by Nick Lane
About the book: The Earth teems with life: in its oceans, forests, skies and cities. Yet there’s a black hole at the heart of biology. We do not know why complex life is the way it is, or, for that matter, how life first began. In The Vital Question, biochemist Nick Lane radically reframes evolutionary history, putting forward a solution to conundrums that have puzzled generations of scientists.For two and a half billion years, from the very origins of life, single-celled organisms such as bacteria evolved without changing their basic form. Then, on just one occasion in four billion years, they made the jump to complexity. All complex life, from mushrooms to man, shares puzzling features, such as sex, which are unknown in bacteria. How and why did this radical transformation happen?The answer, Lane argues, lies in energy: all life on Earth lives off a voltage with the strength of a lightning bolt. Building on the pillars of evolutionary theory, Lane’s hypothesis draws on cutting-edge research into the link between energy and cell biology, in order to deliver a compelling account of evolution from the very origins of life to the emergence of multicellular organisms, while offering deep insights into our own lives and deaths.Both rigorous and enchanting, The Vital Question provides a solution to life’s vital question: why are we as we are, and indeed, why are we here at all? 37 illlustrations
by David Brooks
About the book: In The Road to Character, he focuses on the deeper values that should inform our lives. Responding to what he calls the culture of the Big Me, which emphasizes external success, Brooks challenges us, and himself, to rebalance the scales between our “résumé virtues”—achieving wealth, fame, and status—and our “eulogy virtues,” those that exist at the core of our being: kindness, bravery, honesty, or faithfulness.
by Randall Munroe
About the book: In Thing Explainer, he uses line drawings and only the thousand (or, rather, “ten hundred”) most common words to provide simple explanations for some of the most interesting stuff there is, including:food-heating radio boxes (microwaves)tall roads (bridges)computer buildings (datacenters)the shared space house (the International Space Station)
by Evan Thomas
About the book: NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST NONFICTION BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY TIME AND ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH • “What was it really like to be Richard Nixon? Evan Thomas tackles this fascinating question by peeling back the layers of a man driven by a poignant mix of optimism and fear.”—Walter Isaacson, author of Steve JobsEvan Thomas delivers the best single-volume biography of Richard Nixon to date, a radical, unique portrait of a complicated figure who was both determinedly optimistic and tragically flawed. The New York Times bestselling author of Ike’s Bluff and Sea of Thunder, Thomas brings new life to one of American history’s most infamous, paradoxical, and enigmatic politicians, dispensing with myths to achieve an intimate and nuanced look at the actual man. What drove a painfully shy outcast in elite Washington society—a man so self-conscious he refused to make eye contact during meetings—to pursue power and public office? How did a president so attuned to the American political id that he won reelection in a historic landslide lack the self-awareness to recognize the gaping character flaws that would drive him from office and forever taint his legacy? In Being Nixon, Evan Thomas peels away the layers of the complex, confounding figure who became America’s thirty-seventh president. The son of devout Quakers, Richard Nixon (not unlike his rival John F. Kennedy) grew up in the shadow of an older, favored brother and thrived on conflict and opposition. Through high school and college, in the navy and in politics, he was constantly leading crusades and fighting off enemies real and imagined. As maudlin as he was Machiavellian, Nixon possessed the plainspoken eloquence to reduce American television audiences to tears with his career-saving “Checkers” speech; meanwhile, his darker half hatched schemes designed to take down his political foes, earning him the notorious nickname “Tricky Dick.” Drawing on a wide range of historical accounts, Thomas reveals the contradictions of a leader whose vision and foresight led him to achieve détente with the Soviet Union and reestablish relations with communist China, but whose underhanded political tactics tainted his reputation long before the Watergate scandal. One of the principal architects of the modern Republican Party and its “silent majority” of disaffected whites and conservative ex-Dixiecrats, Nixon was also deemed a liberal in some quarters for his efforts to desegregate Southern schools, create the Environmental Protection Agency, and end the draft. A deeply insightful character study as well as a brilliant political biography, Being Nixon offers a surprising look at a man capable of great bravery and extraordinary deviousness—a balanced portrait of a president too often reduced to caricature. Praise for Being Nixon“A biography of eloquence and breadth . . . No single volume about Nixon’s long and interesting life could be so comprehensive.”—Chicago Tribune “Terrifically engaging . . . a fair, insightful and highly entertaining portrait.”—The Wall Street Journal “Thomas has a fine eye for the telling quote and the funny vignette, and his style is eminently readable.”—The New York Times Book Review “Thomas proves an amiable and fair-minded tour guide.”—The Boston Globe “A measured, concise, and important American biography.”—Michael Beschloss, author of Presidential CourageFrom the Hardcover edition.
by Julian M. Allwood,Jonathan M. Cullen
About the book: This evidence-based survey presents a holistic vision of options for a sustainable future by going beyond efficient and clean production to the inclusion of material efficiency and the reduction of demand. Beginning with an all-encompassing examination of the uses of the five most important materials—steel, aluminum, cement, plastic, and paper—this exploration delves into the entire lifecycle of these materials, from smelting and goods manufacture to final recycling. Through evidence drawn from this analysis and real-world commercial enterprises, the study submits creative solutions for achieving manufacturing efficiencies and the same functionality or services using less material, and identifies potential economic outcomes from these scenarios.
by Nancy Leys Stepan
About the book: How shall we improve human health? One answer is: by eradication. The Gates Foundation announced in 2007 that their goal is malaria eradication; another of their priorities is polio eradication. Eradication means the complete elimination of a disease through deliberate human intervention. It stands for an absolute in public health.This book by the award-winning historian of medicine Nancy Leys Stepan is an accessible, beautifully written, and deeply researched examination of one of the most controversial issues in public health today. The eradication of disease might seem like an absolute good. But critics of eradication argue that the huge resources needed to achieve eradication could be better allocated toward developing primary health services and general improvement in health.This book aims to look at the benefits and drawbacks of single-minded efforts to rid the world of particular diseases, one at a time. The sweep of the book is impressive, from the origins of the idea of complete eradication in the early twentieth century until the present-day campaigns against polio, Guinea worm disease, and now malaria. The author places eradication's story in its many contexts, from imperialism, changing notions of public health, the history of medicine and its technologies, the development of international health agencies such as the World Health Organization, and the impact of the Cold War on the shift of attention to disease in developing countries.At the center of this narrative is Dr. Fred Lowe Soper (1893–1977), a U.S.-trained doctor who became the arch-eradicationist of his time. His campaigns to eradicate hookworm disease, yaws, yellow fever, malaria, and smallpox are treated in compelling detail, as are the roles of international health agencies such as the Rockefeller Foundation and the World Health Organization.Throughout the book Stepan draws attention to the way that the ideal of eradication has repeatedly arisen, phoenix-like, from its setbacks. In a powerful conclusion, she uses the example of the current campaign to eradicate Guinea worm disease to argue that, today, under the right circumstances, eradication and primary health care need not be in conflict, as they were in the past, but can form mutually reinforcing policies to improve the health and well-being of populations, especially the poorest and most disease-burdened populations of the world.
by Carol Dweck
About the book: World-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, in decades of research on achievement and success, has discovered a truly groundbreaking idea—the power of our mindset. Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success—but whether we approach them with a fixed or growth mindset. She makes clear why praising intelligence and ability doesn’t foster self-esteem and lead to accomplishment, but may actually jeopardize success. With the right mindset, we can motivate our kids and help them to raise their grades, as well as reach our own goals—personal and professional. Dweck reveals what all great parents, teachers, CEOs, and athletes already know: how a simple idea about the brain can create a love of learning and a resilience that is the basis of great accomplishment in every area. Praise for Mindset “Everyone should read this book.”—Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Switch and Made to Stick “Will prove to be one of the most influential books ever about motivation.”—Po Bronson, author of NurtureShock “A good book is one whose advice you believe. A great book is one whose advice you follow. I have found Carol Dweck’s work on mindsets invaluable in my own life, and even life-changing in my attitudes toward the challenges that, over the years, become more demanding rather than less. This is a book that can change your life, as its ideas have changed mine.”—Robert J. Sternberg, IBM Professor of Education and Psychology at Yale University, director of the PACE Center of Yale University, and author of Successful Intelligence “If you manage any people or if you are a parent (which is a form of managing people), drop everything and read Mindset.”—Guy Kawasaki, author of The Art of the Start and the blog How to Change the World “Highly recommended . . . an essential read for parents, teachers [and] coaches . . . as well as for those who would like to increase their own feelings of success and fulfillment.”—Library Journal (starred review) “A serious, practical book. Dweck’s overall assertion that rigid thinking benefits no one, least of all yourself, and that a change of mind is always possible, is welcome.”—Publishers Weekly “A wonderfully elegant idea . . . It is a great book.”—Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., author of Delivered from Distraction
by Jeremy N. Smith
About the book: Moneyball meets medicine in this remarkable chronicle of one of the greatest scientific quests of our time—the groundbreaking program to answer the most essential question for humanity: how do we live and die?—and the visionary mastermind behind it.Medical doctor and economist Christopher Murray began the Global Burden of Disease studies to gain a truer understanding of how we live and how we die. While it is one of the largest scientific projects ever attempted—as breathtaking as the first moon landing or the Human Genome Project—the questions it answers are meaningful for every one of us: What are the world’s health problems? Who do they hurt? How much? Where? Why?Murray argues that the ideal existence isn’t simply the longest but the one lived well and with the least illness. Until we can accurately measure how people live and die, we cannot understand what makes us sick or do much to improve it. Challenging the accepted wisdom of the WHO and the UN, the charismatic and controversial health maverick has made enemies—and some influential friends, including Bill Gates who gave Murray a $100 million grant.In Epic Measures, journalist Jeremy N. Smith offers an intimate look at Murray and his groundbreaking work. From ranking countries’ healthcare systems (the U.S. is 37th) to unearthing the shocking reality that world governments are funding developing countries at only 30% of the potential maximum efficiency when it comes to health, Epic Measures introduces a visionary leader whose unwavering determination to improve global health standards has already changed the way the world addresses issues of health and wellness, sets policy, and distributes funding.
by Mark Miodownik,Sarah Scarlett
About the book: New York Times Bestseller • New York Times Notable Book 2014 • Winner of the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books “A thrilling account of the modern material world.” —Wall Street Journal "Miodownik, a materials scientist, explains the history and science behind things such as paper, glass, chocolate, and concrete with an infectious enthusiasm." —Scientific AmericanWhy is glass see-through? What makes elastic stretchy? Why does any material look and behave the way it does? These are the sorts of questions that renowned materials scientist Mark Miodownik constantly asks himself. Miodownik studies objects as ordinary as an envelope and as unexpected as concrete cloth, uncovering the fascinating secrets that hold together our physical world. In Stuff Matters, Miodownik explores the materials he encounters in a typical morning, from the steel in his razor to the foam in his sneakers. Full of enthralling tales of the miracles of engineering that permeate our lives, Stuff Matters will make you see stuff in a whole new way."Stuff Matters is about hidden wonders, the astonishing properties of materials we think boring, banal, and unworthy of attention...It's possible this science and these stories have been told elsewhere, but like the best chocolatiers, Miodownik gets the blend right." —New York Times Book Review
by Allie Brosh
About the book: #1 New York Times Bestseller “Funny and smart as hell” (Bill Gates), Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half showcases her unique voice, leaping wit, and her ability to capture complex emotions with deceptively simple illustrations.FROM THE PUBLISHER:Every time Allie Brosh posts something new on her hugely popular blog Hyperbole and a Half the internet rejoices.This full-color, beautifully illustrated edition features more than fifty percent new content, with ten never-before-seen essays and one wholly revised and expanded piece as well as classics from the website like, “The God of Cake,” “Dogs Don’t Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving,” and her astonishing, “Adventures in Depression,” and “Depression Part Two,” which have been hailed as some of the most insightful meditations on the disease ever written.Brosh’s debut marks the launch of a major new American humorist who will surely make even the biggest scrooge or snob laugh. We dare you not to.FROM THE AUTHOR:This is a book I wrote. Because I wrote it, I had to figure out what to put on the back cover to explain what it is. I tried to write a long, third-person summary that would imply how great the book is and also sound vaguely authoritative—like maybe someone who isn’t me wrote it—but I soon discovered that I’m not sneaky enough to pull it off convincingly. So I decided to just make a list of things that are in the book:PicturesWordsStories about things that happened to meStories about things that happened to other people because of meEight billion dollars*Stories about dogsThe secret to eternal happiness**These are lies. Perhaps I have underestimated my sneakiness!
by Richard Dawkins
About the book: An elegant, text-only paperback edition of the New York Times bestseller that’s been hailed as the definitive authority on…everything.Richard Dawkins, bestselling author and the world’s most celebrated evolutionary biologist, has spent his career elucidating the many wonders of science. Here, he takes a broader approach and uses his unrivaled explanatory powers to illuminate the ways in which the world really works. Filled with clever thought experiments and jaw-dropping facts, The Magic of Reality explains a stunningly wide range of natural phenomena: How old is the universe? Why do the continents look like disconnected pieces of a jigsaw puzzle? What causes tsunamis? Why are there so many kinds of plants and animals? Who was the first man, or woman? Starting with the magical, mythical explanations for the wonders of nature, Dawkins reveals the exhilarating scientific truths behind these occurrences. This is a page-turning detective story that not only mines all the sciences for its clues but primes the reader to think like a scientist as well.
by Randall Munroe
About the book: From the creator of the wildly popular webcomic xkcd, hilarious and informative answers to important questions you probably never thought to ask. Millions of people visit xkcd.com each week to read Randall Munroe’s iconic webcomic. His stick-figure drawings about science, technology, language, and love have a large and passionate following. Fans of xkcd ask Munroe a lot of strange questions. What if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light? How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live? If there was a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last? In pursuit of answers, Munroe runs computer simulations, pores over stacks of declassified military research memos, solves differential equations, and consults with nuclear reactor operators. His responses are masterpieces of clarity and hilarity, complemented by signature xkcd comics. They often predict the complete annihilation of humankind, or at least a really big explosion. The book features new and never-before-answered questions, along with updated and expanded versions of the most popular answers from the xkcd website. What If? will be required reading for xkcd fans and anyone who loves to ponder the hypothetical.
by Eula Biss
About the book: The hugely acclaimed New York Times Best Seller, now available in paperback!*A National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist*ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF 2014:The New York Times Book Review (Top 10), Entertainment Weekly (Top 10), New York Magazine, Chicago Tribune (Top 10), Publishers Weekly (Top 10), Time Out New York (Top 10), Los Angeles Times, Kirkus, Booklist, NPR's Science Friday, Newsday, Slate, Refinery 29, and many more...In this bold, fascinating book, Eula Biss addresses our fear of the government, the medical establishment, and what may be in our children's air, food, mattresses, medicines, and vaccines. Reflecting on her own experience as a new mother, she suggests that we cannot immunize our children, or ourselves, against the world. As she explores the metaphors surrounding immunity, Biss extends her conversations with other mothers to meditations on the myth of Achilles, Voltaire's Candide, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, Susan Sontag's AIDS and Its Metaphors, and beyond. On Immunity is an inoculation against our fear and a moving account of how we are all interconnected-our bodies and our fates.
by John Brooks
About the book: “Business Adventures remains the best business book I’ve ever read.” —Bill Gates, The Wall Street Journal What do the $350 million Ford Motor Company disaster known as the Edsel, the fast and incredible rise of Xerox, and the unbelievable scandals at General Electric and Texas Gulf Sulphur have in common? Each is an example of how an iconic company was defined by a particular moment of fame or notoriety; these notable and fascinating accounts are as relevant today to understanding the intricacies of corporate life as they were when the events happened. Stories about Wall Street are infused with drama and adventure and reveal the machinations and volatile nature of the world of finance. Longtime New Yorker contributor John Brooks’s insightful reportage is so full of personality and critical detail that whether he is looking at the astounding market crash of 1962, the collapse of a well-known brokerage firm, or the bold attempt by American bankers to save the British pound, one gets the sense that history repeats itself. Five additional stories on equally fascinating subjects round out this wonderful collection that will both entertain and inform readers . . . Business Adventures is truly financial journalism at its liveliest and best.
by Thomas Piketty
About the book: What are the grand dynamics that drive the accumulation and distribution of capital? Questions about the long-term evolution of inequality, the concentration of wealth, and the prospects for economic growth lie at the heart of political economy. But satisfactory answers have been hard to find for lack of adequate data and clear guiding theories. In Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty analyzes a unique collection of data from twenty countries, ranging as far back as the eighteenth century, to uncover key economic and social patterns. His findings will transform debate and set the agenda for the next generation of thought about wealth and inequality.Piketty shows that modern economic growth and the diffusion of knowledge have allowed us to avoid inequalities on the apocalyptic scale predicted by Karl Marx. But we have not modified the deep structures of capital and inequality as much as we thought in the optimistic decades following World War II. The main driver of inequality―the tendency of returns on capital to exceed the rate of economic growth―today threatens to generate extreme inequalities that stir discontent and undermine democratic values. But economic trends are not acts of God. Political action has curbed dangerous inequalities in the past, Piketty says, and may do so again.A work of extraordinary ambition, originality, and rigor, Capital in the Twenty-First Century reorients our understanding of economic history and confronts us with sobering lessons for today.
by Joe Studwell
About the book: Named by Bill Gates as one of his Top 5 Books of the YearAn Economist Best Book of the YearIn the 1980s and 1990s many in the West came to believe in the myth of an East-Asian economic miracle, with countries seen as not just development prodigies but as a unified bloc, culturally and economically similar, and inexorably on the rise. In How Asia Works, Joe Studwell distills extensive research into the economics of nine countries—Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, and China—into an accessible, readable narrative that debunks Western misconceptions, shows what really happened in Asia and why, and for once makes clear why some countries have boomed while others have languished. Impressive in scope, How Asia Works is essential reading for anyone interested in a region that will shape the future of the world.
by Vaclav Smil
About the book: How much further should the affluent world push its material consumption? Does relative dematerialization lead to absolute decline in demand for materials? These and many other questions are discussed and answered in Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization. Over the course of time, the modern world has become dependent on unprecedented flows of materials. Now even the most efficient production processes and the highest practical rates of recycling may not be enough to result in dematerialization rates that would be high enough to negate the rising demand for materials generated by continuing population growth and rising standards of living. This book explores the costs of this dependence and the potential for substantial dematerialization of modern economies. Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization considers the principal materials used throughout history, from wood and stone, through to metals, alloys, plastics and silicon, describing their extraction and production as well as their dominant applications. The evolving productivities of material extraction, processing, synthesis, finishing and distribution, and the energy costs and environmental impact of rising material consumption are examined in detail. The book concludes with an outlook for the future, discussing the prospects for dematerialization and potential constrains on materials. This interdisciplinary text provides useful perspectives for readers with backgrounds including resource economics, environmental studies, energy analysis, mineral geology, industrial organization, manufacturing and material science.
by Sonia Shah
About the book: In recent years, malaria has emerged as a cause celebre for voguish philanthropists. Bill Gates, Bono, and Laura Bush are only a few of the personalities who have lent their names--and opened their pocketbooks--in hopes of stopping the disease. Still, in a time when every emergent disease inspires waves of panic, why aren't we doing more to tame one of our oldest foes? And how does a pathogen that we've known how to prevent for more than a century still infect 500 million people every year, killing nearly one million of them? In The Fever, journalist Sonia Shah sets out to answer those questions, delivering a timely, inquisitive chronicle of the illness and its influence on human lives. Through the centuries, she finds, we've invested our hopes in a panoply of drugs and technologies, and invariably those hopes have been dashed. From the settling of the New World to the construction of the Panama Canal, through wartimes and the advances of the Industrial Revolution, Shah tracks malaria's jagged ascent and the tragedies in its wake, revealing a parasite every bit as persistent as the insects that carry it. With distinguished prose and original reporting from Panama, Malawi, Cameroon, India, and elsewhere, The Fever captures the curiously fascinating, devastating history of this long-standing thorn in the side of humanity.
by William H. Foege
About the book: A story of courage and risk-taking, House on Fire tells how smallpox, a disease that killed, blinded, and scarred millions over centuries of human history, was completely eradicated in a spectacular triumph of medicine and public health. Part autobiography, part mystery, the story is told by a man who was one of the architects of a radical vaccination scheme that became a key strategy in ending the horrible disease when it was finally contained in India. In House on Fire, William H. Foege describes his own experiences in public health and details the remarkable program that involved people from countries around the world in pursuit of a single objective—eliminating smallpox forever. Rich with the details of everyday life, as well as a few adventures, House on Fire gives an intimate sense of what it is like to work on the ground in some of the world’s most impoverished countries—and tells what it is like to contribute to programs that really do change the world.
About the book: For more than 3000 years, hundreds of millions of people have died or been left permanently scarred or blind by the relentless, incurable disease called smallpox. In 1967, Dr. D.A. Henderson became director of a worldwide campaign to eliminate this disease from the face of the earth.This spellbinding book is Dr. Henderson’s personal story of how he led the World Health Organization’s campaign to eradicate smallpox—the only disease in history to have been deliberately eliminated. Some have called this feat "the greatest scientific and humanitarian achievement of the past century."In a lively, engrossing narrative, Dr. Henderson makes it clear that the gargantuan international effort involved more than straightforward mass vaccination. He and his staff had to cope with civil wars, floods, impassable roads, and refugees as well as formidable bureaucratic and cultural obstacles, shortages of local health personnel and meager budgets. Countries across the world joined in the effort; the United States and the Soviet Union worked together through the darkest cold war days; and professionals from more than 70 nations served as WHO field staff. On October 26, 1976, the last case of smallpox occurred. The disease that annually had killed two million people or more had been vanquished–and in just over ten years.The story did not end there. Dr. Henderson recounts in vivid detail the continuing struggle over whether to destroy the remaining virus in the two laboratories still that held it. Then came the startling discovery that the Soviet Union had been experimenting with smallpox virus as a biological weapon and producing it in large quantities. The threat of its possible use by a rogue nation or a terrorist has had to be taken seriously and Dr. Henderson has been a central figure in plans for coping with it.New methods for mass smallpox vaccination were so successful that he sought to expand the program of smallpox immunization to include polio, measles, whooping cough, diphtheria, and tetanus vaccines. That program now reaches more than four out of five children in the world and is eradicating poliomyelitis.This unique book is to be treasured—a personal and true story that proves that through cooperation and perseverance the most daunting of obstacles can be overcome.