by Victoria McIntosh | Featured Contributor
Need a bit more processing power? Struggling over and over with a puzzle you know can be solved, if only you could see the answer? While not everyone will become masters of general relativity or cosmic theory, there are ways we can sharpen our minds like steel traps, and find better answers to the puzzles we come across. Critical and creative thinking, the ability to solve problems with both logic and imagination is something we can all strive to get better at, and the desire to learn more is part of the fun. If you’re getting ready for a mental marathon, the authors and their inspirations below provide excellent exercises, advice and timeless wisdom to better your brainpower. Some of these books I’ve recommended before; some are completely new and some a little out there. All have given moments of pause and provided new invites into how to process incoming data.
1. Mastermind – Maria Konnikova
Unquestionably a favorite, Mastermind was first introduced to me at a professional development conference from a longtime security professional. I picked up the book from the local library, started to read, and after the first chapter went out to purchase a copy of my own: I needed this one my shelf. Writer Maria Konnikova breaks down the mental processes of Holmes brilliantly, combining detailed analysis of Sir Doyle’s writings with studies on psychology and neuroscience, identifying Holme’s method of mindfulness, observation, and putting pieces together while demonstrating the detective’s own tactics for getting un-stuck. If you select but one book to improve your mind, make it Mastermind.
2. How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day – Michael J. Gelb
Born in Florence in 1452, Leonardo Da Vinci had a particularly rare kind of genius: he’s known for his detailed observations of science and inventions, but more famously for his paintings and works of art. Da Vinci was a man who could equally use both the right and left sides of the brain, a rare talent that gave us one of history’s most loved intellectual. In his book, Michael Gelb explores Leonardo’s life and times against his power of “whole-brain” thinking. Gelb’s book is presented less as a psychological paper and more of a workbook: with exercises, activities and actions designed to break open the seven principles behind Da Vinci’s great mind, and showing readers how they too can encourage their own renaissance thinking.
3. It’s Not About the Shark – David Niven
Sometimes when getting wrangled up in a problem, it’s hard to find the way out. Between “watching a boring movie,” and “calling your friend with the purple hair,” Niven provides some very different advice on getting through the mess, with memorable real-world anecdotes that keep you reading, the book’s title coming unquestionably from Spielberg’s experience with Jaws. Under Niven’s instruction, you’ll learn to avoid dismissing your most out-of-the-park ideas; sometimes they’re exactly the solutions you need. If you’re stuck and looking for advice on creative problem solving, It’s Not About the Shark is for you.
4. Curious – Ian Leslie
“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know,” is a famous quote of Albert Einstein, but what drives us to keep learning? Sure, that monkey can hold up a picture to get a banana, but does it ever wonder why silly humans are so interesting in how it learns in the first place? In Curious, Ian Leslie poses is a line of thinking that may become the critical intellectual capability in a future of rising artificial intelligence: the ability and interest in asking “why?” It’s an interesting perception, with Leslie providing examples of how asking questions and the desire to learn more can have significant impact on brain health, with some big payoffs.
5. Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life – Max Lugavere
Sometimes what our brains really need is food, and certain foods can offer better results when we need thinking power than others. There are a few books out there to read on the topic, and Lugavere’s should definitely be one on your list. Genius Foods packs a punch for advice, both for immediate brain boosts and keeping your memory sharp with age. When brain fog becomes a nasty frustration, Genius Foods is here to help.