12 Best Nonfiction Books
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Below is my list of the 12 best nonfiction books of all-time. These books have helped shape my understanding of the world and approach to life.
This book changed my life. It taught me about how we still can choose our response even under the most horrible of circumstances. In it, Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl recounts and reflects on his experience as a Holocaust survivor and discusses his psychological theory, logotherapy, which contends that humans are motivated by the search for meaning, not power (Adler) or pleasure (Freud).
Absolute must read for everyone. Harari provides a refreshingly comprehensive, engaging, and scientific account of history. By the end, you will understand the broad strokes of history and be able to contextualize modern concerns and questions.
A must read. Manson provides philosophical and candid thoughts on how we can live a better life. He explores embracing the negative, taking responsibility for how we respond to everything that happens to us, and prioritizing the right values.
A book for anyone who wants to dive deep into their life and figure out how to master their mind, body, emotions, and finances. You’ll learn about the motivating forces of pain and pleasure, the importance of the questions we ask, and the necessity of clarifying and living by our values. Read it slowly and do the exercises as you go along.
A classic investing guide that combines history, economics, and behavioral finance to offer practical and actionable advice for investing and establishing financial security. Malkiel’s central message is abundantly clear – begin a consistent savings plan as early as possible and invest the core of your portfolio in low-cost, broad-based index funds.
A compelling philosophy that aligns closely with how I live my life. It’s about living consciously and focusing on the essential things that allow you to achieve your highest point of contribution. McKeown shows you the dangers of ignoring tradeoffs, how to determine what is important, and why reflection and play are essential practices.
This book will make you a better leader. Leveraging their experience leading successful missions in Iraq, Navy SEALs Willink and Babin discuss essential leadership lessons. A few of the core lessons include practicing extreme ownership, putting your ego aside, enforcing standards, simplifying the strategy, prioritizing, and executing.
A fantastic introduction to negotiation and learning how to get more as a way of life. Diamond challenges the conventional wisdom of using power and logic to negotiate and instead proposes that effective negotiation stems from understanding, valuing, and communicating with the person between you and your goals. A few key learnings include the power of persistence, understanding perceptions, framing and using standards, being incremental, and trading items of unequal value.
A collection of philosophical and spiritual thoughts from the former Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. The work is grounded in Stoicism, a practical philosophy that encourages us to keep our mortality in mind at all times, view things as they are, reflect thoughtfully, focus on what’s within our control, and practice virtues like generosity, honesty, and self-control.
Phil Knight recounts his struggles, victories, and lessons learned from building Nike from a small startup to a billion dollar shoe giant. He tells engaging and inspiring stories that highlight his personal philosophies on life. Knight encourages us all to seek and pursue a calling, even if we don’t yet know what that means.
A highly digestible and well-researched look into why habits exist, how they work, and how you can change them. You’ll learn about the science behind habit formation, how certain habits (keystone habits) have the power to influence all areas of your life, and how to create good habits and break bad ones.
If you write or create, this is a must read. Pressfield accurately names the ultimate killer of creative dreams: Resistance. He describes the many forms it can take, outlines a plan of action to overcome it, and recognizes the role of a higher order in creative pursuits. If you have creative ambitions, Pressfield will prepare and inspire you for the war ahead.
Other Great Non-Fiction Books
- The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday
- 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson
- Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant
- The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
- When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
For a more comprehensive list of the best books that I’ve read with summaries and key takeaways for each, check out my vetted reading list.