As mentioned before my hard to channel drive to feel special or carve some meaning out of life (among other factors) made me read 100 books in 2021. Looking back at the list I must say: damn, I could have skipped like 70 of these… The following books are a selection based on those 100 books. They are not necessarily the books I would put on a final list with books to understand the world. From the 100 I read in 2021 these are the ones I would recommend. In the unlikely case you are obsessed with the American Civil War as I am I can recommend all the Civil War books I read in 2021, but because I know other people are normal I will mention only one Civil War book here as a bonus.
1 and 2) The gift, by Edith Eger and The choice by Edith Eger
Depressing. Some of the scenes described here haunt me to this day. How can human beings do this to other human beings? Especially children. I don’t understand and I will never be able to look at the world without knowing what humans have done. Humanity is forever tainted in my eyes. Although these things were not done to me directly these are things I cannot forgive. These are acts that will forever make me think that no loving God would allow this to happen.
The books do not just describe real life horror. They are also packed with true psychological gems such as: ‘We don’t marry our parents, we marry our unfinished business.’ BRILLIANT.
Reading these books is not going to make you a happier person, but you will come away with a more profound understanding of the human species.
In my case it makes me grateful for every day that we aren’t butchering each other. Though I can’t say for sure that we won’t start butchering each other in the coming decades. It seems our civilisation is just a lick of varnish covering a vile cocktail of sadism, egotism, bloodlust and brutality. Our culture loves to study anomalities such as psycho killer Ted Bundy, a very disturbed individual and the product of a deeply wounded and malfunctioning society, but what concerns me far more is how regular people willingly participate in the mass killing of droves of innocent people, children included.
Both books should be obligatory reading.
3) The ten pillars of wealth, Alex Becker
A no bullshit breakdown of how you can actually become rich. The info makes total sense. Doing it is not for everyone though. I would even say: almost nobody I know has the drive, the guts, the initiative or the right mindset to do this. It’s not that hard, theoretically. I suppose you could programme a robot to become rich. What makes it hard is that people don’t have the right mindset or inclinations to do this. Me included. We’ve all been trained to react to events, to wait for input from others. Most of us don’t bend the world to their will, they let themselves be bent by the world. People who are pursuing wealth usually have no idea that they are looking for wealth in all the wrong places, because they don’t have the right mindset. Maybe there is also a hidden moral compass at work, because to get rich you will eventually have to make others work for you. Which means stripping them of the value they create so you can get rich. Another way to get rich of course is to write a bestseller or create some work of art or have a massively succesful YouTube channel. Again something most of us will never be able to do. I say: read this book. Either you will do what he says and you will increase your chances of getting rich or you will decide – kinda like me – that what it takes is not something you’re willing to do. Great book though.
4) Die Selbtsgerechten, Sahra Wagenknecht
Gives you an excellent portrait of today’s political left. Self-righteous, arrogant, judgemental, focused on tweeting about petty issues, always sure they know best, and nowhere to be found when serious issues are at stake. Definitely a book I will reread.
5) It didn’t start with you, Mark Wolyn
The most profound insight here is that people fuck up their own lives out of love and misplaced loyalty to troubled family members. I know I have been quite (self)destructive out of exactly that kind of loyalty. Love can make you repeat the misery of a loved one. Very important book, because a lot of people’s self-sabotaging behaviour cannot be explained any other way.
6) Money, from Bronze to Bitcoin, the true story of a made-up thing, Jacob Goldstein
A good start to understand what money is and what – cryptocurrencies as they exist today – are. Reads like a breeze.
7) Houd afstand, raak me aan, Paul Verhaeghe
The chance you’ll read it is virtually non-existent cause it only exists in Dutch, but this little book packs quite a punch. It explains some of the problems humanity faces, why our current political system doesn’t work and, unlike many other books pointing to our flaws, offers some very original solutions that might actually work.
8) Rich people things, Chris Lehmann
A long list of things, mechanisms, institutions, etc that make sure the elite stay the elite and the rest keeps being squished AND keeps voting for the people doing the squishing. Also a book I want to reread. Great list of things that make sure people don’t see what’s going on.
9) Nobody wants to read your shit, Steven Pressfield
Explains why nobody wants to read my shit, so naturally it’s a good book.
10) The spoils of war, Andrew Cockburn
Great info for those who want to know more about why the US loses wars on purpose. Winning wars is not the goal. Always being at war and selling weapons is the real goal. Needs to be on any reading list to understand our world.
Bonus: Searching for black Confederates, the civil war’s most persistent myth, Kevin M. Levin
It’s a book dealing with an aspect of the American Civil War so the chance any of you will ever read it is next to zero, but I wish to mention it anyway. I loved this book, because it explains in great detail how fake news starts, why some people choose to believe in a hoax. It succeeds in completely destroying this particular myth. There were NO black soldiers fighting for the Confederacy. People have their reasons to believe certain things and once the motivation is there to embrace a myth they will be very persistent. This book is one of the best I have read on the topic, yet it will not convince anyone who has chosen to believe that there were thousands of blacks carrying guns in the Confederate army. Facts don’t convince the willingly self-delusional. In a way human beings are little fertile myth factories and humans struggle so much when it comes to determining the truth of what humanity is and has done. Anyway, there were no black Confederate soldiers and this book will show you how you break down a myth and come up with serious arguments for dismissing it. A must read for any critical thinker. (By the way, I myself used to believe 70,000 blacks fought for the Confederacy and I liked this idea, because it went against the grain and I used to like anything that went against the grain, for reasons I can explain elsewhere).
By the way, it seems I really don’t enjoy reading novels… I enjoyed reading The Help, but I don’t know anyone who would enjoy it as much as I did.
I must add that I often read books with the primary motivation being improving my languages. In 2021 my focus was on German. So I read lots of books that don’t really add anything to my life apart from improving my vocabulary. A reading strategy I wish to change.