30The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that I needed to elaborate on my Top 5 list from the last post (Top 5 Personal Inspiration Books).

And correct an error.

Before I do, though, let me explain that I deliberately avoided religious books (for those who are aghast that I could omit the Bible) and travel books. I restricted myself to books that are more “generic,” that could be appropriate for everyone regardless of beliefs and personal interests.

  1. 5. The Power of Focus: How to hit your business, personal and financial targets with absolute certainty, by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Les Hewitt. These are the guys who wrote the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series.

I first read this book about 20 years ago and have referenced it many times since. The book is exactly as the title states, with a lot of tips around the general topic of setting goals and focussing on them. The chapters include themes such as developing successful habits, setting goals, keeping balance, building relationships, building confidence, developing persistence, and more. And there are action steps at the end of each chapter.

Thumbing through the book now, I find paper notes that I’ve stuffed into the book: long lists of goals related to the variety of topics covered. The lists are long, and my priorities have changed a lot in those 20+ years, but I’m heartened to see the considerable number from the list that I have accomplished.

I’ll bet you’d have the same record of accomplishment twenty years after reading this book and putting onto paper the goals it inspires.

  1. Life at the End of Us Vs Them: Cross Culture Stories, by Marcus Peter Rempel. Rempel is a Mennonite from Manitoba but with a broadly inclusive world view. That’s what this book is all about.

To be honest, the best thing about this book is the thought-provoking title. We are so prone to divide the world into two: Us and Them. As soon as we do that, we create competition, we create barriers and, ultimately, we create conflict.  As my own thinking has evolved over the years, I’ve become more and more convinced that it is this mentality that is the root of most of the world’s problems.

Why are we so prone to the divisions? I think it’s because it provides us with the easiest, lowest common denominator, way of validating ourselves. Admittedly, we are tribal people, operating best within kindred groups.  But, in my opinion, that doesn’t validate the juxtaposition of us vs them–but this is me speaking, not Rempel.

The book is a series of essays, all on the topic of acceptance and inclusion, of breaking down barriers and opening doors of welcome. Many of them are based on local and national incidents but written with broad application. They prod us to push the edges of our thinking. And they are written by a brilliant and articulate author.

  1. Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki. Okay, here is my correction: in a moment of mental lapse, I indicated the book Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill. That classic work, first published in 1937, is also a good book, on a similar topic, though I dislike the title. But the one that should be third on my list is Kiyosaki’s.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by far the best-selling personal finance book of all time (27 million), is written for everyone. It has changed the financial fortunes of millions of people in the 51 languages into which it has been translated, in the 109 countries in which it is available.

What it does is change one’s perspective on money and finances. Going right to the basics, it corrects the misperceptions that most of us grow up with, misperceptions that, if maintained through life, entrench us in patterns of ever striving but never achieving our financial goals, or, as Kiyosaki puts it, never escaping “the rat race.”

It’s an easy read. If you’ve never yet read it, I encourage you to do so, sooner than later. It may change your life, and your financial success. I’ll send a free copy to the first person who requests it.

  1. Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress, by Steven Pinker. Bill Gates has called this, “My new favorite book of all time.” And I understand why.

Amid all the negative news—hey that’s the kind that makes the headlines because, in the news industry, “if it bleeds, it leads”–one would think everything is going downhill. This book paints exactly the opposite picture. As the back page states: “If you think the world is coming to an end, think again.”

It’s not because Pinker is a pie-in-the-sky kind of guy, or even a glass-half-full optimist. He is a serious researcher. Citing study after study, data upon data, and including 75 graphs, he demonstrates how, on almost every measure, the world is gradually getting better. It’s been that way ever since science and reason (the “enlightenment”) became dominant.

Areas of improvement include life expectancy, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, happiness, and even the environment, not only in the Western “enlightened” world but worldwide.

It is a most encouraging read and a balance to the anxieties and fears we harbour, and the misperceptions, fueled by media, that drive them.

  1. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt. Haidt is a psychologist who has studied, and led a whole movement into understanding what causes people to believe what they do, identifying the principles that underlie their moral judgements.

To clarify, in the context of this book the word “righteous” is not a religious term. It simply means one’s conviction that one is right. And that one’s righteousness is based on self-evident principles.

They may not be so self-evident. Haidt’s group has determined that there are six basic foundations of morality on which we base our “righteous” judgements. The real difference between political and religious zealots is that they differentially emphasize or value these various foundations.

But if we all recognized the legitimacy of the six (Haidt doesn’t evaluate their merits, only identifies their existence), we would be much more prone to live peaceably with, and even understand, those with whom we differ, even Republicans and Democrats. And that’s a tall order.

We would be a kinder, gentler people, embracing diversity and getting along better with each other.

The book is a little more challenging read than some of the others but absolutely worthwhile for those who can (hey, there’s a reason it’s #1 on my list.) A New York Times review calls is “a landmark contribution to humanity’s understanding of itself.”