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Give Your Brain a Boost: 12 Books Guaranteed to Make You More Intelligent

John Rampton
Updated Jun 29, 2022

Reading can greatly improve your business skills and make you smarter all around. Here are 12 books to boost your business smarts.

Want to be smarter – or at least feel like you are? Pick up one of these classic reads for great minds. The idea that reading makes you smarter has been proven by numerous research studies, including some that have identified improvements in crystallized, fluid and emotional intelligence in individuals /articles/develop-emotional-intelligence/who read regularly. Reading can help expand vocabulary and understanding, and increase the ability to detect emotions and feelings in others for better communication and relationships.

Books to make you more intelligent

Here are 12 books that can enhance the intelligence boost you get from reading.

1. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

While this ancient book might, at first, appear like a military manual, its ideas about strategy translate into successful tactics that anyone can use to create a more intelligent strategy for their company.

2. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

So much of today’s success comes from having the right mindset for business. This book is dedicated to showing you how to think methodically and rapidly, as well as how to know when to make faster or slower decisions. You want to be quick on your feet, but you don’t want to rush into a decision that needs more contemplation. Kahneman teaches both a “fast system” and a “slow system” to help you determine when and how to use each speed of thinking. [Related article: What Are Decision Support Systems?]

3. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

In this popular book, Bryson shares information across many areas of science related to the universe and how we got to where we are in human history. Along the way, Bryson adds some heavy information on physics, biology, chemistry and more. When you can discuss how and why we might be here, as well as our purpose, you could impress more than a few people in conversation. 

4. The Greatest Secret in the World by Og Mandino

First published in 1972, this book has stood the test of time and is on a number of must-read lists. Not only does this book make you more intelligent with insights on personal and financial success, but it also gives you the plan for developing the traits that will get you what you want. The transformational processes Mandino describes can also help you improve your relationships with all types of people. [Check out our top 10 must-read books for marketers.]

5. The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes

Those who write well are often deemed more intelligent than those who cannot. Pick up this manual, which serves as both a how-to book and a fountain of inspiration on bravery. This book gives you the information you need to improve your grammar, structure, tone and style.

6. Jump Start Your Business Brain by Doug Hall

This book is designed to enhance your level of intelligence around designing and launching a new product. It focuses on the skills and knowledge essential to making a viable product. Hall uses research and analyses to help you develop an effective sales process, marketing strategies and other business techniques.

7. Cosmos by Carl Sagan

While you might think some aspects of this book are over your head, Sagan makes deep and expansive topics accessible. He covers areas such as religion, philosophy, history, culture and science, to make you feel more well-rounded, or at least deliver some tidbits you can toss into a dinner party conversation about the meaning of life.

8. Creativity Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace

Creativity continues to be pegged as a critical success factor and a pathway to differentiation in business. Yet it can be one of the most difficult things for us to put into a defining practice for use. With examples from today’s biggest creative film successes, the book offers a glimpse of how to tap into the creative potential in all of us. 

TipTip: Want to share your own knowledge with readers? Learn how to write an e-book for your business.

9. You Are Not Your Brain by Jeffrey Schwartz

Most of us need to practice greater discipline in how we think and act. This book offers tips on how to control your mind while managing any impulses that may be impacting relationships, productivity and overall success. 

10. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

While a high IQ is great to have, Outliers presents the logic behind why some people are more successful than others, illustrating that it is not always directly related to intelligence. Using findings from evolutionary psychology, Gladwell teaches you how to be smarter and more successful.

11. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

Since we all seem to develop both good and bad habits in our lives, it is beneficial to understand why we do what we do, and the impact that our habits can have on us, our relationships and how well we do in the business world. This book can provide the inspiration and strategy to alter habits and develop ones that position us to be more admired, influential and successful.

12. Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Becoming more intelligent often requires changing perspectives and altering the way you think and make decisions. Through the use of diverse examples within this book, the authors offer a variety of steps to help readers begin thinking differently.

Bottom LineBottom Line: A large part of success is listening to and attempting to understand others’ insights and experiences.

Whether these books change how you think, decide or act, others will begin to notice incremental improvements in your intelligence. This could mean greater respect at work, a jump in the influence you have over others or even a fast pass to a spot on Jeopardy.

How reading helps you in business

Helps you become a better writer

Writing is a necessary skill for anyone involved in business. It’s used for memos, emails, social media and official documents. When you read, you expose yourself to a variety of voices and styles, which can help you learn different ways of communicating ideas. You will begin to pick up on what works and what doesn’t, how to communicate using details or evidence, and even how to engage others through various writing modes. In addition, reading allows you the opportunity to pick up new vocabulary. [Related article: 4 Psychology-Based Tips to Improve Your Copywriting]

Improves reading comprehension

Reading exposes you to endless pieces of information you might have otherwise never learned. Reading for 30 minutes or more every week gives you a 21% higher chance of increasing your knowledge, according to a Quick Reads report. In addition to gaining more expertise from the books you read, you’ll improve your ability to comprehend information. This makes it easier to read between the lines, understand any hidden messages in communications you receive from others and see the bigger picture.

Did you know?Did you know? Reading can give you a stronger ability to see from different perspectives, especially if you read books from diverse authors.

Increases your communication skills

Listening to others’ ideas and how they communicate them can help you learn how to communicate more effectively and ensure your ideas come across clearly. This can help you with public speaking as you learn the flow of words and sentences, how conversations naturally occur, and what structures there are for expressing certain ideas or topics. This is useful when networking or communicating with people within your business. The Quick Reads report found that those who read at least 30 minutes a week are 27% more likely to have an easy time starting conversations, and others will find them more likable while they talk. Conversations will be more effective, and you will be seen as a great communicator with high emotional intelligence. [Read more about the importance of emotional intelligence in business.]

Reduces stress

In the sometimes chaotic and stressful world in the aftermath of COVID-19, it’s important to take breaks and relax your mind. As much as you value productivity, resting your brain is just as important. When you read, you can ease up while not fully unplugging your mind. Reading has been proven to reduce stress more than listening to music or exercising, and it can even lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Not only will you become more intelligent from reading, but your physical and mental health can improve at the same time.

Sean Peek contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.

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Shutterstock/Andrii Kobryn

John Rampton
John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor, online marketing guru and startup enthusiast. He is founder of the online payments company Due.com. John is best known as an entrepreneur and connector. He was recently named #2 on Top 50 Online Influencers in the World by Entrepreneur Magazine. He currently advises several companies in the San Francisco Bay area.