Sunday 24 December 2017

25 books everyone should read, according to TED speakers

Whether you're looking for gift ideas or suggestions for your own reading, TED speakers have you covered.

Back in May just after the main TED event, the TED blog rounded up an incredible list of all the titles recommended from the stage this year. It was enough to fill up most people's to-read queue for months to come.

But if you've finally gotten through all the titles that interested you back then and your shelves (or e-reader) are starting to look a little bare, don't worry. TED is riding to the rescue again.

In preparation for the holidays, the organization asked its speakers for more book recommendations to either give away or enjoy this winter. They came through with an incredible 56 suggestions. Here are some of the best picks that will be of interest to non-niche readers, broken down into fiction and non-fiction sections.

1. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
"This novel is set in the near future and tells a horrifying story of a government takeover by an ultra-extreme religious group dominated by men and supported by their passive wives. Women in the country of Gilead are subjugated to the role of wife-breeder, housekeeper, sex worker or disposable commodity. This timely read begs the question: 'Is this a warning of our own future or simply an artfully written innovative fantasy?'" explains Paul Tasner, co-founder of PulpWorks.

2. The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis
The first installment in a detective series set in ancient Rome, "this book will make you realize crime, corruption, cops and crime fighters are not a new concept," notes industrial engineering manager Julio Gul. Also, "it's a fun read."

3. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
"This globetrotting novel follows the life of an awkward female 'natural philosopher' born in 1800, providing a window into the development of science as a profession in the 19th century and dealing with the slings, arrows and random events that mark all our lives. It's a great read for anyone who wonders how we learned about the evolving world and the experience of being a scientist," says paleobiologist Laren Salian, who adds, "Because it's by Elizabeth Gilbert, it's also an amazing read!"

4. Five-Carat Soul by James McBride
Not usually much of a fiction reader? Neither is geologist Liz Hajek but she makes an exception for this book: "I don't generally gravitate toward fiction, but this collection of short stories, set in a variety of compelling places and time periods, is so creative and rich, it's been really fun to read."

5. 1984 by George Orwell
A timely choice from The Life Project author Helen Pearson: "Reading or re-reading this book should be compulsory, when so many of the issues it touches on -- manipulated news, unwanted surveillance - are highly resonant today."

6. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
"I really enjoyed this fast-paced novel that focuses on strong but flawed female protagonists set in two different time periods: World War I and post-World War II," says "pricing geek" Casey Brown. "This fictional account of women spies blended a description of German-occupied France with the characters' gritty personal stories, and it was fascinating to read."

7. Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls 2 by Francesca Cavallo and Elena Favilli
If most of your reading these days is done with your kids, here's a suggestion from information designer Giorgia Lupi, who calls these books "the best bedtime books you'll ever read. It will help girls - young and old - to dream bigger, to be confident, and to be inspired."

8. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg
"This is one of those books that I've continuously thought about and quoted back to other people ever since I read it," relates actor, writer, producer, and activist Naomi McDougall Jones. (Her talk on what it's like to be a woman in Hollywood seems especially timely). The book is a "well-researched and provocative look at the history of romance, courtship and marriage, putting into context the fantastic amount of pressure that our current ideas have put on our own love lives and partners. It's a must-read for anyone who is dating, married or thinking of ever doing either." So everyone then.

9. iGen by Jean M. Twenge
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks suggests a title of particular interest to anyone working in tech (and parents). "This alarming book is about the generation born after 1995 who've grown up with cell phones, Instagram and the rest. Twenge's thesis, amply documented by research, is summed up in the book's subtitle: 'Why today's super-connected kids are growing up less rebellious, more tolerant, less happy and completely unprepared for adulthood,'" he explains.

10. Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less by Tiffany Dufu
"This manifesto/memoir is a reminder of how women are expected to succeed at two full-time jobs - the paid one outside the home and the unpaid one at home - and how we need to be realistic about our expectations in order to be successful at both," explains architect Grace Kim.

11. The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip and Dan Heath
"This is technically not a book about moments, despite the title; instead it's about what creates powerful experiences and memories. It's really helped me think through planning events in business - and in planning experiences with my family," notes management researcher David Burkus. ​

12. Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women by W. Brad Johnson and David Smith
Another timely pick. "I met Johnson and Smith, two amazing men, when I was writing my book about stopping sexual harassment and gender inequality. Through their eyes, I saw that these could be men's issues too. Here, they provide the perfect guidebook for helping men be the mentors that women need them to be," says journalist Gretchen Carlson.

13. The Heroine's Journey by Maureen Murdock
One for the ambitious woman in need of strong role models on your list. "Most life journeys have been written by and about successful men. This book helps you understand the deep patterns in the journeys of successful women - showing what drives us to success but also to over-exhaustion - and how we can integrate masculine and feminine forces in our lives," says education advocate Amel Karboul.

14. The Ends of the World by Peter Brannen
If you want to read about the end of the world over the holidays, this is the book for you. "This lively book for a popular audience covers our current understanding of all the major mass extinctions in the history of life and what they collectively mean for our future," writes paleobiologist Lauren Sallan. "It's part travelogue, part hard data and part sociology of science, resulting in a deep and multifaceted view of the state of the world. It's also fun." ​

15. A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution by Jennifer Doudna and Samuel Sternberg
This book by Doudna, who co-discovered the CRISPR gene editing technology, and biochemist Sternberg "is a unique look at how CRISPR is changing science. It's written in a very accessible way that a broad audience will understand and enjoy," claims biologist Paul Knoepfler.

16. Foolproof, and Other Mathematical Meditations by Brian Hayes
Rare praise for the readability of a book about math from computer scientist Roger Antonsen: "I recently picked up Foolproof at a local bookstore in San Francisco, and I simply couldn't put it down! In this wonderful book - using Sudoku, Hilbert curves, chaos, π and much more - Hayes shows us the colorful, creative and imaginative side of mathematics."

17. Longitude by Dava Sobel
This is the tale of the quest to precisely determine longitude and prevent shipwrecks. "This problem was so urgent and so impenetrable that in the 17th century, it spurred the British Parliament to pass the Longitude Act of 1714. It promised a prize of 20,000 pounds (or millions of dollars today) for a solution to this problem," notes biologist Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, who calls the book "a gem and a joy to read."

18. Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown
In this book Brown "shatters the myth that having the courage to stand alone doesn't isolate us. Instead, it brings us into a fuller experience of community. This message meant a lot to me after I was forced by take a stand by myself," says Carlson.

19. Third Stage of Life by Daisaku Ikeda
Written by a Buddhist philosopher, "this book speaks to the challenges and opportunities of aging. Its perspective is that the third stage in life is like a third youth. Youth does not fade with age, as long as we refuse to be defeated, continue to learn and grow with a positive attitude, and enjoy the spirit of challenge," explains Tasner.

20. The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family by Eleanor D. Payson
Have to see your most self-involved relative over the holidays? Prepare yourself with "this incredibly insightful book" that "details the underlying motivations and behaviors of those with narcissistic personality disorders," suggests executive Susan Robinson. "In a world filled with increasing self-absorption, it's is a terrific read."

21. The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness by Emily Esfahani Smith
What could be wrong with chasing happiness? This book explains "that we might be focusing on the wrong things and perhaps meaning is a better focus for us," notes Kim.

22. The Hidden Brain by Shankar Vedantam
"What role do unconscious biases play in how we make decisions when we buy, think, vote, judge and convict? What we don't know about what we believes shapes much more about our lives and our actions than we realize. The author does a great job of educating readers about the role of unconscious bias in a page-turning, interesting way," says Casey Brown.

23. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
Didn't get a chance to see the musical? Then why not pick up this biography. "This is a very timely book for anyone puzzled by our current political environment. It provides an excellent glimpse into the people, politics and maneuvering that surrounded the creation of our current system of government," molecular biologist Nina Fedoroff believes.

24. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
"An utterly readable, intimate examination by Gay about living as a fat black woman. It's impossible to put down and impossible to read without being moved and vicariously enraged," says data scientist Cathy O'Neil.

25. Living with a SEAL by Jesse Itzler
Looking to push yourself to accomplish great things in 2018? Why not prepare with "the true story of Itzler, who decided to invite a Navy SEAL to live with him and his family for a month - and then tried to keep up with his physical regimen. This book teaches you that if you push hard enough, there is more to find within yourself," suggests former professional wrestler Mike Kinney.

(Source: Inc.)

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