Mortimer Adler's How To Read A Book explains why different forms of
literature require a wholly different approach. You need one or two for fiction
(novels, plays, poetry) and several others for fact, a.k.a. expository material,
the main categories being theoretical books (how things are) and practical books
(how things are done). You should read this one if you ever read anything at
all, including postings on this site. Besides of being enormously instructive,
the book is beautifully written and a delight to read as such.
George Orwell's 1984 is the other one of his great classics, together
with Animal Farm. It is difficult enough to write a decent fictional story. It
is difficult enough to write a decent treatise on tyrannical regime. In 1984,
Orwell does a magnificent job on both. That must have been exponentially more
Joseph Heller's Catch-22 is
for people with a weird sense of humor. It is a difficult task
(yet another...) to make people laugh. I screamed. The setting
is World War II and the story is about an American bombing
squadron in the Mediterranean. However, it is really not about
war. It is more about avoiding it.
Stephen Jay Gould's Wonderful
Life was named after the classical Frank Capra/James Stewart
movie. Its main point is that the direction of life on Earth has
been drastically altered by chance events that occur now and
then. If time were turned back long enough, things would look
very different in the replay and there would certainly be no
human beings around. Gould also points out that life isn't
getting any richer. On the contrary, what we see are variations
of fewer and fewer basic themes.
Rupert Sheldrake's The Presence Of The Past is Something Else. During
his career as a biologist Sheldrake became convinced that things happen too fast
in the nature to be attributed to phenomena like chance mutations. Instead, he
claims that memory is inherent in the nature. Because of a phenomenon called
morphic resonance, things are more likely to occur the more often they have
occurred already. Sheldrake challenges quite a few of the foundations of modern
science. His book is very well written and it includes of a lot of practical
examples. Even if you believe in nothing that he says, you learn the principle
of taking nothing for granted.
Tor Norretranders' User Illusion compares the conscious mind with the
graphical user interface of computers. A link on a web page conceals an enormous
amount of complexity behind it. (Compare with pic.) The same is true of our
conscious thoughts. Vision alone produces information in the area of 10 million
bits per second. The measurements have been inconclusive but our conscious
thinking seems to be able to handle some tens of bits per second at the most.
Consciousness is only kind of a real-time executive summary of the most
important things in and around us that we should be aware of... well, almost
real time. We are conscious half a second late.
Milo Frank's How To Get Your Point Across teaches clinical
communication. You want something. You can get it from somebody else. With these
in mind, you choose your approach. You make your pitch interesting to the
receiver. At the crucial moment, you spend no more than 30 seconds in delivering
the punch line because that's the maximum amount of time that the human mind can
Richard Koch's The 80/20 Principle shows that some things make all the
difference, some things make some, but most things mean nothing at all. The book
has sections of how to apply the principle in personal life and in the society
but the main emphasis is on business applications: “The 80/20 Principle is the
best-kept secret in business.” If you read just one business book in your life,
make it this one.