nonfiction
Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson
March 26
Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson

This blueprint for new ideas and innovation is one of Bill Gates’s favorite books. It’s an impressive read that will help unleash your creativity and give you a new way of seeing and interacting in the world.

“From the Renaissance to satellites, medical breakthroughs to social media, Charles Darwin to Marconi, Steven Johnson shows how, by recognizing where and how patterns of creativity occur, we can all discover the secrets of inspiration.”

Learn more or purchase Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
May 23
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

“100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?”

Harari tackles these questions and more. What struck me the most concerned homo sapiens as a species and how they, or we, were able to survive and thrive winning the Darwinian battle agains six other homo species.

This is a powerful and fascinating read. I highly recommend it. And it’s particularly good as an audible listen.

Learn more or purchase Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

 

 

end of power my moises naim
May 23
The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be by Moisés Naím

The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be by Moisés Naím

I enjoyed this book, though it could have been a 10,000 word essay and had same impact. But I’m glad he wrote this. The shifting of power is happening all around. In the past there was no access or visibility into the actions of the powerful. This grip on power depended on being centralized and inaccessible.

Social Media and twenty-four hour news has shone light (and darkness) on the government, churches and the military. Although there are industries such as banking and energy where those in charge have not lost much power. The bottom line is power is shifting and more limited now that it has been in the past.

“Those in power retain it by erecting powerful barriers to keep challengers at bay. Today, insurgent forces dismantle those barriers more quickly and easily than ever, only to find that they themselves become vulnerable in the process. Accessible and captivating, Naím offers a revolutionary look at the inevitable end of power—and how it will change your world.”

Learn more or purchase The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be by Moisés Naím

 

February 10
Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny Book by Robert Wright

Nonzero Game Theory. Look it up.

Nonzero and zero game theories are two crucial concepts that everyone, particularly those in government, should always consider. Loved this book for making those two ideas clear in my mind.

“In Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, Wright asserts that, ever since the primordial ooze, life has followed a basic pattern. Organisms and human societies alike have grown more complex by mastering the challenges of internal cooperation. Wright’s narrative ranges from fossilized bacteria to vampire bats, from stone-age villages to the World Trade Organization, uncovering such surprises as the benefits of barbarian hordes and the useful stability of feudalism. Here is history endowed with moral significance–a way of looking at our biological and cultural evolution that suggests, refreshingly, that human morality has improved over time, and that our instinct to discover meaning may itself serve a higher purpose. Insightful, witty, profound, Nonzero offers breathtaking implications for what we believe and how we adapt to technology’s ongoing transformation of the world.”

Click to learn more or purchase Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny Book by Robert Wright.

 

 

January 18
King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild

King Leopold’s Ghost is a mesmerizing read that I could not put down. I understand why it is one of Bill Clinton’s favorite books.

“With great power and compassion, King Leopold’s Ghost will brand the tragedy of the Congo–too long forgotten–onto the conscience of the West.” 

“In the 1880s, as the European powers were carving up Africa, King Leopold II of Belgium seized for himself the vast and mostly unexplored territory surrounding the Congo River. Carrying out a genocidal plundering of the Congo, he looted its rubber, brutalized its people, and ultimately slashed its population by ten million–all the while shrewdly cultivating his reputation as a great humanitarian. Heroic efforts to expose these crimes eventually led to the first great human rights movement of the twentieth century, in which everyone from Mark Twain to the Archbishop of Canterbury participated. King Leopold’s Ghost is the haunting account of a megalomaniac of monstrous proportions, a man as cunning, charming, and cruel as any of the great Shakespearean villains. It is also the deeply moving portrait of those who fought Leopold: a brave handful of missionaries, travelers, and young idealists who went to Africa for work or adventure and unexpectedly found themselves witnesses to a holocaust. King Leopold’s Ghost will brand the tragedy of the Congo–too long forgotten–onto the conscience of the West.”

Click to learn more or purchase King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild

 

January 13
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This memoir by Ta-Nehisi Coates blew me away. A profound and powerful polemic on the black experience, past and present. 

“In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?
 
Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.”

Learn more or purchase Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates 

 

January 13
Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin is a fascinating overview of the deceptions, mistakes and miscalculations by four administrations that gave us the Vietnam War disaster.

Most Dangerous further establishes Steve Sheinkin as a leader in nonfiction.

On June 13, 1971, the front page of the New York Times announced the existence of a 7,000-page collection of documents containing a secret history of the Vietnam War. Known as The Pentagon Papers, these files had been commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Chronicling every action the government had taken in the Vietnam War, they revealed a pattern of deception spanning over twenty years and four presidencies, and forever changed the relationship between American citizens and the politicians claiming to represent their interests. The investigation that resulted–as well as the attempted government coverups and vilification of the whistleblower–has timely relevance to Edward Snowden’s more recent conspiracy leaks.

A provocative and political book that interrogates the meanings of patriotism, freedom, and integrity.

Learn more or purchase Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin

 

 

January 13
Once There was a War by John Steinbeck

In Once There Was a War Steinbeck’s brilliant reporting brings alive the day-to-day lives of the troops and civilians on the ground during World War II.

“Nobel laureate John Steinbeck’s bracing from-the-frontlines account of World War II-now with a new cover and introduction** In 1943 John Steinbeck was on assignment for *The New York Herald Tribune*, writing from Italy and North Africa, and from England in the midst of the London blitz. In his dispatches he focuses on the human-scale effect of the war, portraying everyone from the guys in a bomber crew to Bob Hope on his USO tour and even fighting alongside soldiers behind enemy lines. Taken together, these writings create an indelible portrait of life in wartime.”

Learn more or purchase Once There was a War by John Steinbeck

 

 

January 13
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

I thought Angelina Jolie did a good job making this into a movie, but, as they say, the book is better.

UnBroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand is an extraordinary book that tests the limits of human suffering, endurance and courage. This is a book that grips you from the beginning to the end. 

“On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.”

Learn more or purchase Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

 

 

January 13
Cover by Peter Mendelsund

Cover by Peter Mendelsung is more than a book about design; it’s a meditation on the creative process and the love of books by a genius designer.

How Mendelsund, with little design experience, was hired by Knopf is one of the most amazing stories I’ve ever read. A must for book lovers!

Cover is foremost a visually enticing tour of some of the most important books of recent times, made even more memorable by Mendelsund’s daring covers. The beautifully designed volume is nicely paced with a mix of testimonials from authors whose book covers Mendelsund has designed, along with his own comments on various aspects of the design process.”  –The Washington Post

“Among book designers, Peter Mendelsund is the best reader of all. You always recognize one of his covers when you see it, and it’s not because he tends toward certain colors or typefaces—quite the opposite. Rather, it’s something about the way the cover illuminates the text. You can tell he didn’t just read the manuscript; he internalized it. The result somehow feels both inevitable and surprising: the only possible solution but one you could never dream up yourself.” –Bomb

Learn more or purchase Cover by Peter Mendelsund

 

 

January 13
Between Parentheses by Roberto Bolano

Between Parentheses is a terrific summing up of Roberto Bolano’s journalism and nonfiction in the last years of his life.

“Between Parentheses collects most of the newspaper columns and articles Bolano wrote during the last five years of his life, as well as the texts of some of his speeches and talks and a few scattered prologues. “Taken together,” as the editor Ignacio Echevarría remarks in his introduction, they provide “a personal cartography of the writer: the closest thing, among all his writings, to a kind of fragmented ‘autobiography.’” Bolano’s career as a nonfiction writer began in 1998, the year he became famous overnight for The Savage Detectives; he was suddenly in demand for articles and speeches, and he took to this new vocation like a duck to water. Cantankerous, irreverent, and insufferably opinionated, Bolano also could be tender (about his family and favorite places) as well as a fierce advocate for his heroes (Borges, Cortázar, Parra) and his favorite contemporaries, whose books he read assiduously and promoted generously. A demanding critic, he declares that in his “ideal literary kitchen there lives a warrior”: he argues for courage, and especially for bravery in the face of failure. Between Parentheses fully lives up to his own demands: “I ask for creativity from literary criticism, creativity at all levels.”

“The excellent thing about Between Parentheses is how thoroughly it dispels any incense or stale reverence in the air. It’s a loud, greasy, unkempt thing. Reading it is not like sitting through an air-conditioned seminar with the distinguished Señor Bolaño. It’s like sitting on a barstool next to him, the jukebox playing dirty flamenco, after he’s consumed a platter of Pisco sours. You may wish to make a batch yourself before you step onto the first page…Bolaño’s buzzing mind is a pleasure to dip into.” —The New York Times

Learn more or purchase Between Parentheses by Roberto Bolano

 

 

January 13
What We See When We read by Peter Mendelsund

A gorgeously unique, fully illustrated exploration into the phenomenology of reading-how we visualize images from reading works of literature, from one of our very best book jacket designers, himself a passionate reader. A VINTAGE ORIGINAL.

“What do we see when we read by Peter Mendelsund? Did Tolstoy really describe Anna Karenina? Did Melville ever really tell us what, exactly, Ishmael looked like?

The collection of fragmented images on a page – a graceful ear there, a stray curl, a hat positioned just so – and other clues and signifiers helps us to create an image of a character. But in fact our sense that we know a character intimately has little to do with our ability to concretely picture our beloved – or reviled – literary figures.

In this remarkable work of nonfiction, Knopf’s Associate Art Director Peter Mendelsund combines his profession, as an award-winning designer; his first career, as a classically trained pianist; and his first love, literature – he thinks of himself first, and foremost, as a reader – into what is sure to be one of the most provocative and unusual investigations into how we understand the act of reading.”

“Mendelsund, one of the truly great book-cover designers, explores what we see when we read, in a volume packed with stunning visuals. It’s a fascinating and enlightening look at something we might not actually realize we’re thinking about with every word we read.” —Flavorwire

Learn more of purchase What We See When We read by Peter Mendelsund