Top 10 Non-Fiction Books To Expand Your Mind

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“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”
― Charles William Eliot

The value of non-fiction books is so often overlooked in favour of other, more instant sources of knowledge (cough…internet…cough), but sometimes there is nothing so beautiful and thought provoking as a non-fiction book. In no particular order, here are my top ten non-fiction books for expanding your mind. Get learning!

1. A History of the World in 100 Objects – Neil MacGregor

A history of the world in 100 objects neil macgregor

Beautifully presented, easy to read, and we learn about the civilisations of the world, from ancient history to modern day. The objects are intimate, strange and tell such wonderful stories about our predecessors.

A History of the World in 100 Objects

2. Freakonomics – Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

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Explains statistics in laymans terms and somehow, amazingly, makes them exciting, interesting and endlessly entertaining. An excellent way to learn about how statistics are used both correctly and incorrectly.

Freakonomics

3. Silent Spring – Rachel Carson

Silent spring Rachel carson

Although outdated now, this book should be read by all- it led to the understanding most of us have about the effect we as a species has on our planet. Particularly pertinent due to high profile climate change deniers!

Silent Spring (Penguin Modern Classics)

4. A Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawking

Stephen hawking a brief history of time

After I had read this, I felt like my brain had doubled in size. I just understood so much more. Incredible facts and theories about the universe we live in.

A Brief History Of Time: From Big Bang To Black Holes

5. The Origins of Totalitarianism – Hannah Arendt

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In our modern society, we often look back on Nazi Germany and wonder how it happened, because we wouldn’t vote for that. This important book, written just after WW2 highlights some disquieting similarities to our world now.

The Origins of Totalitarianism

6. The Story of Art – E. H. Gombrich

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A beautiful book which will give you a background to the most admired works of art in the world. Make sure you get a recent edition which will include some modern art too.

The Story of Art

7. A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf

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‘Feminism’ is so often seen, ridiculously, as a dirty word. Read A Room of One’s Own to see why it is necessary. A quick read, but an important one.

A Room of One’s Own (Penguin Modern Classics)

8. In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

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Widely dubbed as the first ever true-crime book, Truman Capote meticulously picks apart and examines the lives of a murdered family, and looks into the motivation behind the horrific crime.

In Cold Blood : A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences (Penguin Modern Classics)

9. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat – Oliver Sacks

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Oliver Sacks recounts the tales of patients with neurological disorders. Endlessly fascinating and desperately human stories.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

10. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen – Christopher McDougall

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An amazing eye opener about the capabilities of the human body! If you want to learn what your body can do, this book is a brilliant place to start. Truly inspiring.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

Enjoyed this? Why not have a look at 30 books to read before you’re 30.

Better Than Before – Gretchen Rubin

Better than before Gretchen rubin

“There’s a great satisfaction in knowing that we’ve made good use of our days, that we’ve lived up to our expectations of ourselves.”

When I bought this book, struggling with the stresses of full-time work and study, I wanted a magical fix. I thought it would be easier to clean the house if I made a habit of certain aspects of housework (like emptying the dishwasher or hoovering). Everything would take less time, I would have a tidier house and less distraction from working.

As well as this, I wanted to make a habit of exercise – I never feel like I do enough. I was finding it hard to fit it in after work, so I thought I’d get up ten minutes earlier and go for a run then.

So, I was excited to start reading and become a new me. I immediately found Gretchen a little condescending – she comes from the approach of being Very Good at creating habits, so it doesn’t feel as though you are going through the process with the author, rather you are being lectured at.

Nevertheless, the advice was fair and I began the process of building these habits. I would be so cross with myself when I didn’t do them. That’s when I took a step back, and realised that the book had had the opposite effect – these habits weren’t making me happier or better, instead they were making me miserable and cross with myself.

When I looked at it a little deeper, I realised that I already have a lot of good habits – having a smoothie for breakfast every day, doing the food shop every Friday evening, doing a yoga session once a week.

Perhaps many of us need to congratulate ourselves for the things we’re doing well, rather than beat ourselves up for the things we think we’re not doing right. This is why I chose the quote at the top – perhaps our expectations of ourselves are actually the problem all along.

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Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits _ to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life