Non-Fic Favorites 2017

I’m often asked to recommend non-fic books, particularly to people who don’t read a lot or who don’t read non-fic. So here are the non-fiction books that had the most impact on me in 2017:

  1. Between the World and Me. A series of essays from the author to his son about life, race, and the US. If you read one non-fic this year, make it this one.
  2. Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein – Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe. Even the most brilliant minds fail in big, big ways – but we are all better for it. Those failures build future successes.
  3. If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look On My Face?: The Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating. Are you a human? Do you ever talk to another human, personally or professional? You should read this. Funny, insightful, entertaining, and informative, Alan Alda’s book should be required reading for everyone.
  4. From Silk to Silicon: The Story of Globalization Through Ten Extraordinary Lives. Every piece of globalization, every thing that brought us all one step closer to the rest of the world, was driven by just one person at a time. These are their stories.
  5. The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World. Yes, it’s a book about cholera. But it’s also a book about emerging technologies in science, medicine, data analytics, and algorithms in the 1850s.
  6. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. “The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you”, says Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and he’s right – but through this book he certainly helps us understand it a little better.
  7. On Trails: An Exploration. One of the things I commonly say about reading is that you can learn a lot more from a book than just its subject matter. This is true of The Ghost Map, certainly, but On Trails takes that idea and (trail) runs with it, drawing the reader along trails that connect not just two points in a wood but all of humanity and the world throughout time.
  8. Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry. LEGO almost went under. Massive change saved them. This book is full of amazing insights into innovation, change, leadership, marketing, and facing the unknown.

Honorable mentions, alphabetically:

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