There’s still so much to learn about the humanities and social sciences—or in the HUMSS strand—that they don’t teach in school. The beauty of creativity is seeing it all around you. It’s in the films you watch, the art you see, the ads you pass, and the books you devour.
Students in the HUMSS strand see the world differently. Likewise, these books about creativity and heroes’ journeys are all about acting and thinking differently. Fuel your originality and passion for HUMSS further with these great reads!
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
For each person, there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a Hungarian-American psychologist known for his work on creativity and positive psychology. His theory? People are happiest when they’re in a state of “flow.” It’s when a person is energized and completely focused on an activity that nothing else seems to matter.
Why You Should Read It: It’s a beautiful book on the psychology of creativity. He explains how to achieve flow as the secret to happiness and motivation.
Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke
Let life happen to you. Believe me: life is in the right, always.
Poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote letters to Franz Kappus, a 17-year-old student struggling with his poetry. They soon start to talk about life, like the young poet’s struggle of figuring out where he wants to go. Rilke gives sound advice on writing, art, love, dealing with criticism, loneliness, and the future.
Why You Should Read It: This short and sweet collection of one-sided letters is a go-to for many stuck creatives. If you’re lost, you can read this over and over and still keep finding new things.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert
Done is better than good.
Author of Eat Pray Love Elizabeth Gilbert offers her take on the creative process. Many creative people feel stuck and scared of getting “blocked” or burnt out. But Gilbert shares her stories and struggles and shows that maybe a creative life is easier than we think. We just need to be free and fearless.
Why You Should Read It: If you’re stuck in a rut or burnt out, this one’s for you. It’s for those perpetual perfectionists, or those too scared to create because they don’t want to be judged.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari
Our language evolved as a way of gossiping.
For all fans of human nature and sociology, this might be the most engaging history book you’ll ever read. It’s less about the details—though you’ll find those, too—and more a commentary on human society and how we got here. After a while, you’ll find Harari has a funny take on religion and revolutions.
Why You Should Read It: It makes you realize the role humanities and culture plays in developing human society. Harari pokes fun at the evolution of critical thinking. Have we evolved as a species, or did we screw up along the way?
The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
“I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”
Zusak’s best-selling young adult novel is historical fiction told from a fresh perspective. Told from the perspective of Death, the story follows Liesel, a girl living with foster parents in Nazi Germany. She steals banned books before the Nazis can destroy them and shares her love for words with the Jewish man hiding in her home.
Why Should You Read It: Well, it’s a book that makes you fall in love with books along the way. Knowing the world war setting, it will move you and show you a deeper side to something you only read in history books.
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love.
Don’t let the Victorian English convince you this isn’t a powerful rom-com and commentary. There’s something so funnily dramatic about crazy rich countryside English people. Jane Austen’s popular novel is a book on wit, sassy characters, gossip, and how first impressions aren’t what they seem.
Why You Should Read It: Besides being a must-read classic, it’s a book that broadens your vocabulary—intelligent insults, and all. On the other hand, it’ll teach you a thing or two about giving people second chances.
Ilustrado, Miguel Syjuco
History is changed by martyrs who tell the truth.
Ilustrado is more than a mystery about a man investigating his mentor’s strange death. It’s a book of clippings, parodies, and eerily familiar politicians that reflect the strengths and flaws of the Filipino nation. It unravels the current Filipino nation, much like Rizal did during his time, hence the title.
Why You Should Read It: You’ll get angry, sad, maybe laugh at the state of the nation. But ultimately, this novel was written so Filipinos could see themselves—icky bits and all.
Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, Edith Hamilton
Love cannot live where there is no trust. (Cupid and Psyche)
Edith Hamilton has one of the best mythology compilations because she includes Greek, Roman, and Norse tales in one volume. Hers is comprehensive and draws from multiple sources, plus they’re so easy to read! You’ll be enchanted from the Olympians to the Odyssey to Odin’s sons.
Why You Should Read It: As someone pursuing humanities and social sciences, a lot of concepts you take up will be based on Greco-Roman mythology. Plus, there are so many things to learn from the rise and fall of gods and ancient heroes.