How We Got Here: 9 Books on the Science of Culture

Photo by claire jones on Unsplash

If you’re trying to understand why our culture is the way it is, or how we got to be this way, look no further. The nine books below will allow you to take a deep dive into our past, our present, and our potential future to learn more about how our culture developed and evolved, and where we’re headed from here.

The cover of the book The Efficiency ParadoxThe Efficiency Paradox
Edward Tenner
Our culture today can’t get enough of efficiency – it’s everywhere we turn. From algorithms to multitasking, the sharing economy, and life hacks, we are always looking for ways to maximize our productivity in less time, in both our professional and personal lives. But is this the right path for our future? The Efficiency Paradox questions our ingrained assumptions about efficiency and offers us new ways to learn from the random and unexpected.


The cover of the book The Wizard and the ProphetThe Wizard and the Prophet
Charles C. Mann
From the bestselling, award-winning author of 1491 and 1493, The Wizard and the Prophet is a clever portrait of two lesser-known twentieth-century scientists, Norman Borlaug and William Vogt, whose opposing views shaped our understanding of the world. In forty years, Earth’s population will reach ten billion. Borlaug and Vogt had different solutions to this problem – Charles C. Mann describes them here, and provides an insightful analysis on how we can continue to thrive on an increasingly crowded Earth.


The cover of the book The Evolution of BeautyThe Evolution of Beauty
Richard O. Prum
Named a best book of the year by The New York Times Book Review, the Smithsonian, and the Wall Street Journal, The Evolution of Beauty is a stunning re-imagining of Darwin’s theory of Evolution. Yale University ornithologist Richard Prum makes the argument that adaptation by natural selection is not the only factor that plays a role in what we see in nature. Richard makes the case for the theory of sexual selection, stating that it is a driving force behind evolutionary change and the reason we are the way we are today.


The cover of the book The Strange Order of ThingsThe Strange Order of Things
Antonio Damasio
In The Strange Order of Things, Antonio Damasio takes a look at homeostasis – the condition of equilibrium that regulates human physiology – to prove that we descend biologically, psychologically, and even socially from a long lineage that begins with single living cells and other primitive life-forms. The Strange Order of Things gives us a new way of comprehending the world and our place in it.


The cover of the book Enlightenment NowEnlightenment Now
Steven Pinker
This instant New York Times bestseller is a fascinating read that assesses the human condition today. Steven Pinker, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, takes a step back from the popular notion that the world is doomed to show that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are actually on the rise. Pinker argues that by using the Enlightenment ideals of reason and science, we can further enhance our culture, and humanity as a whole.


The cover of the book The Culture CodeThe Culture Code
Daniel Coyle
How do you build a great culture? What sustains it? In The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle attempts to answer these questions by examining some of the world’s most successful organizations, including the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team Six, IDEO, and the San Antonio Spurs. Daniel curates a culture-building process by identifying the three key skills that are necessary for cohesion and cooperation. This book is essential for anyone looking to learn the principles of cultural chemistry to create teams of people that can accomplish amazing things together.


The cover of the book 12 Rules for Life12 Rules for Life
Jordan B. Peterson
In this book, renowned psychologist Jordan B. Peterson combines the tested truths of ancient tradition with cutting-edge scientific research to answer the question: What does everyone in the modern world need to know? Jordan discusses discipline, freedom, adventure and responsibility with humor and wit, breaking down the wisdom of the world into 12 practical and profound rules. Readers will experience a transformation of mind and spirit with each turn of the page.


The cover of the book Win BiglyWin Bigly
Scott Adams
Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, takes a look at the persuasion strategies Donald Trump used during the recent election, and reveals how to use these methods in your own life to win against all odds. Win Bigly isn’t about Trump being good or evil, or right or wrong- it’s about the power of persuasion in any setting, especially when the audience responds to emotion, not reason.


The cover of the book Searching for Stars on an Island in MaineSearching for Stars on an Island in Maine
Alan Lightman
Alan Lightman, acclaimed author of Einstein’s Dreams and theoretical physicist, has always seen the world scientifically. He found comfort in the logic and materiality of a universe governed by a small number of disembodied forces and laws. But one summer night, he felt connected to something larger than himself – something that couldn’t be explained. This sparked Alan’s desire to look further into the human desire for truth and meaning, and the role that religion and science play in that quest.


19 Shorts Every American Should Read to Understand Politics Today

These 19 Vintage Shorts Political Selections should be essential reading for every American, especially considering the state of our country today. Each short is informative, eye-opening, inspiring, and perhaps best of all, easy to incorporate into any busy schedule. Ranging from ten to thirty pages long, these political shorts cover important material with no fluff, making them accessible to every reader.

In crucial times like these, we need more stimulating writing that prompts us to make informed decisions – ones that impact our present and our future. So as midterm elections approach, be sure to dive in to these eBook shorts and share them with everyone you know.

The cover of the book Istanbul Letters“Istanbul Letters”
Elliot Ackerman
“Why do some forms of violence—the beheading of journalists by the Islamic State, a bombing in Ankara, or the attacks in San Bernardino and Orlando—make us feel so threatened, while other forms—the 372 separate mass shootings in America in 2015 or the 4,219 Syrians killed that same September—do little to challenge our sense of safety?”

From his base in Istanbul, Elliot Ackerman has written letters and essays that explore how global and seemingly remote issues like terrorism, US foreign policy, and other geopolitical forces play out and wreak distress upon the quotidian lives of civilians. Here assembled into a haunting piece, the fragments of a year’s notes open a window into life under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s oppressive and nationalistic right-wing regime, the civil war in Syria, and the disintegration of the old order in the Middle-East.

Exposing how a pervasive rhetoric of fear can shape a society and written with intimacy and a tremendous amount of compassion, this is an astute political commentary and first-person travel narrative par excellence.


The cover of the book Thirteen Tactics for Realistic Radicals“Thirteen Tactics for Realistic Radicals”
from Rules for Radicals
Saul Alinsky
From the founder of modern radical activism in America, Saul Alinsky, whose the bestselling classic Rules for Radicals has reinvigorated the political left in America. “Organizational genius” Alinsky lays out the thirteen rules that all have-nots must follow to wage a successful campaign against the haves. Wielding tremendous influence to this day, and used as a bible by leading organizers since it was first published almost fifty years ago, these vital words of wisdom are written with humor, wit and unassailable power.

Crucially impactful on both President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s political philosophies and dedicated to the American political tradition—Alinsky’s thirteen tactics will remain powerful and relevant, a must-read, for anyone interested in how to enact constructive social change for years to come.


The cover of the book A Young Woman on Her Own“A Young Woman on Her Own”
from A Woman in Charge
Carl Bernstein
From the definitive, humanizing biography of one of the most powerful and widely misunderstood women of our time: Hillary Rodham Clinton. Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter Carl Bernstein sheds light on Hillary’s political development during her four years as an impressionable but fierce undergraduate at Wellesley.

In thick, Coke-bottle glasses, here is an ambitious young student—galvanized by the assassination of Martin Luther King and the women’s liberation movement—fighting to be recognized by the East coast elite. Bernstein reveals a side of Hillary not often seen in a tender, heartening, and measured depiction of her even-keeled transformation from a Barry Goldwater conservative raised in a staunchly anti-communist household in Illinois into an “agnostic intellectual liberal” and an impassioned progressive dedicated to peaceful and pragmatic reform.


The cover of the book Insider Baseball“Insider Baseball”
from Political Fictions
Joan Didion
Almost three decades ago, iconic and incomparable American essayist Joan Didion’s now-classic report from the Dukakis campaign trail exposed, in no uncertain terms, the complete sham that is the modern American presidential run.

Writing with bite and some humor too, Didion betrays “the process”—the way in which power is exchanged and the status quo is maintained. All insiders—politicians, journalists, spin doctors—participate in a political narrative that is “designed as it is to maintain the illusion of consensus by obscuring rather than addressing actual issues.” The optics of presidential campaigns have grown ever more farcical and remote from the needs and issues most relevant to Americans’ lives, and Didion’s elegant, shrewd, and prescient commentary has never been more urgent than it is right now.


The cover of the book The Real Costs of American Health Care“The Real Costs of American Health Care”
David Goldhill
Despite all attempts to make it otherwise, the American health care system remains arcane, bloated, inefficient, and damaging to our health. We pay high premiums, endure exorbitant out-of-pocket costs, see little to no information about treatment options, and suffer often meager and sloppy care. The Affordable Care Act was an unambitious reform not likely to have an impact on these fundamental problems. But, politics aside, health care doesn’t have to be this complicated. And, its costs don’t have to be this high.

In this provocative and convincing essay, David Goldhill outlines the myriad misconceptions that plague American health care, and makes a radical case for reform. There is no panacea, but if we want to preserve our health and our pocketbooks, we need to normalize health care and enable a competitive, dynamic and diverse exchange where providers will be held accountable to the Americans they care for.


The cover of the book Can't We All Disagree More Constructively?“Can’t We All Disagree More Constructively?”
from The Righteous Mind
Jonathan Haidt
As America descends deeper into polarization and paralysis, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has done the seemingly impossible—he has explained the origins of morality, politics, and religion in a way that speaks to everyone on the political spectrum.

Drawing on twenty-five years of groundbreaking research, Haidt shows why liberals, conservatives, and libertarians have such different intuitions about right and wrong, and why we need the insights of each if we are to flourish as a nation. Here is the key to understanding the miracle of human cooperation and the eternal curse of moralistic aggression, across the political divide and around the world.


The cover of the book The Paranoid Style in American Politics: An Essay“The Paranoid Style in American Politics: An Essay”
from The Paranoid Style in American Politics
Richard Hofstadter
A timely reissue of acclaimed historian Richard Hofstadter’s authoritative and unforgettable essay. First published in 1964 and no less relevant half a century later, The Paranoid Style in American Politics scrutinizes the conditions that gave rise to the extreme right of the 1950s and the 1960s, and presages the ascendancy of the Tea Party movement and, now, Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Fringe groups can and do both influence and derail American politics, and Hofstadter remains indispensable reading for anyone who wants to understand why paranoia, a persistent psychic phenomenon with an outsize role in American public life, refuses to abate.


The cover of the book The Obama White House and the Supreme Court“The Obama White House and the Supreme Court”
from The Oath
Jeffrey Toobin
The bestselling and prizewinning author of The Nine and American Heiress tells the dramatic and gripping insider’s story of the momentous ideological war fought between the Obama White House and the Supreme Court.

President Obama and Chief Justice Roberts could not be more different. Obama, a legal conservative grappling with the second amendment among other issues, believes in the close interpretation of the Constitution, incremental change, and pragmatism over ideology. But, for Roberts the law is all about winning. And, from the moment he botched Obama’s oath of office in 2009, the relationship between the Court and the White House has been fraught.

This is essential history that unravels the forces that have shaped the Roberts Court over the last eight years. The nation is preparing to vote for its next president, and it bears remembering that the future of the Supreme Court will also be on the ballot.


The cover of the book The Way We Live Now“The Way We Live Now”
from The Age of American Unreason in a Culture of Lies
Susan Jacoby
In this selection from her searing cultural history of the last half century, Susan Jacoby chronicles the menacing surge of anti-rationalism in contemporary American life and the degradation of public speech in presidential rhetoric, radio broadcast, television, and internet media where homogenized language and thought reinforce each other in circular fashion.

At today’s critical political juncture, in which boastful ignorance has infected public discourse at the highest levels of government and throughout ordinary social media, this impassioned, tough-minded work challenges Americans to face the painful truth about what the flight from intellectualism, facts, and truth have cost us as individuals and as a nation.


The cover of the book On the Border of Truth“On the Border of Truth”
from Lies, Incorporated
Ari Rabin-Havt and Media Matters
In a post-truth political landscape, there is a carefully concealed but ever-growing industry of organized misinformation that exists to create and disseminate lies in the service of political agendas. This is especially true today for immigration reform, which has become severely limited under President Trump’s first term in office and affecting millions of people’s lives. livelihoods and families. Scrutinizing the dangerous misinformation purveyed by organizations like John Tanton’s The Center of Immigration Studies and others, On the Border of Truth is a powerful look at the organizations and people that have been pushing a coordinated assault on truth for years before the 2016 election.


The cover of the book The End of History Not“The End of History Not”
from Collusion
Luke Harding
In December 2016, the Guardian reporter and former Moscow bureau chief Luke Harding, quietly met Christopher Steele, who’s infamous dossier sparked one of the most sensational scandals to rock modern political and the biggest threats to the Trump campaign and presidency.

In the explosive first pages of the #1 New York Times bestseller Collusion, Harding chronicles Steele’s incredible background as an MI6 officer on the Moscow desk and the secret sources behind one the most incendiary and devastating reports in American and Russian political history.


The cover of the book The Bad News“The Bad News”
from Moral Disorder
Margaret Atwood
“We don’t like bad news, but we need it. We need to know about it in case it’s coming our way.”

This delicious, contemptuous and poignant micro-story is the first in the acclaimed collection, Moral Disorder, from towering author and #1 New York Times Bestseller, Margaret Atwood.

The bad news arrives in the form of a paper, which Tig carries up the stairs to Nell who is wallowing in bed. A year from now, they won’t remember the details, but for now, the bad news sits between the aging couple as they prepare their breakfast together and Nell imagines them in Southern France as the barbarians invade Rome on what is beautiful day, safe and quiet, for now, from the bad news coming their way.


The cover of the book Between Politics and Sanity“Between Politics and Sanity”
from Michelle Obama
Peter Slevin
From the definitive biography of the former First Lady, this is an inspiring window into the life of Michelle Obama as she navigated adversity and made her mark in the early White House years that followed her husband Barack Obama’s historic victory.

Deeply researched and told with a storyteller’s eye for detail, Peter Slevin highlights how Michelle became an admired and beloved American icon as she learned to inhabit the office with purpose, grace and humor–even as she faced unprecedented public scrutiny of her policy initiatives, her fashion choices and her day-to-day family life.


The cover of the book Work Doesn't Work“Work Doesn’t Work”
from The Working Poor
David K. Shipler
At the bottom of America’s working world, millions live in the shadow of prosperity, in the twilight of poverty and prosperity. Many are trapped for life in a perilous zone of low-wage work that keeps middle-class comforts and necessities forever beyond their reach despite the often long and hard hours they put in at their jobs, as bank tellers, food service employees, copyeditors, car washers and others.

In his authoritative study of how our country has consistently and still is failing its working poor with low wages, diminished benefits and rampant instability, bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author David K. Shipler draws on researched facts and scores of personal testimonies to paint a bleak of the short shrift that so many of us, even in a booming economy, are bound by.


The cover of the book The Freedom to Be Free“The Freedom to Be Free”
from Thinking Without a Banister
Hannah Arendt
This lecture is a brilliant encapsulation of Arendt’s widely influential arguments on revolution, and why the American Revolution—unlike all those preceding it—was uniquely able to install political freedom.

“The Freedom to be Free” was first published in Thinking Without a Banister, a varied collection of Arendt’s essays, lectures, reviews, interviews, speeches, and editorials—which, taken together, manifest the relentless activity of her mind and character and contain within them the articulations of wide and sophisticated range of her political thought.


The cover of the book Election Night 2016“Election Night 2016”
from Dark Money
Jane Mayer
The last president election was a stunning political upset when Donald Trump, a billionaire businessman won in a political coup, with no experience whatsoever. But along with this outsider, on the night of his victory, longtime conservative operator David Koch was standing, and smiling, amid a throng of revelers on the eve of November 8, 2016.

In her electrifying and much-lauded, bestselling book, Jane Mayer reveals that the era of the Koch brothers and big money in American politics is far from over, despite how much discussion there is to the contrary. Rather, the secret figures behind the moneyed American oligarchy continue to wield tremendous influence over the political agendas of the Trump administration, the Republican Party today, the radical Right, and all corridors of power in Washington.


The cover of the book What Is Fascism?“What Is Fascism?”
from The Anatomy of Fascism
Robert Paxton
Based on a lifetime’s worth of research, esteemed historian Robert Paxton explores what fascism is and how it has come to have a lasting and continued impact on our history. In the concluding section of his authoritative book, The Anatomy of Fascism, Paxton makes the convincing and radical case that existing definitions of the popular, nationalist, and conservative political view are lacking, and offers up his own brilliant explication—drawn from concrete historical actions—thus transforming our understanding of this dangerous ideology and of why it takes hold when and where it does.


The cover of the book Why Do They Vote That Way?“Why Do They Vote That Way?”
from The Righteous Mind
Jonathan Haidt
To understand what drives the rift that divides our populace between liberal and conservative, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has spent twenty-five year examining the moral foundations that undergird and inform two differing world views: the political left and right place different values of importance on order, care, fairness, loyalty, authority, and liberty.

From one of our keenest dissectors of moral systems, Why Do They Vote That Way? explains how deeply ingrained moral systems have estranged conservatives and liberals from one another while crossing the political divide in a search for understanding the miracle of human cooperation.


The cover of the book The Evil Empire Speech, 1983“The Evil Empire Speech, 1983”
Ronald Reagan
Crucially relevant over thirty years after its delivery, President Ronald Reagan’s Evil Empire speech to the National Association of Evangelicals is a classic of the American rhetorical tradition.

In 1983, when he delivered this address, Reagan outlined the principles of freedom and liberty that defined the foundation of American democracy, the faith and religiosity that underpins those principles, and the importance of diligently keeping the growing threats of dictatorship in the Soviet Union, now Russia, in check and triumphing over them.

A Better Brain: 16 Best Books to Understand How the Brain Works

The human mind is truly astonishing. It’s the center of the nervous system – the headquarters of our body – and it’s responsible for pretty much everything. It’s important to know how your lifestyle impacts your brain, and what positive changes you can make to promote a healthier future.

These books will help you to understand the way your mind works, how to gain control of your thoughts and actions, and how to combat diseases and disorders that affect your brain.

The cover of the book Calm ClarityCalm Clarity
Due Quach
Most people don’t realize how much control we actually have over our thoughts, feelings, and actions. It’s easy to feel like it’s out of our jurisdiction, but in reality, fluctuations in our mood depend on the neural networks firing in our brains, so we have the power to consciously break hardwired thought patterns. In Calm Clarity, Due Quach, author of the viral Medium piece “Poor and Traumatized at Harvard,”  shares her easy-to-follow program to show readers how to deal with toxic stress and adversity.


The cover of the book The Performance CortexThe Performance Cortex
Zach Schonbrun
In this book, journalist and sports writer Zach Schonbrun set out on a mission to discover what actually drives human movement. He interviews neuroscientists and other experts on motor control to understand how the brain’s motor control system works in extraordinary talented athletes like Stephen Curry, Tom Brady, Serena Williams, and Lionel Messi. The Performance Cortex offers us a new way of thinking about athleticism, and is a must-read for the cerebral sports fan.


The cover of the book The Leading BrainThe Leading Brain
Friederike Fabritius, MS, and Hans W. Hagemann, PhD
This revolutionary guide uses the most up-to-date research in brain science to reveal how our thoughts affect our career performance. Neuropsychologist Friederike Fabritius and leadership expert Dr. Hans W. Hagemann present easy-to-follow tips for sharpening focus, increasing retention, improving decision-making, and ultimately, thriving as a leader in the workplace. This book is ideal for anyone who feels stagnant in their career and wants to make simple changes that will provide extraordinary, life-changing results.


The cover of the book Brain FoodBrain Food
Lisa Mosconi PhD
We’ve all heard it many times before: You are what you eat. Well, what if you could eat food that boosted your brain power and health? Dr. Lisa Mosconi, an expert in neuroscience and nutrition, knows that our brains have very specific food requirements. Her innovative plan to improving brain health will help to improve memory, eliminate cognitive decline, and even help with depression. Including lists of what to eat and what to avoid, a quiz that determines your brain health, and 24 delicious recipes, Brain Food is the ultimate guide to a happy, healthy brain.


The cover of the book The Better Brain SolutionThe Better Brain Solution
Steven Masley, M.D.
Dr. Steven Masley’s The Better Brain Solution is the first book to explain how the brain can become insulin resistant overtime, leading to cognitive decline and memory loss. Masley’s research shows that diet and lifestyle are the main contributing factors to this insulin resistance, and in this book, he shares a program he’s developed to prevent and reverse this potentially devastating condition.


The cover of the book The Brain Warrior's WayThe Brain Warrior’s Way
Daniel G. Amen, M.D. and Tana Amen
New York Times bestselling authors Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen join forces to bring attention to the harmful, addictive practices that are destroying our bodies and our minds. Abuse of food and technology has driven much of the American population to lead unhealthy lives, riddled with disease. The Brain Warrior’s Way is the key to taking control of your health and taking back your life.


The cover of the book Faster Than NormalFaster Than Normal
Peter Shankman
Peter Shankman’s groundbreaking guide to ADHD showcases the positive side of having a fast-paced mind, and contains helpful advice for harnessing that extra energy. Shankman’s experience with ADHD is first-hand – his hyperforcus has allowed him to run several successful businesses, travel the world, explore his hobbies, and keep his family afloat. He’s here to help others like him learn how to eliminate distractions, complete goals, and finally see their differences in a positive light.


The cover of the book The Hacking of the American MindThe Hacking of the American Mind
Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL
It turns out the American mind isn’t such a happy place. Robert Lustig believes that our culture has been ravaged by addiction and depression, suffering irreparable damage. Neuromarketing has enabled corporate America to brainwash consumers (all of us consumers), creating an endless cycle of desire and consumption. In The Hacking of the American Mind, Lustig reveals why we enter this state of consciousness, and calls to the conversation the big-name corporations that helped create this mess and the members of government who allowed it to happen. But don’t worry too much – Lustig also offers solutions we can all use in our daily lives to pursue happiness.


The cover of the book Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games:Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games
Ian Bogost
Let’s face it – life can get really boring sometimes. Most of our daily activities rarely ever involve anything fun, and as a result, we dread doing them. But what if we redefined fun? In Play Anything, inventive game designer and philosopher Ian Bogost explains how we can transform our lives by changing our perspective on what’s “boring,” making everything more extraordinary.


The cover of the book Smarter Faster BetterSmarter Faster Better
Charles Duhigg
As an expert on the science of productivity, Charles knows the secrets to speeding up innovation and creativity. As he discusses in this New York Times bestseller, Charles believes that productivity relies heavily on decision-making and managing how you think. One of the biggest faults in creative people is getting stuck on having the most original idea instead of focusing on new ways to combine ideas that already exist.


The cover of the book The Confidence GameThe Confidence Game
Maria Konnikova
In this captivating book, Maria Konnikova takes an in-depth look at the minds of con artists, and the people who fall for their tricks again and again. What do con artists have in common? How do they do what they do, and why are they successful? From multimillion-dollar Ponzi schemes to small-time frauds, Konnikova pulls together a selection of fascinating stories to answer these puzzling questions.


The cover of the book Wired to CreateWired to Create
Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire
Creativity can be a powerful gift, if it’s used properly. Wired to Create unravels the creative mind by investigating the daily habits of creative people. Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire explore the latest findings in neuroscience and psychology, and provide examples of artists and innovators throughout history, to explain the best ways for people to harness their creativity.



The cover of the book The Voices Within: The History and Science of How We Talk to OurselvesThe Voices Within: The History and Science of How We Talk to Ourselves
Charles Fernyhough
We all have voices in our head. (No, you’re not crazy.) We’ve all, at some point or another, asked ourselves a question, and also provided ourselves with an answer. We’ve imagined scenarios in our head, debated a decision to ourselves, and read books in different voices. These voices are unique and sometimes unpredictable – they can appear in different accents, and BE LOUD or soft. Charles Fernyhough argues in The Voices Within that these inner voices are crucial to human thought and must be embraced.


The cover of the book The End of Alzheimer'sThe End of Alzheimer’s
Dale E. Bredesen, MD
This instant New York Times and Wall Street Journalbestseller is changing how we understand cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s Disease takes every single one of its victims – there are no survivors. Dale Bredesen, MD, offers a potential solution to this huge problem by outlining 36 metabolic factors (micronutrients, hormone levels, sleep) that can trigger “downsizing” in the brain. Bredesen argues that by balancing these factors, one could prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s.


The cover of the book The Cyber EffectThe Cyber Effect
Mary Aiken, PhD
Mary Aiken, the world’s leading expert in forensic cyberpsychology, embarks on a journey to explore how the internet is shaping how we think and behave. It’s no secret that society’s values have changed drastically due to the constant presence of the internet in our daily lives. Aiken covers the impact of technology on children, teens, and our privacy, and explains how addictive behaviors can form online.


The cover of the book MicromasteryMicromastery
Robert Twigger
This illuminating book combines positive psychology, neuroscience, self-help to explain why we believe that at a certain age, we’re too old to learn new things. Robert Twigger offers a solution to this problem: think small. If you tackle small goals, you’ll be more likely to achieve success. Small, doable tasks offer a big payoff, and motivate us to keep learning and growing, with payoffs that include a boost in optimism, confidence, memory, cognitive skills, and more.

Matt Bellassai: 10 Books That Make Me Laugh Every Single Time

Matt Bellassai’s name probably rings a bell for many of you; he is the first ever recipient of the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Social Media Star and host of the hit web series “Whine About It,” where he complains about various and sundry things while swilling wine (of course). When most of us do this, it’s annoying, but Bellassai has made bitching an art form, and Everything Is Awful: And Other Observations elicits some much needed belly laughs. Who does a comedy writer turn to when he needs a good chortle? These are the books that tickle Mr. Bellassai’s funny bone.



33381433We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby

Honestly, Samantha Irby is so funny, it makes me want to kick someone in the face out of visceral jealousy that I will never be as entertaining or as charming or as hilarious as her. If I wasn’t so busy relating to every word she writes, I’d be absolutely furious.



27170141You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein

Jessi Klein makes me feel like I wasn’t the only awkward gangly girl in overalls who would grow up to be an awkward gangly woman in adult overalls. Even though, let’s face it, nobody really grows out of their uncomfortable phase. Except for, like, David Beckham. He’s cooler than all of us.


9006Don’t Get Too Comfortable by David Rakoff

I could open to any page in any David Rakoff book and laugh endlessly. Like David Sedaris, but with more self-hate and outer rage. Also, he worked as a hotel cabana boy for one of these essays, and if that’s not commitment to the craft, I don’t know what is.



23492710Intimacy Idiot by Isaac Oliver

I would say this book will make you feel better about your own shitty love life, but honestly, Isaac is out here experiencing the world (Hello! He has sex with a dolphin furry!) and you’re probably at home with your greasy fingers congealing inside of a half-empty Cheetos bag. Get on Isaac’s level.


21412229The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae

I mean, Issa is a Golden-Globe-nominated Cover Girl now. I’m not saying that this book can help you become a critically-acclaimed beauty representative, but I’m not not saying that either.



12868761Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Honestly, this book is my bible. I pray to it every night and occasionally Jenny speaks to me through burning bushes. She is the funniest writer to ever exist and the queen of sentences that go on and on forever but you don’t care because they’re amazing and hilarious.



2195289I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

I’ll defend any book that has cake in the title, and I’ll also defend Sloane Crosley with my own two fists. She makes being hapless feel genuinely delightful.



31707101This Is Really Happening by Erin Chack

Erin has the unique talent of making her audience both laugh and sob uncontrollably in the very same paragraph. Also for pooping outdoors, avoiding bears, and kicking cancer’s ass. She’s a hero.



29496435You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson

Few people are qualified to tell you how to live your life more than Phoebe Robinson. Mostly because she’s a badass. But also because you’re pathetic.



8765I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron will always be my queen. Sometimes, when I close my eyes, it’s like she and I are sitting on the sidewalk, with scarves covering most of our flabby neck skin, wondering if we’ll ever feel young again.


By Erin Kodicek, November 2018, first appearing on Omnivoracious

5 Non-Fiction Books Every Gamer Should Read

How did video games go from a pastime for “nerds” to a phenomenon that touches the lives of millions? Find out in our essential video game reading list.

The cover of the book The Comic Book Story of Video GamesThe Comic Book Story of Video Games


Writer Jonathan Hennessey and artist Jack McGowan’s The Comic Book Story of Video Games is a complete history of the medium: a story that begins with the radar technology of World War II and continues to this very day. Meet the iconoclasts and scientists who changed gaming history, and learn how the industry they birthed has infiltrated our homes, workplaces, and even our pockets. Along the way Hennessey addresses some of gaming’s biggest questions: Are video games art? Are they a healthy outlet or a threat to our health and mental well-being? A comic book art is the perfect format for the story of a visual medium, and McGowan’s work really brings it to life with splashy colors and hidden references to gaming’s best loved titles.


The cover of the book The Ultimate History of Video GamesThe Ultimate History of Video Games


If comic books aren’t your thing, then you might want to consider Steven L. Kent’s book The Ultimate History of Video Games, a lively and eminently readable overview of the medium. Kent, a gaming historian, profiles the visionaries who saw a future in which gaming could be a big business, and the passionate fandom that formed around it. Examining both the arcade classics of yesterday, like Pac-Man and Centipede, and the triple A titles of today, The Ultimate History of Video Games should be on every fan’s bookshelf.


The cover of the book Death by Video GameDeath by Video Game


Video games, like comic books, music, and Dungeons & Dragons, have been in the crosshairs of teachers, pastors, parents, and lawmakers off and on throughout their short history. Claims that these games provoke aggression and rot the brain usually come with very little evidence to back them up. However, there have been deaths associated with the hobby at its most extreme: gamers who died of exhaustion during days-long marathon sessions. Investigative journalist Simon Parkin sets out to uncover the truth behind these tragic deaths, and to meet the virtual daredevils who push the limits of human endurance in the name of extreme gaming. If you like true crime stories, cultural histories, and most of all, gaming, this is a book you’ll probably enjoy.


The cover of the book Masters of DoomMasters of Doom


Doom wasn’t the first first-person shooter — that would probably be 1974’s Maze War — but it was one of the first big smash hits in gaming: a must-have PC title that defined the genre. Doom was the brainchild of John Carmack and John Romero, the “Lennon and McCartney” of video games. Doom (along with Quake, their second big title) proved to be their ticket to a lavish new lifestyle, but their personal demons weren’t as easily defeated as the ones in the game. The story of the friendship between these two men, and the betrayal that ended it, is as engrossing as the games they created.


The cover of the book Extra LivesExtra Lives


Do video games deserve consideration as a serious art form? If so, what do they have to teach us? Writer and gamer Tom Bissell examines these and other heady questions in a book that is sure to get you thinking about a hobby enjoyed by millions yet rarely considered in such terms. By highlighting the culture, technology, and art of gaming, Bissell makes the case that play can be a serious — and seriously rewarding — pastime.

Supreme Syllabus: 10 Books About the Supreme Court

Photo of the US Supreme Court circa 1899, via Wikimedia Commons

The Supreme Court has always been a place where political tempers have flared, but in recent years, it’s become even more of a hot topic. The death, in early 2016, of Justice Antonin Scalia sparked a particularly contentious moment in Supreme Court history, ultimately turning the question of who would name his replacement into an element of that fall’s election.

But the Supreme Court is also harder to pin down than most other branches of government. Sometimes, Justices will vote along the lines of the Presidents who appointed them; at others, they’ll deliver an unpredictable decision, setting precedent in a wholly unexpected manner. Given the present political divide, a better understanding of the Supreme Court can be a useful thing to have. Here are ten books that can help you with that.

The cover of the book Without PrecedentWithout Precedent

Joel Richard Paul

When exploring the history of the Supreme Court, its longest-serving Chief Justice is a logical place to begin. Joel Richard Paul’s comprehensive biography of Marshall gives a well-rounded portrait of his life, including his role in building the nascent United States and the way that he helped shape what the Supreme Court could be.


The cover of the book Scalia SpeaksScalia Speaks

Antonin Scalia, edited by Christopher J. Scalia and Edward Whelan

Among the most contentious Justices in recent memory was the late Antonin Scalia, whose views on legal matters delighted many on the right and infuriated many on the left. Over the years, Scalia also earned a reputation as one of the Court’s best writers; this collection of his speeches provides readers with an overview of his takes on a host of topics, and comes with an introduction by fellow Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.


The cover of the book Notorious RBGNotorious RBG

Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik

In recent years, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has become a heroic figure to many progressives. Her copious knowledge of all things legal, her inspiring personal history, and her commanding personality have all contributed to this status. In this volume, authors Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik blend biographical rigor with a sense of Ginsburg’s pop-culture presence.


The cover of the book Thurgood Marshall:Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary

Juan Williams

One of the 20th century’s most significant Justices was Thurgood Marshall, who went from arguing certain landmark cases (including Brown v. Board of Education) in front of the Court to becoming its first African-American member. Marshall’s life made history at numerous times, and Juan Williams’s biography explores all facets of it.


The cover of the book The Warren Court and the Pursuit of JusticeThe Warren Court and the Pursuit of Justice

Morton J. Horwitz

Certain Supreme Courts are credited with having a role in notable societal changes within the United States. Such was the case with the Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren, under which the fabric of the nation shifted dramatically, with verdicts that sparked desegregation and bolstered the rights of the individual. Morton J. Horwitz’s book examines the shaping and impact of the Warren Court, and the legacy it left behind.


The cover of the book The Supreme CourtThe Supreme Court

William H. Rehnquist

If you’re looking for an insightful book on the workings of the Supreme Court, a logical place to look would be a book by someone who spent decades as part of it. Such is the case with William H. Rehnquist, who became Chief Justice in 1986 after 14 years on the Supreme Court. His book on the institution brings an insider’s perspective to the forefront, and offers a point of view that few others have had.


The cover of the book Louis D. Brandeis: American ProphetLouis D. Brandeis: American Prophet

Jeffrey Rosen

Louis D. Brandeis is considered to be one of the greatest legal minds to have served on the Supreme Court; he is also remembered as a significant advocate for numerous rights in his writings. Jeffrey Rosen’s concise biography examines the significance of Brandeis’s time on the Supreme Court, his cultural and legal legacy, and the impact that his take on law continues to have on our society.


The cover of the book Dissent and the Supreme CourtDissent and the Supreme Court

Melvin I. Urofsky

While the majority opinions in Supreme Court cases have, for obvious reasons, had a substantial influence on American society, it’s also important to note the flip side of that. Dissents in certain Supreme Court cases can also be the source of lively writing, as well as collecting legal thought that may well be influential in the years and decades to come. Acclaimed historian Melvin I. Urofsky explores this phenomenon in great detail in Dissent and the Supreme Court, veering into a less-heralded but still significant aspect of American law.


The cover of the book The Burger Court and the Rise of the Judicial RightThe Burger Court and the Rise of the Judicial Right

Michael J. Graetz and Linda Greenhouse

In recent years, a host of acclaimed books has sought to explore the rise of the modern conservative moment in the United States. (The works of Rick Perlstein come to mind.) For a look at how that developed on the legal side of things, Michael J. Graetz and Linda Greenhouse’s examination of the cultural and legal influence of the Supreme Court under Warren Burger provides an insightful view.


The cover of the book Supreme Court DecisionsSupreme Court Decisions

This concise volume contains six verdicts spanning the history of the Supreme Court, from its earliest days to the Court’s presence in the 21st century. Through these verdicts, readers can get a sense of how verdicts can help shape the course of history, and how the Court has played a role in law and governance throughout the nation’s history.

The Law of the Land: 10 Best Books to Understand the Constitution

As I write this, our country is once again reeling over a mass shooting. Such events have become tragically frequent, as has the debate about the legitimacy of the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution, commonly referred to as “the right to bear arms.” But when that amendment is unpacked, it can be interpreted as the right to arm a militia in the shadow of tyranny – in the spirit of the United States’ liberation from British rule, essentially – rather than an assertion that guns in individual hands actually are an unalienable right. Similarly, in the wake of the Trump presidency, many other questions around U.S. constitutional law also have become alarmingly relevant – freedom of the press and freedom of religion, especially. But the list goes on, and with it, the mounting revelation that few fully understand this document forming the backbone of our jeopardized democracy. Here are some books that may help clarify matters.

The cover of the book Plain, Honest MenPlain, Honest Men

Richard Beeman

Rather than getting bogged down in dry historical details, University of Pennsylvania professor Beeman has constructed a lively yet thorough retelling of the 1787 Philadelphia convention at which the U.S Constitution was written, including key players and key issues, slavery chief among them. A big takeaway: compromise is the backbone of our democracy.


The cover of the book America's ConstitutionAmerica’s Constitution

Akhil Reed Amar

A highly renowned constitutional law scholar, Amar takes great pains to break down the Constitution piece by piece, not only explaining each article, section, and amendment but associated controversies, past and present.


The cover of the book This Is Our ConstitutionThis Is Our Constitution

Khizr Khan

Obstensibly for middle-schoolers, this guidebook by Gold Star father, Democratic National Convention speaker, and Pakistani immigrant Khizr Khan can shed light for people of all ages. It not only breaks down the Constitution in clear, straightforward language but also conveys what such rights mean to a person who grew up with few guaranteed. It’s hard to read this without a lump in your throat.


The cover of the book The Federalist PapersThe Federalist Papers

Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay; Series Editor Richard Beeman

“Publius” was actually a pseudonym for Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, who created this brilliant set of documents – 85 essays and articles in total – not only to influence the writing of the U.S. Constitution but to impact our then-inchoate U.S. democracy overall. It’s a stunning read.


The cover of the book Our Lost ConstitutionOur Lost Constitution

Senator Mike Lee

U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) has crafted an impressive compendium of which aspects of the Constitution have (to his mind) been manipulated and/or overlooked over time. Also included: suggestions of how this “Lost Constitution” can be resurrected and how this might improve public life.


The cover of the book Fault Lines in the ConstitutionFault Lines in the Constitution

Cynthia Levinson and Sanford Levinson

With accessible, entertaining style, this husband-and-wife team – she’s a children’s book author, he’s a Constitutional law expert – takes us through the creation of this document, including the story of how each related problem first arose. Consider this the ultimate educational tool for a family road trip.


The cover of the book Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in AmericaGunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America

Adam Winkler

This controversial take on the debate over the second amendment is unlikely to make anyone entirely happy. But in tracing origins and interpretations of the Second Amendment, Winkler provides useful insight into how the application of the “right to bear arms” has warped over the years – as has the role and purpose of the NRA.


The cover of the book The Second Amendment: A BiographyThe Second Amendment: A Biography

Michael Waldman

Despite the fact that this is described as a biography, Waldman’s book shines most when it explores contemporary implications of arguably the most divisive aspect of the U.S. Constitution.



The cover of the book Sex and the ConstitutionSex and the Constitution

Geoffrey R. Stone

If there’s one place to which the government shouldn’t have much access, it’s our bedroom – or is it? In this volume, Stone looks at the Constitutional reasoning behind sex and marriage regulations throughout U.S. history, all the way up to gay marriage. One takeaway: the line between “moral” and “religious” reasoning is often perilously thin.


The cover of the book Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First AmendmentFreedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment

Anthony Lewis

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lewis explored the five areas of our free-speech rights, and some especially bothersome applications of them. This is a very necessary book for anyone who’s bellowed, “Hey, it’s a free country!”