Contrary to what school may have you believe, history goes far beyond kings, wars, and trade routes. Indeed, zooming in on everything from simple household electronics to beloved tourist destinations yields fascinating, often surprising histories. So if you’re ready to explore a few quirky yet compelling chapters from the past, check out the five eye-opening reads below.
Empire of the Sum: The Rise and Reign of the Pocket Calculator
By Keith Houston
The hidden history of the pocket calculator―a device that ushered in modern mathematics, helped build the atomic bomb, and went with us to the moon―and the mathematicians, designers, and inventors who brought it to life. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Keith Houston, in the Next Big Idea App
High Bias: The Distorted History of the Cassette Tape
By Marc Masters
This entertaining book charts the journey of the cassette from its invention in the early 1960s to its Walkman-led domination in the 1980s to decline at the birth of compact discs to resurgence among independent music makers. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Marc Masters, in the Next Big Idea App
A Brief History of the Female Body: An Evolutionary Look at How and Why the Female Form Came to Be
By Deena Emera
From breasts and orgasms to periods, pregnancies, and menopause―A Brief History of the Female Body is a fascinating science book explaining the mysteries of the female body through an evolutionary lens. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Deena Emera, in the Next Big Idea App
American Gun: The True Story of the AR-15
By Cameron McWhirter and Zusha Elinson
Two veteran Wall Street Journal reporters explore America’s gun culture, revealing the deep appeal of the AR-15, the awful havoc it wreaks, and the politics of reducing its toll. The result is a moral history of contemporary America’s love affair with technology, freedom, and weaponry. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by co-authors Cameron McWhirter and Zusha Elinson, in the Next Big Idea App
The Ghost Forest: Racists, Radicals, and Real Estate in the California Redwoods
By Greg King
The definitive story of the California redwoods, their discovery and their exploitation, as told by an activist who fought to protect their existence against those determined to cut them down. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Greg King, in the Next Big Idea App
The Key Ideas in 15 Minutes
“If you are going to get anywhere in life, you have to read a lot of books,” Roald Dahl once famously said. The only trouble is, reading even one book from cover to cover takes hours—and you may not have many hours to spare.
But imagine for a moment: What if you could read a groundbreaking new book every day? Or even better, what if you could invite a world-renowned thinker into your earbuds, where they personally describe the 5 key takeaways from their work in just 15 minutes?
With the Next Big Idea App, we’ve turned this fantasy into a reality. We partnered with hundreds of acclaimed authors to create “Book Bites,” short audio summaries of the latest nonfiction that are prepared and read aloud by the authors themselves. Discover cutting-edge leadership skills, productivity hacks, the science of happiness and well-being, and much more—all in the time it takes to drive to work or walk the dog.
Go Deeper with a Next Big Idea Club Membership
The Next Big Idea App is free for anyone to try—and if you love it, we invite you to become an official member of the Next Big Idea Club. Membership grants you unlimited access to Book Bites and unlocks early-release, ad-free episodes of our LinkedIn-partnered podcast. You also gain entry to our private online discussion group, where you can talk big ideas with fellow club members and join exclusive live Q&A sessions with featured authors.
For a more focused learning experience, we recommend a Hardcover or eBook Membership. Every few months, legendary authors and club curators Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain, Adam Grant, and Daniel Pink select two new nonfiction books as the must-reads of the season. We then send hardcover copies straight to your doorstep, or eBook versions to your favorite digital device. We also collaborate with the authors of selected books to produce original reading guides and premium video e-courses, 50-minute master classes that take you step by step through their most life-changing ideas. And yes, it’s all available through the Next Big Idea App.
Learn Faster, from the World’s Leading Thinkers
Whether you prefer to read, listen, or watch, the Next Big Idea is here to help you work smarter and live better. Wake up with an always-fresh Idea of the Day, the perfect shot of inspiration to go with your morning coffee. Then dive into one of our Challenges, hand-picked collections of Book Bites that form crash courses in subjects like communication, motivation, and career acceleration. Later, watch the playback of an interview with U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Stanford psychologist Jennifer Eberhardt, or philosopher John Kaag. And be sure to check the “Events” tab in the app, so that you can join an upcoming live Q&A and personally chat with the next featured thought leader.
If you’re hoping to grow as a person or as a professional, we hope you’ll join us and tens of thousands of others who enjoy the Next Big Idea. Get started by downloading the app today!