Ever wanted to be better tomorrow than you are today? We here at Goliath sure do, and we’re firm believers that reading is one of the surest ways to guarantee that you’re a better individual today than you were yesterday (we believe it was Hemingway who said something along the lines of “there is no victory in being superior to your fellow man, there is only victory in being superior to your former self”). Scientific studies suggest reading makes you a better person by activating unused channels of the brain, building empathy, and training the mind to focus deeply on the task at hand; all of this begs the question then, what exactly to read when you’re in the mood to make yourself a little better? We’ve got you covered, and we’re bringing you 10 important non-fiction texts that’ll change the way you see the world. We’ve assembled a list covering a wide variety of topics, so hunker down with one of these influential texts in an area you’re eager to learn more about, and we promise you’ll be more enlightened tomorrow than you are today.
10. The Communist Manifesto (Karl Marx & Friederich Engels)
Due to the xenophobic tendencies of the American populace in the 1950s and 1960s, “communism” has become a bit of a dirty word in Western culture, and it’s a damn shame. The political foil to the rampant capitalism which has caused so much chaos and dissatisfaction around the world, communism shouldn’t be viewed as a harsh and autocratic alternative to a free market. Rather, as Marx and Engels show in their foundational text The Communist Manifesto, communism is an ideological paradigm that empowers the working class and does away with many of the power inconsistencies present in a capitalist society. In reading The Communist Manifesto, eager learners can view the history of class struggle as presented by Marx and Engels, and hear an opposing viewpoint that paints the capitalist mode of thinking as the problematic one, rather than communism. It’s an engaging and interesting read that suggests different is both possible and filled with potential.
9. Meditations (Marcus Aurelius)
Despite its current lack of economic value, there’s much to be learned in the world of philosophy. We’re firm believers in the idea that more people should read traditional works of philosophy, and the world would be a better place if more people did. Rather than toss something traditional on here (you all know you should read Plato’s The Republic or Machiavelli’s The Prince), we wanted to highlight the bright philosophical contributions of another very smart man, Marcus Aurelius. A former Roman Emperor, Aurelius was a staunch supporter of guidance and self-growth, which is part of what makes Mediations such an interesting read. Filled with fundamental knowledge on how to better both your physical self and your mental and emotional self, Meditations is a worthwhile read for anyone looking for something both inspiring and introspective.
8. Capitalism and Freedom (Milton Friedman)
We’ve circled back round to capitalism once again, only this time we won’t be speaking of the free market ideology as an opposing force to communism, but rather discussing the place of economic capital in a free and democratic society. This is what Milton Friendman’s acclaimed 1962 text Capitalism and Freedom does so well; it examines the many roles of capital in a liberal society, and features chapter headings such as “The Role of Government in a Free Society” and “Monopoly and the Social Responsibility of Business and Labor.” If these sound like boring subjects to you, that’s perfectly alright, but that’s exactly the type of ignorance governments and businesses count on to ensure the population doesn’t start asking the right questions. Do yourself a favor and read all about those important questions in Friedman’s magnum opus.
7. A Brief History of Time (Stephen Hawking)
It’s borderline criminal that so much of our society is unable to understand the science that allows the world to go round. In many ways, a lack of scientific foundations can be read as the cause to a large number of global issues. Part of the way to solve these knowledge gaps is (you guessed it) education, and what better place to start with science than with acclaimed physicist Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. Subtitled From the Big Bang to Black Holes, A Brief History of Time sees Hawking tackling all sorts of basic and advanced physics with alarming tact, and the text does an excellent job breaking down the intricacies of the universe in a way that’s digestible by the everyday individual. Already a New York Times Best Seller (with more than 10 million copies sold since its publication in 1988), A Brief History of Time might help you answer some of those scientific ponderings you didn’t even know you had (for example, what is time, really?)
6. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Robert M. Pirsig)
It’s hard to pinpoint just one way that you’ll be better after reading Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values. The text, which actually has surprisingly little to do with either Zen Buddhism or motorcycles, is a non-fiction book that sees a road trip interspersed with a variety of conversations on philosophy, ethics, and occasionally science. Along the way, readers learn the importance of staying in the present moment, balancing positive emotions with negative ones, and the value (or lack thereof) in objective truths. It’s a stunning sort of work that helps individuals strive towards a sense of well-roundedness, of an ability to step back and analyze things not as they should be, but rather how they are. At the end of the day, we could all use a little bit more of that ability.
5. How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie)
Regardless of whether you’ve read it or not, we’re willing to bet you’ve heard the title of this now-famous self-help book, first published by Dale Carnegie in 1936. Regardless of whether you’re a believer in self-help texts or not, rest assured that you too can benefit from reading How to Win Friends and Influence People, which teaches readers the merit of treating others with respect, maintaining engagement in conversation and how to leave a lasting impression on those individuals who you interact with on a daily basis. Not convinced? Innumerable savvy businessmen and women swear by this text, whose principles are still taught and disseminated in many other forms today. If that isn’t convincing enough, remember that it’s sold over 15 million copies since its inaugural publication, so there must be something worth reading hidden inside those pages.
4. No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies (Naomi Klein)
First published in 1999, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies is a non-fiction text written by Naomi Klein, and it rates as one of the most important and influential published during its era. An examination of the negative effects of big brand business and corporate activity, No Logo also sees Klein taking aim at advertising agencies, numerous corporations (including Nike, McDonalds, The Gap and Shell Oil) and the very idea of a global marketplace. Throughout all of this, Klein maintains a firm grasp on liberal politics and filters her message in an appropriate (if admittedly bias) way. One of the first books to analyze the ways in which contemporary corporations seek to operate outside of the physical nature of their products (the influence of “brand” becoming all-important in the 21st century), No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies will have you re-evaluating the way you go about your purchasing, and it’s a welcome relief to see an author ready to speak on behalf of the consumer.
3. The Elements of Style (William Strunk Jr. & E.B. White)
There’s not a single book on this Earth that can teach you how to write (that you’ve either got or you don’t), but the one that comes closest is undoubtedly The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. A brief but exhaustive source of information on grammar, syntax, brevity in prose and literary stylings, The Elements of Style is the foremost example of a text that should be read by most everyone who’s ever bothered to pick up a pencil. Suggesting writing should be brief, clear and without unnecessary words, The Elements of Style has been repeatedly recommended by academics and fiction authors alike, despite some elementary criticism of the work from individuals who have lambasted it for being moderately outdated (it isn’t; rather, the world could use a little more old-fashioned prose).
2. Walden (Henry David Thoreau)
It’s no secret that the world we live in keeps getting more complicated; every day, things get busier and move faster, and oftentimes people struggle to keep up. If you find yourself in that situation, there are worse things you could do than read Walden: or, Life in the Woods, the seminal text from American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau. A compelling read which details Thoreau’s attempts to live simply, cheaply and of his own merit in a self-built cabin in the woods, Walden is one of the most famous non-fiction texts ever written, and for good reason. The text, which sees Thoreau championing ideals of independence, spiritual discovery and anti-authoritarianism, is beloved by readers and writers everywhere for its indomitable sense of self and its focus on introspective thought.
1. A People’s History of the United States (Howard Zinn)
We’ve spoken before about our affinity for this text, first published by noted historian Howard Zinn in 1980, but it seems as though every day we wake up and read about atrocities committed in the name of difference, when more focus should be placed on how we’re all the same. While that isn’t the dominant theme of A People’s History of the United States, the text does work to educate readers by removing educational and ideological privilege and instead asking readers to view history as told by the disenfranchised or marginalized individuals who are often left out of the white, male dominant version of history most often taught in schools. A foundational text that will shake you to your core, A People’s History of the United States remains a must-read for anyone looking to widen their gaze.