Astrophysics for People In a Hurry - Neil deGrasse Tyson
I listened to the audiobook version of this book and it’s less than 4 hours long (or 2 days worth of commuting for you city folk). Neil deGrasse Tyson has a great reading voice, almost on par with Morgan Freeman. If you’ve seen the latest reboot of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, you will enjoy this book.
Also if you want to feel really small and question our place in the world, this is for you.
Every time I think of the Big Bang (or space in general), it absolutely scares the shit out of me and I feel like I’m falling. That being said, this listen is perfect for the science nerds or those who want a layman’s version of space and physics.
How We Got To Now: Six innovations that made the modern world - Steven Johnson
If you asked someone what the most important invention or innovation of our time is they probably wouldn’t have answered one of the six innovations that Steven Johnson mentions in this book. Without giving away any spoilers I’ll let you figure out what the six innovations are (Hint: It’s not the wheel or the lightbulb.)
I actually did ask this question on Twitter recently and you can take a look at the hundreds of responses.
Steven does a masterful job of describing how each innovation was discovered and the chain reactions that occurred after the discovery to get where we are today. This is the butterfly effect book of innovation.
This book is filled with the kind of random knowledge that would make you a Jeopardy champion in no time.
This was the first Steven Johnson book that I’ve read but I’m already hooked and now I’m looking forward to reading some of his other works.
Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You Think - Hans Rosling
Factfulness will hook you from the very first chapter. It’s about the world and how to understand it. From the very beginning it is obvious that we don’t understand the world at all.
Hans asks a series of 13 questions that test our knowledge about everything from population to life expectancy to the amount of people living in extreme poverty. If you take this quick test and get less than half of the questions right, you should absolutely read or listen to this book. Full disclosure: I got 3 out of 13 right and there are only 3 multiple choice answers per question. Even a monkey guessing could do better statistically than I did (Hans makes sure to point this out in the beginning). Which is another reason why I feel compelled to read this book.
Hans highlights each of these questions throughout the book and shows how and why we think of the world the way we do. He then gives us the reasoning tools we need to see the world in a different (and correct) light.
Everyone in the world could benefit from a book like this. Knowledge is power.