Influential Books to Change How You See The World

If you’re always looking to grow, develop, and evolve your outlook on life, these 10 nonfiction titles are essential reads for expanding your worldview.

by Uptime Staff / 2021-08-27

If you were inspired by our picks of Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, and Neil deGrasse Tyson's favorite books and are hungry for more, you've come to the right place - here, we've put together a list of life-altering books for you to sink your teeth into. Written by some of the world’s top thinkers and activists, these transformative non-fiction tomes books each garnered great praise, acclaim, and public discussion upon their publication, and for good reason; they left readers with a completely different view of the world we live in.

Self-help, activism, and general commentary on life are themes running through these books. Whether you're curious to learn more about the world we live in, or want to start having deeper conversations with others, these best-selling books will leave you with lots of messages to reflect on. And what more can you ask for than that?

Man’s Search for Meaning - Victor Frankl

On Uptime

This harrowing, deeply-affecting 1964 book written by psychotherapist, philosopher, and Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl, charts one man’s experiences and reflections during and after his time spent in Nazi concentration camps. Frankl endured unimaginable suffering during his time in labor camps, including the loss of his beloved wife, brother, and parents. As a renowned psychologist, Frankl’s work before, during, and after his time there was dedicated to exploring the relationship and overlap between psychotherapy and philosophy; in particular, in the question of life’s true meaning. His main theory, which he coined ‘logotherapy’, maintains that our primary drive in life is - or at least should be - finding personal meaning, not just pleasure. 

quotation marksEverything can be taken from a man, but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.

This inspiring book teaches us how we can strive to find our own meaning and purpose. Frankl’s tremendous, transformative lessons explore why: 

  • If you have a reason to live, no matter how small, there will always be a way to live 
  • Life sets trials and tribulations for each individual, and suffering is inevitable. To live is to take responsibility to deal with these trials in the best way we possibly can; our reactions, in the end, are the only things we truly have control over
  • Suffering is what defines the human experience; Frankl argues that if there is meaning in life, which there surely is, then there must too be meaning in suffering, as it accompanies each and every life in some form

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism - Naomi Klein

On Uptime

In this 2007 book, author Naomi Klein discovers to her readers the concept of ‘Shock Doctors’; powerful people who have profited off catastrophe or crisis, and gone on to try and shape the world as they want it to be. Exploring world events ranging from the American invasion of Iraq under Bush, to Margaret Thatcher’s governance after the Falklands War, Klein applies her theory to 20th and 21st century politics in a haunting way. 

""The recent spate of disasters has translated into such spectacular profits that many people around the world have come to the same conclusion: the rich and powerful must be deliberately causing the catastrophes so that they can exploit them."" 

Klein’s lessons explore: 

  • Why modern capitalism thrives on disasters and crises
  • Why the CIA used to use ‘shock therapy’ to change the minds of captive prisoners; this is also what capitalist governments and companies try and do off the back of disasters, argues Klein
  • How free market economists use ‘economic shock therapy’ to introduce harsh economic reforms in times of crisis (such as wars and natural disasters)

Invisible Women: Data Bias In A World Designed For Men - Caroline Criado-Perez

On Uptime

In this eye-opening book, celebrated feminist Caroline Criado-Perez explores the idea that, because so much of our data fails to take gender into account, women are often adversely impacted. As we live in a world built on data, the gender discrepancies in this data lead to systemic sexism. 

As global data is collected incorrectly, and often only accounts for men, the data that underpins our societies is itself biased. Criado-Perez argues that bias is therefore integrated into some of the world’s largest data systems, and women end up paying for these errors in time, money, and, tragically in some parts of the world, their lives. 

quotation marksThe result of this deeply male-dominated culture is that the male experience, the male perspective, has come to be seen as universal, while the female experience--that of half the global population, after all--is seen as, well, niche.

This book contains striking insights, such as:

  • Language itself is often inherently sexist. For one small example, if you have 100 female teachers working in a school in Spain, but only one male teacher, the group is still called the male ‘los profesores’, due to the male teacher’s presence 
  • The gender data gap leads to presumptions that the world is dominated by males; this, in turn, breeds sexism
  • Unpaid work has been being carried out by women for generations, but it is this work that societies have relied on heavily for so long

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot

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Exploring the life of Henrietta Lacks and what has now become known as her ‘immortal cells’, Skloot explores the ideas of scientific discovery and its human consequences. Henrietta Lacks was a tobacco farmer in southern America and mother of five. She attended the John Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s, as it was one of the only hospitals near her home that would admit African American people. Lacks was diagnosed with cervical cancer and, without her knowledge or consent, cells were taken from her cervix and cultivated. These are now known as HeLa calls, and have led to many ground-breaking scientific discoveries, but the cost for her ancestors has been huge. For decades, they had no idea that Henrietta’s cells had been used at all. 

quotation marksI’ve tried to imagine how she’d feel knowing that her cells went up in the first space missions to see what would happen to human cells in zero gravity, or that they helped with some of the most important advances in medicine: the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization.

Named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times, The Financial Times, Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club, and the Times - amongst many others - this is a troubling story about race, ethics, and medicine that isn’t discussed as much as it should be. Amongst others, Skloot presents the following ideas:

  • Scientists and doctors should never let their quest for new knowledge get in the way of their humanity. In doing so, people are inevitably hurt 
  • We are conditioned not to question those in authority, or those in ‘white coats’, but this often leads to mistakes and errors of judgement
  • The dehumanisation of black patients in America is a systemic problem that still pervades its society today

Though varied in theme and scope, the messages in these books all have one common theme: they'll stay with you long after you've finished the final page.

For more life-changing reads- from learning about the universe beyond our own planet, to game-changing lessons on how to transform your relationships with others, check out our selection of book, documentary, and course summaries on Uptime.

Psst - still hungry for more knowledge? Why not teach yourself how to read others' minds?


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