Top Nonfiction 2013: Must-Read Think Books
We're spoiled for choice with all the new nonfiction: Take your pick from books about poker, guns, Africa, tennis, the (even more) digital future, space exploration and poop. Here's our pick of 10 things to read that'll expand your mind this spring.
Bestselling author Ben Mezrich has written about Facebook (his "The Accidental Billionaires" became the movie "The Social Network"), Las Vegas, MIT, the Asian markets and "the most audacious heist in history" across a 10-year career as an author. His new book, "Straight Flush," concerns online poker and a gang of University of Montana students trying to game the system--it's already one of the most eagerly-anticipated reads of the season.
New Yorker writer George Packer casts a critical eye on the state of America in his new book, "The Unwinding." Mixing accounts of "ordinary" Americans--such as the son of a tobacco farmer and a factory worker--with portraits of famous folks including Jay-Z, his assessment of the precarious state of our States is likely to cause intense debate if not downright disagreements.
When Chris Kyle, former Navy SEAL and world-renowned dead-eye sniper, was murdered by a fellow veteran at a shooting range in February, we lost not only a highly-decorated soldier, but a fine writer, too. His first book, "American Sniper," has been a huge bestseller--and his history of firearms, "American Gun" (about to be released posthumously) is a fitting tribute to his writerly powers and--given his own demise and the current fight over gun control--an uncannily timely and poignant book.
No one was more entertaining--or more controversial--with a tennis racket in his grasp than Jimmy Connors. Also, he won a ton of tournaments with that sweet left-hand stroke and Wilson steel racket. Now, he's turned his maverick talents to the world of books: His long-awaited autobiography will no doubt settle any number of scores and start a few new ones.
If travel writing has a superstar, it's probably Paul Theroux. Back in southwestern Africa after not having been in 50 years, in "The Last Train to Zona Verde," Theroux travels 2,500 epic miles, from Cape Town, South Africa to "joyless" Luanda, Angola, reporting on a continent both beautiful and desperate.
Executive chairman of Google Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas (a think tank within the company devoted to addressing global social and political issues through technology), team up to a pen a sweeping overview of how technology will change government, business and our daily lives in the decades to come. Topics of discussion include the changing balance of power between citizens and government, the role of technology in aiding and fighting terrorism and the always hot-button issue of privacy in the digital age. With pre-publication raves from Bill Clinton, Henry A. Kissinger, Elon Musk and Sir Richard Branson, "The New Digital Age" is poised to be the new big think book of the spring.
p>From the enigmatic, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "I Am a Strange Loop" and "Godel, Escher, Bach" comes another yet another brain-bender, "Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking." Based off the simple idea that "analogy is the core of all thinking," Hofstadter (in collaboration with Emmanuel Sander) argues that our minds make meaning by taking the miasma of images, language and thoughts we're constantly bombarded with and creating analogies—relationships—between them. Our ability to make analogies (consciously or not), he says, is what produces cognitive phenomena such as intuition and Freudian slips. Hofstadter's knack for making complex philosophy massively entertaining has already won him a devoted cult following. If you're not already on board, "Surfaces and Essences" may be your ticket.
Former astronaut and space enthusiast Buzz Aldrin was the second man to walk on the moon. Now, 82, and still wielding influence in the national space-exploration debate, he's setting his sights on Mars. In "Mission to Mars," he lays out his plan for exploring—and eventually colonizing—the red planet. Complete with dozens of National Geographic illustrations, Aldrin gives readers his expert insight into the inspiring science—and intricate politics—of what's next in space exploration.
In the tradition of Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink" and Daniel Kahneman's "Thinking, Fast and Slow," Rolf Dobelli's "The Art of Thinking Clearly" shows how our hidden cognitive biases influence countless daily decisions, often with negative consequences. These biases are the deep-seated thinking patterns responsible for unhealthy habits, poor productivity, unwise spending and other personal shortcomings. Dobelli shows readers how to identify their biases and transcend them for better decision-making. Those on the prowl for some brain-sharpening protips need look no further.
David Waltner-Toews' book on the history, science and ecological potential of excrement seems destined for that loftiest of book genres: bathroom reading. (And with inquiries into "primordial ooze," dung beetles and the rise of the flush toilet, we have to imagine the book will do wonders Ex-Lax could never hope to.) But within this seemingly cheeky volume, there are numerous compelling cultural and scientific insights, beginning with Waltner-Toews' argument that we need to stop tiptoeing around the subject of poo: "What places sh*t among the wickedest of wicked problems is that, with all the ecological and public health impacts it carries, we don't have a good, common language to talk about it." Whether it's a gag gift, a toilet-side alternative to Sudoku or just some light, easily digestible po(o)p-sci fare, "The Origin of Feces" is sure to be a fun and pungent read.