A Causal Peek Outside the Box

shelved under Self-Help

Most people seem to be in a box. We work in cubicle like boxes and we are always told to think "outside the box." Heck, we are even buried in boxes. So if you're like me and don't like being in a box, then the books on this list are for you.  Reading them might not get you out of the box, but they are sure to give you a peek outside.


Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets

by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Rule number 1: Randomness happens and is unpredictable. This first book in a series of related books from Taleb spells out a number of fallacies in thinking about how we see the world. You'll never be the same after it.


The Wisdom of Insecurity

by Alan W. Watts

When something is not working, we're told "stop trying so hard," but no one ever really explains what exactly that means. This short book explains that the less you fight it, the happier you will be. Watts calls this reverse effort and provides a way to implement it in life.


The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

by Ann Druyan, Carl Sagan

If you believe in UFOs, crop circles, or ghosts, you won't after reading this. A beautifully written defense of science and testable hypothesis in our modern age of pseudoscience, New Age thinking, and religious extremism. Sagan warns of the dangers when science is replaced by unreason.


Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

by Stephen J. Dubner, Steven D. Levitt

It doesn't get more out of the box then what these guys purport... they have a new angle on just about everything. Who would have thought that the early-1990s reduction in crime had nothing to do with more cops and controlling quality-of-life crimes, and more to do with Roe v Wade? Very provocative stuff.


Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion

by Jay Heinrichs

Believe it not, most people are always trying to persuade you (like me trying to persuade you to read the books on this list). Thank You for Arguing highlights techniques on how to persuade and how to know when someone is trying to persuade you. Try it on your friends.


A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

by William B. Irvine

The stoics have gotten a bad rap in recent time... perhaps not as bad as the platonics, but close to it. Irvine dispels this rap, by re-interpreting ancient texts and discovering a very practical and realistic philosophy on how to attain joy in your life.


The Far Side

by Gary Larson

One of the first compilations of Far Side cartoons but thank goodness, not the last. Larson is a master of the absurd and can do more with one cartoon caption than most can do with a novel.


Classics of Western Literature: Bloom County 1986-1989

by Berke Breathed

After reading this, you will see that politics and the standard American lifestyle have not changed much in the last 25 years. That feels good in itself — even better after having indulged in the absurdities of Opus and the gang.


Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless

by Steve Salerno

After reading Sham, you will see through the façade of today's most celebrated gurus. Salerno suggests that Tony Robbins, Dr. Laura, and even Oprah-endorsed Dr. Phil have built empires on the backs of a movement that seeks to help its followers by draining their wallets (i.e., by purchasing the endless array of books, programs, etc that are just different spins of earlier versions).


Wrong: Why Experts* Keep Failing Us

by David H. Freedman

Numerous studies show that Vitamin D supplementation is good for you — no, it's bad for you — wait, no it's good for you— wait, no it's bad for you! Where Sham points out the failures of self help, Wrong points out the failures primarily in medical science (e.g., most studies are flawed) and the media (e.g., publishes the flawed studies). Freedman supports all of his claims by citing numerous examples.