The 20 Best Nonfiction Books of 2019
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The 20 Best Nonfiction Books of 2019

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The 20 Best Nonfiction Books of 2019

Before the Times Square ball drops us all into a new decade, we wanted to look back on our year of reading. And what a year it’s been—from a groundbreaking new defense of generalists, to a startling look at the enigmatic nature of strangers, to perhaps the most approachable (and fun) explanation of artificial intelligence ever, these twenty nonfiction books were the absolute best of 2019.

Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries

In Loonshots, physicist and biotech entrepreneur Safi Bahcall reveals the inside stories behind some of the greatest technological and entrepreneurial breakthroughs of all time, offering tools to help all of us create and nurture the crazy ideas that change the world.

No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work

Consultant Liz Fosslien and designer Mollie West Duffy draw on behavioral economics, psychology, and more in this illustrated guide to expressing emotions at the office, finding greater fulfillment, and defining work-life balance on your own terms.


The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty

World-renowned business thinker Clayton M. Christensen teams up with coauthors Efosa Ojomo and Karen Dillon to explain why previous efforts to help impoverished countries and ailing companies have failed, and lay out a new roadmap for achieving real and lasting prosperity.


Brave New Work: Are You Ready to Reinvent Your Organization?

In Brave New Work, leading business strategist Aaron Dignan describes why so many companies—both large and small, from Wall Street to Silicon Valley—suffer from the same frustrations, and offers concrete advice for structuring a smarter, more productive workplace.


How Change Happens

Renowned Harvard professor and former White House Administrator Cass Sunstein chronicles the different ways that social change happens, focusing on the role of social norms and how they shape everything from political division to mass cultural movements.


The Goodness Paradox: The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution

In The Goodness Paradox, biological anthropologist Richard Wrangham explains how we Homo sapiens came to be both the nicest and nastiest of species, bringing evolutionary and historical evidence to bear on our ever-present need for social tolerance.

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

It may seem that intense, prolonged focus on a single pursuit is the most likely path to success, but as investigative reporter and bestselling author David Epstein shows in Range, success is far more likely for the generalists of the world, those who dare to pursue the full spectrum of their interests, passions, and abilities.

Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do

Stanford professor and MacArthur “genius” grant recipient Jennifer Eberhardt reveals how unconscious bias impacts daily life in schools, offices, and neighborhoods everywhere, offering both eye-opening reflections on the problem and science-backed wisdom toward a solution.


Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed

Renowned psychotherapist and bestselling author Lori Gottlieb combines humor and candor to paint a unique and deeply insightful portrait of what it means to be human, as we strive not only to navigate our own hopes, fears, and desires, but also to help others do the same.


Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World

With the ever-expanding power of Google, Twitter, and Facebook, computer programmers are quietly the most influential people on the planet—and in Coders, acclaimed tech writer Clive Thompson dives into their culture, providing a fascinating look at who they are, how they think, and what about them should give us pause.


The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life

In The Second Mountain, New York Times columnist David Brooks explores how to live a life of meaning in a self-centered world, highlighting the timeless value and sense of purpose found in family, community, and personal philosophy.


To Stop a Warlord: My Story of Justice, Grace, and the Fight for Peace

Award-winning human rights advocate Shannon Sedgwick Davis tells the incredible story of her fight to end the atrocities committed by Joseph Kony, inspiring readers to take action and pushing them to consider how far they would go to stand up for what is right.

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know

World-renowned thinker and Next Big Idea Club curator Malcolm Gladwell returns with one of his most thought-provoking reads yet, a jaw-dropping examination of why we so often misunderstand one another and how we can create a more empathetic and connected world.

You Look Like a Thing and I Love You: How Artificial Intelligence Works and Why It’s Making the World a Weirder Place

Artificial intelligence researcher Janelle Shane pulls back the curtain on the technology that has become so integral to our Facebook feeds, our autocorrected text messages, and life as we know it. Shane has taught AI to tell knock-knock jokes, design the perfect sandwich, and even flirt with humans, making her an ideal, witty tour guide through the inner workings of AI.

Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick 

Professor Wendy Wood, the leading authority on the science of habits, draws on three decades of original research to explain the fascinating science of how we form habits. Revealing why willpower alone is inadequate when trying to adopt new habits—or break old ones—she uses insights from neuroscience, case studies, and experiments conducted in her lab to give readers evidence-based strategies for making the changes we seek.

The Meritocracy Trap: How America’s Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite

The American Dream is fueled by the belief that advantage should be earned through ability and effort. But eminent Yale law professor Daniel Markovits shows that in practice, the meritocratic ideal does much more harm than good, blocking upward mobility and subjecting even the elite to absurd demands and crushing pressure. He then points out a powerful alternative, outlining the first steps toward a better, more prosperous, more dignified future.

Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life

Behavioral design expert and former Stanford lecturer Nir Eyal literally wrote the book on how people get hooked on attention-grabbing technology. But as emails and phone notifications consume more and more of our time, he now turns his attention toward the psychology of distraction, providing practical, novel techniques to help us control our attention and choose the lives we want.

The Invention of Yesterday: A 50,000-Year History of Human Culture, Conflict, and Connection

Prolific author Tamim Ansary chronicles the evolution of the world’s major cultural movements—including Confucianism, Nomadism, Christianity, and beyond—tracing the dramatic, sometimes ruinous, sometimes transformative effects of their ever closer intertwinement that is the defining feature of the world today.

Chasing My Cure: A Doctor’s Race to Turn Hope into Action

When medical school student David Fajgenbaum began suffering from a life-threatening condition, doctors struggled to identify what exactly the disease was, let alone treat it. So Fajgenbaum took matters into his own hands, studying his own charts and testing his own blood in the hopes of discovering a treatment that could save his life. His memoir chronicles a new, groundbreaking approach to medical research, and stands as a testament to the power of determination.

Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century

Just a century ago, scientists believed that everyone was fated by their race, sex, and nationality to be more or less intelligent, nurturing, or warlike. But award-winning historian Charles King tells the incredible story of the anthropologists who cast their biases aside, defied the prevailing wisdom, and led the way to a richer, more empathetic reimagining of human diversity.

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