Intellectual growth is something we should all aspire to.
Whether the end goal is to progress professionally or simply delve deeper into personal interests, critical thinking is vital.
Growing intellectually covers a diverse set of skills, such as:
If you’re actively attempting to develop your mental faculties, here are some of the top titles to get initiate the process.
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The Best Books for Intellectual Growth
1. Intelligent Thinking – Som Bathla
This book hardly needs much of an explanation because it’s all there in the title.
Intelligent Thinking provides various strategies to improve your critical thinking mechanisms.
The goal is to enhance clarity of mind by increasing awareness of potentially sabotaging thought patterns.
It relies on various case studies of successful intellectuals, from Leonardo da Vinci to Elon Musk, and explains the strategies they used to improve their minds, benefitting both your holistic-thinking skills and problem-solving abilities in the process.
Importantly, it’s all presented in an easy to read format, although the information might be a bit too general for people who have already delved into this area of self-help.
- Easy to read
- A valuable range of case studies of successful intellectuals
- Designed to improve productivity and analysis through critical thinking
- Fairly general information
- Might be too basic for people familiar with this area of self-help
2. Limitless – Jim Kwik
Jim Kwik’s book is a New York Times bestseller designed to improve productivity and reduce negative thought processes.
It argues that one of the biggest barriers for success is your own “mental fog”.
In short, Limitless aims to teach you how to learn.
By mastering this concept, you can absorb any information you want at any time, thus making yourself limitless.
Only by truly understanding your learning process can you discover how to master it.
One of the best features of this book is its clear and concise format. Kwik is a world-leading brain trainer who’s worked with some big names.
This book is simply a distillation of the various techniques he utilises in his practical work.
- Clear, practical advice on how to improve your thinking strategies
- Teaches you how to learn more effectively, rather than focusing on what to learn
- Presented in a logical and understandable format
- Uses information commonly found in self-help books
- Information is also available on Kwik’s podcast series
3. Critical Thinking: Beginner’s Guide – Carl Patterson
Critical thinking is the basis of all intellectual growth, the ability to analyse an issue objectively leading to more successful decision-making.
In Critical Thinking, Patterson outlines the steps needed to train your brain, including practical exercises necessary for this process, along with various tips and tricks for making more logical decisions.
As the name implies, this is a fairly generalised take on the issue.
While it might be unsuitable for those with sufficient critical thinking skills, it’s a good choice for anyone who relies solely on emotion-based decision-making.
Note – it suggests a combination of logic and creativity for best results.
- Practical exercises make it easy to re-train your brain
- Plenty of clear concise lists for understanding logic
- Importantly, it looks at how to recognise and deal with fake news
- General format is good for beginners but won’t offer anything for more experienced critical thinkers
4. Cosmos – Carl Sagan
While not explicitly a self-help intellect book, one of the best mind-expanding activities is to simply enjoy the classic texts of humanity’s greatest thinkers.
An inspiring book can often do more for your brain than a pragmatic, how-to guide.
And where better to look than a book by a world-leading astronomer?
Sagan was an incredibly intelligent and prescient person, his writing style and thought process ideal for expanding your own intellect.
Cosmos covers some fairly complicated topics, such as the human brain and the origin of life, but presents them in an accessible way.
Sagan offers a potted history of the last 15 billion years in a format that’s both exciting and easy to understand.
- Sagan’s writing is perfect for picking up useful tips about presenting information
- Ideal for those who don’t want an explicit self-help book
- Offers a broad range of information in a digestible format
- Not specifically a self-help book. If you want help improving particular skills, look elsewhere
5. Think Like a Freak – Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
The purpose of this book is to offer a new thinking “blueprint” that you can apply to all scenarios.
In theory, the process works regardless of the size of the decision, by focusing on more creative and rational thought.
Levitt and Dubner use various case studies from people they deem “freaky”, including a Japanese hot-dog-eating champion and a bacteria-eating doctor.
While these might not be areas you’re invested in, the point is to highlight the benefit of thinking outside the box.
Think Like a Freak shows how to re-train your brain, including identifying knowledge gaps and the desire to discover more.
After all, it’s only by accepting your limits that you can learn to move past them.
- Offers actionable strategies for re-training your thinking processes
- Uses a useful range of case studies
- Written in accessible language that’s easy to follow
- Quite a quick read
- It helps to have read their previous book first
Find it on Amazon.
Intellectual growth can help us thrive both professionally and personally.
Fortunately, we can improve our knowledge through concerted study.
Firstly, focus on the core aspects of critical thinking.
Once you have a broad understanding of personal psychology, including improving your learning and critical thinking skills, diversify your inputs to include other mind-expanding books in disparate fields of study.
Either focus on high-leverage pursuits for professional development or simply follow your curiosity for personal enjoyment.