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When you want to build your knowledge of a certain subject, it’s likely that one of the first things you’ll turn to is a book. (Okay, maybe after Google.)

This trust in books is easily justified, because not only are books a great source of information, but they can also challenge the way that you think. 

Did you know that it’s not just nonfiction books that can make you smarter, but fiction books too? Reading quality fiction can help expand your worldview and understanding of your feelings and those of others.

It can also help you see cause and effect connections among different events throughout history or in your personal life. 

Do Books Really Make You Smarter? 

There’s more than one way to measure intelligence, and there are also many different type of intelligence, which makes answering this question a bit of a challenge.

However, reading has been shown to have a considerable effect on crystallized, fluid, and emotional intelligence, which we discuss in more detail in our post on how reading can make you smarter.

Books That Make You Smarter

If you want to challenge yourself to become smarter, try some of the books from our list below: 

1. Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder 

This novel, written by Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder, creatively weaves the history of philosophy into a story around a little girl who receives mysterious letters from someone who wants to teach her about philosophy.

This will give you an overview of all the great philosophical thinkers, which will expand your worldview and provide insights that you can use in conversations and other areas of your life.

2. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking 

This definitive account of the universe is a great introduction for non-scientists who want to be better informed about the fascinating realm of cosmology. The book has undergone several updates throughout the years, but it still serves as the best overview of this very broad and fascinating subject. 

3. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass 

This autobiography explores the power of learning and reading through the life of Frederick Douglass. Not only that, it also gives you an important glimpse into the troubling history of slavery. 

4. Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins

Who says that success only comes to those who get a good start in life? David Goggins shares his personal story in this compelling narrative that shows his not-too-good start in childhood, and how he overcame the odds, again and again, to succeed in whatever he set his mind to. 

5. A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley 

If you’ve always struggled with math and numbers, don’t despair! This book, written by Dr. Oakley, presents a way to approach math using creative and analytical thinking, instead of the way many of us were taught, which is that there’s only one solution to a given problem.

The great thing is that the author herself flunked through her science and math courses in high school, so her own experiences form a great foundation for your own learning. 

6. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Written originally as a military manual, this book is touted as sharing some of the best insights into strategy that can be applied in business or management. Check out some of the timeless truths in this ancient text and see how you can apply them in your own life. 

7. The Greatest Secret in the World by Og Mandino

This book comes highly recommended in many circles, partly because of the principles that you can apply no matter what your current life situation looks like. Its insights will help you think more intelligently and develop a plan for cultivating the traits you need to reach your goals. 

8. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Although the title of this book may sound like a get-rich-quick manual, it’s actually more about changing your mindset regarding success, and helping you reach success in any area. This book will inspire you to take action and make a move to change the world. 

9. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey 

This insightful book takes a look into the brains of the most successful scientists, artists, writers, and musicians across history. Ever wondered what Einstein’s day looked like? Or maybe Thomas Jefferson’s?

How do the world’s smartest people spend their time? Learn from the habits of the greatest in history and challenge yourself to become more productive, and smarter too! 

10. The Story of My Life by Helen Keller 

If you want to be inspired to love learning, nothing can do better than this autobiography of the famous deaf and blind girl who defied the odds, finished university, and even went on to write a book! See how our excuses for not learning can be dissolved by channeling the perseverance of one of history’s greatest heroines. 

11. A Child’s History of the World by V.M. Hillyer 

Want an overview of world history in an engaging narrative that is easy to grasp? Try this excellently-written history of the world, originally written for children in earlier centuries.

The short chapters will make it an entertaining read that you can digest with even just ten minutes a day, whilst expanding your understanding of the events that shaped the world to what it is right now. 

Expand Your Mind by Reading 

Whichever type of intelligence you want to improve, reading books is a good way of expanding your knowledge and challenging your thinking. Check out some of the books above, or also add some classic fiction books to your TBR list. 

Then, commit to read even just 10 minutes or one chapter a day. Focus on consistency rather than speed, because the more time you spend on one book, the more time you will have to ruminate on what you’ve read. That increases its chances of directly affecting your life, compared to quickly devouring a book without taking time to think about it. 

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