A writing professor once told me that the best way to create relatable characters was to humiliate them, because everyone identifies with shame and the psychological malaise that trails in its wake. Think about it. Michael Vick. Bill Clinton. Hester Prynne. Me. You. We all have something in common: we've all done something that we're ashamed about; something that, were it to be exposed, would seemingly end our life's self-controlled epoch and throw us into a melee of humiliating and annihilating turmoil. And yet somehow, masses of secretly devious people are, at this very moment, scrolling through websites like Twitter frothing at the mouth in search of their next shame target. Why do we do this? Why do we relish in the opprobrium of the infamous? Ronson discusses the terrors of public shaming and it's consequences both for the insatiable shamer and the head-burying shamee with anecdotes so hysterical, poignant, and thought-provoking that I literally couldn't force myself to leave my couch, even as I felt the blood pooling in the backs of my legs. This book gripped me more viscerally than any work of fiction has in a long time (this is probably because Ronson's non-fiction reads like Junot Diaz's fiction). Close to, if not the best non-fiction book I've read ever.
Finding a good hockey book in the book realm is like trying to find an ice rink in Phoenix. Your search will be short and yield little results. This book, however, is that diamond in the rough. I came across Derek Boogaard's story while I was reading an anthology of Best American Sports Writing for a creative nonfiction workshop in college and was both intrigued and saddened. This book expands on John Branch's prior examination of Boogaard's life and tragic death as a result of an accidental drug overdose, brought on by chronic traumatic encephalopathy, more commonly known as CTE. Branch's investigative writing might make you think twice about cheering for the enforcers that go out and fight night in and night out at the professional level. I highly recommend this book for not only hockey fans, but for any person who can appreciate an in-depth, journalistic examination of a problem plaguing sports today.
One of the best parts about reading non-fiction are the graphs they can include through the reading, if you are a fan of infographics and mapped out data then get ready for Dataclysm! Christian is one of the co-founders of the online dating site OkCupid and throughout the book he uses a wealth of data from his site and others (Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, etc) to lay out information about who we are and what we think of others. From algorithms that show where your spouse stacks up against your friends via your facebook account (and how likely your relationship is to last because of it), to the intimacies that our “hash tags” in blog posts reveal about us, the data we freely put on the internet is being mined and formed to the collectors will. Christian goes into great effort and detail to lay out his information and points, in a transparent manner to the reader, giving them the chance to see his thought process and what it can be like when someone is given the personal information of millions of people and the ways they can put it their own purpose. My biggest takeaway from this read is not just how we act when we think we’re alone, but how many people are actually watching and what they are doing with what they see. --Andy
As a fellow late 20's-something, woman, small business owner, I can really appreciate Amoruso's Millennial perspective on entrepreneurship. Though her past is quite colorful, Amoruso's amusing, auto-bibliographical accounts tie in well with her hard-earned, spunky business sense. Overall, this reads like a youthful version of Lean In, aimed to inspire the new generation of #GirlBosses. --Alli D.
Ever since the documentary Blackfish, Sea World has been faced with harsh criticism and falling profits. If you watched the documentary, you may recognize this author. One of the most experienced trainers working at Sea World at the time he decided to leave the amusement park, Hargrove worked with twenty different whales over fourteen years on two different continents. John Hargrove was one of a handful of former Sea World trainers featured in Blackfish, and now he is offering a more detailed look at his side of the story. This is more than your typical memoir, however. Hargrove manages to combine the stories and histories of many of the orcas that he worked with along with his own. Beneath the Surface is filled with ups and downs, and will likely make your heart clench in more than one place, especially if you consider yourself an animal lover in any sense of the word. Put it on your 'to read' list immediately. --Heather H.
I have always thought that politics is the ultimate sport. As a casual basketball fan, I love watching the Phoenix Suns, but I know my life will continue in much the same way it has before whether the Suns win or lose. Politics is the only sport where the outcome can actually affect your life. Just think about the different approaches Democrats and Republicans have to taxation, job creation, gun control, abortion rights, and the environment, just to name a few hot-button issues facing America. Presidential politics are the Superbowl of American politics, and it has never been captured better than in Mark Haperin and John Heilemann's new book Double Down: Game Change 2012. A sequel to their 2010 book Game Change, which covered the historic 2008 race between Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin, Double Down covers the nation's first African-American president running for re-election against Governor Mitt Romney, the first Mormon presidential candidate nominated by a major political party. The details of their day to day campaigning, with their victories and defeats, are riveting to a political nerd like me. This book belongs next to What It Takes by Richard Ben Cramer and The Making of the Presidentbook series by Theodore White as classics of political journalism. --ROBERT
Chances are, if you're reading this recommendation in our store, your kid already has a leg up on loving to read. If you're anything like me, you'll still want to do everything you can to make sure that happens. In Born Reading, Jason Boog has put together a fantastic resource for interactive reading with your child from birth to middle school. Boog name checks some amazing kids book authors and illustrators with great advice on bringing up readers and offers plenty of his own. One of the greatest things about this book is Boog's ability to stress his opinion on tech and kids (limit, limit, limit) without being judgmental and also offers great recommendations for companion apps for kids and books and tips on finding more apps that are both educational and fun without being loaded down with advertising. Even if you know your child will be a reader this book is worth picking up for the lists of recommendations at every age level. --HEATHER
A few nights while on break at work, I read this over at First Draft, and some of the double takes I got were enough to make me snicker (which may have looked suspect, given the title of the book). This book also prompted the question "what are you reading?" from a customer when I was leaving the store with the book under my arm. Don't just read Perv for the hilarious, inevitable double takes and questions you'll get when reading out in public, however. Read it because of the things you'll learn that you might never have otherwise. Bering gives us a great, cerebral look at all things that make us "deviants," and the psychology behind the way our culture has come to shame certain sexual behaviors. Just what makes a "perv?" Read this book and find out. The answer may surprise you. --HEATHER H.
The best non-fiction books, in my opinion, shouldn't just entertain you, they should change you. Carr, like in The Shallows, expertly takes an ubiquitous convenience of modern life--previously the Internet and now, automation--and dismantles everyday idealistic assumption about the benefits of their increasing dominance of our lives. Using a mix of anecdotes, statistics, history, and even the theories of the Luddites and Marxists, Carr provides many convincing reasons why we should think twice before putting technological progress--self-driving cars, self-flying planes, self-trading stocks--before human beings who may not be best served by becoming mere shepherds or monitors of complex systems and algorithms. His chapter about how the brain processes spatial information, for instance, compelled me to turn off my GPS before I lose my sense of direction and become a slave to my smartphone. But Carr is not simply an alarmist. The Glass Cage is still a celebration of technology and progress, but one that asks us to consider the human consequences of its misuse. --JENNIE
I found it prophetic that Piketty's treatise on 21st-century economic policy was titled exactly the same as Marx's 19th-century book on the very same topic. Like Marx, Piketty has written a game-changer--absolutely shattering myths about taxation and capitalism that both the left and the right have held for centuries. Capitalism, he argues, is no equalizer. The convergence of post-war incomes was a great anomaly. Instead, capitalism inherently preserves the great wealth of executives, wealthy heirs, and others who deliberately manipulate a system rigged in their favor. And, he shows, the game they rig will threaten democracy itself unless we preemptively combat it with more progressive taxation than even most leftists would dream of proposing. But Capital is no book of lofty academic ideas and ideals. Piketty (and his translator) are surprisingly readable, and he drives his points home with impressive amounts of historical and cross-country data--much of which he gathered himself. You'll read passages of this out loud to your politically-minded friends over coffee or wine, I guarantee it. --JENNIE
"It isn't about denying that children are girls or boys. It's about children not being defined by gender." This summation comes in the penultimate paragraph and it's the reason I read this book. I'm not what anyone would consider militant, but gender stereotypes are definitely something I'd like to minimize and that's not easy. Try finding 'gender neutral' newborn clothing--you have about 15 options, all of which are green and yellow. Go to any toy store and just try to avoid the Pink Aisle. Beyond that, even when they don't mean to, people treat little girls and little boys differently, which leads to the old Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus mentality. Brown has written a handy guide for checking those impulses and an informative, scientific, argument against raising your kids in a pink and blue world. I would also recommend this book for anyone who works with kids, teachers, caregivers, pediatricians, anyone at all who regularly influences children. --HEATHER
The Silence of Animals is a fantastic exploration into the extent to which myth still permeates our lives. Before reading this book, I wager few would consider to be myths the beliefs that the future will be better than the past, or that through reason we can improve our lives and gain control over fate–yet Gray argues exactly this. While this may seem like a bleak approach to human life, Gray does much more than just point out the numerous myths present in our daily lives–he looks at how they affect us, why we rely on them and also what happens to us when our myths break down in extreme situations (such as the horrors people faced during and after WWII). A thoroughly interesting and well-argued book, Gray offers a unique take on where humans fit in the world that is definitely worth the read. --Em
As one of the earliest godfathers of the digital world, no one has more business writing about technology than Jaron Lanier. Not necessarily picking up where he left off with You are Not a Gadget, but maybe expanding around it, Lanier confronts our current and future economic state by looking at it as information technology. We live in a world where financial supercomputers out-process economic integrity and freely hoard information to sell back to us. But don't worry — in true Lanier fashion, this is not just a book to spread fear and gloom but one with solutions to embrace technology and put it back on our side. - Kyle
Alright, I admit it, I picked the book up more because it had Sherlock Holmes in the title than out of any real desire to improve my thinking; still, I found the book both entertaining and useful. Konnikova points out how frequently we tend to operate on auto-pilot, largely unobservant (like Watson), and shows us how we can train ourselves to be better thinkers and observers (like Holmes). Through several examples from Holmes’ cases, Konnikova reveals the psychology and methodology behind Holmes’ thought process, allowing us to understand how he arrives effortlessly at conclusions we often think impossible. While I can’t promise you’ll be a master detective after reading this book, I can say that if you apply the proper methodology you’ll begin to notice more, and you might find everyday life a little less boring. - Em
You’ve probably heard some crazy things about Scientology. Well, the truth is even crazier. Pulitzer prize winning author Lawrence Wright (The Looming Tower) has written an amazing expose of what is basically a legalized cult in America. Wright takes pains to be very even-handed, acknowledging that it is only human to search for something to believe in. Wright’s painstaking research into the history and practices of Scientology uncovers a world that is not pretty, but you won’t want to put Going Clear down! - Sarah B.
To say Detroit is in trouble is an understatement, and there are many writers who have flocked there like anthropologists to the Amazon to study its startling poverty, violence and decay. Don’t read their books — this is the book you need to read. Charlie LeDuff is a native of Detroit, and in this amazing book he turns his unblinking eye on his hometown. He also turns his journalists gaze on himself; the book is intensely personal, as LeDuff tells stories of his own family’s rise and fall that mirror that of the Motor City. Detroit: An American Autopsywill make you cry, laugh and shake your head in disbelief and anger. This is not an easy book to read, but it is one you should read — and you will never forget. Oh, and one more thing — God bless and keep the people of Detroit, Michigan. - Sarah B.
You may remember Jeff Sharlet from his last book, The Family, an expose about a shady religious group that wields tremendous influence in Washington, D.C. In his latest, Sharlet takes on a similar topic — faith in America. Sweet Heaven When I Die is a collection of essays based on Sharlet's experiences exploring faith and culture around the country, and he writes with surprising earnestness about groups ranging from born-again Christian teens to a New Age New York ex-lawyer. With each group Sharlet exposes the faults and strengths of its beliefs, without demeaning the individuals involved, making for an interesting, moving read. - Sarah B.
T Cooper has this “thing,” he calls it. He says it is a part of his past but he also kind of thinks it defines everything he is now. T’s a writer, a husand, father and he rescues Pit Bulls, but he was also designated female at birth and transitioned later in life. This is his, sort of, memoir/societal study on what manliness and masculinity is. With great humor and stark frankness, Cooper sheds some light on a subject I knew little about through a series of short essays and interviews with friends, family and members of the LGBT community. - Jeremy
Sweet is a wonderful writer. With this book she will join the ranks of others like Oliver Sacks, Tracy Kidder, Abraham Verghese, and Jerome Groopman. She is a remarkable storyteller and her stories speak to our hearts and minds. Not only did I think it was the best creative non-fiction book that I had read in many, many months but my niece who is an intern at Georgetown Hospital in Washington DC told me that she thought it was remarkable and helped her remember why she wanted to be a doctor. Sweet reminded her that medicine can be practiced one patient at a time and that doctors learn from their patients how to treat the whole body and mind not just the diseased organ or ailment. - Gayle
When you think the world is hopeless, this book might give you cause to be optimistic. What would it take to change the lives of poor children—not one by one, through heroic interventions and occasional miracles—but in big numbers, and in a way that could be replicated nationwide? Paul Tough's stories about Geoffrey Canada's bold effort to offer a cradle-to-college program for thousands of underprivileged children in Harlem is anything but dry theoretical rhetoric. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the dramatic ups and downs of the Harlem Children's Zone, a $58 million project encompassing 97 city blocks and serving 7,000 children, and includes personal stories of the staff, students, and their parents and teachers with expert opinions and the broiling debates over poverty, race and education. Geoffrey Canada is a driven, brilliant crusader argues that to change the lives of poor children, everything has to change—their schools, their families, their neighborhoods—all at once. Barak Obama says if he becomes president, he will work to replicate this amazing program in cities all over America. Read it and weep, laugh... and find hope. - Gayle
If you like Malcolm Gladwell, you’ll love Daniel Pink. Like Gladwell, Pink uses stories, websites, book recommendations, exercises, and his own philosophy to encourage us to use our right brains to understand our world. The eras of "left brain" dominance, and the Information Age that it engendered, are giving way to a New World in which "right brain" qualities—inventiveness, empathy, meaning—predominate. That’s the argument at the center of this provocative and original book, which uses the two sides of our brains as a metaphor for comprehending and functioning well in our daily work and play lives. - Gayle
Matt Taibbi is the most astute political writer out there (and the most hilarious), and for the past two years he has been covering the financial shell-game that has brought a once powerful economy to its knees. Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America is a must-read for anyone who wants financial reform—in order to reform a system, you first have to understand it, and no one explains our complex financial and political systems better than Matt Taibbi. - Sarah B.
Only John Berger could write a book this beautiful about politics. Best known as a poet and novelist, Berger is also a philosopher, filmmaker and artist. In this singular book, he illuminates the horror and suffering of our modern world in lucid, devastating prose. But Berger doesn't leave you in the depths of misery, he manages to offer unique, humane solutions to problems many see as beyond hope. Hold Everything Dear is a brilliant book of essays and a testament to the power of the written word. This is by far the most moving book I have read this year, and I highly recommend it! - Sarah B.
Political writer and comedic genius Matt Taibbi has done it again. He has produced another biting, insightful, hilarious look at our political system and culture at large. This time, he goes undercover in a right-wing fundamentalist mega-church in Texas. I laughed out loud at his on-the-fly decision to recite the Russian national anthem when asked to speak in tongues (church members congratulate him on his efforts)! Taibbi explores how Americans' frustrations and feelings of helplessness are leading us to turn to extreme philosophies on both sides of the aisle—from demons and Armageddon to 9/11 conspiracy theories, Taibbi nails them all. - Sarah B.
The Internet makes life easier; no one can dispute that. But why are critics of the web so harshly silenced these days? Lee Siegel offers a brilliant critique of this technology, and how it is affecting our culture in his new book, Against the Machine. Proponents of the Internet argue that it offers us "freedom" and "access." They co-opt the language of idealism and revolution to describe the web, which essentially acts as a commercial, consumerist machine. Are we really gaining freedom, or are all our interactions being shaped into one basic transaction—point, click, and repeat? Should shopping for a watch and looking for a girlfriend be essentially the same experience, happening from the same chair, and looking at the same screen? Against the Machine is a must read for old and young alike—those of us who are disturbed by the transformation of our culture, and those who are so immersed they can't see it happening. - Sarah B.