The 12 Most Influential Nonfiction Books You Can’t Miss

Best titles that have already helped thousands of readers worldwide become their better selves

Timer12 min

Do you consider yourself a lifelong learner? If your answer is yes, then this article is what you’ve been looking for! Obviously, in today’s busy and whirling world, it is difficult sometimes to pay attention to your self-growth and development. Not to mention — no time to read books.

No worries, we’ve got you covered. Here is the list of the 12 most influential nonfiction books of the 21st century. It can be a perfect friendly push to start reading. What’s more? On the Headway app, you will find 15-min summaries of all these titles. Perfect for anyone who only has 24 in a day. Ready to dive into the world of nonfiction literature? Let’s go!

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

You may have heard of this book as lots of people claim to love it. It’s not surprising, as it is one of the most bestselling nonfiction titles nowadays.

Yuval Noah Harari explores the development of humanity and what historical factors exactly helped homo sapiens become the only species of its kind on Earth. Full of scientific knowledge along with captivating facts about history and human beings, this book won’t leave anyone cold!

2. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Did you know that two systems define the way we think? Well, that’s actually true! Thinking, Fast and Slow will explain everything about how we think, why we make specific decisions, and what techniques we can use to keep our mind fit and healthy, no glitches attached. 

Understanding your two systems and training yourself to control your thoughts gives you a better advantage. You can make better judgments about life and people; all you need to do is understand the way you think.

3. Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking

We bet you know about Stephen Hawking, a famous theoretical physicist, and cosmologist, one of the greatest minds. No one can’t deny his contribution to the world of groundbreaking nonfiction books. His works contain eye-opening facts about space and the universe. There are more questions, complex in nature, that we must answer to survive here on Earth. And this title is a great helper in it! Brief Answers to the Big Questions was published in 2018 and turned out to become the scientist’s latest published work. Trust us; it is just as good as A Brief History of Time.

4. The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Ah, genetics. The mysterious science that defines who we are, how we behave and live. For decades genes have intrigued scientists who try to fully decode how it works, how they can be programmed and managed. Siddhartha Mukherjee, a cancer physician, Pulitzer Prize winner, and author of the bestselling The Emperor of All Maladies, describes the history of genes in his latest published book. If you’ve always wanted to find out everything about the tiny universe of the gene and its workings, this is the perfect read for you!

5. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

We all have heard of extinction. In most cases, this knowledge is all about the meteor being the reason for whipping out the dinosaurs from Earth. Of course, it is one of the major events in the history of our planet, but there is actually one that is occurring right now. And in this case, the reason for mass extinction is not an Ice Age or a giant burning piece of rock falling from the sky. It’s humankind. With the start of industrialization, we’ve become responsible for the disappearance of more and more species. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History will help you understand the size of harm people cause to the environment and what can we do to stop harming the world we live in.

6. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you’re running and you think, ‘Man, this hurts, I can’t take it anymore. The ‘hurt’ part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand anymore is up to the runner himself.”

Haruki Murakami

It’s not a secret that we don’t know what is waiting for us around the corner. Life is full of surprises, and not all of them are shiny and pleasant. When we look back at history, there have been lots of moments filled with pain and tears. Wars, famine, pandemics. These horrifying events still make people shiver nowadays.

Man’s Search for Meaning is Viktor E. Frankl’s memoir about his life in a Nazi concentration camp. What’s more important, it is not just a description of already known facts. The famous psychiatrist discusses suffering and how we cannot avoid it, yet how we can choose how we deal with it. Being a father of logotherapy, he uses this theory to narrate the story and what meaning looking for a life purpose has in everybody’s life.

7. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores The Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

Many people think that economics is boring. Of course, it’s not true at all. When the right questions are asked, economics can reveal fascinating hidden truths about the world we live in. And yes, some of them are so bizarre that it’s not easy to believe that economics can actually explain such things.

Yet, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner managed to do just that! Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores The Hidden Side of Everything will reveal lots of exciting facts about everything surrounding us without using complicated and puzzling language. Intriguing, informative, economic!

8. How to Do Nothing: Resisting The Attention Economy by Jenny Odell

We live in a world of productivity cult where doing nothing is judged and considered useless. But what if it’s not true? What if taking a break from actions and activities is, in fact, beneficial to your mental health and perception of life?

This is precisely what Jenny Odell discusses in her book How to Do Nothing: Resisting The Attention Economy. From this book, you will find out how doing nothing can save you from burning out and help you restore your energy and find inner peace. Allowing this passive phase to happen from time to time will make you refocus your attention on yourself and what is going on around you.

9. How to Win Friends & Influence People in The Digital Age by Dale Carnegie & Associates

This one is simple: the legendary Dale Carnegie and his immortal classic from 1936. Practical insights have been renovated and became applied to our reality! This book will open all the secrets of strong friendship and influence in business. Success isn’t all about money. It’s also about how you deal with people. The secrets in How to Win Friends And Influence People focus on the human aspect, giving you a different take on how to get where you want to be in life.

Long things short — ultimate enlightenment. And citing the author, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get others interested in you.”

10. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

A lot of people live in a bubble nowadays. They were lucky and privileged enough to get a proper education, find a job with health insurance, and not be afraid of buying an extra cold-brewed coffee every day. It’s not like they didn’t put efforts into what they have, of course. However, there are thousands of people who cannot escape the hamster wheel they’ve been running in since the day they were born.

Barbara Ehrenreich went undercover to see how people who work as waitresses, maids, nursing home aids live on the low wage and what struggles they go through. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America is an unapologetically honest story of what is going on in the world outside the privilege.

11. 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson

‘I wish there were some guidelines, a list of simple truths that would make life easier.’ If you’ve ever thought about it, then this already classic must become your next read!

Jordan B. Peterson, a clinical psychologist, described 12 working rules which aim to make anyone’s life simple, calmer, and organized. What can be called ‘laws of existence’ is described in his bestselling work 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos. Some of these rules may seem odd and peculiar at first sight, but you should read between the lines to understand their real meaning.

12. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary D. Chapman

There are five so-called languages that people use to express or accept love. Yes, you’ve read it right. In most cases, every person uses one of them, just like their partner, friends, relatives, etc. This is why it is crucial to figure out what language you and your loved ones usually operate with.

In his book, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, Gary D. Chapman explains every single one of them, including some practical tips on how to apply these love languages to your relationships. It’s time for love to flourish!

Undoubtedly, there are many more great nonfiction books published during the previous two decades. These 12 titles are among the most popular, recommended by The New York Times, Amazon, Goodreads, and many more trustworthy names. If you are a newbie to the world of nonfiction literature, this book list is perfect for you to dive into new knowledge.

What if you could finish any book in just 15 minutes?

It’s now possible with Headway!

On the Headway app, you will find 15-minute bite-sized summaries from the world’s best nonfiction books. Yes, that’s correct! All titles have been remastered into short reads with key insights and tips. It will help you read more, learn something new every day, and decide what books you are most interested in reading from the very first pages till the last ones.

More than 7 million readers have already picked Headway as their never-ending source of wisdom and self-growth. Want to know more? Let’s go!

What is a summary anyways?

Have you ever wished that you could read an entire book in 15 minutes or less without missing all the crucial information? After all, there are dozens of worthy titles in the world. However, even if you dedicated every single minute of your life to reading, that wouldn’t be enough to dig into all the books. That’s when summaries come to help.

A summary is a unique piece of content written based on a book. The goal is to filter all extra sentences and pages and keep only those pieces and thoughts that are really useful. Headway has an entire summary production team with writers, editors, and proofreaders that creates magic in the form of 5 chapters.

But don’t be afraid. It’s not just a dry text that is boring to read. Most impactful insights and quotes are highlighted in the most remarkable way. There is no chance that you will miss any of them!

Authenticity and uniqueness

At Headway, every piece of content is original. The team picks the most outstanding books, and our talented writers turn them into 15-minute reads. No critical information is excluded from summaries! Only the best insights and minimum time to read them. What’s more? Our groundbreaking illustrator creates all book covers! Take a minute to look into all the metaphors inside the book jackets. It’s worth it! 

One more outstanding feature of Headway is the customization of recommendations. After you fill the quiz, you get access to your account that processes all the information. Based on it, you get your very own book recommendations in the Today for you section.

On top of that, there are editor-picked collections. We know that it can be a little overwhelming to see so many books and decide where to start. That’s why collections are great helpers. Dive into multiple topics like productivity, self-growth, happiness, and many others. This is a great way to begin your journey with Headway!

Read & listen anywhere

Not only is there a massive collection of nonfiction book summaries, but there are also audio versions to every 15-min read! Whether you have a break at work or you don’t want to waste your time on the road, it is a perfect option to learn and evolve any second given.

What’s more? With Headway, you don’t always need to have an Internet connection. You can download any summary or audio and read or listen to it at any moment. That’s what we call limitless access to knowledge.

Challenge accepted!

Do you struggle with sticking to consistency? Worry no more! We’ve created unique reading challenges for different goals. Choose what you want to achieve and follow the challenge to see amazing results in 28 days or less. But what’s the fun without a little competition? Dare your friends to accept the challenge with you, see who will earn all achievements quicker, and don’t forget to discuss the insights you enjoyed the most together!

To personalize your reading experience, set up your goal:

Dive into the best insights

Not only are our writers the magicians of turning a book into 15-minute summaries, but they are also pros at highlighting key ideas and turning them into insights! There is no chance you miss them as we’ve created the most comfortable navigation through summaries so that you never miss important thoughts and words from the author. 

But that’s not all! Every day you get the portion of the most relatable Daily Insights inside the app. We know how important it is sometimes to share what inspires you with others. And it is possible with Headway! You can share Daily Insights to your Instagram stories and give others a glimpse of your source of motivation.

Memorize it!

One of the features that we are most proud of is Spaced Repetition. It is a proven learning technique that is based on flashcards and aims to help with memorizing. How does it work? It’s simple! While reading a summary, you just need to select a word or an insight you’d like to memorize, and voilà — it turns into the flashcard in the Spaced Repetition section. Once you’ve learned certain information, the flashcard will be saved in your history. Don’t forget to check and revise it. This feature is also perfect for readers who speak English as a second language. You can add the dictionaries you need to your flashcards and improve your vocabulary.

Celebrate your progress

In the Me section, you will find your reading achievements. Check out how well you are doing compared to other Headway users, set timing goals of how much do you want to read per day, and, of course, check your current streak! Don’t worry; you will get reminders about how much time is left to finish your daily reading session, so you will never lose your score. That’s an excellent idea for the intellectual competition between your friends, family, and colleagues.

Widgets all the way

Yes, that’s correct. Now inspiration is always in your pocket and speaks to you every time you unlock your phone. Our team picks the best quotes and insights for Headway widgets to keep you motivated every second. And what can we say? Our users love this new feature!

Worldwide recognized app

Apple has already recognized Headway in categories like Popular Apps to Try, This Week’s Favorite, Learn More Everyday, Read More, Achieve More, and New Apps We Love in more than 140+ countries. Headway’s biggest markets are the USA, the UK, New Zealand, Canada, and more than 7 million users have already downloaded the app! Not bad for the app that appeared only in 2019, ha?

The outstanding team

Talented and inspired people who share one common goal is the best definition of the Headway team. Our mission is to provide every person on Earth with an easy way to learn and get knowledge from the world’s best books. Being a multicultural international team, we share our experience and expertise with each other to make our product better. Every member of Headway is a brilliant specialist who adds uniqueness, passion, and new ideas to the app. People are the most significant value of Headway as they are the vital driving force that made the app successful.

We want more people to find out about Headway as we believe in what we do. Helping others become better and smarter is our primary goal, and we go towards it, steadily and firmly. 

Download the Headway app now to join our fantastic community and change your life forever!

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