Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think

Authors: Hans Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Ola Rosling

A couple years ago I watched some of Hans Rosling’s TED talks and found them captivating. He was a Professor of Public Health, and had an amazing way of bringing statistics about the world to life. He focused on busting commonly-held but outdated myths about the world. He passed away near the completion of this book, and luckily his collaborators (his son & daughter-in-law) were able to press on to its publication.

Factufulness means having a fact-based world view. Because humans take so many mental shortcuts (see: cognitive bias), we often fall into patterns of thinking that are just plain wrong. The authors break down our errors into 10 human instincts, some of which are pseudonyms for commonly-documented heuristics (The Straight Line Instinct, The Generalization Instinct), and others are cousins (i.e. The Blame Instinct, The Urgency Instinct).

The surface message of the book is that globally the world has been improving at a rapid pace. The deeper message is that we should acknowledge evidence of how our world is evolving and  update our world view (i.e. practice Factfulness)!

The best way to decide if you should read this book is the 3-minute quiz below:

(View on Amazon)

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It

I liked this book so much that I’m planning to re-listen to it soon with a notebook handy. I first heard Chris Voss on Shane Parrish’s podcast, and I really liked his style. He was a former FBI hostage negotiator, and shares stories from that world. Much of his content contradicts negotiation conventional wisdom, and I’m always a sucker for a contrarian view. Just a few examples: BATNA sets you up to fail. Getting counterpart to say NO is more important than YES. Don’t meet in the middle. (View on Amazon)

How Will You Measure Your Life?

Okay so this one is a tiny bit self help-y, but really not so much. The author’s (Clayton Christensen of The Innovator’s Dilemma fame) premise is that his class at Harvard Business School had the best of intentions and the future looked bright, but as time went on more and more of them ended up living unhappy lives despite all sorts of professional success. So he applies lessons from his research into businesses to help understand why the best of intentions can lead to failure, and offers guidance about how to structure your activities to get what you want out of life. (View on Amazon)

Siddhartha’s Brain: Unlocking the Ancient Science of Enlightenment

This author makes a case for the idea that mindfulness/meditation has tangible benefits, backing it up with studies and wrapping it around the story of Siddhartha and the foundation of Buddhism. The studies are, by the author’s own admission, fairly “early” with small sample sizes and less than ideal control groups in many cases. Despite all of that, there’s something to be said for the early data showing that mindfulness practice helps humans function better in this crazy world. (View on Amazon)

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds

The story of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, who I admittedly didn’t know anything about before this book. They essentially founded the field of behavioral economics. They discovered/documented many of the biases that humans have, which until relatively recently were mostly unknown: The Anchoring Effect, Framing, Overconfidence Bias, Regression to the Mean, Halo Effect. (View on Amazon)