The best books to change how you understand the world

Why am I passionate about this?

The greatest thrill is seeing something a new way. Remember the end of the movie The Sixth Sense, when you learn he was dead the whole time? It blows your mind and makes you re-think everything you saw. That's how it feels to learn another philosophy or a new distinction in understanding the world. I'm always seeking more of those moments, and these five books (plus mine) do that more than any I've found so far.


I wrote...

How to Live: 27 Conflicting Answers and One Weird Conclusion

By Derek Sivers,

Book cover of How to Live: 27 Conflicting Answers and One Weird Conclusion

What is my book about?

27 different answers to the question of how to live your life. Each chapter disagrees with the rest. But in this case, they’re all true, so how can you reconcile it? You’ll see.

This book is only available from the author here.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives

Derek Sivers Why did I love this book?

Awesomely creative think-piece. 40 very short fictional stories about what happens when you die. The framework is inspiring for anyone: coming up with 40 different answers to any one question. But they’re also just brilliant ideas and powerful little fables.

By David Eagleman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Sum as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the afterlife you may find that God is the size of a microbe and unaware of your existence. Or you may find the afterlife contains only those people whom you remember. In some afterlives you are split into all your different ages; in some you are recreated based on your credit-card records; and in others you are forced to live with annoying versions of yourself that represent what you could have been.

In these wonderfully imagined tales - at once funny, wistful and unsettling - Eagleman kicks over the chessboard of traditional notions and offers us a dazzling lens…


Book cover of Mindwise: Why We Misunderstand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want

Derek Sivers Why did I love this book?

Many new brilliant insights, especially about over-estimating the differences between you and others, thereby separating into us-vs-them tribalism. If you know more books like this, please recommend them to me. I adore this subject.

By Nicholas Epley,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Mindwise as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From leading psychologist Nicholas Epley, Mindwise reveals our real sixth sense - our ability to understand our own minds and the minds of others

Arguably our brain's greatest sense is the ability to understand the minds of others - our sixth sense. In Mindwise, renowned psychologist Nicholas Epley shows that this incredible capacity for inferring what others are thinking and feeling is, however sophisticated, still prone to critical errors. We often misread social situations, misjudge others' characters, or guess the wrong motives for their actions. Drawing on the latest in psychological research, Epley suggests that only by learning more about…


Book cover of The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life

Derek Sivers Why did I love this book?

Profound idea that everyone has a primary time focus: either Future-focused, Present-focused, or Past-focused. Fascinating implications of each. Because I'm so future-focused, reading this book helped me understand people who are very present-focused. Also great advice on shifting your focus when needed. I read it 7 years ago, but still think about it almost every day.

By Philip Zimbardo, John Boyd,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Time Paradox as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now in paperback, this breakthrough book on the new psychological science of time by one of the most influential living psychologists—the New York Times bestselling author of The Lucifer Effect—and his research partner launched on the front page of USA TODAY "Lifestyle" with a Time Survey and on CBS Morning Show.

This is the first paradox of time: Your attitudes toward time have a profound impact on your life and world, yet you seldom recognize it. Our goal is to help you reclaim yesterday, enjoy today, and master tomorrow with new ways of seeing and working with your past, present,…


Book cover of The Courage to Be Disliked

Derek Sivers Why did I love this book?

A profound little philosophy book from Japan, communicating the psychology of Alfred Adler - a rival of Freud. Told as a conversation between an angry student and a patient teacher. A little book so good that I rushed home from other activities to keep reading it, and finished in a day. A surprisingly fresh perspective on how to live. (The “disliked” part is not the point, so don’t let the title distract you.)

By Ichiro Kishimi, Fumitake Koga,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Courage to Be Disliked as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Japanese phenomenon that teaches us the simple yet profound lessons required to liberate our real selves and find lasting happiness.

The Courage to be Disliked shows you how to unlock the power within yourself to become your best and truest self, change your future and find lasting happiness. Using the theories of Alfred Adler, one of the three giants of 19th century psychology alongside Freud and Jung, the authors explain how we are all free to determine our own future free of the shackles of past experiences, doubts and the expectations of others. It's a philosophy that's profoundly liberating,…


Book cover of When Cultures Collide: Leading Across Cultures

Derek Sivers Why did I love this book?

Masterpiece of cultural observations. I wish there were more books like this. Insights into different countries' cultures. Some amazing, like the reason for American's lack of manners, or Japanese procedures. I practically underlined the entire book, I loved it so much.

By Richard D. Lewis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When Cultures Collide as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A major new edition of the classic work that revolutionised the way business is conducted across cultures and around the globe. It provides leaders and managers with practical strategies to embrace differences and successfully work across diverse business cultures.

Capturing the rising influence and the seismic changes throughout many regions of the world, cross-cultural expert and international businessman Richard Lewis has significantly broadened the scope of his seminal work on global business and communication. Thoroughly updated to include the latest political events and cultural changes, as well as covering nine new countries to complete Europe, broadening the scope of the…


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Call Me Stan: A Tragedy in Three Millennia

By K.R. Wilson,

Book cover of Call Me Stan: A Tragedy in Three Millennia

K.R. Wilson Author Of Call Me Stan: A Tragedy in Three Millennia

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Novelist Reader History enthusiast Occasional composer Sometime chorister

K.R.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

When King Priam's pregnant daughter was fleeing the sack of Troy, Stan was there. When Jesus of Nazareth was beaten and crucified, Stan was there - one crossover. He’s been a Hittite warrior, a Silk Road mercenary, a reluctant rebel in the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381, and an information peddler in the cabarets of post-war Berlin. Stan doesn't die, and he doesn't know why. And now he's being investigated for a horrific crime.

As Stan tells his story, from his origins as an Anatolian sheep farmer to his custody in a Toronto police interview room, he brings a wry, anachronistic…

Call Me Stan: A Tragedy in Three Millennia

By K.R. Wilson,

What is this book about?

Long-listed for the 2022 Leacock Medal for Humour

When King Priam's pregnant daughter was fleeing the sack of Troy, Stan was there. When Jesus of Nazareth was beaten and crucified, Stan was there - one cross over. Stan has been a Hittite warrior, a Roman legionnaire, a mercenary for the caravans of the Silk Road and a Great War German grunt. He’s been a toymaker in a time of plague, a reluctant rebel in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, and an information peddler in the cabarets of post-war Berlin. Stan doesn't die, and he doesn't know why. And now he's…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in life satisfaction, diversity, and empathy?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about life satisfaction, diversity, and empathy.

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