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These are all incredible books that continue to renew my sense of wonder and hope for the world. I've read most of these with the Kindle app on my phone, while in transit somewhere or waiting in lobbies, airports, etc. 

Showing 52 items
TitleAuthorsCommentsMore info (URL)
TitleAuthorsCommentsMore info (URL)
A History of the World in Twelve Maps Jerry Brotton This book describes in great detail the context and construction of some of the most important maps from 150 CE to the present, from Ptolemy, Mercator, Cassini, and many others, finishing with Google Earth. The Cassini Map is also featured on my Maps webpage.  listing on Amazon.com 
An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith Barbara Brown Taylor Seeing God in the everyday world. Sequel to Leaving Church. listing on Amazon.com 
Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder Nassim Nicholas Taleb Robust systems are antifragile; harming them (up to a point) results in their rebuilding stronger than before. We can learn from this.  listing on Amazon.com 
An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politics, Polluters, and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas Diane Wilson Environmental action in Texas. It's still the wild west. listing on Amazon.com 
Bailout: How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street Neil Barofsky Tells what went wrong in followup to 2008 crash, from perspective of government mismanagement. See also The Big Short by Lewis, and Currency Wars by Rickards. listing on Amazon.com 
Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors Nicholas Wade Remarkable detective work on human history from DNA/genome analysis; good presentation of "out of Africa" theory.  listing on Amazon.com 
Catch-22: 50th Anniversary Edition Joseph Heller When I saw this anniversary edition, I thought it'd be fun to re-read (roughly my 40th anniversary reading). So funny, so true, sigh.  listing on Amazon.com 
Change or Die Alan Deutschman He doesn't mean it (the title). This is really about the failure of using fear, danger & alarm as a motivation for change. But he does show what works; consistent & complementary to Heath's "Switch". listing on Amazon.com 
Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist Christof Koch A neuroscientist reviews current understanding of the basis for consciousness in humans and other life forms. This is still a fuzzy area but it appears to be a fundamental property of all complex systems, not just life forms.  listing on Amazon.com 
Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis James Rickards Provides historical context to the 2008 crash, describing evolution of national & global monetary policy since 1900; describes how US Fed efforts to manage inflation provide only superficial help to US trade, while undermining our interests in driving the global economy. See also The Big Short by Lewis, and Bailout by Barofsky. listing on Amazon.com 
Darwin's Ghosts: The Secret History of Evolution Rebecca Stott Jargon-free description of breakthroughs in science dating back to Aristotle, that led to Charles Darwin's Origin of the Species, published in 1859. Outstanding history of civilization, modern natural history, and the struggle between church and science.  listing on Amazon.com 
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us Daniel Pink we're motivated more by challenges than by salary level listing on Amazon.com 
Emergence: The connected lives of ants, brains, cities, and software Steven Johnson Patterns of complexity; what a forest slime mold has in common with the Internet. Excellent treatment of a difficult subject; essential for understanding our culture. listing on Amazon.com 
Environment, Power and Society for the Twenty-First Century: The Hierarchy of Energy Howard T. Odum I studied environmental and energy system dynamics from H.T. Odum at the Univ of Florida in mid-1990s. His approach enables description of multi-scale environmental and social/economic systems in terms of their embedded energy (emergy) expressed in units of solar photosynthesis. A much-needed accounting system, if we are to understand the effects of society on nature.. listing on Amazon.com 
Europe before Rome: A Site-by-Site Tour of the Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages T. Douglas Price Results of decades of archaeological research in Europe, focusing on a few representative sites that show the progress of pre-humans and humans out of Africa listing on Amazon.com 
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin Erik Larson The story of Hitler's rise in 1933-34, from the perspective of the US ambassador to Berlin at the time. Larson really captures a sense of the times in Germany, Europe and the US. Yet another "extreme event" we should have seen coming, but key people failed to take heed of the warning signs. listing on Amazon.com 
Invisible Cities Italo Calvino Imaginary conversations between Marco Polo and his host, the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan, conjure up cities of magical times. “Of all tasks, describing the contents of a book is the most difficult and in the case of a marvelous invention like Invisible Cities, perfectly irrelevant” (Gore Vidal) listing on Amazon.com 
Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History Erik Larson Larson paints a vivid picture: life in Texas around 1900; a brief history of hurricanes to that time; the life of a particular weather man; and the hubris of America and a booming city. And finally you see the hurricane stripping through Galveston. Hard to put it down. listing on Amazon.com 
Junana Bruce Caron Excellent; the most positive possible future i've seen so far. Gaming over the web becomes a tool to accelerate learning. This could happen. listing on Amazon.com 
Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883 Simon Winchester This was one of the first natural disasters known around the world within hours, thanks to the recent invention of the telegraph. But much more happened around this, than just the destructive explosion. Great insight into the period.  listing on Amazon.com 
Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East Scott Anderson Fascinating complement to Seven Pillars of Wisdom. This book is not just about T.E. Lawrence, but also his German & American counterparts jockeying for the upper hand in World War 1. listing on Amazon.com 
Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith Barbara Brown Taylor Inspiring autobiography of an Episcopalian pastor's burnout and transition to mystic philosopher in American deep south listing on Amazon.com 
Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them Al Franken how do they keep getting away with it?? listing on Amazon.com 
Love in the Ruins: The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World Walker Percy Very strange but compelling sci-fi that could happen soon. Or did it, already?  listing on Amazon.com 
Measuring America: How the United States Was Shaped By the Greatest Land Sale in History Andro Linklater A history of the early United States told from the perspective of surveying it. Also about the 18th century struggle & lost opportunity for an international metric system. listing on Amazon.com 
Mountains Beyond Mountains Tracy Kidder Inspiring story of Dr. Paul Farmer, tenacious genius who brought public health to Haiti while in Boston med school, and first to understand how to treat multi-resistant bacterial infections listing on Amazon.com 
Outliers: The Story of Success  Malcolm Gladwell What do Bill Gates & Steve Jobs have in common, that led to their success? Why are most Canadian hockey stars born in Jan-Feb-March? Numerous stories of social context that helped lift gifted people to become superstars. Listing on Amazon.com 
Overconnected: The Promise and Threat of the Internet William H. Davidow title says it all? listing on Amazon.com 
Rise and Shine: The Extraordinary Story of One Man's Journey from Near Death to Full Recovery Simon Lewis Inspiring autobiography of 15 yr recovery from coma to TED talk, and how he was helped and hindered by the medical profession & technology listing on Amazon.com 
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari Puts global context around the story told in Europe Before Rome, and spends last half of book on the human-dominated world since 1500s, when the western European explorers broke out of the mold and started exploring for exploration’s sake (and for riches). The author describes many different social/cultural/cognitive/scientific revolutions. I liked his history better than his future projections but it’s all thought-provoking. listing on Amazon.com 
Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream Joshua Davis Bittersweet story about 4 bright young men who built an underwater robot in Arizona, that beat MIT and others in a national contest.  listing on Amazon.com 
Strength in What Remains Tracy Kidder Incredible, inspiring story of a Burundi native & doctor who escaped genocide and came to NY, then with help of kind strangers worked through Columbia Univ and Boston med school (with Paul Farmer) listing on Amazon.com 
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard Chip Heath, Dan Heath Builds on Jon Haidt's "elephant/rider" metaphor; excellent study and examples for how to be effective in making significant changes in individuals or institutions. listing on Amazon.com 
The Alchemy of Air: A Jewish Genius, a Doomed Tycoon, and the Scientific Discovery That Fed the World but Fueled the Rise of Hitler Thomas Hagar In the 1890s it was becoming apparent that farm production would not keep up with population growth. The drive to solve that problem turned out to fuel the next 2 world wars.  listing on Amazon.com 
The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine Michael Lewis Tells how the 2008 crash came to happen, from perspective of Wall Street investors. See also Bailout by Barofsky, and Currency Wars by Rickards. listing on Amazon.com 
The Consolations of Philosophy Alain de Botton Most insightful & readable applications of philosophy to everyday issues: unpopularity (Socrates), not enough money (Epicurus), frustration (Seneca), inadequacy (Montaigne), a broken heart (Schopenhauer), difficulties (Nietzsche)  listing on Amazon.com 
The Film Club: A Memoir David Gilmour Amazing memoir of one father's answer to his son's learning difficulties in school. The selection of movies itself is worth the read.  listing on Amazon.com 
The Good Book: A Humanist Bible A. C. Grayling A secular bible that draws on "the wisdom of 2,500 years of contemplative non-religious writing on all that it means to be human - from the origins of the universe to small matters of courtesy and kindness in everyday life." (from Amazon.com review) listing on Amazon.com 
The Happiness Hypothesis Jonathan Haidt We make most of our decisions based on unconscious emotions before rationalizing them with logic. Our rational mind is like a rider on an elephant, where the elephant is our emotional, instinctive, unconscious self. We can learn how to guide our inner elephant rather than fighting it. This understanding can also improve our communications with others. listing on Amazon.com 
The Help Kathryn Stockett Even better than the movie: "historical fiction" account of life & culture of American deep south during 1960s. listing on Amazon.com 
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Rebecca Skloot Case study about culturing the most virulent cancer strain ever, for medical research listing on Amazon.com 
The Invention of Air: A Story Of Science, Faith, Revolution, And The Birth Of America Steven Johnson Story of Joseph Priestley, 18th century scientist & theologian whose research led to discovery of oxygen, and whose writing made science more accessible and inviting. listing on Amazon.com 
The Logic of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World Tim Harford The author looks for the rational basis in such behavior as drug addiction, unprotected sex and prostitution, society's high divorce rate, overpaid CEOs, bad government programs and the likely causes of the persistent instability in the majority of African & South/Central American political systems. I couldn't put the book down, it's so well written for non-economist readers. listing on Amazon.com 
The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 Lawrence Wright Epic compilation of the lives and stories since World War 2, that led to Osama bin Laden's war with the West. Could be the sequel to T.E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom. listing on Amazon.com 
The Lost Chalice Vernon Silver Many precious archaeological artifacts are found in farmers' fields, and sold to the highest bidder. This is a true story about such an artifact that ruined world-class museum reputations. Hard to put down.  listing on Amazon.com 
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion Jonathan Haidt Best explanations I've seen for the psychology behind the tension between our rational and emotional selves, and how the American Left and Right can come to understand each other. Seriously, it could work.. listing on Amazon.com 
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom T. E. Lawrence Autobiography of British officer who became known as “Lawrence of Arabia”, about his experiences in the Middle East during World War I while serving as a liaison officer with Arab forces during the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Turks. His insightful account reveals much about the cultural differences between the West and Middle East.  listing on Amazon.com 
The Sixth Extinction Elizabeth Kolbert The 6th mass extinction event is upon us. This book describes loss of amphibians, trees, coral reefs and other sea life, birds, and land animals. There are many processes in play here.  listing on Amazon.com 
The Social Conquest of Earth Edward O. Wilson How is it that humans and certain ants are the most socially complex organisms on Earth? listing on Amazon.com 
Thunderstruck Erik Larson How the telegraph was invented, and how this invention solved a murder mystery.  listing on Amazon.com 
To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 Adam Hochschild A personal, intimate telling of horrors and stupidities of World War 1, from the perspectives of several key figures involved in it.  listing on Amazon.com 
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values Robert M. Pirsig This 25th anniversary edition was well worth re-reading. Remarkable story of the author's self-discovery.  listing on Amazon.com 
Showing 52 items