One of the purposes stories have in the world is to impart knowledge in an implicitly understandable way - in a social way. Not all stories were crafted to entertain, though it does help the information stick in one's memory. Not only do stories (passed down through any tradition you can think of - oral, written, what have you) try to impart wisdom from those who've gone before, they try to teach lessons without having to go through the experiences in question. In other words, so that you can learn from the mistakes of others. In this case, these are texts that I've learned important lessons from and find generally helpful in my everyday life in the twenty-first century.
I realize that some of the recommended texts are somewhat controversial. All I can say in all honesty is that applying the lessons that can be found in these texts has made life significantly easier, and I doubt my family would be doing as well as we are right now if I wasn't. Learning how to do something, sketchy or otherwise, does not mean that one drops their ethics and morals at the wayside. Frequently, having any training in or inside knowledge of something helps you realize when someone is using that thing against you so you can do something about it. For example, it's been my experience that having some training in NLP has not only given me forewarning of when someone was trying it on me, I was able to cut it off then and there.
None of the purchase links on this list are affiliate links. If you buy them I get nothing for it. Where feasible I've linked to accessible copies of the texts for your perusal and continuing education.
Mind Control 101 - Dantalion Jones
A down to earth practical guide on neuro-linguistic programming that doesn't try to teach you by using NLP. It's been my experience that if you're trained in it, it's easier to recognize when it's being used on you as well as being more resistant to it.
The Satanic Witch - Anton Szandor LeVay
Practical psychology at street level.
The Sheep Look Up - John Brunner
This novel seems to have predicted a lot of stuff going on right now, including multi-antibiotic resistant diseases.
The Coming Plague - Laurie Garrett
She warned us about antibiotic resistant diseases in 1994. It doesn't seem like very many people listened.
Future Shock - Alvin Toffler
You're living in it.
Extraterrestrial Languages - Daniel Oberhaus
Very smart people talking about some of the challenges of communicating with hypothetical alien life. Not just mental exercise but fascinating reading.
The New York Public Library Desk Reference
You can't always count on having net.access these days. It's also a good (if subtle) textbook on everyday stuff.
Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars - Anonymous
Conspiracy theory? Perhaps. Look at the stuff going on in the world, however, and quite a bit of it is not only in the book but explained in simple terms. I find it makes global situations more predictable, and thus more manageable on a very small scale.
The 48 Laws of Power - Robert Greene
A somewhat updated interpretation of Machiavelli. Cynical but also highly useful in everyday life as well as predicting why powerful people are doing or not doing certain things. Like LeVay, I wish I could say that it isn't such a helpful text, but it is.
Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected - Rory Miller
If you watch the news, you've seen it. Perhaps you've been on the wrong side of it. Either way, it's good to have some idea of how violent conflict manifests at street level and how to handle it.
Handbook for A Post-Roe America - Robin Marty
The freedom to get essential healthcare (reproductive and otherwise) is on the ropes due to direct attack and side effects. This book is an excellent reference when figuring out what to do.
Hiding From the Internet - Michael Bazzell
The boundry between the physical world and the Net was erased when the first hacker was raided in the 1960's. The implications of this are clear to anyone who's been on the wrong side of the activities of certain online forums. Learning about privacy in the twenty-first century will keep you safer.
Hardcore Zen - Brad Warner
Lessons about life and Zen from an old-school punk.