Five Books to Read in These Trying Times

Life in the time of Covid-19 can be challenging—for some much more than for others. However, it’s also an excellent opportunity to reflect and read more—if you can afford the luxury of reading, that is. For those who can, in this article I want to recommend five books that I believe are essentials in trying times like these. If you also want to support those who can’t, please consider donating to an organization that promotes literacy, so that they can enjoy these wonderful pieces of literature as well sometime.

So, to cut to the chase, if you’re annoyed and frustrated by having to cover your mouth and nose with a piece of cloth, by those who constantly complain about that, or simply by the whole pandemic situation in general, I can highly recommend reading the following five books. They provide a great deal of positivity and help to reflect and put things in perspective. Or, at least they did for me, and I hope they can do the same for you.

Hans Rosling, with Anna Rosling Rönnlund & Ola Rosling: Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think

The title already says it all. This is a book about all the good things in the world and those that are getting better (almost everything, except climate change). It also highlights our collective inability to accurately grasp the state of the world and how we can counteract that. Bill Gates says, “One of the most important books I’ve ever read—an indispensable guide to thinking clearly about the world”, and I have nothing to add.

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

Marcus Aurelius: Meditations

A Stoic classic. Written by the ancient Roman emperor, his Meditations provide a very good introduction to Stoic philosophy, which focuses on logic, using one’s mind, respect for nature, and accepting the things one cannot change or influence.

Marcus Aurelius - Meditations: Adapted for the Contemporary Reader (Harris Classics)

Epictetus: Enchiridion

Being based on Stoicism as well, the Enchiridion is intended as a practical guide to living a good and moral life. Of course, not every detail is easily transferable into the modern world, but it’s a good general guide on how to incorporate Epictetus’ thinking into our daily lives for (hopefully) achieving more mental freedom.


Seneca: On the Shortness of Life

This one is important! It’s stunning to read how already 2000 years ago, the ancient Romans had more or less the same problems we still face today. So much to do, so little time, wasting much of one’s life on meaningless pursuits while longing for leisure and vocation. If you want to talk about purpose, it’s obligatory to read this essay.

On The Shortness Of Life

Rolf Dobelli: The Art of Thinking Clearly

Humans err, consistently and systematically, in predictable ways, due to a range of cognitive biases and the fact that we are, on average, really very bad at statistics. Rolf Dobelli does an amazing job at explaining the psychological research of Kahneman, Tversky, and others in a less academic and more graspable fashion. Have you ever wondered why MBA alumni make more money? Spoiler alert: It’s an illusion (the swimmer’s body illusion, to be precise). Read this book if you don’t want to fall victim to the same fallacies as your fellow humans.

The Art of Thinking Clearly

Now, there’s only one thing left to say, happy Holidays, everyone! 🙂

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