Books To Make You Smarter: A Complete List

There’s something special about holding a book in your hands, turning the pages, and delving into worlds of knowledge, perspective, and intellectual stimulation. Reading is one of the best ways to broaden your horizons, enrich your understanding, and enhance your cognitive abilities.

This blog post is about books that challenge your intellect, provide deep insights, and, ultimately, make you smarter. The following list encompasses a wide range of genres, from science and philosophy to history and literature, all known for their ability to sharpen your mind and widen your worldview.

Buckle up for a literary journey that promises to augment your intellectual prowess.

Books To Make You Smarter
Contents show

1. “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman

Thinking, Fast and Slow
Thinking, Fast and Slow

This book dives into the fascinating realm of human decision-making, unraveling our cognitive biases and rational fallacies. Kahneman, a Nobel laureate, explores two systems driving our thoughts: System 1, which operates quickly and intuitively, and System 2, which is slower and more deliberate.

It’s a compelling journey through human rationality and irrationality, showcasing our mental strengths and exposing our inherent weaknesses.

2. “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking, a master of modern physics, decodes the enigmatic world of cosmology in this book, making it accessible to non-scientific readers. He explores concepts of space and time, black holes, and the origin of the universe, weaving complex scientific principles into a narrative that’s both engaging and understandable.

Quick Fact: Reading it imparts a sense of wonder about the universe and instills a foundational understanding of modern physics.

3. “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari

Harari masterfully narrates the epic story of humankind, starting from the earliest human species and concluding with a thought-provoking look into our future. Sapiens navigates through history, biology, and anthropology, revealing how Homo Sapiens became the dominant species on earth and how our societies, cultures, and economies have evolved.

It’s a captivating synthesis of human history that ignites reflection on our species and our place in the world.

4. “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies” by Jared Diamond

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

Diamond’s Pulitzer-winning work is a brilliant exploration of how environmental factors have shaped the world. He argues that geographical and environmental conditions, rather than racial differences or individual qualities, have played a pivotal role in the cultural and societal development of civilizations.

By offering a new perspective on the forces that shape human history, this book compels us to reassess our understanding of global cultures.

5. “Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything” by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Levitt and Dubner blend economics, sociology, and psychology to explore the less obvious aspects of everyday life. They probe into intriguing questions, like why drug dealers live with their moms or how schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers are connected.

By revealing the economic and social forces quietly steering our behavior, Freakonomics stimulates us to see the world in a novel, more analytical way.

6. “The Gene: An Intimate History” by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Mukherjee’s book is a compelling account of the journey of genetics, from its initial discovery to the current revolution in gene editing. It offers an in-depth view of how genes influence our identities, health, and society. Discussing the moral and ethical dilemmas of genetic manipulation sparks thoughts about our responsibilities in the face of powerful scientific advancements.

7. “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution” by Walter Isaacson

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution
The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

Isaacson profiles the brilliant minds that sparked the digital revolution. He gives credit to both well-known figures like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, and lesser-known contributors in the world of computing.

Quick Fact: The book underscores the importance of collaboration and shared vision in driving technological innovation, demonstrating that great leaps forward are often the result of collective effort.

8. “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu

A timeless treatise on strategy and leadership, Sun Tzu’s ancient text holds lessons relevant even in today’s world. It explores concepts like managing resources, understanding opponents, and strategic planning.

While originally intended for military strategy, its principles have found application in business, politics, and personal growth, offering valuable insights into conflict resolution and strategic thinking.

9. “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

This compact book is a classic guide to writing English. It advocates clarity, simplicity, and precision in language, providing practical advice on grammar, style, and usage. While focused on writing, the lessons within can help improve overall communication skills, which are crucial in both personal and professional life.

10. “Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid” by Douglas R. Hofstadter

Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

A unique blend of science, art, and philosophy, this Pulitzer-winning book explores concepts of recursion, symmetry, and intelligence. Drawing connections between the works of mathematician Kurt Gödel, artist M.C. Escher, and composer J.S. Bach, Hofstadter presents a stimulating investigation into human cognition and the nature of consciousness.

11. “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain

Cain’s book champions introversion in a world where extroversion is often valued. It explores the strengths and abilities of introverts, backed by extensive research and personal stories. ‘Quiet’ prompts reflection on how we view human nature, encouraging us to value everyone’s contributions, regardless of their social style.

12. “The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan” by Robert Kanigel

This is a biography of the Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, whose intuitive grasp of mathematics was beyond extraordinary. The book chronicles his journey from a clerk in Madras to a scholar in Cambridge, highlighting his unique mathematical insights.

The book gives a glimpse into the world of pure mathematics and inspires awe in this largely self-taught mathematical genius.

13. “The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography” by Simon Singh

The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography
The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography

Singh’s book is a fascinating tour through the history of cryptography, starting from the Caesar Cipher to modern-day quantum cryptography. It showcases the endless battle between code-makers and code-breakers, making it an exciting read for anyone interested in puzzles, secrecy, and technology.

14. “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” by Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell explores the concept of ‘thin-slicing’, the process of making quick decisions based on limited information. Using real-world stories and scientific findings, he discusses the subconscious mind’s power, illustrating when to trust our instincts and when to be wary of them. It’s a thought-provoking exploration of decision-making, intuition, and judgment.

15. “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty” by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson

This book explores why some nations are rich and others poor, challenging the widely held belief that culture or geography dictates a nation’s prosperity. Acemoglu and Robinson argue that it’s the inclusivity or exclusivity of political and economic institutions that determine a nation’s success, making it a must-read for anyone interested in economics and politics.

16. “Cosmos” by Carl Sagan


Sagan takes readers on a captivating journey through the universe in this classic book. He touches on diverse scientific topics, from the evolution of life on Earth to the possibility of extraterrestrial life. By bringing the grandeur of the universe to readers, Cosmos instills a sense of wonder and respect for science.

17. “The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Taleb’s book introduces the concept of Black Swan events highly improbable occurrences that have significant impact. He critiques our inability to predict such events and our tendency to simplify and explain them in hindsight.

Quick Fact: The book is a critique of established predictive models in finance, economics, and human behavior, prompting us to reassess how we perceive uncertainty and randomness.

18. “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert B. Cialdini

Cialdini’s book is a comprehensive guide to understanding the mechanisms of persuasion and influence. Based on decades of research, it reveals six universal principles that drive people to say ‘yes’ and how to use them ethically in daily life.

It’s a compelling exploration of human behavior and an essential read for anyone who wants to influence others or defend against manipulation.

19. “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas S. Kuhn

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Kuhn’s classic work challenges the perception that science progresses through a linear accumulation of knowledge. Instead, he proposes that scientific advancement occurs through paradigm shifts, periods of revolutionary change. This book is a critical reflection on scientific progress and a fascinating read for anyone interested in the philosophy and history of science.

20. “The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses” by Eric Ries

Ries introduces a new approach to business that’s being adopted by startups worldwide. He suggests entrepreneurs and managers should focus on what customers want, test their ideas early, and adjust their plans based on feedback, thus reducing waste and increasing success rates.

It’s a must-read for anyone interested in entrepreneurship, innovation, or business management.

21. “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions” by Dan Ariely

Ariely, a renowned behavioral economist, explores the reasons behind our often irrational choices. From buying overpriced items to staying in unfulfilling jobs, he sheds light on how our decisions are influenced by factors we’re largely unaware of. It’s a compelling read for those interested in understanding the complex workings of human behavior.

22. “Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World and Why Things Are Better Than You Think” by Hans Rosling

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

This enlightening book challenges common misconceptions about global trends and development. Rosling presents a more accurate view of the world, demonstrating how most of our beliefs are outdated or pessimistic. The book encourages critical thinking about the information we encounter and urges us to see the world in a fact-based, optimistic light.

23. “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History” by Elizabeth Kolbert

Kolbert’s Pulitzer-winning work examines the ongoing loss of species caused by human activities. She explores past mass extinctions and provides compelling evidence that we’re in the midst of a sixth one. This book is an urgent call to recognize our role in climate change and biodiversity loss, making it a crucial read for anyone interested in environmental issues.

24. “Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies” by Nick Bostrom

Bostrom’s book provides a comprehensive look at the potential development of artificial superintelligence and its implications for humanity. He explores different paths to superintelligence, possible impacts on society, and the strategies we could employ to mitigate potential risks. It’s a must-read for those interested in AI and the future of humanity.

25. “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer” by Siddhartha Mukherjee

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

Mukherjee’s Pulitzer-winning book provides a comprehensive history of cancer. He traces its origins, the long battle to understand and treat it, and the scientific breakthroughs that have helped us fight this relentless disease. It’s a riveting tale of scientific discovery, human resilience, and hope.

26. “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg

Duhigg’s book investigates the science of habits, exploring how they’re formed, how they can be changed, and their influence on our lives and societies. Drawing on scientific research and real-life stories, it offers a new perspective on human nature and our ability to transform our lives.

27. “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins

Dawkins revolutionized our understanding of natural selection with the concept of the “selfish gene.” He suggests that genes, rather than organisms, are the primary drivers of evolution. It’s a groundbreaking exploration of evolution that challenges our perceptions of altruism, cooperation, and survival.

28. “The Wisdom of Crowds” by James Surowiecki

The Wisdom of Crowds
The Wisdom of Crowds

Surowiecki argues that under certain conditions, crowds are smarter than even the brightest individuals, making better decisions and predictions. He explores diverse real-world scenarios, from the stock market to pop culture, demonstrating the surprising power of collective wisdom.

It’s a fascinating read that encourages us to reconsider the way we think about intelligence and decision-making.

29. “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol S. Dweck

Dweck, a Stanford psychologist, explores the concept of ‘mindset’ and how our beliefs about our abilities can impact our lives. She differentiates between a ‘fixed mindset’ and a ‘growth mindset,’ demonstrating how adopting the latter can lead to success in multiple areas of life.

30. “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” by Thomas Piketty

Piketty’s influential book offers a deep historical and statistical analysis of the dynamics of capitalism and wealth inequality. He argues that without intervention, the disparity between the rich and poor will continue to grow. It’s an essential read for anyone interested in economics, politics, or the future of global inequality.

31. “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson

A Short History of Nearly Everything
A Short History of Nearly Everything

Bryson’s book is a tour de force through the grand arc of science, covering everything from cosmology to paleontology. Using simple, engaging language, Bryson makes complex scientific concepts accessible to the layperson. It’s an eye-opening exploration of the wonders of science and our universe, instilling a sense of awe and curiosity.

32. “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion” by Jonathan Haidt

Haidt, a social psychologist, examines the roots of our political and religious beliefs, and how they divide us. He uses moral psychology to explain why different individuals see morality, politics, and religion in different ways, fostering understanding between different ideological camps.

Expert Tip: It’s a crucial read for anyone seeking to understand the complex dynamics of human belief and societal division.

33. “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

Coelho’s allegorical novel follows a young Andalusian shepherd on his journey across the desert to realize his personal legend and find a hidden treasure. Through this journey, the book explores themes of destiny, personal dreams, and the pursuit of meaning. While a work of fiction, its philosophical underpinnings offer valuable life lessons.

34. “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future” by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future
Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

Thiel and Masters provide unconventional advice on startups, arguing that the key to significant innovation is to create something new (going from ‘zero to one’), rather than merely improving on what already exists. They delve into strategies for business management, planning, and thinking. It’s a thought-provoking read for entrepreneurs and business leaders.

35. “Bad Science” by Ben Goldacre

Goldacre, a physician, unveils the misuse of science by quacks, journalists, and big pharmaceutical companies. He exposes flawed research, lack of transparency, and other malpractices that often mislead the public. It’s an enlightening read that encourages scientific literacy and critical thinking.

36. “Thinking in Systems: A Primer” by Donella H. Meadows

Meadows’s book introduces systems thinking, a method of problem-solving that views problems as parts of an overall system. By understanding the whole system, patterns, and interrelationships, we can better solve complex issues. It’s a transformative read for those seeking to understand and navigate complexity in any field.

37. “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress” by Steven Pinker

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress
Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

Pinker argues that reason, science, and humanism have driven the progress we’ve seen in the world. Using extensive data, he shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise globally, debunking the pessimistic outlook often portrayed in media.

38. “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell explores the factors that contribute to high levels of success. He argues that we pay too much attention to personal traits and intelligence, and not enough to the advantages of timing, culture, upbringing, and sheer luck. It’s a fascinating study on the path to success, challenging conventional wisdom.

39. “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” by Steven Pinker

Contrary to popular belief, Pinker argues that violence in the world has declined over time. Drawing from a comprehensive study of history, psychology, and social behavior, he posits that we’re living in the most peaceful era in human history, driven by the spread of reason, empathy, and better institutions.

40. “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Harari chronicles the history of humankind, from the evolution of Homo sapiens in Africa to the scientific and technological revolutions of the 21st century. He explores how we’ve shaped the world around us, and how these changes, in turn, have shaped us. It’s a thought-provoking book that examines what it means to be human.

That concludes the list of 40 books to make you smarter, each with its in-depth summary.

What is the best book to make you smarter?

The “best” book to make you smarter largely depends on individual interests, goals, and current knowledge level. However, a universal recommendation could be “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman. Kahneman, a Nobel laureate, presents decades of research into human decision-making.

He introduces the concepts of System 1 (fast, intuitive thinking) and System 2 (slow, rational thinking) and illustrates how these systems shape our judgments and decision-making processes. The book encourages readers to become more conscious of their cognitive biases, leading to improved decision-making and problem-solving abilities – key facets of intelligence.

It’s well-rounded, relevant to all, and offers a great deal of insight into understanding our own minds and the world around us.

What book can make you smarter?

What book can make you smarter?
What book can make you smarter?

There’s no shortage of books that can make you smarter, and the most suitable choice may vary based on your personal interests. One universal recommendation is “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson.

This book covers an impressive range of scientific fields, from cosmology to biology to chemistry, and presents complex information in an easily digestible and engaging manner. Reading this book can significantly expand your understanding of the world, contributing to a broader and more nuanced perspective, which is a key aspect of becoming smarter.

Does your IQ increase by reading books?

While there’s no direct evidence that reading books increases your IQ as it is traditionally measured, reading does contribute to cognitive enhancement and overall intelligence. Reading stimulates the brain, improves concentration, and enhances comprehension and vocabulary skills all components of intelligence.

Moreover, reading exposes you to diverse ideas, broadens your perspective, and improves critical thinking, thereby contributing to what is often termed as ‘crystallized intelligence’, your ability to use skills, knowledge, and experience.

In summary, while IQ is a complex, multifaceted trait that’s influenced by a variety of factors, reading can undoubtedly contribute to intellectual growth and cognitive abilities.

What books should I read to become more knowledgeable?

Becoming more knowledgeable often involves reading widely across multiple disciplines. Here are a few recommendations:

  • “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari offers a comprehensive overview of human history from the dawn of Homo sapiens to the present.
  • “The Gene: An Intimate History” by Siddhartha Mukherjee provides insights into genetics and its impact on human health and identity.
  • “Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think” by Hans Rosling challenges misconceptions about global trends and promotes a fact-based worldview.
  • “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies” by Jared Diamond explores why some societies have advanced more than others throughout history.
  • “The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies” by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee provides insight into how digital technologies are transforming our economy and society.

Remember, knowledge is not just about facts, but also about understanding systems, patterns, and frameworks of thinking. Reading widely and deeply across a range of topics and disciplines is a solid strategy to become more knowledgeable.

What are the benefits of reading a wide range of books?

Reading a wide range of books, both in terms of genres and topics, greatly contributes to cognitive development and emotional intelligence. It exposes you to diverse perspectives, ideas, and cultures, fostering empathy and understanding.

The wider your reading scope, the more connections you can make between disparate pieces of information, thereby enhancing creativity and problem-solving skills. Moreover, a broad reading range cultivates comprehensive knowledge and a more nuanced worldview, crucial for critical thinking and informed decision-making.

From fiction sparking imagination, to non-fiction expanding factual knowledge, to biographies offering life insights diversity in reading nurtures the mind’s flexibility and depth.

How does reading non-fiction contribute to intelligence?

Non-fiction books provide a wealth of knowledge about the real world be it history, science, psychology, or economics. They offer insights into specific subjects, broaden your understanding of various fields, and equip you with factual information and perspectives.

Non-fiction often involves complex concepts and arguments, hence engaging with it strengthens analytical thinking, comprehension, and reasoning abilities. Moreover, many non-fiction works improve awareness of societal issues, human behavior, and global trends, which contribute to emotional intelligence and informed citizenship.

Can fiction books make you smarter?

Absolutely. While non-fiction contributes to factual knowledge, fiction enhances emotional intelligence and fosters empathy. It offers insights into human experiences, behaviors, and cultures, broadening our understanding of the world.

Studies suggest that reading fiction can improve the ‘Theory of Mind’ the ability to understand other’s mental states, a crucial aspect of social intelligence. Moreover, fiction stimulates imagination and creativity, critical for problem-solving and innovation.

Engaging with diverse characters and narratives also boosts cognitive flexibility the ability to switch between different concepts, a hallmark of cognitive agility and intelligence.

How can books improve critical thinking skills?

Books, both fiction and non-fiction, are instrumental in enhancing critical thinking. They present information, narratives, and arguments that require analysis and evaluation. Reading prompts you to question assumptions, detect bias, and make inferences all vital aspects of critical thinking.

It helps you discern the quality of arguments, recognize logical fallacies, and develop reasoned conclusions. Moreover, books expose you to a variety of perspectives, encouraging open-mindedness and the ability to appreciate multiple viewpoints. The regular mental workout that reading provides helps keep your critical thinking skills sharp.

How can reading habit influence career growth?

Reading habits can significantly influence career growth. Books provide knowledge, insights, and skills that are valuable in the workplace. For example, leadership books can help you navigate managerial roles, while books on communication can enhance interpersonal skills.

Reading broadens your knowledge base, making you more informed and articulating a valuable trait in any profession. It also improves concentration, analytical abilities, and creativity, which can lead to better problem-solving and innovation at work. Moreover, being well-read contributes to personal growth, which translates into professional development.


In conclusion, the power of reading to make us smarter cannot be overstated. It offers an array of benefits from knowledge acquisition to cognitive enhancement to emotional intelligence growth. It broadens our perspectives, hones our critical thinking, and nurtures our creativity.

So, whether you’re diving into a riveting piece of fiction, exploring thought-provoking non-fiction, or embarking on a journey through a self-help book, remember that every page turned contributes to your intellectual growth. Happy reading!

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About Ben Hudd

Hi, my name is Ben, and I am part of the writing crew for TheWritersHQ!

I have a roaring passion for books and writing, and have written 2 books throughout my life! I am now excited to share my writing and book knowledge with the world!