5 Science Books That Will Totally Change How You See the World

We generally think of vision as a simple mirror — there are certain objects out there and our eyes and brains process light to let us see those things — but science shows reality is a lot weirder and more complicated than that. Creative people, for instance, literally see things that others do not, and your mood can affect whether you perceive another face as smiling or sad.

In other words, we don’t perceive the world so much as we construct it. And if we change our emotions or our ideas we quite literally see things differently. If you want a fresh perspective, you can go to new places, or you can look at the same old places with fresh eyes.

If you’re looking to do the latter, Big Think recently put together a great list for you. The roundup of perspective-shifting books on science from writer Derek Beres promises titles that “push boundaries by confronting common wisdom and updating our collective knowledge.” Read them and the world will look strange and new.

“If you want to know why humans behave how we do, start with American neuroendocrinologist Robert Sapolsky’s tour de force,” suggests Beres. (These TED talks on psychology might help too.)

We’ve all likely heard that thanks to cell death and replacement, you have a mostly new body every seven years or so. But it’s not just your skin and bones that replace themselves — your brain actually grows new cells deep into adulthood and can reorganize itself to heal after trauma. That process is explored in depth in this book by poet/psychoanalyst Doidge.

“A clear bright light of optimism shines through every page,” wrote fellow neuroscientist V. S. Ramachandran in his review of the book.

“Psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett presents one of the most counterintuitive books in recent memory by claiming that we don’t react to our environment so much as constantly construct our reality. This groundbreaking work will change how you view your inner world forever, empowering you with the knowledge that pretty much every ‘reaction’ can be changed,” raves Beres about this book.

Tech addiction and just how positively — or negatively — our screens are affecting our lives is a hot topic lately. What does science have to say on this issue? To find out look no further than Levitin’s book. It “will change how you view tech–and your life,” promises Beres.

Want an unforgettable illustration of just how powerfully fresh ideas can reshape how we see the world? Then check out what this title does for your view of the humble octopus.

“Australian philosopher and professor Peter Godfrey Smith has exposed the unworldly reality of the octopus in such candor that we’ll never view this incredible cephalopod the same way. In the process he offers keen insights into the development of sentience and intelligence throughout the animal kingdom, humans included,” explains Beres.

If you’re convinced you should add a few more popular science titles to your reading list to spark creativity and awe, then check out the complete Big Think list for five more great suggestions.

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