5 Books That Changed My Life After School

I finished school in 2016, but the years after have allowed me to learn much, much more than I expected.

Yes, working and having a career is a ‘learning experience’, but in these past 2 years, something that I found myself truly enjoying is learning outside my specialization and work. Finally, released from the bonds of a formal education, I was free to explore the territory of human knowledge unfettered.

How does one keep learning after school? The answer for me has been: one book at a time. These are some particularly good books that have been a source of light in these often dark times.

1. Status Anxiety – Alain De Botton

“Wealth is not an absolute. It is relative to desire. Every time we yearn for something we cannot afford, we grow poorer, whatever our resources. And every time we feel satisfied with what we have, we can be counted as rich, however little we may actually possess.”

Written by one of my favorite contemporary philosophers, this book taught me to question and understand my quest for status. Why do we all want to be rich? Why do I feel bad when he/she has more followers than me? Why do we always want more?

2. The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins

“There is something infantile in the presumption that somebody else has a responsibility to give your life meaning and point… The truly adult view, by contrast, is that our life is as meaningful, as full and as wonderful as we choose to make it.”

It was mentally refreshing reading something I didn’t fully agree with. Growing up in a remarkably religious country like the Philippines, this book – which tackles the irrationality of religion – shook my personal concept of spirituality and introduced questions which I keep coming back to.

3. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – Yuval Noah Harari

“History is something that very few people have been doing while everyone else was ploughing fields and carrying water buckets.”

This book provides a sweeping narrative of human history – touching on archeology, politics, anthropology, psychology, economics, and more. It’s a must-read for people like me who insist on nit-picking on why things are the way they are.

4. Flow – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

“Contrary to what we usually believe, moments like these, the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we
make happen.”

This book forever changed my concept of happiness. Well-researched, provocative, and useful, there are so many books on happiness out there, but trust me, you’d want to read this one.

5. Why Nations Fail – Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson

“Nations fail today because their extractive economic institutions do not create the incentives needed for people to save, invest, and innovate. Extractive political institutions support these economic institutions by cementing the power of those who benefit from the extraction.”

This book challenged me to think beyond the usual nuances of poverty and power through history. Two words that have never left me after reading this: “extractive institutions”.

In an era of fake news, click baits and the inescapable Facebook/Instagram feed, it’s about time we actively create space for critical thinking, introspection, and solitude. Let’s remind people that reading books has always been – and should always be, as the millennials say – “lit”.

Pass this along and feel free to recommend five books that changed your life too.

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