing, KDP, etc didn’t exist when King wrote this. That being said, for any aspiring writer, it’s incredible to see how King got started. Spoiler, he wasn’t born as an author who’s sold 100’s of millions of copies. He worked hard and got there… We can’t follow in his footsteps because the industry has changed, but the concept remains the same.

Honorable mentions: Anything by Michael Lewis for insight into financial crimes, any biography by Walter Isaacson (except the one on Da Vinci, it sucked), Daniel Yergin’s The Prize for THE comprehensive tome on the oil industry, and how it has had an incredible impact on modern day geopolitics, Benjamin Wallace’s The Billionaire’s Vinegar for something a little lighter and more fun, and to see how crazy rich people are.

Whew, enough to keep you busy? If you know some books you think I’ll enjoy, let me know here! I read mostly non-fiction these days, and I’m always on the lookout for something life changing.