Best Sellers Update: Read a New Book Month Edition!

December is Read a New Book Month (unless you find a website that says it is September, but just go with us here).

The weather outside is… let’s say sub-optimal. Still, there is no better time to curl up with a new book. How can you make the most of Read a New Book Month?

Well, reading a new book would be a good place to start.

‘When you say ‘new,’ do you mean ‘new‘ as in recently published or ‘new‘ as in we’ve never read it before?’ you ask.


Also, for those of you feeling adventurous, you can read something new AND different. Safe bet books, that you know you’ll love are, of course, a wonderful thing, but sometimes it is exciting to mix things up.

Regardless of what you choose to do, here are the current NYT Best Sellers (Fiction and Non-Fiction) to give you some inspiration.

NYT Best Sellers: Combined Print & E-Book Fiction

  1. FIRE AND BLOOD by George R.R. Martin (NEW)

39943621Centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones, House Targaryen—the only family of dragonlords to survive the Doom of Valyria—took up residence on Dragonstone. Fire and Blood begins their tale with the legendary Aegon the Conqueror, creator of the Iron Throne, and goes on to recount the generations of Targaryens who fought to hold that iconic seat, all the way up to the civil war that nearly tore their dynasty apart.

  1. TARGET: ALEX CROSS by James Patterson (NEW)
  2. THE RECKONING by John Grisham
  3. DARK SACRED NIGHT by Michael Connelly
  4. LOOK ALIVE TWENTY-FIVE by Janet Evanovich
  5. PAST TENSE by Lee Child
  6. EVERY BREATH by Nicholas Sparks
  7. LONG ROAD TO MERCY by David Baldacci
  8. BEAUCHAMP HALL by Danielle Steel (NEW)
  9. NINE PERFECT STRANGERS by Liane Moriarty
  11. WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING by Delia Owens
  12. ELEVATION by Stephen King
  14. THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ by Heather Morris


NYT Best Sellers: Combined Print & E-Book Non-Fiction

  1. BECOMING by Michelle Obama

BecomingIn a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African-American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

  1. KILLING THE SS by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
  2. EDUCATED by Tara Westover
  3. SHIP OF FOOLS by Tucker Carlson
  4. FACTFULNESS by Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Ronnlund
  5. SAPIENS by Yuval Noah Harari
  6. FEAR by Bob Woodward
  8. LEADERSHIP by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  9. IN PIECES by Sally Field
  10. SHADE by Pete Souza
  11. THE FIFTH RISK by Michael Lewis
  12. THE LIBRARY BOOK by Susan Orlean
  14. BEASTIE BOYS BOOK by Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz

Rediscover Your Altruism With These 10 Books

Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt, via Wikimedia Commons

These days it can feel like generosity and compassion are taking a back seat to other priorities. What follows are books that uphold these values–wonderful gifts that help us keep on giving.

The cover of the book Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the WorldAltruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World

Matthieu Ricard

Buddhist monk, cell biologist, and bestselling author Ricard truly believes the foundation of happiness is caring for ourselves and others. Drawing on such wide-ranging influences as poetry, philosophy, and scientific research, he’s assembled a handbook to help us achieve this “presents” of mind.


The cover of the book GivingGiving

Bill Clinton

Since his 1990s tenure as US President, Bill Clinton has quietly gone about doing as much good as he possibly can. In clear, emphatic prose, he breaks down what everyone else — from corporations to low-income individuals — can do to improve the lot of others.


The cover of the book Kindness In A Cruel WorldKindness in a Cruel World

Nigel Barber

Bio-psychologist Nigel Barber has always been interested in the Darwinist utility of helping others. In surprisingly lively language, he examines the evolutionary history of altruism and why helping others is in the best interest of every species’ survival.


The cover of the book CompassionCompassion

Dani DiPirro

Blogger Dani DiPirro is a cheerleader for positivity. While such cheer may not suit everyone, it’s certainly seasonally appropriate, and in this book she offers a bevy of pay-it-forward suggestions for caring for others — and thus yourself.


The cover of the book Giving Our BestGiving Our Best

Pema Chödrön

There’s a reason Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön’s Things Fall Apart is a modern spiritual classic. To know Chödrön is to love her, and this audiobook of her musings on compassion and giving is a terrific gift unto itself.


The cover of the book Giving is LivingGiving is Living

Marnie Howard

Leaders in the “giving community,” the Howard sisters have compiled a practical guide to generosity that offers a bevy of small gestures and attitude-corrections which can make huge impacts on other people’s lives.


The cover of the book Simple GivingSimple Giving

Jennifer Iacovelli

In this clear-hearted volume, nonprofit veteran Jennifer Iacovelli disabuses us of the notion that you have to give money to give back. Pragmatic and creative, she’s assembled all kinds of alternatives to financial donations.


The cover of the book The Power of GivingThe Power of Giving

Azim Jamal

With wonderfully practical examples and exercises, inspirational speakers Jamal and McKinnon show us how volunteering time and kindness is one of the best ways we can support fellow humans.



The cover of the book Doing Good BetterDoing Good Better

William MacAskill

Still in his twenties, philosopher William MacAskill already has founded two nonprofits and formed all kinds of earnest, brass-tacks plans for balancing modern life’s inequities. Trust me: By the time you finish this book, you’ll change your mind about which charities you annually support.


The cover of the book The Giving Way to HappinessThe Giving Way to Happiness

Jenny Santi

Philanthropy advisor Jenny Santi has made a career of “spreading the wealth.” Here she’s assembled testimonies of such notables as actress Goldie Hawn, environmentalist Philippe Cousteau, and Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp to show us how helping others helps us — and why that’s more than okay.

Guides for Better Living From Around the World

Nishant Choksi

Right now, I’m a bit embarrassed to be an American. Not usually. But now. If I see a tourist on the street looking lost, it’s all I can do not to blurt, “I’m sorry about what our president said today and will say tomorrow,” along with directions to the No. 6 train.

I must have a lot of company. How else to explain the staggering pile of self-help books where Americans are offered the path to a better life via the rituals and outlook of other countries? Last year there were lessons in happiness and well-being, via hygge from Denmark. And this year? Japan is teaching us to seize the day (humbly). Sweden is showing us how to find balance and simplify our lives. And France is showing us, well, everything else. Naturellement. Just because they invented Camembert and guilt-free sex, they think they’re soooo perfect.

A FRENCHWOMAN’S GUIDE TO SEX AFTER SIXTY, by the psychotherapist Marie de Hennezel, immediately catches your attention because the cover shows a woman of a certain age glancing coquettishly over the bedsheets. But that age isn’t 40. It’s perhaps 75. So this isn’t the American version of old; it’s the French version, which is to say: old. And that’s what makes this volume uniquely French: It’s deeply un-American in its realism. Aches and pains, medications that reduce libido, a diminution of hormones that mean friction is tougher on our naughty bits and of course the occasional urge to cover all the mirrors in the house: Aging ain’t pretty, Hennezel admits. Yet for many of us, Eros lives, and Eros wants its due. What’s called for, then, is a revolution in the way we look at sexuality: a de-emphasis on orgasms in favor of kissing and caressing, more solo play to connect with our erotic selves and “making affection” as an alternative to making love. Feeling good through exercise and a healthy diet is paramount; looking younger through plastic surgery is mentioned not at all. Reading the stories of septuagenarians and octogenarians who are finding love or intimacy or sometimes just sex, one is reminded that the very French concept of joie de vivre — a sense of joy that comes from curiosity and playfulness, from looking outward instead of inward — is its own form of Botox.

This joie is very much at the heart of Jamie Cat Callan’s lively PARISIAN CHARM SCHOOL: French Secrets for Cultivating Love, Joy and That Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi. Maybe “Parisian Charm School” seems so thorough because Callan, who has written several previous books on various aspects of French life, is an American; she approaches her subject with anthropological rigor. Here that subject is French charm, which is some combination of intellectual curiosity, spontaneity, style and a soupçon of reserve. Charm, she points out, can’t be Googled; it must be cultivated. Yet, at its heart, it’s a tangle of contradictions. As a fashion consultant Callan interviewed put it, “Never be too feminine, too girlie. Never be too complicated. Too obvious. Never look like you’re trying. But you must try!” Being French seems kind of exhausting. Still, we clumsy Americans can worship at this shrine and maybe pick up a few tricks. Who, after all, doesn’t want to be like the woman in this line Callan quotes from Colette: “When she raises her eyelids, it’s as if she were taking off all her clothes.”

Perhaps Sweden was a little jealous of all the lifestyle-giving attention its Danish neighbor received, so this year brings us Linnea Dunne’s LAGOM: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living. Loosely translated, lagom means “not too little, not too much, but just enough,” making Sweden the Goldilocks of nations, one that earned an article on the website of the World Economic Forum called “Why Sweden Beats Other Countries at Just About Everything.” The reason, it seems, is that Sweden makes the concept of “the greater good” practically into a religion. You start with free education and universal health care and end with great pastry (and the regular coffee breaks — fika — to enjoy it). Fairness and moderation are basic cultural values: “Lagom is accepting an invitation to spend the weekend at a friend’s house, but bringing your own bedsheets because it’s fair to share the burden of laundry. … It’s wearing bright-red lipstick, but leaving the rest of your makeup perfectly understated.” There’s a reason Gianni Versace founded his luxury fashion empire in Italy and H & M was born in Sweden: “There’s this inherent celebrating of frugality in Sweden. We like affordable clothes because it’s a bit vulgar to splash out.”

If anything sums up the gestalt of this book — and Sweden — it’s this: Swedes are rated among the world’s top 10 happiest people, but not the happiest. That would be excessive. The aim isn’t ecstasy but “sustainable happiness,” the sort of equilibrium that’s achieved through small moments of calm and bliss in your everyday routine. So, to live the lagom way, invite your friends round for fika, spend time in nature, give away items that don’t add to your pleasure in life — and, most important, help a neighbor.

The primacy of the common good extends to everything in Sweden, including shuffling off this mortal coil. Reading THE GENTLE ART OF SWEDISH DEATH CLEANING: How to Free Yourself and Your Family From a Lifetime of Clutter, I couldn’t help thinking of my own parents, who were mild hoarders. When they were in their 80s and I meekly suggested that maybe they should get their home in order, my father’s response was: “Why? Soon it’ll be your problem.”

Margareta Magnusson is writing for people with families like mine — and maybe yours. Americans are just too much, she gently suggests. Swedes embrace consideration and minimalism, and the practice of “death cleaning” (which can start in your 30s — why wait?) embodies those values. “Let me help make your loved ones’ memories of you nice — instead of awful,” she says, and proceeds to do just that in this short, practical guide to getting rid of stuff. You categorize, normally going from large objects to small; you give things away or sell them, particularly if you have a family you know is going to bicker. And you never, ever start with photos or other items of great sentiment because you’re likely to get stuck. And oh, how right Magnusson is. After my parents passed away, my own death cleaning consisted of looking at old photos, then immediately giving up — taking everything they owned and putting it into a massive storage unit that has sucked up money for seven years. I may have to reread her book.

In Japanese, iki means “to live” and gai means “reason” — in other words, the reason to live and how you define it. Ken Mogi begins AWAKENING YOUR IKIGAI: How the Japanese Wake Up to Joy and Purpose Every Day with a story meant to illustrate the importance of this concept to the Japanese. He describes a famed sushi chef whose Tokyo restaurant is visited by President Barack Obama during a state visit and who is told by the president that his sushi was the best he had ever eaten. No big deal. “Ikigai resides in the realm of small things,” Mogi explains. “The morning air, the cup of coffee, the ray of sunshine, the massaging of octopus meat and the American president’s praise are on equal footing.”

Not really! Can I skip No. 4?

Mogi, a celebrity neuroscientist and broadcaster who has written more than 100 books, describes the five pillars of the ikigai way of life: “starting small,” “releasing yourself,” “harmony and sustainability,” “the joy of small things” and “being in the here and now” (what we might call “mindfulness”). And he demonstrates how some of the rituals most important to Japanese culture, from the tea ceremony to sumo wrestling, are based on these tenets. I admit that certain principles he espouses utterly baffled this Westerner, particularly the notion that in Japan finding purpose and joy in work, even work that requires great individuality and creativity, comes from a sublimation of the ego. He cites the example of the great anime artist Hayao Miyazaki, whose work is so repetitive and painstaking. Wait, if we all know who he is, how is he subsuming his ego? In work, Mochi explains, you have to be like a child, because “a child has no definite idea of the past or the future.” Seriously? Tell that to a 5-year-old screaming, “When will we get there?” in the back seat of a car because “there” involves ice cream.

I’m not sure if I could live in Japan for more than a week, what with all the appreciating of teeny porcelain objects and self-abnegation, but “Awakening Your Ikigai” is really quite a delightful look at sometimes mystifying Japanese traditions. (Spoiler alert: There’s a lot more to sumo wrestling than chubby dudes with man buns and diapers.) I can’t resist noting that in 2009, Mogi was charged with violation of Japanese tax laws for failing to report several million dollars in income. See? I guess America does have something to teach the citizens of other nations.

By Judith Newman, Jan. 23, 2018, first appearing in NYT > Books

Editor’s Note:

Judith Newman’s “To Siri With Love: A Mother, Her Autistic Son and the Kindness of Machines” was published in August. Her column appears every eight weeks.

Broaden Your Horizons: 11 Best Books on Theology to Read Now

Photo by Jasper Boer on Unsplash

Faith has changed the world. That is undeniable.

The impact of faith, however, is up for debate. Organized religion has had many positive effects on society, and also many negative ones. It’s hard to know how to feel about something that has caused devastation, while also spreading messages of love and peace. Widespread corruption, misconception, and discrimination have tainted the sanctity of religion for many around the world, making it easy to forget the virtue of having faith.

It’s interesting to see how faith has deeply affected so many lives, and how it continues to shape the world we share. Whatever your beliefs may be, check out the books on theology below to expand your knowledge and broaden your horizons – they’re positive and enlightening, regardless of your personal opinion on the matter.

The cover of the book Martin LutherMartin Luther

Lyndal Roper

In this stunning biography, Lyndal Roper looks deep inside the heart of Martin Luther: the man behind the Ninety-five Theses, which contained ideas that boldly challenged the Catholic Church, and spread like wildfire. Roper looks beneath the surface of Martin Luther’s story to uncover who he really was and paint a full portrait of his complex personality, without shying away from his flaws.


The cover of the book Daring to HopeDaring to Hope

Katie Davis Majors; Foreword by Ann Voskamp

When Katie Davis Majors moved to Uganda, she had no idea that she would start a widely successful organization, or become the adoptive mother of thirteen girls. But when she began to invest herself in the new world around her, she fell in love with the people she met, and found herself a family. After an unexpected tragedy, Katie began to question the existence of God. In her doubt, God spoke to her heart and strengthened her belief. This book serves as a reminder that after even the darkest of times, there’s always light.


The cover of the book GodGod

Reza Aslan

Reza Aslan, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Zealot, takes readers on a journey through the history of religion, and explores our understanding of the divine. Aslan argues that since the beginning of time, we have humanized God, and made God the central figure of nearly every religion. Aslan seeks to understand why we have this desire to humanize, with the goal of developing a universal spirituality. Whatever your beliefs may be, God: A Human History will challenge the way you think and help you to examine the role of divinity in our everyday lives.


The cover of the book What the Qur'an MeantWhat the Qur’an Meant

Garry Wills

In What the Qur’an Meant, Wills embarks on a journey to understand the meaning of the Qur’an, leading readers through perplexing passages with incredible insight. He compares the Qur’an with other sacred books, like the Old Testament and the New Testament, to demonstrate the similarities between them, and to dispel inaccurate beliefs. What the Qur’an Meant is the start of an important conversation that needs to be had, especially in today’s world.


The cover of the book Mother of the Unseen WorldMother of the Unseen World

Mark Matousek

In this moving book, Mark Matousek documents his exploration of spirituality through his encounters with Mother Meera, who is believed by her devotees to be an embodiment of the Divine Mother. Mark was a nonbeliever until he met Mother Meera in 1985, but in her presence, he experienced miraculous events that changed his perspective. Mark seeks to understand who Mother Meera is, and answer the long-asked question: is divine incarnation possible?


The cover of the book Evolving Brains, Emerging Gods: Early Humans and the Origins of ReligionEvolving Brains, Emerging Gods: Early Humans and the Origins of Religion

E. Fuller Torrey

There has been a long-standing belief that a God, or several gods, created humankind. Atheist, humanist, and materialist critics argue that religion is a human invention, and therefore, was not responsible for the origin of humanity. In this book, E. Fuller Torrey draws on modern neuroscience research to propose a startling theory, arguing that religious belief is a by-product of evolution.


The cover of the book WhisperWhisper

Mark Batterson

From the bestselling author of Circle Maker comes a new book that teaches people how to listen to God. Mark Batterson seeks to introduce readers to the seven love languages of God – Scripture, Desires, Doors, Dreams, People, Promptings, and Pain – and help them to decipher each language. Mark argues that doing this will help you to follow God in everything you do, and help you to lead a more fulfilling life.


The cover of the book God's Wisdom for Navigating LifeGod’s Wisdom for Navigating Life

Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller

Pastor and New York Times bestselling author Timothy Keller uses the Book of Proverbs – God’s book of wisdom – to teach readers what it really means to lead a Christian life. Timothy offers inspiring lessons for every day of the year, and provides a deeper understanding of morality. God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life is a book that readers will be able to turn to every single day for help and encouragement, whenever they need it.


The cover of the book The Buddha before BuddhismThe Buddha before Buddhism

Gil Fronsdal

The Aṭṭhakavagga, or “Book of Eights,” is believed by scholars to be among the earliest of written Buddhist texts. It reveals the key aspects of Buddhism, along with the Buddha’s simple teachings, free of corruption or complication. Gil Fronsdal’s translation and commentary reveal the text’s ultimate lesson: Joy comes from recognizing and letting go of the material things that create suffering.


The cover of the book Higher Is WaitingHigher Is Waiting

Tyler Perry

Tyler Perry – actor, producer, director, philanthropist, and the creator of Madea –  shares his life experiences in Higher is Waiting to inspire readers to climb higher in their own lives through faith. Perry writes about how his faith in God has helped him in hard times, humbled him in times of success, and enriched his life. Perry’s dreams, achievements, and aspirations are all centered on his unrelenting faith, which is something he wants to share with every reader around the world.


The cover of the book 7 Lessons from Heaven7 Lessons from Heaven

Mary C. Neal, M.D.

In this New York Times bestseller, Dr. Mary Neal shares never-before-seen stories about her personal encounters with Jesus after death. Yes, you read that correctly. Dr. Mary Neal experienced a fatal kayaking accident in 1999, and what happened next is truly surreal – Dr. Mary Neal says that she went to heaven, and came back. This book explores how the knowledge of heaven has changed Mary’s life, and offers insight on how we can experience God every day.


The New York Times Best Sellers List

Combined Print & E-Book Fiction

  1. THE OUTSIDER by Stephen King (NEW)

36000789An eleven-year-old boy is found in a town park, hideously assaulted and murdered. The fingerprints (and later DNA) are unmistakably those of the town’s most popular baseball coach, Terry Maitland, a man of impeccable reputation, with a wife and two daughters. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland coached, orders an immediate and public arrest. Maitland is taken to jail, his claim to innocence scorned. Maitland has a foolproof alibi, with footage to prove that he was in another city when the crime was committed. But that doesn’t save him either.

  1. THE 17TH SUSPECT by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

The latest installment in the Women’s Murder Club series. Detective Lindsay Boxer searches for a killer in San Francisco.

  1. THE FALLEN by David Baldacci

Amos Decker, known as the Memory Man, puts his talents toward solving a string of murders in a Rust Belt town.

  1. BEACH HOUSE REUNION by Mary Alice Monroe (NEW)

Three generations of a family gather one summer in South Carolina.

  1. THE CAST by Danielle Steel

A magazine columnist meets an array of Hollywood professionals when a producer turns a story about her grandmother into a TV series.

  1. REBEL HEART by Penelope Ward and Vi Keeland (NEW)

A sequel to “Rebel Heir.” The summer fling between Rush and Gia continues.

  1. THE MIDNIGHT LINE by Lee Child

Jack Reacher tracks down the owner of a pawned West Point class ring and stumbles upon a large criminal enterprise.


An artist upends a quiet town outside Cleveland.

  1. ROGUE ROYALTY by Meghan March (NEW)

The final book in the Savage trilogy.

  1. BEFORE WE WERE YOURS by Lisa Wingate

A South Carolina lawyer learns about the questionable practices of a Tennessee orphanage.

  1. TWISTED PREY by John Sandford

The 28th book in the Prey series. A federal marshal looks into the actions of a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

  1. THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR by Shari Lapena

A couple’s secrets emerge after their baby disappears.

  1. THE GREAT ALONE by Kristin Hannah

A former prisoner of war returns from Vietnam and moves his family to Alaska, where they face tough conditions.

  1. BY INVITATION ONLY by Dorothea Benton Frank

Two families are brought together when the daughter of a Chicago power broker and the son of a Southern peach farmer decide to wed.

  1. THE HIGH TIDE CLUB by Mary Kay Andrews

An eccentric millionaire enlists the attorney Brooke Trappnell to fix old wrongs, which sets up a potential scandal and murder.


Combined Print & E-Book Nonfiction

  1. THE RESTLESS WAVE by John McCain and Mark Salter (NEW)

36254351“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here. Maybe I’ll have another five years. Maybe, with the advances in oncology, they’ll find new treatments for my cancer that will extend my life. Maybe I’ll be gone before you read this. My predicament is, well, rather unpredictable. But I’m prepared for either contingency, or at least I’m getting prepared. I have some things I’d like to take care of first, some work that needs finishing, and some people I need to see. And I want to talk to my fellow Americans a little more if I may.” So writes John McCain in this inspiring, moving, frank, and deeply personal memoir. 

  1. FACTS AND FEARS by James R. Clapper with Trey Brown (NEW)

The former director of national intelligence describes events that challenged the intelligence community and considers some ethical questions around its efforts.

  1. THE SOUL OF AMERICA by Jon Meacham

The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer contextualizes the present political climate through the lens of difficult moments in American history.

  1. HOW TO CHANGE YOUR MIND by Michael Pollan

A personal account of how psychedelics might help the mentally ill and people dealing with everyday challenges.

  1. BARRACOON by Zora Neale Hurston

A previously unpublished, first-person account of Cudjo Lewis, a man who was transported and enslaved 50 years after the slave trade was banned.

  1. BAD BLOOD by John Carreyrou (NEW)

The rise and fall of Theranos, the biotech startup that failed to deliver on its promise to make blood testing more efficient.

  1. A HIGHER LOYALTY by James Comey

The former F.B.I. director recounts cases and personal events that shaped his outlook on justice, and analyzes the leadership styles of three presidents.


The story of a murder spree in 1920s Oklahoma that targeted Osage Indians, whose lands contained oil.

  1. SAPIENS by Yuval Noah Harari

How Homo sapiens became Earth’s dominant species.

  1. EDUCATED by Tara Westover

The daughter of survivalists, who is kept out of school, educates herself enough to leave home for university.

  1. HILLBILLY ELEGY by J.D. Vance

A Yale Law School graduate looks at the struggles of the white working class through the story of his own childhood.

  1. I’LL BE GONE IN THE DARK by Michelle McNamara

The late true-crime journalist’s search for the serial murderer and rapist known as “the Golden State Killer.”

  1. THREE DAYS IN MOSCOW by Bret Baier and Catherine Whitney

The Fox News anchor describes Ronald Reagan’s 1988 visit to the Soviet capital.

  1. FACTFULNESS by Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Ronnlund

A look at our biases and the argument for why the world is in a better state than we might think.

  1. ROBIN by Dave Itzkoff

A New York Times journalist details the career and struggles of the actor and comedian Robin Williams.

The Best Science Books of Spring 2018

Photo by kazuend on Unsplash

It’s spring, and the East Coast is finally emerging from the deep freeze that was this extended winter. But spring also means a new quarter and a new batch of science books that are waiting to be read. It was hard to narrow it down for April, May, and June because there are a lot of great books coming out. This quarter’s picks range from memoir to investigations to a hunt across the world to save rare plants from the hands of humans.

The cover of the book Does It Fart? The Definitive Field Guide to Animal FlatulenceDoes It Fart? The Definitive Field Guide to Animal Flatulence


Arrived April 3

If you’ve ever looked at an animal and thought to yourself, “I wonder whether those fart,” then this is a book you need. This is a fully illustrated guide to which animals fart (and which don’t) that is sure to delight readers of all ages. You’ll be pleased to know that sea cucumbers do not, in fact, fart, but the Lomamyia latipennis species of beaded lacewing do. And theirs are a doozy: Not only do they fart, but they actually use their flatulence to stun and kill prey.


The cover of the book Rocket MenRocket Men


Arrived April 3

The story of Apollo 11, the mission in which Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the Moon, is certainly an exciting tale. But it was neither our first crewed mission to our natural satellite, nor was it the riskiest mission of the Apollo program. Both of those honors go to Apollo 8, the daring flight that took three astronauts — Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders — around the Moon on the just the second Apollo mission to lift off. It’s an incredible story, and it’s nice that it’s coming back into public consciousness for a younger generation, as this year is the 50th anniversary of the incredible feat.


The cover of the book The Plant MessiahThe Plant Messiah: Adventures in Search of the World’s Rarest Species


Arrived April 10

This isn’t just a book about a man’s search for the most unique plants; it’s a tale of saving them. Carlos Magdalena travels the world to find the rarest species of plants and protects them. He works against the interests of wealthy collectors who hire people to track down rare plants for their private collections and works to save these plants from ecological destruction. It’s as much a memoir of traveling to fantastical places to do daring work as it is a science book, and it sounds incredibly exciting.


The cover of the book The Human Instinct: How We Evolved to Have Reason, Consciousness, and Free WillThe Human Instinct: How We Evolved to Have Reason, Consciousness, and Free Will


Arrived April 17

Where did our reason and free will come from? What about our human consciousness? That’s what Kenneth R. Miller, a biology professor at Brown University, seeks to tackle in this book. Some theories of evolution make it seem as though these incredibly special traits are mere byproducts of evolution. But that’s not Miller’s take; he thinks we are special beings, not like any other in the universe. It’s certainly an interesting, optimistic view, but one that’s welcome in the difficult times that we live in.


The cover of the book Brave New Arctic: The Untold Story of the Melting NorthBrave New Arctic: The Untold Story of the Melting North


Arrived April 17

We know the Arctic is melting and that it will have consequences that scientists are just now beginning to understand (and others that we can’t even predict). But how did we make this shocking discovery? That’s what Mark Serreze, the Director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, recounts in this book. Framed as a science adventure story, it tells the story of this new era of Arctic exploration, one in which the landscape is disappearing altogether.


The cover of the book The Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost WorldThe Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World


Arrived April 24

Who doesn’t love dinosaurs? Given the success of the Jurassic Park franchise, it’s clear that our fascination with these weird feathered reptile birds of old hasn’t diminished. Now, paleontologist Stephen Brusatte presents a narrative history of these giant creatures that spans over 200 million years, telling the full story of how dinosaurs lived — and how they died. He traces their full evolution, starting at these creatures came to be, and takes the reader on a fascinating journey through scientific history.


The cover of the book Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to PlutoChasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto


Arrived May 1

Pluto, our friendly neighborhood dwarf planet, may have been discovered back in 1930, but it’s only in the last few years we’ve sent a spacecraft to this distant, icy world. New Horizons arrived at the dwarf planet on July 14, 2015. It was just a quick flyby, but it taught us amazing things about Pluto in the short time it was there. Now, New Horizons is continuing its journey beyond Pluto, and this new book tells the story of how this amazing mission came to be.


The cover of the book Happy Brain: Where Happiness Comes From, and WhyHappy Brain: Where Happiness Comes From, and Why


Arrived May 29

It seems like a simple question: Where does happiness come from? The answer, though, is infinitely complex. What does happiness even mean? And how might a neuroscientist approach it from a science perspective? In this book, Dean Burnett explores the origins of happiness and how they affect the brain. It’s certainly an interesting exploration of something so intangible, that can seem so easy yet so elusive at the same time.


The cover of the book She Has Her Mother's LaughShe Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity


Arrived May 29

What do we pass on to our children? What did we inherit from our parents? This book tries to answer those questions and look at heredity in an entirely new way. What we take from our genes is certainly important, but New York Times columnist Carl Zimmer argues there are other things we should consider as well. He proposes a larger view of the concept of heredity, discussing the latest scientific research but also his own experiences with his two daughters.


The cover of the book What the Eyes Don't SeeWhat the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City


Arriving June 19

It may seem strange that a book about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, would make a list of science books, but if you think about it, it makes sense. So much of science can seem abstract (even when it’s not), but this is a case where the science of the matter directly affects human lives. It’s the story of how one doctor and her dedicated team uncovered the crisis, proving that the water in Flint had lead in it, and detailing how the government failed the people of this Michigan city.



Travel Back in Time: 8 Illuminating History Books to Read Right Now

With everything that’s currently going on in the world, sometimes it’s necessary to take a step back (way back, in this case) and try to understand the world in which we live by learning about the past.

The list of eight books below are illuminating reads, packed with detailed information about significant historical events and figures that had lasting impacts on society. Spanning authors Ron Chernow, Kenneth Whyte, Robert Dallek, and more, these books are truly remarkable. So take a break from the present, and immerse yourself in these exceptional true stories of bygone days.


The cover of the book GrantGrant

Ron Chernow

Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Chernow, author of Alexander Hamilton, dazzles again with his biography of one of our most compelling generals and presidents: Ulysses S. Grant. Chernow’s evocative portrait of Grant showcases the highs and lows he experienced throughout his life, and provides readers with a deeper understanding of one our most underappreciated presidents. Grant is a masterful combination of research and style – it exposes the true story behind a Midwesterner that became extraordinary.


The cover of the book HooverHoover

Kenneth Whyte

This captivating biography documents the life of Herbert Hoover – one of the most remarkable Americans of the twentieth century. The text provides readers with an in-depth look at his life, his presidency, and his fight against the Great Depression that rocked this nation. Hoover’s vast successes and failures made him one of the most significant men in American history, and for the very first time, his momentous life is captured in a book for all to see.


The cover of the book The Three Lives of James MadisonThe Three Lives of James Madison

Noah Feldman

Noah Feldman examines the Founding Father who transformed the United States in his “three lives” as a revolutionary thinker, a partisan political strategist, and as president. Madison was ahead of his time – he predicted that foreign threats would negatively affect civil liberties, he feared growing economic inequality, and believed that government by the people demanded resistance to wealth. Madison recognized the importance of the opinions of others, and thought of the media as a safeguard to liberty. His achievements and his struggles continue to impact the United States today.


The cover of the book Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New OrleansAndrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans

Brian Kilmeade and Don Yeager

During the War of 1812, Andrew Jackson was ordered to assemble a coalition of frontier militiamen, French-speaking Louisianans, Cherokee and Choctaw Indians, freed slaves, and even some pirates. And on top of that, he had to defeat the most powerful military force in the world in the complex terrain of the Louisiana bayous. Basically, Jackson needed a miracle. Kilmeade and Yaeger make history come alive with this mesmerizing page-turner. Readers will have a whole new understanding of this great American general, and a renewed appreciation for the brave men who fought so that our country could become what it is today.


The cover of the book Martin LutherMartin Luther

Eric Metaxas

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Eric Metaxas comes a compelling biography of one of the most inspiring men in modern history, Martin Luther. Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther’s Ninety-five These ignited outrage that would change everything he knew about the world. Eric Metaxas examines this revolutionary man, whose unwavering faith defied the power structure of Western Christianity, and propelled society into the future. Luther’s monumental faith and courage gave birth to the ideals of liberty, equality, and individualism that continue to influence us today.


The cover of the book Franklin D. RooseveltFranklin D. Roosevelt

Robert Dallek

Considering the current state of our nation, there is no better time to dive into Robert Dallek’s Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life. Roosevelt was a man of compromise – he sought to unite a divided country, and succeeded to do so by exhibiting a great sense of humanity. Roosevelt became a champion of the poor, and won an unprecedented four presidential terms, transforming an isolationist country into an international superpower. This gripping biography contains valuable lessons for leaders around the world.


The cover of the book The Written WorldThe Written World

Martin Puchner

What would this world be without literature? Not very much. Literature has shaped civilization from the beginning of time, and in this groundbreaking book, Martin Puchner takes readers on a trip around the globe, travelling through to showcase the great stories that have created the world we know today. This is the story of how literature changed everything, in sixteen acts – from Alexander the Great and the Iliad to Harry Potter.


The cover of the book Prince CharlesPrince Charles

Sally Bedell Smith

Sally Bedell Smith examines the British royal family once again in this extraordinary biography. This time, her subject is Prince Charles – the oldest heir to the throne in more than three hundred years. This fascinating book required years of research, and includes hundreds of interviews with those who know Prince Charles the best. With never-before-seen details and intimate discoveries, Smith reveals that Prince Charles is more complex and compelling than we previously thought.