When you think about reading books for personal betterment, your thoughts might naturally drift to genres like self-help, spiritualism, or religion. And certainly there can be some very helpful things to read in these spaces like this suggestion from an earlier post here.
But you can also find some very effective reads in other genres that you might not be as inclined to explore on your own. To that point, these are five somewhat unexpected books you might want to consider reading this year if you’re just interested in general, well-rounded betterment.
Originals by Adam Grant
Originals is a little bit like the more popular Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, but doesn’t tend to get as much attention. It did make it onto a list of the most motivational books of 2016, which noted that it explores how we can champion new ideas. Basically, it’s a book about how to buck trends and conventions when necessary and cut your own path, and speak up without being silenced. It’s an empowering book, and though it has a few funky ideas (like a bizarre focus on which internet browser you use), it’s ultimately very insightful.
The Captain Class by Sam Walker
2017’s The Captain Class is an extraordinary book that you might not look at as a betterment book at first. That’s because it’s largely about sports, and specifically the missing link between the greatest teams in world sport history. That missing link, however, happens to be a very specific brand of leadership, and the exploration of the idea by Walker is so deep and useful that The Captain Class has been hailed as a business book as well. While not all the behavior of the leaders discussed is to be admired or emulated, this book will teach you a lot about how to step up and lead a group, which can come in handy in all walks of life.
The Book Of Bluffs by Matt Lessinger
This isn’t a brand new book, but a review surfaced recently that put it back on the map. On the surface, it’s a book about how to bluff and win at poker – but it actually has a lot to do with strategic thinking in general. Make no mistake, it’s a fairly specific and in-depth poker book full of terms, references, and game scenarios. But just like The Captain Class, it goes beyond its subject matter in ways. Taken to heart, it can make you more pragmatic (without making you sneaky or paranoid as you might suspect!).
The Art Of War by Sun Tzu
This book doesn’t really have anything to do with 2018 given that it’s been around for much of human history. Furthermore, The Art Of War can seem like something reserved for a college military history course, or for students at a military academy. But if you actually read Sun Tzu’s iconic work, you’ll find a lot of general advice that goes far beyond that battlefield. There may not be a better piece of writing in human history on how to deal with (and even, in some cases, avoid) conflict.
Theft By Finding by David Sedaris
Sometimes the best approach to betterment is just to read something honest, amusing, and self-deprecating. It can remind you not to take things too seriously, as well as to find the humor in even the worst parts of your day-to-day life. There might not be a living author better at inspiring this kind of reflection than David Sedaris, whose Theft By Finding came out in 2017. Oddly enough this book, which is essentially an organized collection of diary entries, is less introspective than most of Sedaris’s other work, instead offering up observations about the world around him. The effect is nevertheless calming and reassuring, however. It’s an odd book, described even in a positive review as “like a great junk store,” but in the end you’ll almost certainly feel better for having read it.
My husband loves re-reading Art of War, and I enjoy Originals!
Have you read any of these books before? If not, let me know which book you would like to read for general betterment this year!