Student-made Wellbeing

New Year, new non-fiction

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Photo by Shiromani Kant on Unsplash

Are you that person who writes “read more books” in their new year’s resolution, gets excited to impulsively purchase five books, only to hit snooze on reading one week into the new year?

No need to be ashamed; we’ve all been there.

Whether you are a voracious reader with ceiling-high bookshelves or the timid starter with a couple of paperbacks on your nightstand, this guide to non-fiction is for everyone. If you are starting fresh on reading this year, why not make the most out of it and pick up a book that will enrich your life? From creating habits that don’t fade by next Wednesday to gaining new perspectives on the universe and economics, here are my top five non-fiction recommendations as a new year’s gift to you, free of charge.

#1 Atomic Habits by James Clear

Atomic Habits is bound to be on every non-fiction, self-help, or self-improvement list – and for a good reason.

This easily digestible book by Clear deep-dives into the impact of incremental changes on overall success, explaining that what leads to significant transformations in our lives is not the big decisions but the small, consistent habits we form. Clear goes beyond stating well-researched facts to providing practical strategies for building beneficial habits and forsaking detrimental ones, supplying examples where necessary.

If you’re looking to make your new year’s resolutions stick, this guide to habit-building will turn your goals into reality.

#2 Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

As an avid consumer of Gladwell’s writings and publications, it was tempting to fill this entire list with his works. However, if asked to pick one book, I would always recommend Outliers.

Gladwell jumps into household names we know and explores the factors that contribute to their success. Then, in a classic Gladwellian twist, he argues that success is not merely a measure of hard work; in fact, there are other factors at play, such as the month you were born, your parents’ occupation, and their involvement in your school. The book identifies patterns that lead to exceptional performance, concluding that successful individuals are also the product of the advantages and circumstances they have encountered.

What I adore most about Gladwell’s books is that he never grasps straws of a concept but instead provides fascinating and concrete case studies – sometimes about people we know all-too-well like Bill Gates or the Beatles, other times it is lesser-known names with equally interesting stories.

Every year, we aspire to reach new heights of success. This read will help you better understand your successes and failures and help you assess other contributing factors you’ve never considered.

#3 Everything Is F*cked: A Book About Hope by Mark Manson

What led to me purchasing Manson’s second book was the ironic title. If everything is messed up, how are we supposed to find hope? Almost too predictably, Manson posits that everything is inherently flawed and imperfect, and accepting such a reality is the key to finding hope. But unpredictably, the author does a killer job of pushing forth his suggestions.

This self-improvement book is widely-lauded because it embraces the negativity of life instead of only focusing on the good bits like most in the same genre do. Instead of lingering on our conventional difficulties, Manson tackles how to handle and enhance different aspects of life, including relationships and mental health. He also reiterates that growth and improvement do not happen overnight and require effort and reflection.

Every year comes with bouts of challenges, and Manson’s book is a guide to finding solace and purpose even in the darkest times.

#4 Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? A Story About Women and Economics by Katrine Marçal

Out of all my first-year readings in economics, this book was the one that made me jump from my seat, shaking with excitement. It is a challenge in the non-fiction world to take a conventional idea or social construct and put a unique spin on it, but Marçal has pulled off the feat.

Her work looks at the role women have played in developing economics. Marçal champions the idea that the work of women has been overlooked and undervalued, and proves her point through a range of examples, such as how traditional economic models exclude housekeeping work, how lowly those models value women-dominated industries, and the impact of the gendered division of labour on economic policies and practices. She also touches on the real-world implications these prejudices have on women, highlighting the ignored contributions of women in economics.

If you’re searching for a new angle to shatter your conventional worldview and perhaps learn a thing or two about the driving force of women behind the economy, Marçal’s book is the one for you.

#5 Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport

As sad as it is to admit, technology and the digital world has taken over our lives. As long as our thumbs are scrolling on our devices, we are bombarded by strings of information that we might not necessarily need, causing us to lose control of our lives.

In his book, Newport assesses the downsides of excessive technology use, diving into adverse effects we might not even acknowledge. However, the bulk of the book provides advice on how we can control our digital usage instead of letting our devices control us and eventually reclaim a more mindful and meaningful life outside our screens.

Moreover, Newport does not completely bash technology and presents the possibility of using technology to enhance our lives while not intruding upon them, which is an infrequently-discussed avenue. If you’re like me, looking to kickstart the journey of a digital cleanse, Newport’s step-by-step guide is one you do not want to miss.

Honourable Mentions

  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari: If you ever need a history lesson that goes back ages, Harari has you covered. Beyond discussing human progress and evolution, Harari raises humanity’s biggest questions and keeps your brain hot with curiosity.
  • A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf: In a list straddled by books of science and self, it is only fitting to have a window into feminism and literature. Woolf argues that the exclusion of women from the literary sphere has negatively impacted the quality and diversity of publications while making a case for the importance of education and financial independence for women.
  • Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking: If you’re seeking a mind-blowing read that leaves you slightly more confused than when you began (in the best way, of course), Hawking’s book asks if there is a god, how the universe began and will end, whether there is intelligent life out there, the potential dangers of technological advancement, and so much more.
  • Talking To Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell: Touching upon Amanda Knox’s trial, Sylvia Plath’s suicide, Brock Turner’s case, and Sandra Bland’s death, Gladwell insists that there is something wrong with how we try to make sense of what is unfamiliar to us. This read will change how you think of others and nudge you to pause before assuming the worst.
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