I appreciate books the most when using them as a tool to learn more about a certain topic or person, and I sometimes equally enjoy reading a novel. To me, the best books tell a compelling story. Authors plan, organize, and craft their own story, someone else's story, a fictional story, or a story about the experiences of groups of people. Below is a list of books I've read (or, in a few cases, listened to the audiobook) whose stories have impacted me by changing my perspective and, in some cases, inspiring me to take action. This is not a list of every book I've ever read, but instead a list of books that have been meaningful to me, and may be also meaningful to others. Many of these books have had a significant influence in my personal development and understanding of the world. For a select number of books, I provide a brief introduction with the hope that they may pique your interest. These books are listed in order (to the best of my memory), with my most recent reads at the top of the list.
- Meditations, Marcus Aurelius (translated by Gregory Hays)
- The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin
- Small Fry, Lisa Brennan-Jobs
- The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Alex Haley and Malcolm X
- The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan
- Our America, LeAlan Jones, Lloyd Newman, and David Isay
- Sapiens, Yuval Harari
- The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
- Educated, Tara Westover
- Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance
- Deep Nutrition, Catherina Shanahan
- When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi and Abraham Verghese
- Open, Andre Agassi
- The China Study, T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II
- Shoe Dog, Phil Knight
- I am Malala, Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
- Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson
- The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel Van Der Kolk
- Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl
- The One Thing, Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey
- Animal Farm, George Orwell
- 1984, George Orwell
- A Random Walk Down Wall Street, Burton Malkiel
- The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg
- The Inner Game of Tennis, W. Timothy Gallwey
- Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell
- Make it Stick, Peter C. Brown
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey
- The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
- Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer
- Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson
- The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
- The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton
Marcus Aurelius, a Roman Emperor from 161 AD to 180 AD, was a student of a Greek philosophy known as stoicism, and his book is often the first of many that anyone with an interest in stoicism will read. I appreciate how well he captures and explains the transience of both the good and bad experiences we may face throughout our lifetimes, and how we can use logic as a tool to ground ourselves.
This book draws the reader's attention to a relevant and seemingly mundane question: "what should we have for dinner?" In the present day, supermarkets give us access to processed and natural foods from any season and from any corner of the globe. Omnivores in the U.S., having the least restricted diets of anyone, are thereby faced with a dilemma. Pollan presents a thorough investigation of the industrial food system, organic food system, and foraging as a means to decide what to eat. In each of these three, he tracks the food from the source to a final meal, and elaborates on the sustainability, economics, and societal impact of each choice. I appreciated that Pollan didn't simply present some information he accumulated from various studies and write the book in an "eat this but don't eat that" format like other books about food. Instead, Pollan reported his journey of exploring these three food systems and what he discovered along the way.
Of the dystopian novels that I have read, none of the others have made me shudder as much as this one. This book presents a dystopian near-future where women have been rid of their independence in a male-dominated society. Atwood is a brilliant writer and wrote an engaging edge-of-your-seat novel; she has stated that all events in the book have happened in real-life.
This is an incredible memoir that I'd encourage anyone to read. This book brings to light Westover's personal experience in achieving an education. An education, of course, at an academic institution, but also an education about herself and the world she lived in. She grew up in hostile conditions with her survivalist family in the mountains of Idaho, isolated from most other people and any form of private or public schooling. Her father, a conspiracy theorist, denied her access to an education (academic and otherwise). In this memoir, she recounts her life growing up and her fight for her education.
This book is easily among my top three favorites in the memoir/biography genre. Andre Agassi is a famous tennis player whose career spanned from the late 1980s to the early 2000s. In his career, he won eight Grand Slam tournaments and an Olympic gold medal, and played cat and mouse with Pete Sampras, arguably one of the greatest tennis players to ever live, for the number one spot as the best tennis player in the world. A rebel to his core, Agassi tells how he came to despise tennis, even at the peak of his fame, while sharing his search for meaning in his life. Agassi communicates his story in an honest way, showing perserverance through his struggles despite obtaining so much success.
Bryan Stevenson is a graduate of Harvard Law School who has been dedicating his life to represent and defend people who have faced injustice, namely in the criminal justice system. In this book, he tells the story of his formation of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI): a private nonprofit he founded to challenge the death penalty, remove people who have been wrongly convicted or wrongly put on death row, and to assist and provide legal representation to people who have been abused by the prison system. Stevenson reminds us of our basic human instinct to know the difference between right and wrong, justice and injustice; he provides heartbreaking and heartwarming stories that both remind us of our humanity and connect us with the people the EJI provide relief to. In January 2020, Just Mercy was released as a film and I highly recommend it!
If there was a book that I wish everybody on earth could have somehow magically read, this would be that book. The subtitle of this book speaks for itself about its contents: "Brain, body, and mind in the healing of trauma." This book is divided into five parts, but I typically think about it divided into two meta-sections: (1) how traumatic experiences manifest in the brain and in the body; and (2) how to heal from those experiences. Van Der Kolk identifies urgent systemic issues in the treatment of traumatized patients. He also reminds us of our humanity by drawing the connection between the reader and his patients, allowing the reader to reflect on how their life may be relevant to certain sections of the book. This book gives a deep and fundamental understanding of other people and ourselves, and I'm therefore convinced that if everyone on earth had somehow read this book, our lives would be changed for the better.
When I think of this book, "fun" is the first word that comes to mind. Malkiel's wit, sense of humor, and great storytelling made this book endlessly fun to read, even though it was the first book I've ever read about investing. This book is broad in scope, but it provides clear meaning to the words "intelligent investing."