Every year, I strive to read at least 100 books; here’s my list. Only a handful of them receive 5 stars, in my opinion. The following are the best, most informative books I’ve read:
Education and Learning
Make it Stick: the Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown.
This synthesized account of some of the recent research into learning is a great jumping-off point for exploring the fascinating field. The author manages to make the studies relevant and relatable, providing concrete examples of how to utilize them to improve studies and learning. Topics like pretesting, elaboration, transfer, etc. are all covered in just enough detail to be useful.
The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance by by K. Anders Ericsson and Neil Charness.
This tomb of a book is the handbook on becoming an expert in any skill. Each chapter is written as a compilation of various scientific studies. It’s quite a lot of work to get through, but if you really want to know about high-level performance there is no other book which compares.
Creativity and Craftsmanship
Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull
If there’s anybody who can speak about the creative process, it is Ed Catmull, founder of Pixar. He has spent his life attempting to understand how to scale up creativity, and understands that while the process should not (and cannot) be systematized, an environment which fosters creativity can be created. I’ve quoted this book several times on the blog already and found some of his insights to be wonderfully profound.
Self Improvement, Motivation and Happiness
Quiet: the Secret Power of Introverts by Susan Cain.
I’ve long known that I’m something of an introvert, but this book me proud of that fact. Author Susan Cain draws on a great deal of groundbreaking research to explore the idea that, in a world where the virtues of extroversion are extolled, there are many unspoken benefits of introversion.
The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well is Key to Success by Megan McArdle.
Much of the talk of the benefits of failure are filled with feel-good platitudes, but Megan McArdle’s book on the subject sheds new light on the subject. She reveals that failure is not only an important learning experience, but an essential part of growth.
Happy Money: the Science of Happier Spending by Elizabeth Dunn.
There are plenty of books on how to earn money, ways to save money, and happiness… but this is the definitive collection of research on how to use money well to maximize quality of life.
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.
If you’re looking to make a change in your life, this book is for you. It deals with the science of habit formation and breaking. I used this book to quit biting my fingernails, as well as to develop some other good habits, like going running first thing in the morning. This can be immensely useful for improving learning habits.