The Selfish Gene is a landmark 1976 work in the field of biology: It puts the gene at the center of the process of evolution and explains how, when this is taken into account, genes must be seen as “selfish.” Author Richard Dawkins then uses this theory of gene selfishness to explain the massive variety of animal behavior observable on Earth.
The Black Jacobins (1938) traces the remarkable history of the revolution in the French colony of San Domingo (modern day Haiti). It describes the events that helped the revolution become the first successful slave rebellion in history.
In particular, The Black Jacobins views the events through the prism of the revolution’s greatest figure, Toussaint L’Ouverture. It shows how he, a former slave who was inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution, successfully defeated the European empires and helped to destroy the brutal practice of slavery in San Domingo.
The Better Angels of Our Nature (2012) takes a close look at the history of violence in human society, explaining both our motivations to use violence on certain occasions and the factors that increasingly restrain us from using it – and how these factors have resulted in massive reductions in violence.
Genome (2006, second edition) takes you on an exciting journey into your own body, exploring the genetic building blocks that make up not only who you are but also all life on earth. You’ll examine the basics of genetics and discover what genes influence, from aging to illness to even your own personality. Importantly, you’ll better understand why the future of healthcare and wellness may be found in the human genome.
Oxygen (2002) is a guide to the element that is so essential to our very existence that we sometimes forget it even exists. These blinks explain how oxygen enables and boosts life on earth while simultaneously threatening it.
What to Do When You’re New (2015) is the result of Rollag’s 20 years of research on why people become anxious and stressed in new situations. It provides strategies for changing your outlook on new situations and offers techniques for handling such situations with comfort and confidence.
The human body evolved to allow us to survive in a world very different from the one we inhabit today. These blinks explain why we’re not suited to the modern world, and the health complications we’re suffering as a result.
The Evolution of Everything (2015) argues that the phenomenon of evolution – gradual change without goal or end – reaches far beyond genetics. Evolution happens all around us in economic markets, our language, technology and customs, and is what’s behind nearly all changes that occur in these fields.
The Rift (2015) is a revealing look at Africa’s emergence as a continent no longer defined by poverty, war, corruption and dependence on the West. Find out how modern farming methods, solar and mobile technologies and new leadership are creating a brighter future for Africa.
A Crack in Creation (2017) describes everything you need to know about CRISPR, a new technique to alter the genes of living organisms. These blinks explain the scientific details of gene editing, while also discussing its medical and ethical implications.
The Origin Of Species (1859) is Charles Darwin’s magnum opus. These blinks outline a theory of how traits are selected by nature, where the tremendous diversity of life on earth came from and how animals and plants came to be distributed across the planet.
Falling Upwards (2014) details the surprisingly rich history of hot-air balloons. It begins with the first successful human attempts to take to the air using balloons and goes on to chronicle their clandestine role in escape attempts and military ventures. From daring balloonists from the golden age of ballooning to the literature they inspired, it’s all covered here.
The Evolution of Money (2016) offers an insightful look at the history of currency in civilized society, from shells and coins to the digital ones and zeroes of an online bank account. Find out how monetary systems have always functioned much like religion – without faith and belief, they’d collapse – and learn what the future may have in store.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution (2016) tells the story of a new transformation in technology and industry. These blinks explain the major industrial revolutions of the past and go on to tell how a current industrial revolution is spawning new technologies that fuse previously separate fields – with incredible results.
The Story of the Human Body (2013) is a fascinating exploration of a story over a million years in the making: the evolution of the human body. Departing from the moment our ancestors first distinguished themselves from their hominid brethren, Daniel Lieberman traces the biological history of humans right down to our office-bound present.
The Moral Animal (1994) delves into the fascinating – and occasionally controversial – field of evolutionary psychology to ask what really motivates human behavior. Drawing on the work of Darwin as well as a wealth of anthropological sources, Robert Wright sheds new light on a range of familiar everyday situations in the animal kingdom and our own societies.
The Robots Are Coming! (2019) provides a wide-ranging survey of the rapidly approaching – and, in many cases, already emerging – future of automation. In the coming decades, sophisticated robots, computer programs and other forms of automated technology will eliminate many jobs in many fields, and will radically transform the jobs that remain. Andrés Oppenheimer takes us on an insightful and eye-opening tour of some of the key industries to be affected and the major transformations that lie ahead.
The Body: A Guide for Occupants (2019) is an entertaining and fact-filled account of how we all work. With his trademark wit, Bill Bryson explains the astonishing ways in which our bodies are put together, and what goes on inside them.
Stonewall (1994) is the definitive history of the 1969 uprising that catalyzed the gay rights movement in the United States. By examining the lives of six gay and lesbian people involved in the movement, author Martin Duberman sheds light on the systems of oppression – as well as the incredible dedication and bravery – that led to mainstream society’s greater acceptance of the gay and lesbian community.
2030 (2020) isn’t a crystal ball – but it might be the next best thing. Drawing on current sociological trends, demographic trajectories, and technological advancements, it paints a convincing picture of the global changes we can expect to see and experience in the coming decade.
The Book of Humans (2018) is an accessible tour of evolutionary history. It illuminates both the many qualities we share with animals and the many others that set us apart. Incorporating the latest scientific discoveries from genetics and archaeology, it provides a thrilling compendium of the rich variety of life on Earth.
Blockchain Chicken Farm (2020) is an examination of the way technology is entangled with everyday life. This sweeping survey of life in rural China unpacks the social, political, and economic changes we can expect in the twenty-first century.
Black and White Thinking (2020) examines the human brain’s irresistible impulse to sort things into binary categories: black and white, good and evil, right and wrong. The instinct to categorize is strong – and we have evolution to thank for it. But while categorization helped us survive in ancient times – when every trip into the forest was life or death – it’s become an obstacle in the modern world. Today, life’s rarely black-and-white, but often shades of gray.
Open (2020) traces the progress of ancient and modern human accomplishments, and reveals that behind all of our major advancements is a policy of openness, tolerance, and free trade. You’ll see how, from the Phoenicians to the Dutch East India Trading Company, the free flow of commerce and ideas has led to wealth, innovation, and problem-solving that would have never been possible otherwise.
Nine Nasty Words (2021) is a foul-mouthed exploration of our linguistic taboos. This title picks apart exactly why some words come to be profane.
Grand Transitions (2020) offers a sweeping overview of global transitions, from population growth to environmental changes. It examines the ways that we’ve shaped the world, for better or worse, and looks at the challenges facing humanity in the decades to come.
Some Assembly Required (2020) is an approachable account of the great transformations in the history of life. Paleontologist Neil Shubin started his career looking to fossils for the answers to life’s greatest questions – but with recent scientific advancements, he argues that studying DNA reveals more about the journey we took to become human.
Exercised (2020) is a cutting-edge account of physical activity, rest, and human health. Drawing on groundbreaking research in the fields of exercise science, evolutionary theory, and anthropology, it presents a unique account of the human body’s needs and abilities.
Work (2020) is an anthropological history of the human relationship with work. From the first single-celled bacteria in the oceans billions of years ago to the unprecedented wealth inequality we experience today, Work is a sweeping history of what motivates our species.
Transcendence (2020) is a wide-ranging overview of humanity’s history, from its beginnings on the savannas of Africa to the globe-spanning civilization of today. This multifaceted exploration shows how fire, language, beauty, and time came to define our species.
Extra Life (2021) looks at some of the breakthroughs that allowed the global human life expectancy to double in just one hundred years. From seat belts to explosives, from Ireland to Constantinople, it’s an account as gripping as it is wide-ranging.
Israel (2016) offers a big-picture historical overview of the small but mighty country. From its improbable beginnings to its controversial wars with neighboring Arab states, Israel’s evolution is a story of change, tragedy, and victory.
On the Fringe (2021) delves into what defines a pseudoscience along historical and philosophical lines. With the rise of climate-change deniers and anti-vaxxers, understanding the demarcation between science and pseudoscience has a newfound urgency. By exploring pseudosciences such as astrology, the flat-Earth model, and ESP, we can learn about the nature of science in both the past and the present.
Arabs (2021) is a deep dive into the 3,000-year history of the people we know as Arabs. It’s an exploration of the forces that gave birth to the idea of Arabs as a group – and the forces that have kept them apart ever since.
Zero (2000) is the fascinating story of a number banned by the ancient Greeks and worshipped by ancient Indians. Zero – as well as its twin, infinity – is a number that’s been at the heart of both mathematics and philosophy over the centuries.
The Epigenetics Revolution (2011) is an overview of the cutting-edge field of epigenetics – looking at the various factors that interact with your genes and modify the way they behave in order to make you, you. From mental health to obesity, it examines the fascinating and often unexpected ways that epigenetics can influence our lives and health.
The Emerald Planet (2007) looks at the central role plants have played in shaping the planet and its environment. New research makes use of plants, both fossilized and living, to explain how the planet got where it is, and where it might go in the future. The Emerald Planet inspired a three-part BBC series called How to Grow a Planet.
Hooked (2021) explores our complex relationship with processed food. It explains why certain foods leave us wanting more, and reveals how our brain chemistry and our evolutionary biology are exploited by the fast-food industry.
What is Life? (1944) is a classic scientific text based on a series of lectures given at Trinity College, Dublin, by famous physicist Erwin Schrödinger. Though Schrödinger was a physicist, these lectures addressed issues in biology and genetics – primarily the fundamental question of how physics and chemistry can account for the processes that occur within living organisms. The concepts he explored went on to spark a revolution in genetics, inspiring, among others, the biologists James D. Watson and Francis Crick, who together proposed the double helix structure of DNA.
A Brief History of Motion (2021) provides a revealing overview of the history, and possible future, of the automobile. From the invention of the wheel, to early steam engine contraptions and the enticing promises of automated cars, you’ll find out how these vehicles changed the course of human history, and the unexpected problems they’ve caused along the way.
Drunk (2021) is a scientific and historical inquiry into the evolutionary reasons why humans started getting drunk. Drunk examines how inebriation helped our ancestors evolve into creative, communal, cultural beings, and considers whether or not alcohol is an appropriate tool for the modern age.
In the audio version of these blinks, you'll hear "Also Sprach Zarathustra," composed by Richard Strauss, made available under a Creative Commons Attribution license by Kevin MacLeod. Thanks, Kevin!
Our Wild Calling (2020) examines how humans and other animals can enjoy mutually beneficial relationships. It explores stories and philosophy from the ecological movement, and outlines how we can move toward a more hopeful future for all Earthlings.
The Human Instinct (2018) is a celebration of humanity’s development of reason, consciousness, and free will through the process of evolution. It shows that our remarkable capacities are all the more unique for having arising from natural origins.
Hunter Gatherers (2021) explores the mismatch between our evolutionary tendencies and our modern environments. It outlines how seemingly innocuous aspects of contemporary living are harming us, and stifling our true nature and potential.
The Narrow Corridor (2019) weaves together a rich tapestry from disparate parts of history to answer the question: Why do some countries achieve liberty while others do not? From the ancient city of Uruk to Revolutionary America, from 1950s China to modern-day Argentina, it examines the conditions that enable governments and citizens to thrive as one – and the consequences when this fails to occur.
1491 (2005) is a study of the Western Hemisphere before 1492, the year in which an Italian sailor employed by the Spanish empire first set foot in the Americas. Within a century of Columbus’s “discovery” of the New World, some of humanity’s most sophisticated cultures had all but disappeared. In 1491, Charles Mann sets out to recover their ways of life and remarkable achievements.
Why We Eat (Too Much) (2021) illuminates the new science of metabolism. An exploration of how our bodies process the calories we eat into the fuel that keeps our cells running, it demolishes old myths about the value of dieting. When we really understand appetite, it argues, we can finally begin eating healthfully rather than attempting to starve our bodies into submission.
Why The Universe Is the Way It Is (2008) takes you on a cosmic journey from the Big Bang to the mysteries of time, all while exploring the universe's beauty and complexity. With a perfect balance of science and theology, it's a must-read for the curious and contemplative.
Thunderstruck (2006) is the true story of two seemingly unrelated people, an inventor and a murderer. Set in Edwardian England, the lives of the men intersect in one of the most suspenseful criminal cases in history.
Longpath (2022) is written to change the way you think about humankind. By teaching the lessons of the Longpath mentality, it shows how to break the bad habit of short-term thinking and embrace a mentality that helps connect humanity’s past, present, and future in order to make a better world.
The Future is Faster Than You Think (2020) examines how converging exponential technologies (AI, robotics, 3D printing, CRISPR, Blockchain) are reinventing every industry this decade. Starting with flying cars and artificial intelligence, it explores and predicts the future of industries including retail, manufacturing, transportation, health care, education, finance, and insurance. It also offers a vision for how these technologies can be applied to address many of the world’s most pressing problems.
If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal (2022) takes a playful yet profoundly meaningful look at what makes humans so different from the other animals on the planet. In doing so, it makes a strong case for why the human mind may be dangerously unsuccessful from an evolutionary standpoint.
How the World Really Works (2022) tackles a paradox at the heart of the modern world: we’ve never had so much information at our fingertips and never known so little about how things actually work. Of course, we can’t be experts in everything. But, Vaclav Smil argues, it’s our duty as citizens to be informed about the basics – the big questions that shape our societies and their futures.
Smart Work (2022) is a handbook for leaders navigating the post-pandemic transition into a world of remote and hybrid work. These are challenging times for managers, argues author Jo Owen. What worked in the office won’t necessarily work in remote teams. But if there’s one thing Covid-19 showed us, it’s that we can adapt – fast. And change is a good thing, he insists. Why? Well, mastering these challenges isn’t just about future-proofing your job – it’ll also make you a better leader.
Future Stories: What’s Next? (2022) explains the roots of how we make decisions about the future and illuminates the urgent responsibility on humanity’s shoulders today, with a multidisciplinary approach to time informed by biology, philosophy, and cosmology.
The Evolution of Desire (1994) drew on the largest study of human mating at the time to analyze the evolutionary foundations that lie behind our everyday desires and mating preferences. It was updated with new material in 2016.
What’s Our Problem (2023) offers a fun and unique perspective on the strange state of the modern world in which we live. Using the author’s iconic comedic style, it draws on observations from political theory, psychology, history, and modern-day events to explain what is going on in our society, and what we can potentially do to fix it.
The Things We Make (2023) dispels the myth around some of the greatest and most ordinary inventions. It retells their making as a creative application of the engineering method, a principle that explains how people in ancient times built some of the marvels that still capture our imagination today.
On the Origin of Time (2023) guides you through the humbling, stranger-than-fiction theories that the late physicist Stephen Hawking developed in the last two decades of his life. With quantum physics, holograms, and inspiration from Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory, it reveals what the great scientist came to believe about the origins of the universe.
Anyone familiar with A Brief History of Time
Guns, Germs, and Steel (1997) is a short history of humanity over the last 13,000 years. The question it poses is as simple to state as it is hard to answer: Why did some parts of the world develop advanced technologies while others didn’t? It rejects explanations that rely on assumptions about the relative intelligence of different peoples. Instead, it argues that the divergence of human societies is best explained by natural factors such as climate, biology, and geology.
Quantum Supremacy (2023) makes understanding the facts and theory behind quantum computers accessible and easy to understand for everyone. It traces the history of the modern computer and posits a future in which quantum computing takes on the challenges of humanity that are unsolvable with even the most powerful of modern supercomputers.
Saving Time (2023) takes a deep dive into the complicated concepts surrounding time and the multitude of ways it can be experienced. Combining historical research, philosophical ideas, and social commentary, it offers new approaches to perceiving time that can help us learn to truly live in the present while looking toward a more hopeful future.
The Metamorphosis (1915) is an allegorical novella about what happens when the main character, Gregor Samsa, is transformed into a bug. It grapples with the themes of alienation, the absurdity of life, and the power of change.
Disruptive Thinking (2023) is a guide to unlocking your potential and turning adversity into opportunity. By learning to understand and leverage disruption, you can kickstart your most profound personal and professional metamorphosis yet.
When You're Ready, This Is How You Heal (2022) invites you on a profound journey of personal transformation. Explore poignant reflections and empowering insights that inspire you to embrace aspirations, navigate change, overcome limitations, and reclaim your true essence.
Parable of the Sower (1993) is the story of Lauren Olamina, a young woman who lives in a near-future dystopian California. When her home community succumbs to the destructive forces of the world around it, Lauren is forced onto the road in search of a new life. Throughout her journey, she gradually builds a new belief system, as well as kinship with a new community.
Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain (2020) is an engaging exploration of the human brain that debunks numerous misconceptions along the way. It explains what brains are actually for, how they develop, what makes them unique, and why they’re often one step ahead of everything you do.
The Heat Will Kill You First (2023) warns that extreme heatwaves are becoming more common and will dramatically alter life as we know it – they’re an existential danger. Rising temperatures are already changing the planet, shortening seasons and intensifying disasters. Drawing on scientific research and reportage, it argues that intensifying heat will expose societal fault lines and threaten our communities in dire new ways. Extreme heat may be the most serious threat humanity has ever faced.
Immunity to Change (2009) delves into the intricacies of human cognitive development – emphasizing that mental growth doesn't end in childhood, but instead continues throughout adulthood. It shows how understanding these adulthood developmental stages can be pivotal for effective leadership, and presents tools to confront and overcome the inherent resistances to change.
The Coming Wave (2023) is a wake-up call. Artificial intelligence and genetic engineering aren’t just technologies of the future; they’re already here, and remaking the world we live in. More than any transformative technology of the past, they have the ability to make the next decades the best in human history – or the worst. Which path our societies go down is up to us and our ability to think clearly about the risks and rewards ahead of us.
Foundation (1951) looks at the crumbling of a galactic empire from the perspective of the planet Terminus, located on the Empire’s outer edge. Terminus is home to the Foundation, a community formed by a mathematician who could predict the future and the Empire’s inevitable demise. As the Empire crumbles, the Foundation gains increasing influence through a mixture of atomic power, religion, and economic savvy.