There are not many books I think everyone should read. Rather, I think there are some topics everybody should read something about. For every topic which exists there is an introduction somewhere, you just have to dare reading what is suggested for people who study a subject. So, if you are looking for an introduction to quantum physics, go into the science corner of the library. And don’t bother whether you understand everything. You are not going to attend exams, are you?
In general, I suggest reading biographies. A broad variety of tales of what real people experienced. It allows you to understand how ordinary people (because that’s what every single person on the planet is) make it through hard times or reach their dreams. And if they can, you can, too. You just have to let go of the idea that successfull or famous people have a special trait which seperates them from everybody else. Learn how hard they worked in the years leading up to their ‘overnight’ fame.
Topics which apply to everbody
- Psychology: Basic understanding of why people act how they act, e.g. ‘Influence‘ by Robert Caldini. He not only explains how to influence behaviour but also gives an idea of why those mechanisms are useful for a social group.
- Sociology or history of civilization: I recommend making up your mind about the fact that what we consider right or wrong is changing over time and differs between places. As various as humanity is, you will find a topic which fascinates you, I promise. Just go from where you are. If you like dancing, learn about the development of dance through the ages. If you like to eat, do the same for food.
- Economy: I’m sorry but I have to recommend ‘Wealth of Nations‘ by Adam Smith here. It is a hell to read. But it gives you a deep understanding of how our economic system evolved, and how it is justified. Which people need, if they want to be more than powerless consumers and employees.
- Research & scientific basics: In a time where religious laws for living together are more and more substituted by so called scientific facts, you should know how those ‘facts’ are created. Otherwise, you have to believe in the scientists just as much as earlier generations had to believe in their religious authorities. Basic understanding e.g. of biology allows you to at least question it when somebody tries to sell you supplements to make you thin and beautiful within three days. Basic knowledge of research methods, and you kow that if all test persons are male, your results cannot necessarily be transferred to women, and much less be used to explain differences between both. Speaking of it: ‘Delusions of Gender‘ by Cordelia Fine is a great book to start learning about how studies are manipulated or used to manipulate what we believe, in this case about men and women, but the principles are the same everywhere.
- Health: Learn how the human body works when it is healthy, not when it is sick. Use e.g. an old book from school when the medical jargon in books on physiology intimidates you.
- Law: Read the relevant laws in your country for your situation. It is totally unnecessary to be exploited just because you don’t know your rights. Also read the declaration of human rights by the United Nations.
- Self-help: I strongly recommend ‘The 4 hour work week‘ by Tim Ferris. That’s everything you need to start questioning whether how you live is how you want to live, and where to start if you want to change something.
- The holocaust: I don’t know about you, but for me 6.000.000 dead jews have always been just a number. Being German, I grew up with the feeling of guilt. Guilt does not breed empathy. It breeds defense mechanisms such as shutting down or cynicism. It took me a while until I read individual accounts of what had happened in my home country decades before I was born, even before my parents were born, which is why the guilt thing is of so little help. Learning what the holocaust meant for one family was so much more meaningful than considering the whole people of Israel while I grew up with news about Gaza. It is my country’s history, but everyone should read about it, please. Learn what happened in order to never let that happen again! When I hear Donald Trump talk about shutting out ‘the Muslims’ or Muslims rant against ‘infidels’, it’s all the same ground, it’s fascism. It leads nowhere but directly to hell. Demand of your leaders that they find more intelligent ways of solving problems than blaming one group. Demand of yourselves to stand up for human rights. Because you never know when they take the turn against you.
Although I think fiction is too individual to make recommendations suitable for everyone, there is a book of which I think every person on the planet should read it, whether in high technology societies or in more rural areas striving for technological advancement, and that is George Orwell’s ‘1984‘. You know why.
Now, enjoy your weekend, and if you haven’t for a while, tonight party like it’s 1999!