Their impact was stronger than any class I’d taken
I’ve always been an avid reader, but my interests lean strongly towards fiction. If you ask me which non-fiction books I’ve read, I could probably tell you all the names in less than a minute.
However, there are some amazing non-fiction books that have struck a chord with me. Even though I’m not a fan of this genre, I’ve read these books more than once. The impact they had on me was immense and one read was not enough to imbibe all that I learned from these amazing books.
In this post, I’ve listed the only three non-fiction books I’ve read more than once. These books span several genres ranging from anthropology and memoir to writing guides. Even if you hate reading non-fiction like me, you should definitely check these books out. Trust me, they will leave you a changed person and inspire you to be more goal-oriented.
(Note: The links mentioned in this article are affiliate links. If you choose to purchase these books through these links, it will help me earn a small amount — at no extra cost to you. Thanks!)
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
Starting from that moment in history when Homo Sapiens first appeared on the planet, this book takes us on a ride to everything this species has faced and surmounted to be where it is today — on top of the food chain.
It raises some pertinent questions that force you to consider:
- Why did all other Homo species die out while only Sapiens survived?
- How does our genetic coding impact our day-to-day behavior?
- Are all the atrocities we currently subject the planet to our fault or are they simply collateral damage of the way our species evolved?
“One of history’s few iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations.”
My impression of this book
Reading Sapiens is like going on a journey where your mind is blown every few pages. There’s so much new information that you’re forced to see a new perspective every now and then. Harari has done an outstanding job of presenting all the lessons from history in an easily consumable format.
The best part about this book is that it’s not preachy even for a moment. All the knowledge is imparted in the form of anecdotes. The conversational tone of the author keeps you engaged until the end.
I had to read this book again because there were parts I’d forgotten, sentences that I intended to memorize and use in my classes. Some analogies helped me understand interpersonal relationships better.
Over time, parts from this book have consistently served as ice breakers. If you’re surrounded by people you need to impress, quote one of Harari’s anecdotes and they’ll never forget you!
Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman by Richard P. Feynman
The winner of the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics, Richard Feynman is a scientist and professor who has been called “The best teacher I never had” by Bill Gates. This book is a memoir of his childhood, college days, and the times he spent in Los Alamos right up to when he won the Nobel Prize.
The book comprises a series of anecdotes by a brilliant mind who had an interesting way of looking at the mundane and rendering it magical. His passion for learning new things and unfailing sense of humor never fail to inspire!
“All the time you’re saying to yourself, ‘I could do that, but I won’t,’ — which is just another way of saying that you can’t.”
My impression of this book
I was only twelve when I first read this book, but some of the lessons I learned have stuck with me over the years. Even then, Feynman’s genius deserves several re-reads, because that’s the only way you can internalize those lessons and incorporate them into your life.
I’d always be grateful to this book for giving me the gift of curiosity. When you ask questions, you open up to the possibility of learning something new. If you never ask, you’ll never know what you don’t know.
“I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.”
This book instilled in me the need to question everything I see or read — even when it comes from “experts.” Or, as Feynman would say, “Especially when it comes from the experts!”
On Writing Well by William Zinsser
First published in 1976, this guide to writing non-fiction is a classic whose ideas and principles still hold true.
As the Goodreads blurb promises — “Whether you want to write about people or places, science and technology, business, sports, the arts or about yourself in the increasingly popular memoir genre, On Writing Well offers you fundamental principles as well as the insights of a distinguished writer and teacher.”
“Examine every word you put on paper. You’ll find a surprising number that don’t serve any purpose.”
My impression of this book
I started reading this book in November 2020 when my freelance client remarked that my English doesn’t sound like it’s written by a native speaker. This is not unexpected because I’m from India and English is my third language. But I wanted to be a better writer and that’s when this book caught my attention.
Since then, I’ve read bits and pieces of this book over and over again — often highlighting sentences and paragraphs I’d previously missed. If you’re a writer and plan to master the art of writing non-fiction, this book is a must-read. It helped me grow so much, and I owe a large part of the success I’ve seen so far to William Zissner.
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