I read 40 books in 2021. Some of them stuck with me more than others – here are the top 5 books that made an impact on me in 2021. Hope you will find them as worthwhile as I did. Happy reading!
The best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Drive is a book about motivation: what is it that makes us interested in doing things? External incentives and penalties are part of the answer (we work to get paid, so that we can pay our bills), but the more interesting part is the motivation inherent to the work itself.
The book focuses on three sources of motivation that are shown to impact creative and intellectual work: autonomy (being in control of one’s work), mastery (it feels good to be good at something – that’s why people play guitar on Saturdays) and purpose (working in service of something worthwhile).
The book helps to examine your own motivations – and make adjustments if you feel stuck.
∙ Daniel Pink ∙ 2009, English
There is no such thing as a woman who doesn’t work. There is only a woman who isn’t paid for her work.
We don’t always realize this, but we live in a world designed by men, for men. Often without any intention to create gender discrimination, we’ve built a world optimized for men in areas from street maintenance planning (due to unstated focus on car traffic vs multimodal and pedestrian traffic) through car safety tests (done using dolls resembling men more than women) and vitamine pills (with ingredient proportions optimized for “an average human” which often is remarkably similar to “an average man”) to the very definition of the GDP (which is supposed to be a measure of productivity, but only captures paid work).
Caroline Pérez explores the issues of unwitting gender bias in the world around us in a persuasive prose rooted in well-documented research.
∙ Caroline Criado Pérez ∙ 2019, English
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. – C.G. Jung
Our lives are made of countless small decisions: what food to eat, how to spend free time, who to stay in touch with, whether to exercise or not. Each of them are insignificant when taken individually. Collectively, they define who we are.
James Clear’s book makes a persuasive case for the importance of habits for long term happiness and life outcomes. If we focus on the systems of behavior that govern our lives (e.g. be a person that runs every week, or reads every day before bed, or stays calm in conflict) rather than on arbitrary end goals (e.g. run a marathon), we’re going to get more durable results – and likely remove some of the self-imposed stress related to goal tracking.
Focus on the system, the goal will take care of itself.
∙ James Clear ∙ 2018, English
Every group of people I ask thinks the world is more frightening, more violent, and more hopeless—in short, more dramatic—than it really is.
Published in 2018, Factfulness is a book exploring the difference between how we see the world around us and how it really is. Through a mix of hard data and soft anecdotes from the life and work of Hans Rosling, the book challenges the Western stereotypes about the developing world and explains the psychological reasons for why we keep getting it wrong (Fears that once helped keep our ancestors alive, today help keep journalists employed).
For a video-from preview of the book, check out Hans Rosling’s TED talk.
There are 2 billion children in the world today, aged 0 to 15 years old. How many children will there be in the year 2100, according to the UN? Answer: 2 billion children, same as today.
∙ by Hans Rosling ∙ 2018, English
How did a broke orphan from a devastated by category 4 hurricane island of St Croix become a war hero, the foremost constitutional lawyer in America and the founder of American central bank? (And also the creator of the New York Post, the Coast Guard … and the central character of the first American sex scandal?)
Lin-Manuel Miranda started working on what would eventually become the famous Broadway musical “Hamilton” after grabbing a copy of Ron Chernow’s book about Alexander Hamilton in an airport bookshop – so if you’re a “Hamilton” fan, this is the original source material.
I found the book as captivating as the musical, but thanks to the long form Chernow has a much better shot at actually explaining the various turns of Hamilton’s complicated life and times – and he’s not throwing it away :). The book also captures much better the foundational struggles between Hamilton and Jefferson that shaped America as we know it today: Both believed in democracy, but Hamilton was more suspicious of the governed, and Jefferson of the governing.
∙ Ron Chernow ∙ 2005, English
Thanks for reading! What book stuck with you most in 2021?