I love to read.

In fact, its not really the habit of reading that I find enjoyable but more the act of learning that keeps me going. Thats mainly why the majority of books I read are non-fiction books.

Recently, I have taken a more structured approach to choosing my next book. Using the Goodreads app, I add all books that interest me to my personal list. That list is then sorted by the average rating given to each book by the community. Considering that its mainly hard-core readers that tend to give reviews on a book-focused community platform, I highly value the resulting rating. And so far, I havent been disappointed!

Below you will find a selection of non-fiction books that most influenced me. Every one of them I highly recommend to read!

The case against sugar

by Gary Taubes

In our obesity-plagued society, every now and then a new vilain appears on stage. While only a short time ago our diet's arch-nemesis seemed to be (saturated) fat, the limelight is now moving gradually to a new antagonist: sugar. At the center of Taube's argument is the absence of refined sugar during the first 99% of our evolutionary past. He points to the fact that it was only during the 1700s that sugar started to make big inroads into our diet. Before 1700 we typically consumed less than 2 kg per person per year, this has increased more than 40-fold since then. It then makes perfect sense that evolution never prepared us to handle current-day amounts of sugar. The author has written this book as a true-to-style detective novel. Jumping seamlessly between the biological and the historial perspective, the evidence against our main suspect fast becomes unsurmountable. To give but one example: Taubes investigates the onset of 'first-world' diseases in the early years of colonized regions. He consistently finds the same pattern: a rise in sugar consumption is followed by first caries (tooth decay), then corpulence and finally type 2 diabetes. At the end of his book, he leaves the reader as a convinced follower of his anti-sugar hypothesis. While in this book, Taubes addresses only sugar, he is known to be a proponent of the ketodiet (a diet low in carbohydrates and high in fats). While the ketodiet remains (for now) modestly controversial, this book seems as it should become conventional wisdom.

Factfulness

by Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Ronnlund

Hans Rosling made his introduction to the world's stage in a now famous TED talk aptly named 'The best stats you've ever seen'. Using innovative data visualizations, he set out to reveal the positive evolution of the world to cynic Western audiences. He famously enrolled his audience members in a multiple-choice quiz featuring global developmental questions (related to poverty, health, discrimination, literacy, wealth etc.) You can take a similar quiz here. However, everywhere he went, the results were dismal. Almost every participant would have done better if he would have closed his eyes and randomly selected an answer to each question. Because of this, Hans concluded that the issue is not a lack of information but rather an abundance of preconceived ideas which shape an overly pessimistic worldview. After that realization, Hans dedicated his life to improve the public's knowledge about the world.

In 2016, at the age of 67, Hans Rosling was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer. At the time, he was writing this book (in collaboration with his son and daughter). He considered the book his legacy to the world. In it, he combines a compelling use of statistics & data visualizations with a list of simple rules-of-thumbs to be more factually in our understanding of statistics about the world. When he subsequently died in 2017 before completion of the book, his children posthumously finished the manuscript and dedicated it to their father.

Author's website: http://www.gapminder.org


Your Brain on Porn

by Gary Wilson

Starting in the early 1990's, the entire male population of the West became the subject of an experiment on a scale the world had never seen before. With the rise of the internet, men (and in a lesser extent women) started seeking out internet porn. Over the last decades, as a society, we managed to engineer stimuli unlike those found in nature throughout our evolutionary timeline. Those stimuli are called 'supernatural stimuli'. Next to junk food, internet porn is an obvious member of that group. We have gained the ability to view an ever-increasing variety of sexually explicit images at a rate never seen before. And unfortunately for the heavy porn user, this has rewired neural circuits related to sexual response, including the dopamine system. In the 2000s, the first cohort of men to be exposed to high-speed internet porn started reporting adverse effects:

=> loss of interest in 'normal' sex, to the point that they experience porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED) or delayed ejaculation (DE)

=> escalation of porn use & transitioning to more extreme fetishes, even to the point that new fetishes become incompatible with the user's value system or sexual orientation

The author of this book does a compelling job to discuss the adverse effects and the neurological underpinnings of porn-induced brain changes. He then gives tips for 'rebooting', which is the abstinence of porn (and in most cases also masturbation & orgasm altogether) in order to improve sexual health. All of this is mixed with an avalanche of user reports & testimonials. This book reads as a self-help guide for the ever-increasing population of men affected by overconsumption of internet pornography.

Author's website: https://www.yourbrainonporn.com/