Books can definitely make you smarter. And with those smarts, you could be more popular. And with popularity, everyone will think you are better-looking. But even if that doesn't exactly pan out, at the very least, these books will make you smarter.
1. A Brief History of Time — Stephen Hawking
It seems appropriate to begin this literary odyssey by joining Hawking on a cosmic journey that explains complex scientific and mathematical subjects in a manner accessible to the non-scientist. You will turn the final page of this book having obtained greater enlightenment pertaining to the universe, time and ourselves, as well as an improved vocabulary.
2. A Little History of the World — Ernst Gombrich
Turning to something a little closer to home, this concise tome, originally written as a compendium for children, summarizes world history with broad brushstrokes. While of necessity this book suffers from occasional oversimplification, it remains a valuable and informative attempt at such a vast topic. As one observed in a review in the Wall Street Journal, "Lucky children will have this book read to them. Intelligent adults will read it for themselves …."
3. The Fault in Our Stars — John Green
This novel, and soon-to-be major motion picture, will not only increase your knowledge and empathy for young people facing terminal illnesses, but also deepen your understanding of the human condition. The style and grace with which Green unfolds this heart-wrenching story will benefit not only your world view, but also your literary style and flair. Better hurry with this one, the motion picture release is slated for June 6, 2014.
4. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything — Stephen D. Levitt
This rebel economist seeks to use economics to explore and explain human behavior in the most unexpected ways. Read and expect to see causation, correlation and connections in ways you haven't dreamed.
5. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking — Susan Cain
Want to learn something? Stop talking and try listening, or in this case, reading. This book examines the virtues and the power of the world's best listeners. For introverts, you will see the value you bring to a society that tends to focus on the noisy ones. For extroverts, you will want to encourage your own introverted tendencies.
6. Les Miserables (Unabridged) — Victor Hugo
Published over 150 years ago, Hugo's epic effort not only goes into great detail on a variety of topics, but also uses language that would inspire even one with impressive vocabulary skills. As surprising as it may seem, after 1,400 plus pages you will finish "Les Miserables" and be inclined to immediately begin again.
7. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy — Douglas Adams
This classic treatise reveals "The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything." If that doesn't increase your knowledge and make you smarter, I don't know what will. Unfortunately, spoiler alert, the answer may not be as helpful as one might initially hope. Still, there is knowledge to be had and joy in this galactic journey.
Bonus: The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century — George Friedman
While soothsaying, reading tea leaves and crystal-ball gazing are notoriously inaccurate, this geopolitical adventure will inform not only a reader's forecasts for the future, but also one's perceptions of the present.
With so many books out there, I may have missed a few. What are the books that make you smarter, popular and better-looking — or at least one out of the three?