10 Books That Make You Smarter

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Carolina Ciucci


Carolina Ciucci is a teacher, writer and reviewer based in the south of Argentina. She hoards books like they’re going out of style. In case of emergency, you can summon her by talking about Ireland, fictional witches, and the Brontë family. Twitter: @carolinabeci

If you Google “books that make you smarter,” you’ll come up with over 91.000.000 search results. This isn’t a fluke: reading has always been believed to enrich the mind, and in the past several decades, multiple studies have backed up this belief. But there isn’t only one way to become “smarter.” On the contrary, there are three acknowledged types of intelligence: fluid, crystallized, and emotional. In this article you will find a list of books to help you stimulate and exercise all three.

Firstly, however, let’s do a quick recap of the theories behind books that make you smarter. Fluid intelligence is the ability to think abstractly, to establish relationships between separate concepts, to reason and learn new things. Crystallized intelligence involves the compilation of knowledge acquired throughout your life, and the ability to solve problems based on such knowledge. Finally, emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions.

On to the list of books that make you smarter.

Thinking Fast and Slow1. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

This 2011 bestseller by Nobel Laureate Kahneman is an intriguing account of the way the human brain works, with its two main manners of thinking and coming to decisions: namely, fast and slow. How do they differ? Is one of them better? Kahneman seeks to explore this, and more.


2. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.

A deeply compelling exploration of human history, Harari’s work delves into the evolution of the human species, from the time that Homo Sapiens shared the earth with others, to the contemporary human, and beyond. It tracks the three great revolutions that altered the course of humankind, and the way our brains and cultures developed and expanded.

3. Train Your Brain: 60 Days to a Better Braintrain your brain by Dr. Ryuta Kawashima

This short book undertakes to stimulate your brain in order to prevent its aging and loss of capabilities. It consists in a series of spreadsheets with daily exercises to boost your brainpower. A bestseller in Japan, it’s a practical and engaging way to stimulate your mind.


4. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

This wildly popular book can boast of divulging complex scientific topics in an intelligible, accessible manner. Bryson wrote it in order to make science interesting for himself as well as the everyday reader. With a rating of 4.2 stars on Goodreads, it’s fair to say that he succeeded.

cover of narrative of the life of frederick douglass5. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

It is a heart-wrenching yet inspiring account of the power of learning and reading, as well as an exploration of the ways in which slavery was denigrating for slaves and slaveowners alike (this doesn’t negate the responsibility or evil of the latter).



6. The Holy Bible

It contains the most important document(s) of both Judaism and Christianity, and has been wielded as a weapon throughout most of its history. Depending on whose hands it has fallen in, it has been both a blessing and curse. Whether you’re a believer or not, it’s an interesting account of two of the most prominent religions in the world.

Qur'an7. The Quran

If reading the Bible is important, the Quran is equally so. Islam has been subjected to incredibly gross attacks for years, and its cornerstone text provides a deeper understanding of another of the most followed – and persecuted – religions of our time.



8. 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do by Amy Morin

Morin’s book offers practical, actionable advice to stimulate emotional intelligence. She draws from her experience as a licensed clinical social worker, and her own journey through devastating loss, to sketch a map of qualities that help build emotional resilience.


The cover of A Brief History of Time9. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Hawking wrote this definitive account of cosmology for the non-scientist who wished to know more about this fascinating science. Updated throughout the years, A Brief History of Time remains unsurpassed as an introduction to the topic.



10. Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture edited by Roxane Gay

In the era of #MeToo, this anthology of essays chronicles the gaslighting permeating our world, that allows rape culture to thrive. Sexual assault and harassment are routinely dismissed as “not that bad”, making it harder for survivors to acknowledge or speak out about the abuse they are victims of.

Of course, this list of books that make you smarter is incredibly limited. Nearly any book will help expand your vocabulary, broaden your horizons, and acquire knowledge of some kind – even if that’s simply “I can’t believe I wasted money and time on this”, in which case you know not to do it again. But this is a good starting point if you want to stimulate your mind and stretch your intellectual boundaries.