Thinking About Best Non Fiction Books? Books to look forward to in 2019
I’m going to end up releasing a separate video for my favorite biographies or autobiographies.
And I’m also not including in this any feminist literature that I’ve read.
I studied Philosophy at university and feminism was one of the topics that I did as a piece of coursework so I’ve ended up reading quite a lot in the genre and I think I’m going to end up releasing a separate video about all my favorite books in that area at some point over the next few months.
So I’ve got about seven or eight books to talk to you about today and I just figure let’s jump straight in.
So the first book is actually two books that I think should be read in conjunction with one another and that is Mindset by Caroline Dweck and Black Boxing Thinking by Matthew Syed.
So these two books that I think make a perfect combination together and I’m going to explain why in a minute.
So Mindset is Caroline Dweck’s, sort of, pioneering book that talks about her big theory which is ‘growth mindset’ and the difference between ‘growth mindset’ and ‘fixed mindset’.
So you quite often hear people use phrases like ‘oh I’m just not good at math’s’, ‘I’m just not a sporty person’, ‘I’m not the kind of person who can do blah’.
And if you’re the kind of person who uses phrases like that, that probably means you’ve got a bit of a fixed mindset for whatever thing that you’re talking about.
A growth mindset instead is somebody who views their abilities as being constantly flexible and something that can always be improved and worked on.
And the theory is that if you have a growth mindset about things you’re going to end up feeling happier and probably more accomplished in general because rather than linking your worth with something you are either good or bad at you will consider yourself independent to your abilities and very happy to continue to grow and develop and push in an area because failure is no longer scary – its just part of the learning process.
So this is Caroline Dweck’s big pioneering book that covers a whole range of things about how growth mindset can be applied to every walk of life.
But one thing that I do think it’s a little short on the ground of is practical advice on how to get a growth mindset or improve your mindset in a growth direction.
So for that is where I lean on Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed.
So Black Box Thinking is a look at the concept of failure and the feedback it can give us about how we can improve on whatever it is that we are doing.
The first half of the book looks at the medical industry and how different it is in comparison to the piloting (?) industry I guess is what you’d call it.
So pilots have a lot of opportunities to acknowledge and understand their mistakes and make sure that they can learn from them in the future, whereas in comparison the medical community can quite often want to hide mistakes because of things like lawsuits and all sorts of problems in that area.
Matthew Syed is arguing that by making an industry more aware of its failures and sort of problems in its common practices, everything can move towards a positive direction.
And that actually failure is just a learning opportunity rather than being something that is a black mark against yourself.
The second half of the book really looks at business and how failure is really key to running a successful business.
But the key thing is to fail often, fail quickly and learn from it.
So it’s no good just failing over and over again if you’re not going to take the time to understand what went wrong and how you can fix it in the future.
So my theory is that by combining these two you get a perfect formula for how to end up improving your growth mindset.
So this gives you all the key points for what is a growth mindset and how to acknowledge when you’re stuck in a fixed one.
And this gives you the understanding of how to view failure and how to make sure that when you are failing you are using it in a way that means you can positively learn, which will increase your growth mindset.
I hope that makes sense but I kind of smashed the two together.
I do think both – there was a fly – I do think both work really well independently as well and both have amazing TedTalks on their theories.
So if you’re not down for reading the whole book maybe checks out the TedTalk instead.
I mentioned earlier in this video that I studied Philosophy at university and I have in my hands the book that is to blame for that fact.
It’s The Pig That Wanted to Be Eaten (and 99 other thought experiments) by Julian Baggini.
This book – as well as Sophie’s World by Jostein Gardner – are probably responsible for like 95% of the undergraduates studying philosophy out there.
So a thought experiment – if you’ve never heard the term before – is a scenario that we create designed to be able to look at something that we can’t easily test or play out in the real world because its either impossible or unethical.
And instead gives us an opportunity to be able to look into the scenario and try and see what logically makes sense, what our intuitions tell us about that topic and it’s a really common tool for understanding lots of the bigger concepts in philosophy.
This book is really good cause it gives you a broad range of different though experiments from theology to ethics, to metaphysics and logic, and it really goes through a whole range If I show you one – it gives you the description of the thought experiment and then a very very brief discussion about what different answers you could have for this thought experiment and what they mean linking it kind of with wider concepts.
And then it also gives you a handful of other thought experiments that are linked and are on a similar kind of topic.
It’s a really lovely look at loads of different topics in philosophy so if its a subject you’re really not too sure where to start with I’d really recommend this one.
The back also has a lot of information about like where you can get more information about all of these different thought experiments.
So if one or two of them really do jump out and catch your eye you can go on and read the original articles that they were found in and some of the literature around them.
So it’s a brilliant jumping off point for the entire subject of philosophy.
And like I said this is the book that is the reason that I studied Philosophy at university.
I read this in my A-levels, so now gosh nearly a decade ago -I’m getting old – and it was just a really brilliant way of kind of confirming that that was the subject that I definitely wanted to study.
So my next book is a bit of a beast and that is Neurotribes by Steve Silbermann.
This book describes itself as the legacy of autism and I think that that is a very very fitting title for it.
It takes a really broad sweeping look at autism in general, both in terms of the historical context of various famous historical figures who there are arguments to say that they were on a spectrum somewhere.
It looks at some of the original diagnoses, the various arguments for where it’s come from, the various different ‘treatments’ that have been around over the years, the discussion of where this idea of people sitting on a spectrum has come from, autism and its links in the science fiction community.
It’s an incredible book that just spans such a huge range of information.
My brushes with autism have been fairly limited in my life.
I currently work with children and sometimes the children who I work with have been diagnosed with autism.
Sometimes they are undiagnosed but you get an idea.
So I found this book very very helpful for trying to get an understanding for what the world was like them.
But also just from a very like broad historical context I think this book is absolutely fascinating, looking at something that has sort of gone through waves of being very much in the public eye and what that has done for it and where we are at now.
It is a big book and its quite dense so it is a bit of a commitment.
But I would say it is totally worth the time, so really really do check this one out.
One of my favorite topics is art history and a fantastic book for that is What Are You Looking At? (150 years of modern art in the blink of an eye) by Will Gompertz.
If you’ve ever been a bit baffled as to where things like Surrealism and Damien Hirst’s shark or Tracey Emin’s tent all fall into – or Tracey Emin’s bed all fall in terms of the broader understanding of modern art, this is a really fantastic book to pick up.
It spans – as the title suggests – 150 years going from the Pre Raphelites all the way to the modern day.
What I would say is if you are going to read this book, have your phone handy with Google Images up because it mentions so many different works of art – that you’re going to be able to connect them up and see them.
There are very few pictures in this book – like there is a couple but nowhere near enough.
Like in your average paragraph he will mention about three different works of art and unless you can see them sometimes the points can be a little bit difficult to grasp.
It’s excellent because it really sets all of the art movements in the cultural and historical contexts of what was informing them at the time, and how they linked back to ones previously – and sort of where they were referencing from.
So you can really see the train of thought going through.
It’s one that I really want to re-read.
Everyone would benefit from several readings of this because it is quite dense and there is just a lot of information going on.
So whilst I got the general gist, I think it would be good to read it again because you’re just dealing with so many names and ‘isms’ and titles and – there’s a lot that happens in 150 years, okay guys? But it is amazing and Will Gomptz is brilliant at breaking it down to a real kind of layman level and just rolling you through so that you understand what is happening.
My next book to talk about it Farmageddon by Philip Lymbery.
It’s a look at the meat industry and as it says on the title ‘the true cost of cheap meat’.
It’s no secret that the bulk of humanity is fairly keen on eating meat and especially people in the Western world.
We do have a very high meat diet.
This book is – rather than arguing for vegetarianism – its a look at what the meat industry is like currently and what that means in terms of implications for the future.
And this is including things like environmental implications and the impact that its having on the environment, as well as things like medical implications The number of antibiotics that meat is pumped with at the moment, and how problematic that will be in the long run, as well as various health and economic problems that it is creating.
It’s not trying to push anybody in any one particular way – it’s just and in-depth look at the meat industry.
Now with anything like this, its obviously going to be hitting a lot of.
emotion points for people because nobody wants to feel like they’re having their wrist slapped, or that they are being told that they can’t do something.
One thing I did find quite frustrating about this book as well is that it didn’t really give any practical guidelines for how we could change things beyond may be just like ‘eat less meat’, which is totally doable but is not something that I think a lot of people – myself included – are necessarily going to go for straight off the bat.
It was a very scary read – don’t read it whilst eating that would be a terrible plan.
But a very interesting read.
Now I’ve not researched this any further, I have no idea how accurate or not these claims are, but it was a fascinating look at a world that I don’t really think too much about currently and it does mean that I do now think twice – sometimes – when picking up chicken in the supermarket.
It’s cool – I’ll give it that.
The final book I have to talk about I have talked about on this channel before – assuming that my make up book tag has gone out before this one.
I’m filming a bunch of videos in one go, because work is about to get a little bit crazy for me over the next few weeks.
So I’m really worried I won’t be able to fit filming in, so whilst I’ve got a little bit of downtime I’m trying rack up some videos so I’ve got some in the bank for when life is a bit hectic.
So assuming that this one goes out after that makeup book tag, you have heard me talk about before.
Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall.
This is a book about geopolitics and it calls itself ‘the ten maps that tell you everything you need to know about global politics’.
It’s a look at how the geography of countries can impact their politics both now and historically.
I think this book is brilliant at reducing down very very complicated terms – looking at entire countries – and reducing them to.
Basically. high school bullying/backyard brawl, which makes far more sense to my brain.
So if you are somebody who really struggles with a lot of the big political terms and ideas like ‘well why is America doing this? And how come Russia is always that? And what’s going on in the Middle East? And what’s this?’ This might be the book for you.
Cause I really think it helps to strip out a lot of those more complicated terms that you often hear and instead just gives it to you in really simple language about ‘These guys tend to fight with these guys because of this, and these two don’t tend to fight because there’s a big mountain range in the way.
It makes it quite hard to fight’.
Things like that.
My partner read this as well and said that it was also brilliant and he is far more into politics and things like that so if you are somebody who is fairly hot on it – hot on the topic then I do think that there is still something in here for you anyway.