Books to End the Old Year: The December Brilliant Reading List (#3 Will Make You a Stronger Debater…)

So, 2020 has been…interesting, to say the least. We’ve had global pandemics, violent protests, controversial elections, economic disasters, and more.
But we’ve also had quiet angels among us, who have selflessly helped their neighbors, tended the sick, kept on living and caring and being a light to their communities.
That’s why, to mimic this mix of dark and light, depression and inspiration, I have a hodgepodge of recommendations for you, to see off this challenging year.
From a book that is all about books that screwed up the world, to a book about changing your life using a well-known but not-always-well-understood Japanese word…from a book about the dark side of human nature to a book about a real-life spy couple whose work was all about saving lives from darkness, deceit, and death, this month’s book list should keep you busy for a while 🙂

10 Books That Screwed Up the World by Benjamin Wiker

10 Books That Screwed Up the World by Benjamin Wiker

How can you resist reading a book with a title like 10 Books That Screwed Up the World? When I saw this book on a list, I nabbed it just because of that title. Because unlike the moms of my peers back when I was a child, (who wanted their kids to read anything at all, if they would only just READ) my mom had always taught me that not all books are good books.

By which I mean, not just in the sense of whether or not books are well-written, but whether or not they help you live a better life. In fact, the 10 books in Wiker’s list are all well-written, penned by authors who are famous to this day for their wit and persuasive powers. But it is precisely BECAUSE they were such skilled writers that their works did so much damage.

I listened to this audiobook while working on other projects, and was distracted more than once by the crazy tales I heard about the bad, the ugly, and the downright darkness of the books that came from Machiavelli, Marx, Kinsey, and more. This book is eye-opening, and a bit chilling, but also a fascinating warning that writing well is not just about writing skillfully.


One Small Step Can Change Your Life by Robert Maurer

One Small Step Can Change Your Life by Robert Maurer

“Kaizen” is the Japanese word for “small changes.” In other words, what turned Japan, after WWII, from a destitute, war-torn country into a productivity powerhouse in one short generation. In One Small Step Can Change Your Life, Robert Maurer explains what ikigai is, how it works, and how you can apply it to your own life, one small step at a time.

Maurer’s work was recommended to me as a great intro to the concept of kaizen, which I’ve heard about but only have a surface-level knowledge of. His main work on kaizen is The Spirit of Kaizen, but I saw One Small Step first, and decided to give that a try. I’m glad I did. Maurer’s writing style is clean and clear, and his ideas are encouraging and practically useful. For those who feel like their lives are slightly out-of-control, this book can be a big help. Try it!


Tactics by Gregory Koukl

Tactics by Greg Koukl

If you’ve ever wondered how to counter bad ideas without making a fool of yourself, you need to give Koukl’s Tactics a try. Written from a Christian perspective, this book mainly focuses on worldview/religious/philosophical arguments, but the conversational and debate tactics referenced can also be applied to any important ideas in your search for truth.

This is the second time I’ve read Koukl’s tactics, which I decided to revisit because there’s a new 10th anniversary edition with more material than the first version. The book contains well-thought-out strategies, presented in a way that is easy for readers to understand. The only critique I have is that I wish there were more real-life story-examples, like the “witch in Wisconsin” anecdote to illustrate the tactics.

If you want to learn powerful, yet simple, and aptly-named strategies (like the Columbo Tactic, named after the three-decades-long bumbling-yet-brilliant TV detective) for understanding people and conversing in a way that helps everyone see any logical inconsistencies or fallacies that might exist, this is the book for you.


Breaking Cover by Michele Rigby Assad

Breaking Cover by Michele Rigby Assad

If you want to hear the story of the real-life Mr. and Mrs. Smith, only with less Hollywood drama, check out Michele Rigby Assad’s Breaking Cover. In this memoir, Assad talks about the crazy adventures that she and her husband (both CIA agents) experienced while working in the Middle East post-9/11.

From the rigors of training to be a secret-service agent to learning to trust her gut when dealing with terrorists and informants, to using all of her accumulated war-tested skills in a daring 100+-person escape at the end of the book, Breaking Cover is the real-life story of a woman whose life could have been a movie, only better!


The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene

The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene

I usually prefer to read books rather than listen to them, but December was a more auditory month for me. I listened to The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene, and could see instantly why he is such a popular author. The man knows how to find the most interesting, obscure historical stories, and then write about and interpret them in a way that fascinates, entertains, and educates readers, that’s for sure.

Greene dives into his theses about common characteristics all humans share, using stories from the lives of tragic historical figures like Mary Shelley and Howard Hughes. Warning: he delves into the dark side of human nature, exclusively — this is not a feel-good book, but a warning to keep an eye out for people who might take advantage of you.

I can’t say for sure whether all of his conclusions are totally true about human nature, but they are definitely well-written, interesting and informative, and I am putting Greene’s other books on my to-read list 😉

And that’s the book list for this final month of 2020~

If you’re a part of the Brilliant Writer Family already, you’ve got something extra special coming to your email box. If you’re not yet part of the tribe, use the form below to stay in the loop! 😃

Want to Find More Incredible Books Like This?

I’ve created The Brilliant Writer Reading List to help you avoid wasting time on terrible books and only enjoy reading the good stuff.