Books are normally beneficial. They keep you sharp, give you entertainment, or educate you. It’s hard to go up to any book and decide singlehandedly, I should burn this because I’ve declared that it serves no benefit. Education is the best way to escape poverty. Reading improves your ability to communicate with people. It improves your ability to describe the world around you.
Anytime someone mentions the term networking, you know you don’t live in a meritocracy. Status Anxiety, written by Alain de Botton, is a book about the expectations society puts on individuals, to strive to be who that nation idealizes.
What is that nation the best at? Those are the things that are idealized. The United States is a warlike, capitalist nation. People don’t necessarily admire doctors and lawyers for their intelligence—people admire them for their paychecks. What are the careers that people admire, regardless of the paycheck? Military personnel, first responders, performance artists, professional athletes, public speakers, etc. It gives an indication of where a nation’s priorities lie.
We live in a country where most adhere to a “just-world fallacy.” What this means is that—if you’re poor, you deserve it; if you’re born into wealth, you deserve it. Pretty ridiculous, yet a widely held mumpsimus belief.
Peter F. Drucker “explains how to create your career path by knowing when to seize opportunities and when to change course” (Drucker).
The keys: Cultivate a deep understanding of yourself by identifying your most valuable strengths and most dangerous weaknesses; Articulate how you learn and work with others and what your most deeply held values are; and describe the type of work environment where you can make the greatest contribution…Managing Oneself identifies the probing questions you need to ask to gain the insights essential for taking charge of your career. (Amazon.com)
How to Win Friends and Influence People
This book by Dale Carnegie is always on the top of self-improvement lists. It’s the art of being cordial. It asks you to be genuinely interested in other people, let them do the talking, and listen. A large takeaway from this is to make sure everyone can save face at all times.
The Deduction Guide
This is a fun self-published book from a blogger named Louise Blackwood. There are many resources in the book and on the website.
The Deduction Guide will provide you with an alternate way of perceiving your surroundings, and allow you begin to make deductions [sic] about people and objects. The majority of the book is devoted to ways to read the world, including examples in a wide variety of topics, such as body language, clothing and other belongings, in the spirit of Sherlock Holmes. (Amazon.com)
This is the moral philosophy of Aristotle. The goal of this school of thought is to achieve fulfilled happiness through rigorous education and contemplation.
The highest good and the end toward which all human activity is directed is happiness, which can be defined as continuous contemplation of eternal and universal truth. (CliffsNotes)
Moral virtue is a relative mean between extremes of excess and deficiency, and in general the moral life is one of moderation in all things except virtue. No human appetite or desire is bad if it is controlled by reason according to a moral principle. Moral virtue is acquired by a combination of knowledge, habituation, and self-discipline. (CliffsNotes)
Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals
This is a short read by the author Immanuel Kant. As opposed to Utilitarianism, Kant’s deontological philosophy is based on intent, not consequences. He eventually settles on morality being based on universal maxims.
The Golden Rule asks that you treat others how you’d like to be treated. The Golden Rule has a large problem—it cannot be universally applied.
What Every Body is Saying
Author Joe Navarro is a former FBI agent who writes about body language. Reading body language is an invaluable tool to have at your disposal. People telegraph how they’re feeling, like a poker tell, all the time.
You get a lot of insight from this book into how someone feels, not what someone is thinking. Being able to identify and understand micro-nonverbals is what you’re striving to learn. Not only is this valuable for neurotypicals, but this is invaluable for atypicals. Get this book for a loved one who’s on the spectrum.
The Myth of Sisyphus
This book by Albert Camus is about the philosophical implications that come with realizing the absurdity of life and mortality. There is an incompatibility between the absurdity of the world around us and humanity’s desire for reasoning. This leads to what Camus calls the only philosophical question worth asking: should the absurdity be met with suicide?
Sisyphus is punished by the gods to push a boulder up a hill every day—only to have it roll back down—for all of eternity. This is a metaphor for everything everyone does in their day-to-day lives. Nothing truly matters. No exceptions.
This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself, forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy. (Camus)
Letters to a Young Contrarian
Christopher Hitchens wrote this book as part of a series called “The Art of Mentoring from Basic Books.”
One of the many great quips contained in this book: “To the question, Who do you think you are? I can return the calm response: Who wants to know?”
And then we have absolute gems like this one:
Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity…Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you. (Christopher Hitchens)
The Three Christs of Ypsilanti
This book, by psychologist Milton Rokeach, is about how he “plays god” with three patients who have schizophrenia. Each patient has the delusion that they are Jesus Christ. Rokeach puts them all in the same living area. He does this knowing that arguments will ensue when the men claim that they are Christ to one another.
This book gives insight into religion and how it may have originated. Eventually, each patient comes to the conclusion that they themselves are Jesus Christ and the other two are insane.
The absolute, best passage from this book comes from a delusion that originated in a magazine one of the patients found weeks prior that talked about yeti people:
“I ask Leon if he is married. He replies that he is betrothed, but not married to the Virgin Mary. He adds that his uncle said he could get a wife from the Yeti if he wanted to. Leon is unusually relaxed as he discusses his relations to the Yeti people.”