Human potential expert Beth Taska offers her recommendations for the best in non-fiction …

I love to read! My definition of a good book is one that picks you up where you are (emotionally, intellectually) and sets you down elsewhere. After reading something amazing, I find myself wondering, “How could I not have read this book?”

Here are the non-fiction books I am recommending as of late. And “recommend” might be too mild of a word – it’s more like cajole, plead and implore!

1. “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic” by Sam Quinones

There is a massive, hidden and terrifying epidemic in the United States of medically over-prescribed opiates (e.g. OxyContin), heroin addiction (less than $30 a day to support a full on heroin addiction, delivered to your suburban door), which is supported by a massively effective business operation out of one area of Mexico. Part of the tragedy of this epidemic is the shame that prevents most of us from talking about this misfortune striking our heartland.

2. “Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now” by Gordon Livingston, M.D.

I found myself wishing we all could have Dr. Livingston as our personal physician. His book is not a motivational self-help guide, although it may at first look and feel like this. He is a sage, who has had tremendous life losses, and would like to spare us all some hurt by encouraging us to face our faults and realities and move on. He has gone on a personal journey of immense tribulation, and has come back to give us his lessons in wisdom and kindness. He has little patience for the self-absorbed. He quotes actor Gregory Peck, when the author writes of the loss of his two sons: “I don’t think of him every day; I think of him every hour of every day.”

3. “The Obstacle Is The Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials Into Triumph” by Ryan Holiday

Holiday is in his twenties. This may be his third great book, perhaps more. If you can get over being overwhelmed by the very unequal distribution of talent to this one person, he is incredible in his insight, his viewpoints and ability to clearly see how every “wrong, bad, or hard” thing in our lives is there for our benefit.

4. “We Learn Nothing: Essays” by Tim Kreider

This New York Times political cartoonist and writer explores the human condition, his human condition, from an extremely insightful and hilarious perspective. “We Learn Nothing” asks big questions about human-sized problems: contemplating how we learn, and how we don’t.

5. “The Tao of Seneca: Practical Letters from a Stoic Master” by Seneca

Seneca lived a very long time ago, but reading his book feels like you could be talking to your uncle—your very intelligent uncle. His stoic philosophy is wildly popular in Silicon Valley with thought leaders, has served as guiding principles to the NFL (e.g. Patriots, Seahawks) and is very well “read” by listening to it on Audible. It feels like Seneca himself is talking to you about how to be a better version of you. He will tell you how to live. He has no hesitation to guide your life, and somehow it still works thousands of years after he lived.

6. “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi and Abraham Verghese

The author is a 36-year-old neurosurgeon resident at Stanford who, after a lifetime of learning and striving, is on the cusp of the career he strove to create. He suddenly falls ill with stage IV cancer. Kalanithi has incredible insight, beautiful prose, and an illuminating story of being at the top of his intellect and health and dreams, only to quickly face his eminent death. He uses his very limited time to write a memoir, which is an amazing gift.

Photo credit: Thinkstock, iStock – petrunjela.