10 Books that will Change your Mind & Perception of The World [January 2021]

10 Book Recommendations [January 2021]

Here’s the gist of it: I’m going to recommend 10 books every 4 months -two books per category for five different categories. The genres are based on how I like to read, that is, with the goal of healthy escapism, occasional awe, entertainment, education, and trying to grow in the process in both knowledge and individuality. Each category suggested will encompass these themes, focusing on particular aspects more than others but generally belonging to all of them. These are the categories of this month:

 Science Fiction - Biography - Fiction - Personal Development - Classics

+My Goodreads account: Here.

Sci-fi I: All Systems Red

by  Martha Wells 

Mensah underestimated my ability to ignore humans but I appreciated the thought
All Systems Red Book Cover

What fans of the genre usually want from a sci-fi book is either hardcore science or character development in a sci-fi setting. Sometimes, rare authors grace us with gems that incorporate both facets, but more often, it’s not the case, as in with this book. In ‘All Systems Red’ it is the later of the two: meet Murderbot, an AI struggling with the roots of its consciousness and it’s organic human parts as it takes you along its journey as security personnel to a scientific team surveying and conducting surface and environmental tests on an unknown planet. The story is short, funny, and fast-paced. Security secUnits -as they are called in the book - usually are complacent and obedient to their manufacturer, but Muderbot has hacked its module, essentially giving himself free will. The writing style will probably make you laugh out loud if you enjoy sarcastic, dry humor, and it might make you ponder a question or two about the validity of Murderbot’s consciousness. At the very least, this action-packed short book will entertain.

It’s Holmes’ famous theorem. When you’ve eliminated all other possibilities, that which remains, no matter how implausible, must be the truth.
New Eden Book Cover

There are no crazy theorems or mathematical formulations here, but a fascinating thought experiment. You will not like New Eden for its character development because, frankly, there is none: we start and end with the same personalities that are mostly one-dimensional. However, the story itself is almost guaranteed to make one’s jaw drop because it seems so out of this world - yet so realistic. Quantum Mechanics and its derivative are themes that fascinate many, yet readers tend to observe from afar because most authors cannot explain this science in a simple way. Here lies the beauty of Tipirneni as he flawlessly and easily navigates quantum physics and manages to even mix in biology, metaphysics, and creationism. These themes yield thought-provoking ideas that seem so reachable that they make you uncomfortable. Wrapped in a wonderful storyline, this is the sort of novel in which you cannot anticipate what will happen next.

Read chp1 excerpt: “Einstein was wrong! Light is not the fastest thing in the universe—information is. And everything is information.”

Average rating: 4.17 | Book length: 329 pages | Audiobook length: 11 hrs and 46 mins | Synopsis

Biographical I: The autobiography of benjamin franklin

by Benjamin Franklin

The autobiography of benjamin franklin book cover

Benjamin Franklin has admittedly lived a life of wonders. However, this book is not about these wonders. Instead, it is about the man behind them and how his early experiences enabled him to reach these heights. Not much is discussed about the part of his life that you may be most familiar with. Rather, great emphasis is given on his character, as he even outlines a plan for attaining moral perfection. A scheme of 13 elements, consisting of a schedule to help him achieve the following attributes: Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation, Cleanliness, Tranquility, Chastity, and Humility. Benjamin Franklin's philosophy, insights of living, curiosity, and observation of the world around him and its inhabitants' actions combined with his writing style proves to yield great advice for improving one's character and developing a curious mind such as his. Relatively short and to the point, this autobiography will make readers want to read more about this fascinating character.

Children have a lesson adults should learn, to not be ashamed of failing, but to get up and try again. Most of us adults are so afraid, so cautious, so ‘safe,’ and therefore so shrinking and rigid and afraid that it is why so many humans fail. Most middle-aged adults have resigned themselves to failure.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X book cover

Malcolm X’s book is the autobiography that jumpstarted my biography-reading obsession. You will never quite meet someone like him and even possibly never quite learn as much from another historical figure’s autobiography. From murders and drugs to prayers and racial advocacy, his life serves as the ultimate tale of change and transformation amidst a world created to continually persecute people that looked like him and believed in what he did. His book contains teachings about race, a different perspective of the civil rights movement, Islam in America, and even tips on how to deal with police officers stopping you in the middle of the night.

+Of interest: 15 Biographies that Will Make You Understand Why Black Lives Matter

Read chp1 excerpt: ‘‘When my mother was pregnant with me, she told me later, a party of hooded Ku Klux Klan riders galloped up to our home in Omaha, Nebraska, one night.’’

Average rating: 4.32 | Book length: 466 pages | Audiobook length: 16 hrs and 52 mins | Synopsis

Personal Development I: Fierce Intimacy: Standing Up to One Another with Love

by Terry Real

When we dare to be more vulnerable and open and honest, we are forging new territory.
Standing Up to One Another with Love book cover

This is probably the best book on relationships that I have ever read. Psychotherapist Terry Real approaches intimacy and interactions in an incredibly human way. He is realistic about the problems and issues that arrive in romantic partnerships and marriage, as well as everyday friendships and family-related interactions. He does not knit a fairytale, enticing readers to forgive one another and simply accept their differences, but instead gives extremely useful and practical guidelines and insights on how to move into balance, equality, and intimacy.

Excerpt: ‘‘My ambition is very high for you. I am not here to just to teach you a few relational skills. Although we will cover skill. I am here in the words of the great Harvey Milk to recruit you. ‘‘

Average rating: 4.70 | Audiobook length: 6 hrs and 4 mins | Synopsis

Personal Development II: Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win

by Jocko Willink, Leif Babin

Implementing Extreme Ownership requires checking your ego and operating with a high degree of humility. Admitting mistakes, taking ownership, and developing a plan to overcome challenges are integral to any successful team.
Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win book cover

While this is undoubtedly not the most remarkable book you will ever read, I think it is essential to study it if you wish to become a better leader. Written by two former Navy SEALs, it brings a fresh outlook on the principles behind good leadership. Although I have never entertained the thought process of blaming other people for my shortcomings, I had never entertained the thought process of blaming myself for other people's shortcomings either. Here lies the chief lesson: if you are in a leadership position, you are responsible for the failure of the people you are supposed to lead. This may sound quite radical as an idea, but as someone who has led teams for many years, in both life-threatening and more casual situations, this book's philosophy has stayed with me and has made me a better leader for it. Although this is a very repetitive read, as years of understanding and studying the acquisition of knowledge has taught us: repetition is key.

I am afraid. Not of life, or death, or nothingness, but of wasting it as if I had never been.
Flowers for Algernon book cover

Our world is fascinated by geniuses and people with unique abilities. But, although we often watch documentaries or hear about their achievements, we tend to never give them much second thought. Before reading this book, I never thought about intelligence in a quantifiable way, nor about how people who possess ‘lower’ or ‘higher’ intellectual capacities than me might perceive the world completely differently than I do and whether they were aware of that difference. Flowers for Algernon gave me answers to questions I did not even think about asking myself. And it gave me the answers beautifully and heartbreakingly. The story follows Charlie Gordon, who possesses an IQ of 68, as he participates in an experiment that slowly but surely, seems to turn him into a genius. As his intelligence ‘grows,’ so does his world view, personality, and intimacy. Although a bit of a painful read, it is a necessary one nonetheless.

People leave strange little memories of themselves behind when they die.
Norwegian wood book cover

This is not going to be the greatest book that you will ever read, but chances are, it will be quite different from anything you've laid eyes on so far - unless you are Japanese. In this work, there is none of the science fiction or magical realism usually associated with Murakami. Rather this is a straightforward story about the accumulation of scars of human beings throughout the ebbs and flows of life. Murakami is sincere in his writing, often incorporating sex talk, suicide, and unhealthy escapism with great transparency, letting the ugliness and loneliness freely wander in the pages instead of shielding us with pretty words. Although I have found this story a bit sexist, and an episode at the very end of the pages seemed rushed and uncalled for, the reading was overall enjoyable. The brutal honesty in the depiction of mental illness, depression, sadness, and the aimless wandering of life that we all fall victim to at one point or another makes for a great reminder that we all eventually experience the darker, more shadowy borders of humanity.

Existence alone had never been enough for him; he had always wanted more. Perhaps it was only from the force of his desires that he had regarded himself as a man to whom more was permitted than to others.
crime and punishment book cover

If you don’t like this book, I will be tremendously sad. I will wallow in a state of agony until you re-read it and convince me that you, too, have fallen in love with it. Crime and Punishment is a masterpiece from start to end. It constitutes an enthralling mixture of a social, philosophical, political, and religious oeuvre. All themes of humanity seem to be depicted in this story, and rather than just reading and witnessing, the reader is sucked into it as he begins to question his own morality and beliefs on an array of moral topics. What is fascinating is the way Dostoevsky makes his philosophical debates arise, as they seem to creep into the story seamlessly. Do not be frightened by the size of this book, the author's name, or the importance and popularity of this classic. The writing style is quite approachable, the story is exciting, and this is as much of a page-turner (if not much more) as any bestselling modern-day famous novel.

I do know that for the sympathy of one living being, I would make peace with all. I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.
frankenstein book cover

Okay, hear me out. I’ve read my fair share of classic novels, sprinkling a bit of Salinger, Tolstoy, Austen, and Dostoevsky on my delighted soul. What all of these authors have in common is that I’ve only read their works once - and that they’re brilliant. But this is where Mary Shelley differs from them: I’ve read Frankenstein not once, not twice, not three but four times. Each time interpreting the book differently and discovering something new. Granted, this can only mean one of two things: I am incredibly dull-witted, or the book is that amazing. For the sake of ego, I shall choose the latter deduction and implore you to read this excellent book. The key here is to read with an open and critical mind, devoid of any expectations of what modern-day depictions of Frankenstein in popular media have left us with. This is more a philosophical work in the shape of a story, and it will make you think - a lot- about how people become who they are, how they choose to treat others, and the grey areas of life where defining choices are constantly being made and shaped.

OTHERNour Salhab