Freakonomics (2005) applies rational economic analysis to everyday situations, from online dating to buying a house. The book reveals why the way we make decisions is often irrational, why conventional wisdom is frequently wrong, and how and why we are incentivized to do what we do.
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.
Using various experiments to uncover the hidden factors that drive us to cheat in everyday situations, author Dan Ariely finds that certain anticipated motivators – for example, money – actually don’t play a crucial role in our dishonesty. At the same time, other, quite unexpected forces influence us very strongly – for instance, the social acceptability of cheating, and even our altruistic tendencies.
The Undercover Economist explains how economics defines our lives. From the price of a cappuccino to the amount of smog in the air, everything is tied to economics. The book shows us how economists understand the world and how we can benefit from a better understanding of economic systems.
As pessimists talk of an economic development crisis, author Charles Kenny is optimistic in his assessment that in fact, all over the world, we’ve made enormous progress in overall quality of life. Getting Better shows that the spread of technology and ideas has fostered a revolution of happiness and standard of living unprecedented in human history. Kenny provides evidence to make us enthusiastic about the progress we’ve attained so far, and offers suggestions on what is to be done if we want to keep this progress alive.
A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003) offers an enlightening summary of contemporary scientific thinking relating to all aspects of life, from the creation of the universe to our relationship with the tiniest of bacteria.
The True Believer (1951), published in the aftermath of World War II, is an exploration of mass movements and the means by which they attract followers. These blinks will take you on a walk through history – showing how, under certain circumstances, be they right or wrong, anyone can become a true believer.
Surprise (2015) takes a closer look at the very concept of surprise, how it works and how to embrace and create it. What’s more, the authors show us how surprise can keep our relationships flourishing and allow us to live life to the fullest.
How Music Got Free (2015) tells the remarkable story of the mp3 file, from its inception in a German audio lab to its discovery by a man working in a North Carolina CD-pressing plant, who would eventually team up with a piracy group to bring the entire music industry to its knees.
Making the Modern World (2014) is a guide to humanity’s material consumption through history and into the future. These blinks explain the major material categories of our time and how we can effectively manage them as we move forward.
Why Information Grows (2015) takes you straight to the heart of the battle between entropy and order, examining the way that information is propagated and its impact on life, civilization and the universe. In doing so, the book offers a thought-provoking explanation for the success of human beings on earth.
The Memory Palace (2012) is a step-by-step guide to using your spatial memory to help you remember absolutely anything. It teaches you how to build a palace of memories that will give you the power to recall everything you read, and even to memorize the names of every Shakespeare play in just 15 minutes.
Paper: we use it so much we don’t realize how fundamental it is to our society. We don’t just record our thoughts on it, we base our currency on it, use it for entertainment and employ it for hygiene. These blinks of On Paper (2013) outline the history of this simple but amazing tool.
Quirkology (2007) takes a uniquely scientific look at some common questions that are often dismissed as trivial: What kind of impact does astrology have on our lives? Is the number 13 really unlucky? Can a joke truly be harmful? And more!
At Home (2010) offers an in-depth look at the history of the home. These blinks walk you through stories that each “take place” in a different room in a house, explaining the history of spaces such as a bathroom or kitchen. Interestingly, you’ll explore how each space evolved into the rooms we live in today.
On Saudi Arabia (2012) gives a fascinating overview of a country rife with contradictions. Despite being immensely wealthy, Saudi Arabia is filled with people who live in abject poverty. And although on its way to being counted among the world’s most powerful countries, it has an education system that’s received execrable rankings. Add to this a liberal dose of religious fanaticism and a complex royal family and you’ll begin to see why Saudi Arabia has struggled to come to terms with itself.
I Contain Multitudes (2016) peers into the microscopic world of microbes, and offers fascinating insight into the countless ways in which our lives are influenced by them. You’ll find out how ancient microbes helped make the world livable for mankind and how they continue to help all of Earth’s living creatures through remarkable and essential partnerships.
Time Travel (2016) details the history of a captivating concept. These blinks explain how the idea of time travel came into the popular consciousness, what problems the theory presents and how you might already be time traveling without even knowing it.
The Red Queen (1993) takes a close look at evolutionary trajectories and how they have been guided more by reproduction than by survival. These blinks describe how the search for suitable mates has produced such remarkable phenomena as the spectacular tails of peacocks and the powerful intelligence of humans.
Moody Bitches (2015) is your guide to the female body and brain. These blinks explain some of the reasons behind the emotions and fluctuating moods that women can experience and how they can better tune into themselves, embrace their feelings and their bodies.
Germany (2014) is about the culture and history of the Germanic nations that eventually came together to form modern Germany, a state which has had its share of dramatic historical moments.
21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2018) is a hard-hitting investigation of civilization’s most pertinent challenges. Humankind is moving deeper into uncharted technological and social territory. These blinks explore how best to navigate our lives in this century of constant change, using fascinating examples from current affairs along the way.
Who We Are and How We Got Here (2018) takes readers on a journey through the world’s anthropological history, demonstrating that people have continually migrated and mixed over time. Recent scientific advances are allowing scientists to study human DNA from the distant past and compare it to that of those alive today. The insights about humans’ origins are both fascinating and revealing.
How To (2019) is an intentionally impractical, lighthearted guide to accomplishing a wide variety of tasks in extremely outlandish but plausible ways. Drawing from science, math and history, and combining them with a unique sense of humor, How To takes you on an amusing journey through some of reality’s most bizarre possibilities.
Chernobyl (2018) documents the 1986 nuclear meltdown that shook the Soviet Union. It is an insightful and meticulously researched work of history, drawing from newly opened archives to shed fresh light on the disaster. Piecing together the entire episode, Plokhy takes us from the fateful minutes before the disaster to the cleanup operation and, finally, the disintegration of the USSR.
The Romanovs (2016) charts the stunning rise and dramatic fall of one of the world’s great dynasties. The Romanov family helmed the Russian empire for three centuries filled with family dramas, power struggles, political upheaval, and opulent spending.
Over the years, countless historians have theorized about the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire. The Fate of Rome (2017) tells this story from a slightly different angle, taking into consideration new information about the climate and epidemiological events that played a major role in the prosperity and downfall of one of the largest empires in history.
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.
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.
The Model Thinker (2018) is a guide to using models to make data talk. In a world inundated with information, it sheds some much-needed light on the patterns underlying the noise – and points us toward the ways we can reveal those patterns for ourselves.
Learn Like a Pro: Science-based Tools to Become Better at Anything (2021) looks at the most powerful strategies for staying focused and learning effectively. Both coauthors draw on their past struggles with learning, and use insights from experts and research to find out what works and what doesn’t.
Frames of Mind (1983) is a landmark text that first proposed the psychological theory of multiple intelligences. Upending the long-held conception that intelligence is just one general, monolithic trait, it argues instead that there are several intelligences that everyone possesses in different quantities. By studying them, educators and policymakers can reshape the educational system to benefit a much greater number of students than the current programs do.
How to Take Smart Notes (2017) is exactly that – an explanation of how and why to take smart notes. It explains how this simple, little-known, and often misunderstood technique can aid your thinking, writing, and learning. With the help of smart notes, you may never face the horror of a blank page again.
Leveraged Learning (2018) provides a six-step process for designing and implementing an optimized method of learning or teaching any subject. Drawing on recent advances in the field of education, its lessons are equally applicable to those pursuing traditional, newfangled, or self-led courses of study – no matter whether the aim is personal, professional, or academic advancement.
Mythos (2017) is a fabulous retelling of the Greek myths. It provides a great introduction to anyone interested in knowing more about the Greek gods and goddesses without any preknowledge or a classical education.
Basic Economics (2000) provides a broad yet comprehensive introduction to economic principles, without requiring a background in the subject. Avoiding complicated jargon, it explains core economic concepts in plain English, with the help of real-life examples.
Closer to Love (2023) examines the secrets of forming a deep connection with others. Highlighting the author’s experiences alongside various experts’ theories and concepts, it offers practical wisdom on fostering self-love and romantic love.