Wrap up your 2016 with YC's winter reading list

A Christmas reading list as recommended by the high priests of Silicon Valley.
reading-in-2016 reading-lists YCrecommends winter-reading-list
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Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

by Angela Duckworth

About the book:  In this instant New York Times bestseller, pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows anyone striving to succeed—be it parents, students, educators, athletes, or business people—that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.”Drawing on her own powerful story as the daughter of a scientist who frequently noted her lack of “genius,” Duckworth, now a celebrated researcher and professor, describes her early eye-opening stints in teaching, business consulting, and neuroscience, which led to the hypothesis that what really drives success is not “genius” but a unique combination of passion and long-term perseverance. In Grit, she takes readers into the field to visit cadets struggling through their first days at West Point, teachers working in some of the toughest schools, and young finalists in the National Spelling Bee. She also mines fascinating insights from history and shows what can be gleaned from modern experiments in peak performance. Finally, she shares what she’s learned from interviewing dozens of high achievers—from JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon to New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff to Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll. Among Grit’s most valuable insights: *Why any effort you make ultimately counts twice toward your goal *How grit can be learned, regardless of I.Q. or circumstances *How lifelong interest is triggered *How much of optimal practice is suffering and how much ecstasy *Which is better for your child—a warm embrace or high standards *The magic of the Hard Thing Rule Winningly personal, insightful, and even life-changing, Grit is a book about what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that—not talent or luck—makes all the difference.


Notes:  “It’s the best book I have read on how to discover and build passion as well as perseverance. I love her thesis on why ‘effort counts twice’.”

Talent x Effort = Skill
Skill x Effort = Achievement

–Anu Hariharan

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The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation

by Jon Gertner

About the book:  From its beginnings in the 1920s until its demise in the 1980s, Bell Labs-officially, the research and development wing of AT&T-was the biggest, and arguably the best, laboratory for new ideas in the world. From the transistor to the laser, from digital communications to cellular telephony, it's hard to find an aspect of modern life that hasn't been touched by Bell Labs. In The Idea Factory, Jon Gertner traces the origins of some of the twentieth century's most important inventions and delivers a riveting and heretofore untold chapter of American history. At its heart this is a story about the life and work of a small group of brilliant and eccentric men-Mervin Kelly, Bill Shockley, Claude Shannon, John Pierce, and Bill Baker-who spent their careers at Bell Labs. Today, when the drive to invent has become a mantra, Bell Labs offers us a way to enrich our understanding of the challenges and solutions to technological innovation. Here, after all, was where the foundational ideas on the management of innovation were born.


Notes:  “It’s amazing how prolific Bell Labs was — the transistor, information theory, Unix, amongst other creations — but it’s fascinating to understand it as an organization. Researchers at Bell Labs performed basic research that was open-ended in approach, but the problems addressed very much influenced by the problems parent company AT&T faced with deploying and iterating on their products. It’s made me think a lot about the best ways for companies to help guide and catalyze basic research.” –Matt Krisiloff

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Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

by Ed Catmull,Amy Wallace

About the book:  NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER | NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Huffington Post • Financial Times • Success • Inc. • Library JournalFrom Ed Catmull, co-founder (with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter) of Pixar Animation Studios, the Academy Award–winning studio behind Inside Out and Toy Story, comes an incisive book about creativity in business and leadership—sure to appeal to readers of Daniel Pink, Tom Peters, and Chip and Dan Heath. Fast Company raves that Creativity, Inc. “just might be the most thoughtful management book ever.”Creativity, Inc. is a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation—into the meetings, postmortems, and “Braintrust” sessions where some of the most successful films in history are made. It is, at heart, a book about how to build a creative culture—but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, “an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.” For nearly twenty years, Pixar has dominated the world of animation, producing such beloved films as the Toy Story trilogy, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Up, WALL-E, and Inside Out, which have gone on to set box-office records and garner thirty Academy Awards. The joyousness of the storytelling, the inventive plots, the emotional authenticity: In some ways, Pixar movies are an object lesson in what creativity really is. Here, in this book, Catmull reveals the ideals and techniques that have made Pixar so widely admired—and so profitable. As a young man, Ed Catmull had a dream: to make the first computer-animated movie. He nurtured that dream as a Ph.D. student at the University of Utah, where many computer science pioneers got their start, and then forged a partnership with George Lucas that led, indirectly, to his founding Pixar with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter in 1986. Nine years later, Toy Story was released, changing animation forever. The essential ingredient in that movie’s success—and in the thirteen movies that followed—was the unique environment that Catmull and his colleagues built at Pixar, based on leadership and management philosophies that protect the creative process and defy convention, such as: • Give a good idea to a mediocre team, and they will screw it up. But give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they will either fix it or come up with something better. • If you don’t strive to uncover what is unseen and understand its nature, you will be ill prepared to lead. • It’s not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It’s the manager’s job to make it safe for others to take them. • The cost of preventing errors is often far greater than the cost of fixing them. • A company’s communication structure should not mirror its organizational structure. Everybody should be able to talk to anybody. Praise for Creativity, Inc.“Over more than thirty years, Ed Catmull has developed methods to root out and destroy the barriers to creativity, to marry creativity to the pursuit of excellence, and, most impressive, to sustain a culture of disciplined creativity during setbacks and success.”—Jim Collins, co-author of Built to Last and author of Good to Great “Too often, we seek to keep the status quo working. This is a book about breaking it.”—Seth Godin


Notes:  “Ed Catmull, the co-founder of Pixar with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter, on how they built a culture of openness, honesty, self-reflection, and risk-taking that protects new ideas and creativity instead of squashing them.” –Aaron Epstein

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The Agony And The Ecstasy

by Irving Stone

About the book:  Irving Stone's powerful and passionate biographical novel of Michelangelo. His time: the turbulent Renaissance, the years of poisoning princes, warring popes, the all-powerful Medici family, the fanatic monk Savonarola. His loves: the frail and lovely daughter of Lorenzo de Medici; the ardent mistress of Marco Aldovrandi; and his last love - his greatest love - the beautiful, unhappy Vittoria Colonna. His genius: a God-driven fury from which he wrested the greatest art the world has ever known. Michelangelo Buonarotti, creator of David, painter of the Sistine ceiling, architect of the dome of St Peter's, lives once more in the tempestuous, powerful pages of Irving Stone's marvellous book.

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A Guide to the Good Life

by William B. Irvine

About the book:  One of the great fears many of us face is that despite all our effort and striving, we will discover at the end that we have wasted our life. In A Guide to the Good Life, William B. Irvine plumbs the wisdom of Stoic philosophy, one of the most popular and successful schools of thought in ancient Rome, and shows how its insight and advice are still remarkably applicable to modern lives. In A Guide to the Good Life, Irvine offers a refreshing presentation of Stoicism, showing how this ancient philosophy can still direct us toward a better life. Using the psychological insights and the practical techniques of the Stoics, Irvine offers a roadmap for anyone seeking to avoid the feelings of chronic dissatisfaction that plague so many of us. Irvine looks at various Stoic techniques for attaining tranquility and shows how to put these techniques to work in our own life. As he does so, he describes his own experiences practicing Stoicism and offers valuable first-hand advice for anyone wishing to live better by following in the footsteps of these ancient philosophers. Readers learn how to minimize worry, how to let go of the past and focus our efforts on the things we can control, and how to deal with insults, grief, old age, and the distracting temptations of fame and fortune. We learn from Marcus Aurelius the importance of prizing only things of true value, and from Epictetus we learn how to be more content with what we have. Finally, A Guide to the Good Life shows readers how to become thoughtful observers of their own lives. If we watch ourselves as we go about our daily business and later reflect on what we saw, we can better identify the sources of distress and eventually avoid that pain in our life. By doing this, the Stoics thought, we can hope to attain a truly joyful life.


Notes:  “A modern exploration of stoic philosophy.” –Finbarr Taylor

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Don Quixote

by Miguel De Cervantes

About the book: No description available


Notes:  “It’s useful to read about a dreamer who keeps going despite getting repeatedly beaten up.” –Aaron Harris

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Shoe Dog

by Phil Knight

About the book:  In this candid and riveting memoir, for the first time ever, Nike founder and board chairman Phil Knight shares the inside story of the company’s early days as an intrepid start-up and its evolution into one of the world’s most iconic, game-changing, and profitable brands. Young, searching, fresh out of business school, Phil Knight borrowed fifty dollars from his father and launched a company with one simple mission: import high-quality, low-cost running shoes from Japan. Selling the shoes from the trunk of his Plymouth Valiant, Knight grossed eight thousand dollars that first year, 1963. Today, Nike’s annual sales top $30 billion. In this age of start-ups, Knight’s Nike is the gold standard, and its swoosh is more than a logo. A symbol of grace and greatness, it’s one of the few icons instantly recognized in every corner of the world. But Knight, the man behind the swoosh, has always been a mystery. Now, in a memoir that’s surprising, humble, unfiltered, funny, and beautifully crafted, he tells his story at last. It all begins with a classic crossroads moment. Twenty-four years old, backpacking through Asia and Europe and Africa, wrestling with life’s Great Questions, Knight decides the unconventional path is the only one for him. Rather than work for a big corporation, he will create something all his own, something new, dynamic, different. Knight details the many terrifying risks he encountered along the way, the crushing setbacks, the ruthless competitors, the countless doubters and haters and hostile bankers—as well as his many thrilling triumphs and narrow escapes. Above all, he recalls the foundational relationships that formed the heart and soul of Nike, with his former track coach, the irascible and charismatic Bill Bowerman, and with his first employees, a ragtag group of misfits and savants who quickly became a band of swoosh-crazed brothers. Together, harnessing the electrifying power of a bold vision and a shared belief in the redemptive, transformative power of sports, they created a brand, and a culture, that changed everything.

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Strangers in Their Own Land

by Arlie Russell Hochschild

About the book:  In "Strangers in Their Own Land," the renowned sociologist Arlie Hochschild embarks on a thought-provoking journey from her liberal hometown of Berkeley, California, deep into Louisiana bayou country a stronghold of the conservative right. As she gets to know people who strongly oppose many of the ideas she famously champions, Hochschild nevertheless finds common ground and quickly warms to the people she meets among them a Tea Party activist whose town has been swallowed by a sinkhole caused by a drilling accident people whose concerns are actually ones that all Americans share: the desire for community, the embrace of family, and hopes for their children. "Strangers in Their Own Land" goes beyond the commonplace liberal idea that these are people who have been duped into voting against their own interests. Instead, Hochschild finds lives ripped apart by stagnant wages, a loss of home, an elusive American dream and political choices and views that make sense in the context of their lives. Hochschild draws on her expert knowledge of the sociology of emotion to help us understand what it "feels" like to live in red America. Along the way she finds answers to one of the crucial questions of contemporary American politics: why do the people who would seem to benefit most from liberal government intervention abhor the very idea? "


Notes:  “A book about conservative America – very helpful for understanding the other half of the country” –Jared Friedman

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The Rent Is Too Damn High

by Matthew Yglesias

About the book:  From prominent political thinker and widely followed Slate columnist, a polemic on high rents and housing costs—and how these costs are hollowing out communities, thwarting economic development, and rendering personal success and fulfillment increasingly difficult to achieve. Rent is an issue that affects nearly everyone. High rent is a problem for all of us, extending beyond personal financial strain. High rent drags on our country’s overall rate of economic growth, damages the environment, and promotes long commutes, traffic jams, misery, and smog. Yet instead of a serious focus on the issue, America’s cities feature niche conversations about the availability of “affordable housing” for poor people. Yglesias’s book changes the conversation for the first time, presenting newfound context for the issue and real-time, practical solutions for the problem.


Notes:  “Fascinating look at the impact of high housing prices on the rest of the economy” –Jared Friedman

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City of Gold

by Jim Krane

About the book:  Award-winning journalist Jim Krane charts the history of Dubai from its earliest days, considers the influence of the family who has ruled it since the nineteenth century, and looks at the effect of the global economic downturn on a place that many tout as a blueprint for a more stable Middle East The city of Dubai, one of the seven United Arab Emirates, is everything the Arab world isn't: a freewheeling capitalist oasis where the market rules and history is swept aside. Until the credit crunch knocked it flat, Dubai was the fastest-growing city in the world, with a roaring economy that outpaced China's while luring more tourists than all of India. It's one of the world's safest places, a stone's throw from its most dangerous. In City of Gold, Jim Krane, who reported for the AP from Dubai, brings us a boots-on-the-ground look at this fascinating place by walking its streets, talking to its business titans, its prostitutes, and the hard-bitten men who built its fanciful skyline. He delves into the city's history, paints an intimate portrait of the ruling Maktoum family, and ponders where the city is headed. Dubai literally came out of nowhere. It was a poor and dusty village in the 1960s. Now it's been transformed into the quintessential metropolis of the future through the vision of clever sheikhs, Western capitalists, and a river of investor money that poured in from around the globe. What has emerged is a tolerant and cosmopolitan city awash in architectural landmarks, luxury resorts, and Disnified kitsch. It's at once home to America's most prestigious companies and universities and a magnet for the Middle East's intelligentsia. Dubai's dream of capitalism has also created a deeply stratified city that is one of the world's worst polluters. Wild growth has clogged its streets and left its citizens a tiny minority in a sea of foreigners. Jim Krane considers all of this and casts a critical eye on the toll that the global economic downturn has taken. While many think Dubai's glory days have passed, insiders like Jim Krane who got to know the city and its creators firsthand realize there's much more to come in the City of Gold, a place that, in just a few years, has made itself known to nearly every person on earth.


Notes:  “The story of how Dubai got built.” –Jared Friedman

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Titan

by Ron Chernow

About the book:  National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist "A biography that has many of the best attributes of a novel. . . . Wonderfully fluent and compelling." --The New York Times "A triumph of the art of biography. Unflaggingly interesting, it brings John D. Rockefeller Sr. to life through sustained narrative portraiture of the large-scale, nineteenth-century kind."--The New York Times Book Review In this endlessly engrossing book, National Book Award-winning biographer Ron Chernow devotes his penetrating powers of scholarship and insight to the Jekyll and Hyde of American capitalism. In the course of his nearly 98 years, John D. Rockefeller, Sr., was known as both a rapacious robber baron, whose Standard Oil Company rode roughshod over an industry, and a philanthropist who donated money lavishly to universities and medical centers. He was the terror of his competitors, the bogeyman of reformers, the delight of caricaturists--and an utter enigma. Drawing on unprecedented access to Rockefeller's private papers, Chernow reconstructs his subject's troubled origins (his father was a swindler and a bigamist) and his single-minded pursuit of wealth. But he also uncovers the profound religiosity that drove him "to give all I could"; his devotion to his family; and the wry sense of humor that made him the country's most colorful codger. Titan is a magnificent biography --balanced, revelatory, and elegantly written. "Important and impressive. . . . Reveals the man behind both the mask and the myth."--The Wall Street Journal "One of the great American biographies. . . . [Chernow] writes with rich impartiality. He turns the machinations of Standard Oil . . . into fascinating social history."--Time From the Trade Paperback edition.


Notes:  “Just finished Titan. It was the best analysis of the rise of a monopoly powered by technology I’ve ever encountered.” –Aaron Harris

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Pandaemonium 1660–1886

by Humphrey Jennings

About the book:  Collecting texts taken from letters, diaries, literature, scientific journals and reports, Pandæmonium gathers a beguiling narrative as it traces the development of the machine age in Britain. Covering the years between 1660 and 1886, it offers a rich tapestry of human experience, from eyewitness reports of the Luddite Riots and the Peterloo Massacre to more intimate accounts of child labour, Utopian communities, the desecration of the natural world, ground-breaking scientific experiments, and the coming of the railways. Humphrey Jennings, co-founder of the Mass Observation movement of the 1930s and acclaimed documentary film-maker, assembled an enthralling narrative of this key period in Britain’s national consciousness. The result is a highly original artistic achievement in its own right. Thanks to the efforts of his daughter, Marie-Louise Jennings, Pandæmonium was originally published in 1985, and in 2012 it was the inspiration behind Danny Boyle’s electrifying Opening Ceremony for the London Olympic Games. Frank Cottrell Boyce, who wrote the scenario for the ceremony, contributes a revealing new foreword for this edition.


Notes:  “This is an incredible read, and as we sit in the middle of the software revolution it’s worthwhile to see what people thought as the industrial revolution was happening.” –Sam Altman

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The Holy Or the Broken

by Alan Light

About the book:  A Rolling Stone and Spin editor presents a history of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" that cites its play in a diverse range of movies and television shows as well as its selection as a tribute song, noting its coverage by hundreds of artists while offering insight into its rise from early obscurity. 25,000 first printing.

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The Enemy

by Lee Child

About the book:  Featuring Jack Reacher, hero of new blockbuster movie starring Tom Cruise, in his younger days as a Military Policeman in the US Army. New Year's Day, 1990. A soldier is found dead in a sleazy motel bed. Jack Reacher is the officer on duty. The soldier turns out to be a two-star general. The situation is bad enough, then Reacher finds the general's wife. This stomach-churning thriller turns back the clock to a younger Reacher, in dogtags. A Reacher who still believes in the service. A Reacher who imposes army discipline. Even if only in his own pragmatic way...


Notes:  “My first Jack Reacher novel. It’s sorta fun.” –Geoff Ralston

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Mr. Midshipman Hornblower

by C S Forester

About the book:  1793, the eve of the Napoleonic Wars, and Midshipman Horatio Hornblower receives his first command . . . As a seventeen-year-old with a touch of sea sickness, young Horatio Hornblower hardly cuts a dash in His Majesty's navy. Yet from the moment he is ordered to board a French merchant ship in the Bay of Biscay and take command of crew and cargo, he proves his seafaring mettle on the waves. With a character-forming duel, several chases and some strange tavern encounters, the young Hornblower is soon forged into a formidable man of the sea. This is the first of eleven books chronicling the nautical adventures of C. S. Forester's inimitable hero, Horatio Hornblower. 'Absolutely compelling. One of the great masters of narrative' SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE


Notes:  “A tale of an inexperienced navy man realizing he has a natural talent for problem solving and leadership.” –Finbarr Taylor

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On Becoming a Person

by Carl Rogers

About the book:  In this book one of America's most distinguished psychologists describes his experiences in helping people to discover the path to personal growth through an understanding of their own limitations and potential. What is personal growth? Under what conditions is it possible? How can one person help another? What is creativity, and how can it be fostered? These are some of the issues raised, which challenge many concepts of traditional psychology. Contemporary psychology derives largely from the experimental laboratory, or from Freudian theory. It is preoccupied with minute aspects of animal and human behaviour, or with the mentally ill. But there are rebels, of whom the author counts himself as one, along with Gordon Allport, Abraham Maslow and Rollo May, who feel that psychology and psychiatry should be aiming higher, and be more concerned with growth and potentiality in man. The interest of such a psychology is in the production of harmoniously mature individuals, given that we all have qualities and possibilities infinitely capable of development. Successful development makes us more flexible in relationships, more creative, and less open to suggestion and control. This book, philosophical and provocative, summarizes Dr Rogers' experience.Non-technical in its language, it is not only for psychologists and psychiatrists, but for teachers and counsellors, religious and social workers, labour-management specialists and anyone interested in 'becoming'.


Notes:  “This collection of articles and essays, mostly about the concept of client-centered therapy, had a big impact on how I thought about myself and experienced life. It’s very thoughtfully and carefully written and, although there’s some overlap in the treatment of concepts throughout the collection, a thoroughly enjoyable read from start to finish.” –Scott Bell

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Zealot

by Reza Aslan

About the book:  #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Good Housekeeping • Booklist • Publishers Weekly • Bookish From the internationally bestselling author of No god but God comes a fascinating, provocative, and meticulously researched biography that challenges long-held assumptions about the man we know as Jesus of Nazareth. Two thousand years ago, an itinerant Jewish preacher and miracle worker walked across the Galilee, gathering followers to establish what he called the “Kingdom of God.” The revolutionary movement he launched was so threatening to the established order that he was captured, tortured, and executed as a state criminal. Within decades after his shameful death, his followers would call him God. Sifting through centuries of mythmaking, Reza Aslan sheds new light on one of history’s most influential and enigmatic characters by examining Jesus through the lens of the tumultuous era in which he lived: first-century Palestine, an age awash in apocalyptic fervor. Scores of Jewish prophets, preachers, and would-be messiahs wandered through the Holy Land, bearing messages from God. This was the age of zealotry—a fervent nationalism that made resistance to the Roman occupation a sacred duty incumbent on all Jews. And few figures better exemplified this principle than the charismatic Galilean who defied both the imperial authorities and their allies in the Jewish religious hierarchy. Balancing the Jesus of the Gospels against the historical sources, Aslan describes a man full of conviction and passion, yet rife with contradiction; a man of peace who exhorted his followers to arm themselves with swords; an exorcist and faith healer who urged his disciples to keep his identity a secret; and ultimately the seditious “King of the Jews” whose promise of liberation from Rome went unfulfilled in his brief lifetime. Aslan explores the reasons why the early Christian church preferred to promulgate an image of Jesus as a peaceful spiritual teacher rather than a politically conscious revolutionary. And he grapples with the riddle of how Jesus understood himself, the mystery that is at the heart of all subsequent claims about his divinity. Zealot yields a fresh perspective on one of the greatest stories ever told even as it affirms the radical and transformative nature of Jesus of Nazareth’s life and mission. The result is a thought-provoking, elegantly written biography with the pulse of a fast-paced novel: a singularly brilliant portrait of a man, a time, and the birth of a religion. Praise for Zealot “Riveting . . . Aslan synthesizes Scripture and scholarship to create an original account.”—The New Yorker “A lucid, intelligent page-turner.”—Los Angeles Times “Fascinatingly and convincingly drawn . . . Aslan may come as close as one can to respecting those who revere Jesus as the peace-loving, turn-the-other-cheek, true son of God depicted in modern Christianity, even as he knocks down that image.”—The Seattle Times “[Aslan’s] literary talent is as essential to the effect of Zealot as are his scholarly and journalistic chops. . . . A vivid, persuasive portrait.”—Salon “This tough-minded, deeply political book does full justice to the real Jesus, and honors him in the process.”—San Francisco Chronicle From the Hardcover edition.


Notes:  “It’s about Jesus, the person (as opposed to The Christ) from a purely historical perspective. I highly recommend – it was super interesting.” –Carolynn Levy

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Going Clear

by Lawrence Wright

About the book:  National Book Award Finalist A clear-sighted revelation, a deep penetration into the world of Scientology by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower, the now-classic study of al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attack. Based on more than two hundred personal interviews with current and former Scientologists—both famous and less well known—and years of archival research, Lawrence Wright uses his extraordinary investigative ability to uncover for us the inner workings of the Church of Scientology. At the book’s center, two men whom Wright brings vividly to life, showing how they have made Scientology what it is today: The darkly brilliant science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, whose restless, expansive mind invented a new religion. And his successor, David Miscavige—tough and driven, with the unenviable task of preserving the church after the death of Hubbard. We learn about Scientology’s complicated cosmology and special language. We see the ways in which the church pursues celebrities, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and how such stars are used to advance the church’s goals. And we meet the young idealists who have joined the Sea Org, the church’s clergy, signing up with a billion-year contract. In Going Clear, Wright examines what fundamentally makes a religion a religion, and whether Scientology is, in fact, deserving of this constitutional protection. Employing all his exceptional journalistic skills of observation, understanding, and shaping a story into a compelling narrative, Lawrence Wright has given us an evenhanded yet keenly incisive book that reveals the very essence of what makes Scientology the institution it is. From the Hardcover edition.


Notes:  “L. Ron Hubbard = wacky, to say the least.” –Carolynn Levy

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War in a Time of Peace

by David Halberstam

About the book:  Explores the complex dynamics of foreign policy in post-Cold War America, profiling Washington decision makers and providing an analysis of the Clinton presidency.


Notes:  “A history of US foreign policy in the 1990s. Recounts US involvement in the Balkans during the Serbian crisis.” –Tim Brady

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Thank You for Being Late

by Thomas L. Friedman

About the book:  A field guide to the twenty-first century, written by one of its most celebrated observers We all sense it—something big is going on. You feel it in your workplace. You feel it when you talk to your kids. You can’t miss it when you read the newspapers or watch the news. Our lives are being transformed in so many realms all at once—and it is dizzying. In Thank You for Being Late, a work unlike anything he has attempted before, Thomas L. Friedman exposes the tectonic movements that are reshaping the world today and explains how to get the most out of them and cushion their worst impacts. You will never look at the world the same way again after you read this book: how you understand the news, the work you do, the education your kids need, the investments your employer has to make, and the moral and geopolitical choices our country has to navigate will all be refashioned by Friedman’s original analysis. Friedman begins by taking us into his own way of looking at the world—how he writes a column. After a quick tutorial, he proceeds to write what could only be called a giant column about the twenty-first century. His thesis: to understand the twenty-first century, you need to understand that the planet’s three largest forces—Moore’s law (technology), the Market (globalization), and Mother Nature (climate change and biodiversity loss)—are accelerating all at once. These accelerations are transforming five key realms: the workplace, politics, geopolitics, ethics, and community. Why is this happening? As Friedman shows, the exponential increase in computing power defined by Moore’s law has a lot to do with it. The year 2007 was a major inflection point: the release of the iPhone, together with advances in silicon chips, software, storage, sensors, and networking, created a new technology platform. Friedman calls this platform “the supernova”—for it is an extraordinary release of energy that is reshaping everything from how we hail a taxi to the fate of nations to our most intimate relationships. It is creating vast new opportunities for individuals and small groups to save the world—or to destroy it. Thank You for Being Late is a work of contemporary history that serves as a field manual for how to write and think about this era of accelerations. It’s also an argument for “being late”—for pausing to appreciate this amazing historical epoch we’re passing through and to reflect on its possibilities and dangers. To amplify this point, Friedman revisits his Minnesota hometown in his moving concluding chapters; there, he explores how communities can create a “topsoil of trust” to anchor their increasingly diverse and digital populations. With his trademark vitality, wit, and optimism, Friedman shows that we can overcome the multiple stresses of an age of accelerations—if we slow down, if we dare to be late and use the time to reimagine work, politics, and community. Thank You for Being Late is Friedman’s most ambitious book—and an essential guide to the present and the future.


Notes:  “It is the followup to Hot, Flat and Crowded.” –Tim Brady

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