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Reading List: How to Think for Yourself (June 2022)

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

  1. Make Better Decisions
  2. Philosophise About Life
  3. Level Up Your Thinking Skills
  4. Write & Communicate Better
  5. 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.

5 Inspiring Naval Quotes: How His Practical Philosophy Can Change Lives

Circle of Competence: How to Escape Competition Through Authenticity


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.

Four Stages of Competence: How We Learn New Skills


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.

Black Swans: How to Predict the Unpredictable

OODA Loop: How to Make Fast Decisions in Disorienting Situations


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.

Black Swans: How to Predict the Unpredictable

The Feynman Technique 2.0: How to Take Your Learning to the Next Level

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?

3 Ideas in 2 Minutes on Power Dynamics

Hard and Soft Power: What Makes You More Powerful Than You Think?


Bullshit Jobs: A Theory

Understand the reason why some jobs are so pointless, even the people carrying them out cannot justify their existence. Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber is equally witty and heart-wrenching as the late anthropologist explains the five types of bullshit jobs. Do you know a flunky, a duct taper, a goon, a taskmaster or even a box ticker?

Chmess: How to Spot a Bullshit Job

The Peter Principle: Why the World Is Full of Incompetence


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.

5 Alan Watts Quotes: How to Become a Master of Life

Dead Horse Theory: What to Do When Your Project Is on Life Support?


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.

21 Memorable Aphorisms About Life: How to Become an Aphorist

Linguistic Oddities: 9 Peculiar Ideas of the English Language


On Liberty

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.

Mill’s Trident: The Most Powerful of Arguments on Freedom of Speech?

Steelmanning: How to Discover the Truth by Helping Your Opponent


12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

Navigate life with this self-help bestseller by Jordan B. Peterson. The Canadian psychologist unpacks each of his twelve rules, weaving together research, mythology and personal anecdotes to explain the seemingly obvious. At its core, 12 Rules for Life is about the significance of taking personal responsibility and the relationship between chaos and order in everyone’s life. His latest book, Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life, expands on this theme even further.

11 Intriguing Moral Stories Everyone Should Know

The Ship of Theseus: How to Solve the Paradox of Who We Are

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.

Mental Shortcuts: 5 Ways Heuristics Can Lead to Poor Decisions

Intuitive Traps: 5 Common But Hidden Barriers to Critical 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?

Informal Fallacies: 11 Argumentative Errors Worth Knowing and Avoiding

Strawmanning: How to Use the Straw Man Fallacy to Our Advantage


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.

The Intelligence Cycle: How to Process Information Like an Analyst

3 Ideas in 2 Minutes on Knowledge About Knowledge


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.

Intuitive Traps: 5 Common But Hidden Barriers to Critical Thinking

Deception Detection: How to Anticipate Deceit

Write & Communicate Better

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?

Never Split the Difference: Jedi Mind Tricks for Negotiators

How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty


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.

How to Get Better at Writing in 7+1 Steps

Graham’s Hierarchy of Disagreement: How to Argue Like an Expert


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.

The Peter Principle: Why the World Is Full of Incompetence

Top 25 Interesting Ideas and Concepts Everyone Should Know

Rediscover the Classics of Fiction

1984

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.

Deception Detection: How to Anticipate Deceit

Propaganda in North Korea: Dissecting a Story About Love & Special Aircraft


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.

Waiting for Godot: When Tomorrow Never Comes

Stream of Consciousness: How to Make Sense of Our Messy Thoughts