What (Non-Fiction) Book Has Helped Improve Your Life?

What (Non-Fiction) Book Has Helped Improve Your Life?

We might live in an online world, but books Today we want to know: what non-fiction books have improved your life?

Photo by Kamil Porembinski

We’ve shared our favourite books before here at Lifehacker, but the responses often included (admittedly great) works of fiction. Fiction can be a powerful learning tool, but today we want to look a bit more closely at your favourite non-fiction books, whether they be about productivity, philosophy, finance, or any other practical subject. So tell us what’s worth reading in the comments.


  • Jared Dimond – Guns, Germs And Steel
    Brian Greene – The Fabric of the Cosmos
    Leonard Susskind – Classical Mechanics, the Theoretical Minimum
    Stephen Wolfram – A New Kind of Science

    Anyone know of a really good (popular level or slightly above) book on genetics, including how the DNA gets read and the proteins fold?

  • I know its a bit hackneyed to mention, but the Bible is the dominating book of the Western world and has triggered, amongst other things: pluralism, freedom of enquiry, the significance of the individual and modern science.

    Apart from that, some others that I’d mention are:

    Kahneman: Thing Fast and Slow
    Mintzberg: Managing
    Churchill: History of English Speaking People (knocks monarchy off any pedestal it might be on, IMO)
    Pannenberg: Metaphysics and the Idea of God

    • It’s true, left to myself, (without the bible) I would never have guessed:
      -The correct price for slaves.
      -That an assaulted girl must marry her assailant.
      -Where to stone my unruly children.
      -That gay people, poly-cotton, and shellfish are abominations.
      -That those innocent looking new-born babies are so detestable that only divine human sacrifice can redeem them.

      • That’s a rather silly reply in terms of the things Clive was talking about.
        If he’d said: “The bible is a great book and taught me a lot about how to live” then your reply would’ve been great, as it is though it comes off as a non sequitur.

          • Fair enough, now I see why you think I should explain the approach;

            It would not have been challenging to present arguments countering the outrageous and unsupported claim that the ‘good book’ provided impetus for the various social changes which were cited, but that would have amounted to granting that an unsupported claim is worth engaging.

            I did however felt that the claim was so obviously wrong that it was frankly obnoxious, so I chose the simple technique of demonstrating that their book is ghastly.

            Naturally this will look oblique to anyone who already knows this, but the indoctrinated do need the occasional gentle nudge to shake up their thought processes 🙂

  • The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: A Fable About Fulfilling Your Dreams & Reaching Your Destiny
    by Robin S. Sharma
    The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, Jeff Cox

  • That’s a great question. I also missed the other article, so i’ll go back and check it out in a little more detail. I’ve been looking for some great books.
    I have a fairly recent experience.
    My response is unconventional, but bear with me. I recently read up on Erzsébet Bathory (Elizabeth Bathory). She is the woman that *supposedly* killed virgin girls and bathed in their blood. I read many sources. What got me intrigued was rabid feminist arguments that women are never psychopathic. Similar views were expressed about Lady MacBeth. After reading 2 psychology texts, I confirmed this opinion about psychopathic behaviour to be false (at least according to professionals) – although men and women show psychopathy in different ways. My research lead me to the conclusion that Erzsébet was almost certainly not guilty of bathing in blood, although not one of her children or relatives defended her in their lifetime. This raises interesting questions that I did not research (eg. was she sadistic, etc).
    It highlighted just how many web sites regurgitate dishonesty or blatantly false information, and some manipulate history to serve their own agenda. It reminded me how easy it is for the overwhelming majority to repeat incorrect information so readily.
    This shouldn’t surprise me. I remember reading an article about 20 years ago comparing Encyclopaedia Britannica and Microsoft Encarta. It emphasised how one source glorified Napoleon and one source painted him as a villain.
    Recently, a journalist talked about modern progress and compared it with Flat Earth (note: this journalist is one whose work is often questionable). Here are some referenced facts on Flat Earth,
    “The modern misconception that educated Europeans at the time of Columbus believed in a flat Earth, and that his voyages refuted that belief, has been referred to as the myth of the flat Earth.”
    “Belief in a flat Earth continued into the 5th century BC.” (ie. about 2,500 years ago). Pythagoras was one of many who confirmed the earth was spherical. He helped popularise that knowledge in the ancient world.

  • Total Immersion by Terry Laughlin. It improved my swimming soooo much. I tell everyone to read it, if they are even remotely interested in swimming.

  • Several:

    “Profound Simplicity” by Will Schultz
    “Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps” by Allan & Barbara Pease
    “Cholesterol Clarity” and “Keto Clarity” by Jimmy Moore

  • Probably not surprising coming from a lifehacker reader but The Art of Manliness – Manvotionals: Timeless Wisdom and Advice on Living the 7 Manly Virtues. It has actually been an amazing read, incredibly well put together and has definitely been the inspiration for numerous conversations.

  • -The Guinness Book of World Records Humbled me.
    -On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin helped me understand why people and animals act the way they do.
    -The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins gave me a different perspective on the natural world.
    – You are Not So Smart by David McRaney showed me how much I lie to myself.

  • The Five Love Languages – Gary Chapman

    Seriously, this book can solidfy your relationship with your partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, dad, mum, brother, sister, son, daughter, in fact anyone!

  • “The Antidote: Happiness for people who can’t stand positive thinking” by Oliver Burkeman. I can’t praise this highly enough. It examines several “alternatives” to the often American motivational gurus and their blandishments. It genuinely changed my thinking about how I could view the world. Highly recommended.

  • I just finished a book entitled “Social Wealth” by author Jason Treu(http://beextraordinary.tv/) that I truly believe is life changing.. Jason Treu is a motivational speaker and coach who really knows how to connect with the reader. I really liked this book because unlike so many self help books that focus on one aspect of life (career, relationships, etc) this book has a plan to help master them all. The coolest part being that the “Social Wealth Mindset” plan applies to everything and can be used in every aspect of your life. By focusing so clearly on relationship building strategies, this book is a one stop shop for business, friends, family, love, and all other socially focused areas of our lives.

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