You’ve found my all-time reading list. It’s the place where I’m collecting the most insightful books on critical thinking, decision-making, practical philosophy, mental models and more. The ones that inspired my writing, or were referenced in my free weekly newsletter featuring 3 Ideas in 2 Minutes. I’ve arranged the reading list into five categories, which include books about making better decisions, philosophising about life and levelling up your thinking skills. Some familiar, some novel, some unexpected.
What do you want to do today?
Table of Contents
- Make Better Decisions
- Philosophise About Life
- Level Up Your Thinking Skills
- Write & Communicate Better
- Rediscover the Classics of Fiction
Disclaimer: Some of the book links below are Amazon Affiliate links. I earn a small commission if you make a qualified purchase through those links. At no extra cost for you.
Make Better Decisions
The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness
Learn how to create wealth and live a happy and fulfilled life with this detailed guide by the angel investor turned philosopher. The Almanack of Naval Ravikant by Eric Jorgensen is a collection of his writing, talks and tweets. It’s life-changing wisdom distilled into simple words. Buy a hard copy or audiobook through my affiliate link or download it for free.
The Great Mental Models
Find out how mental models can improve your decision-making with The Great Mental Models: General Thinking Concepts by Rhiannon Beaubien and Shane Parrish. If you can’t get enough of them, there’s a Volume 2 on Physics, Chemistry and Biology and a Volume 3 on Systems and Mathematics. Alternatively, you can read one of my essays on mental models. Just saying.
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
Learn about the power of rare yet unexpected high-impact events and how to cope with them. In The Black Swan, essayist and former trader and risk analyst Nassim Nicholas Taleb offers a solution grounded in building robustness and anti-fragility. Taleb is a truly unconventional thinker who doesn’t pull any punches.
The Decision Book: Fifty Models for Strategic Thinking
Navigate the world with the Eisenhower Matrix or understand why accidents happen with the Swiss Cheese Model. No matter what decision is at hand, The Decision Book by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschäppeler offers a succinct and well-illustrated mental model for you to try out. It’s perfect for a quick primer. Unless you want to dive deeper, in which case some of my below essays might interest you.
Philosophise About Life
The 48 Laws of Power
Uncover the underlying rules of everyday power games with Robert Greene’s infamous The 48 Laws of Power. An insightful but often merciless book about the dark sides of human nature. If we don’t understand even the most manipulative moves, how else are we to guard against the pathologies of power?
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice
Discover the unexpected secrets of Zen Buddhism and meditation with this modern classic by Shunryū Suzuki. The Japanese Zen monk popularised the philosophy in the United States. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind is a highly instructional piece; inspiring and often mind-bending. Put it on your reading list and discover new insights every time you read it.
The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms
Peruse Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s collection of thought-provoking, witty and often counterintuitive truths. The title goes back to Greek mythology. Procrustes was known for abducting travellers and making them fit his bed. So be warned. The pithy observations in The Bed of Procrustes pop more than a few bubbles of human self-delusion.
Dive into the timeless wisdom of John Stuart Mill’s classic philosophical essay. Published in 1859, On Liberty emphasises the importance of freedom of thought and open debate. The English philosopher also makes a compelling case for the sovereignty of the individual and explores the relationship between authority and liberty. It should be at the top of any reading list on personal freedom and free speech.
Level Up Your Thinking Skills
Thinking, Fast and Slow
Discover the way your mind works with this fascinating read by Daniel Kahneman. In Thinking, Fast and Slow, the psychologist famously details the two systems that function in our brain: The one that allows you to think fast, intuitive and emotional. And the slower and logical one. Each one comes with its own advantages and disadvantages in our everyday lives. It should be pm the reading list of anyone interested in common errors of thinking.
The Demon-Haunted World
Learn about the principles of scientific thinking by way of witty anecdotes. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan is a classic. The astronomer and science communicator provides you with a baloney detection kit to cultivate an open yet sceptical mind. Would you believe his story about the invisible, floating fire-breathing dragon living in his garage?
Applied Thinking for Intelligence Analysis
Explore this practical guide to learn about the basics of critical thinking and the tradecraft of an intelligence analyst. From the definition of your problem to dealing with different types of knowledge and biases to being able to justify your judgements. If you consider yourself a budding analyst and problem solver, Applied Thinking for Intelligence Analysis by senior lecturer in Intelligence Studies Charles Vandepeer should go on your reading list.
Handbook of Analytic Tools & Techniques
Learn how to harness the power of structured analytic techniques with the Handbook of Analytic Tools & Techniques by former analyst Randy Pherson. His book is packed with 33 analytic techniques designed to increase the rigour of your qualitative analyses — alone or in a team. Explore competing arguments, review your key assumptions or anticipate the future. It’s well-illustrated, full of examples and even maps relevant cognitive biases and misapplied heuristics to each of the techniques.
Write & Communicate Better
Putting Stories to Work
Learn how to discover, remember and share stories in business and beyond. With Putting Stories to Work, Shawn Callahan has distilled the skills and techniques needed to master the art of business storytelling in one book. “The human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor,” social psychologist Jonathan Haidt once wrote. Find out what that means for your business.
100 Ways to Improve Your Writing
Get better at writing with this absolute classic by Gary Provost. In 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing, the US author shows you how to get the ideas flowing and overcome writer’s block. How you can develop your own style and make every word count. If you’re struggling to channel all your ideas into a piece of writing that people just love to read, give it a try. “Don’t just write words. Write music.”
Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It
Change the way you deal with people on an everyday basis with this handbook on negotiating principles. Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator, tweaked his lessons learned and packed them all into one thrilling book. Never Split the Difference explains in detail what makes Tactical Empathy an absolute game-changer or why you shouldn’t shy away from starting a negotiation with a ‘No’. Would it be ridiculous to think that your negotiation skills could be improved?
Essay Writing Guide
Learn how to write a convincing essay with this practical guide by Canadian psychologist Jordan B. Peterson. In his Essay Writing Guide Peterson breaks writing down into its parts and shows you how to write a powerful piece from the ground up. It’s an exercise in first principles thinking, analysis and creation. Whether you need a primer or want to become a more efficient writer, it’s worth taking a look at Peterson’s take on the art of writing.
The Peter Principle: Why Everything Goes Wrong
Discover the reason why many workplaces are full of incompetent people, particularly in leadership positions. The Peter Principle states that in a hierarchy everyone is promoted to their level of incompetence. Laurence J. Peter uses this observation as a springboard for his semi-satirical dive into the modern workplace. There’s only one way to escape this mess.
Rediscover the Classics of Fiction
Follow protagonist Winston Smith as he navigates a totalitarian dystopia. This classic by English novelist George Orwell is an absolute must-read. Not least because 1984 is the origin of infamous phrases such as Big Brother, an omniscient apparatus of surveillance and control. Or the concept of Doublethink, the ability to hold to contradictory statements in one’s mind while considering both to be true. It’s dystopian fiction, albeit timeless in its relevance to the real world.
Waiting for Godot
Demonstrate your patience as you’re waiting for an event that will definitely and in all likelihood soon going to never happen. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett is an absurd play about two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, twiddling their thumbs. Put this on your reading list in case you want to find out when – if at all – the ominous Godot will arrive.