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Old 12-14-2008, 07:10 AM
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Book rec for someone who loved Blink, Guns, Germs and Steel and Omnivore's Dilemma?


...not that they really have anything in common. Just that they have all, at various times, been cited in many threads on the Dope, so I assume there are people here who have read and like them. What else would you recommend?

It's for a 15 year old boy who seems tickled with large-scale "secrets", not in a tin-foil hat kind of way, but in a figuring out how the world really works kind of way, if that makes any sense. One thing he seemed to like in all three books is the way the author makes Rube Goldbergesque connections between seemingly unconnected things.

He also loves the military, military history and all things weaponey. (sigh.)

Need answer fast - Christmas is comin'!
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Old 12-14-2008, 07:16 AM
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Easy choice if he liked Blink -Gladwell's new book, Outliers. For my money, a better book than Blink. As far as unexpected connections go, the link between the deferential Korean culture and South Korea's formerly dismal record for airline safety is typical of what he'll find.
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Old 12-14-2008, 07:31 AM
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A favourite in our house is Why buildings fall down. We are now on edition 2, as edition 1 has been lent to many friends, and it seems to have found a new home. The book analyses why many famous architectural disasters happened, like the Tacoma Rapids Bridge collapse.

Is he interested in how minds work? Oliver Sacks' books are great, as is The brain that changes itself
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Old 12-14-2008, 07:40 AM
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How about Connections?

Brian
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Old 12-14-2008, 07:43 AM
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Salt: a world history should fit the bill nicely. If you don't mind a teen reading about booze (3 out of six chapters), A History of the world in six glasses is fun. How about something spicy? I'd pick Nathaniel's Nutmeg
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Old 12-14-2008, 08:29 AM
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These are great! It's gonna be a book heavy Christmas, I can tell. Which is wonderful, as he's at that age where he's not interested in much besides friends and X-Box. Oh, for the days of Lego and K'nex! Those were easy Christmases.

Keep 'em coming. I'm going to print out the thread when I go to the booksellers.
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Old 12-14-2008, 09:00 AM
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I HIGHLY recommend Outliers! I like it better than either The Tipping Point or Blink. Could hardly put it down.
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Old 12-14-2008, 09:06 AM
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Collapse --> Amazon.com link seems like an obvious one to pick up.
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Old 12-14-2008, 10:40 AM
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Hmmm, do you think this would be too morbid for a 15 year old? I enjoyed it immensely:

Stiff

It definitely fits the "how the world works" genre.

Last edited by Glory; 12-14-2008 at 10:41 AM.
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Old 12-14-2008, 10:45 AM
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Hmmm, do you think this would be too morbid for a 15 year old? I enjoyed it immensely:

Stiff

It definitely fits the "how the world works" genre.
Ooh, my mom loved that book! I don't know how he'd take it. I think I'll add it to the stack, and if he doesn't like it, he can gift it back to me.
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Old 12-14-2008, 10:49 AM
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It's for a 15 year old boy who seems tickled with large-scale "secrets", not in a tin-foil hat kind of way, but in a figuring out how the world really works kind of way, if that makes any sense.
I've read all the books you've mentioned. He might also like these "how world works" kind of books:
"Freakonomics", by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner
"The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich Are Rich, the Poor Are Poor", by Tim Harford
"Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions", by Dan Ariely
"Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion", by Robert B. Cialdini

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He also loves the military, military history and all things weaponey. (sigh.)
Dorling Kindersley Publishing has big selection of military books. They are fun reading with with lots of pictures.

http://us.dk.com/nf/Browse/BrowseStd...231654,00.html
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Old 12-14-2008, 11:05 AM
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You might want to consider any of several books by Henry Petroski, or maybe The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman.
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Old 12-14-2008, 11:41 AM
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Why Things Bite Back by Edward Tenner
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Old 12-14-2008, 12:11 PM
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"Freakonomics", by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner
"The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich Are Rich, the Poor Are Poor", by Tim Harford
The Economic Naturalist is also good, though not quite as interesting IMHO as these two mentioned


Genome
, if he's interested in Biology-type stuff (I think that's the technical term) is a fascinating look at, well, genes and what they do.
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Old 12-14-2008, 12:17 PM
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Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss is a bit flawed, but does have a good section on the use of the semicolon.

(Sorry.)
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Old 12-14-2008, 12:30 PM
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Salt: A World History seconded; also Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World. Mark Kurlansky is great at the finding-connections-and-explaining-the-world thing.

Also, Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash -- I just finished it. Great stuff, all about how responsible adults ignore basic truths of life, lots of secret interconnectedness (including the Mob!) plus lots of stinky disgusting things.

Sounds like you have a cool kid, BTW.

ETA: Oh! Of course! Why didn't I think of this one before? One of my all-time favorites: Everything Bad Is Good for You, which makes an excellent case for why video games, TV, and pop culture are actually good for your brain and society!

Last edited by emmaliminal; 12-14-2008 at 12:33 PM.
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Old 12-14-2008, 12:37 PM
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Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss is a bit flawed, but does have a good section on the use of the semicolon.

(Sorry.)
Ms. Attack got 4 or 5 copies of this one Xmas. She took it as a sign from God, and is now in editing school.
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Old 12-14-2008, 12:59 PM
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Also, Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash -- I just finished it. Great stuff, all about how responsible adults ignore basic truths of life, lots of secret interconnectedness (including the Mob!) plus lots of stinky disgusting things.
For some reason, this reminded me of another "how world works" type of book that is really eye-opening.
"Suburban Nation", Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Jeff Speck
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...l/-/0865476063
If one were to just browse the pages just looking at the photos and reading the captions, he'd raise his IQ on the optimal design of neighborhoods. I'm now able to see the good and bad design decisions of the neighborhood I live in.
Also, a TED video on a similar them by James Howard Kunstler:
http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/j..._suburbia.html
Trivia.... The trigger for my interest in the "design of spaces for human activity" came from an conversation with a coworker that I still remember to this day. We both talked about being in downtown Chicago vs Manhattan. He asked, "you ever notice that Manhattan has the nonstop madness of honking horns while Chicago is relatively quiet". They both have lots of taxi cars... that's not the difference. It's because Chicago has the underground passage ways for delivery trucks so they don't block traffic. In Manhattan, a UPS driver has to stop literally in the middle of the road to drop off a package.
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Old 12-14-2008, 02:49 PM
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If Stiff is a possibility, how about Vampires, Burial, and Death, which I greatly enjoyed during a folklore class.

I just got Flushed: How the Plumber Saved Civilization for my dad - it seemed to be in the vein of G,G&S, which he liked. I remember hearing an interview with the author where he talked about how the Christian rejection of pagan attitudes was the driving force that made our culture so strange about poo and associated ideas. It sounded really interesting and (dare I say?) fun.
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Old 12-14-2008, 02:55 PM
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As someone who greatly enjoyed all three of the books you've listed, I recommend Freakonomics. Really interesting, offbeat little book about solving problems in a counterintuitive way.
  #21  
Old 12-14-2008, 03:23 PM
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You should definitely take a look at Sociological Insight: An Introduction to Non-Obvious Sociology. The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World is supposed to be a really fascinating read. Peter Bernstein's Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk might be a little dry for a fifteen year-old boy, but it might be a good idea for later.
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Old 12-14-2008, 03:47 PM
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Here are some mixed book reports from zompist: (A mixture of sci-fi books, linguistic books and economic ones.

I haven't read them yet, but his reviews make them sound interesting: The Failure of neoliberalism.
Quote:
Originally Posted by from the review
I’ve been reading Ha-joon Chang’s Bad Samaritans: The myth of free trade and the secret history of capitalism. It’s amazing.
...
Most damningly, the policies the First World preaches to the rest of the world are completely the opposite of those it used in its own development. Neoliberalism is climbing up the ladder, kicking it away, and advising those below to learn to fly.
About voting systems:
Quote:
Originally Posted by from the review
I just finished William Poundstone’s book, which sports the clanky title Gaming the Vote: Why Elections Aren’t Fair (and What We Can Do About It). It’s about voting systems, a subject which, curiously, seems to engage only wonks. Despite the object lesson of 2000, most Americans can hardly conceive that anything besides plurality voting exists, much less that it might be better.
For Mid-East insights:
Quote:
Originally Posted by from the review
Most recent books: Bernard Lewis’s From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East and Diablo Cody’s Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper. Both are reports from unfamiliar cultures; in that regard Diablo is fresher.
...
Lewis has expended a lot of ink explaining how Muslim civilization went from being the planet’s most advanced and prosperous culture to being a backwater, which is not only important in understanding the frustration of modern Muslims, but offers a warning to any culture– say, our own– which thinks that its supremacy will be eternal. In a few words, Islam felt that it had learned everything worth knowing about the rest of the world (and that didn’t amount to much), and just didn’t notice when the situation had changed, till too late. A 17C Ottoman account of Christianity, for instance, depends on medieval Arab sources and covers the Roman church councils, but doesn’t have a word to say about Protestantism.
An older book I did read and found interesting: Jonathon Kwitny's Endless Enemies: The Making of an Unfriendly World shows, as its cover promises, "how America's worldwide interventions destroy democracy and free enterprise and defeat our own best interests." (from the bottom of this essay), with some other recommendations.

I'd also recommend the political Noam Chomsky for different perspectives on US foreign politics.

How to learn about authoratians:
Quote:
Alert reader Butsuri points out that Bob Altemeyer's book The Authoritarians is available online.
Quote:
For years I've wondered about two things: 1. Where did all these conservatives come from? 2. And what the hell is wrong with them?

John Dean answers both questions in Conservatives Without Conscience. Dean is a Goldwater Republican himself, and offers a somewhat critical history of the conservative movement from its ancient origins, circa 1951. (Dean shows that attempts to find earlier antecedents are largely mythologizing.)
(read the whole review here)

If the boy likes military, maybe he's interested in James Bond analysis?
Quote:
I just finished Simon Winder's The Man Who Saved Britain: A personal journey into the disturbing world of James Bond, a good book that would have been an even better essay. His basic point is suggested by the title: it really really sucked to be Britain in the 1950s. Britain had won the war but lost the peace... it was poor, its manufacturing dribbed away, it was falling behind Europe, its empire was lost, and with it its self-image. James Bond and the Beatles made it cool to be British again.
One about the US empire
Quote:
Can a republic be the basis for an empire? We're not talking about Chancellor Palpatine here; we're talking about Niall Ferguson's Colossus, an overview of the history and prospects of the empire that Americans don't like to believe they have. (Ironically, the Founders had no such qualms; they regularly called their new nation an empire, or the beginnings of one.)
Interesting seems to be
Quote:
For more on all this, see Jane Jacobs, Cities and the Wealth of Nations. I think there's also some synergy with Hernando de Soto's The Other Path. And for lots of interesting stuff about foreign trade, see almost anything by Paul Krugman.
More about Jane Jacobs.

There's a whole book from the founder of the Grameen bank Muhammed Yunus, on why he founded it, how it works, and that it works, but I can't find the exact english title for it at the moment.

Last edited by constanze; 12-14-2008 at 03:50 PM.
  #23  
Old 12-14-2008, 03:52 PM
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This is an excellent thread. All these books are going on my list. I just wish I read some of these books when I was 15.

My contribution is Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. The Black Swan is his latest book which is probably just as good.

It's more about how randomness affects life than economics. A very interesting look at how we often give meaning to events that occur by random chance.

Last edited by Lakai; 12-14-2008 at 03:52 PM.
  #24  
Old 12-14-2008, 07:19 PM
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One of my alltime favorites is After the Fact: The Art of Historical Detection by James West Davidson and Mark Lytle. The authors explain how to think about how history is written. I've found their ideas to be generally useful in life.

Unfortunately, the current edition of this book is a two-volume edition with CDs which has greatly increased the price.
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Old 12-15-2008, 01:58 AM
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The Coming Plague, which is good enough to be used in epidemiology and related courses at university. Gives an overview of an enormous amount of information on diseases, how they spread, how they become plagues. Sections on the Black Plague, ebola, AIDS, the 1918 influenza pandemic, and many others. Huge damn book though, I've never read it cover to cover, though I've probably read at this point almost every page in it.

Richard Preston's Hot Zone and The Demon in the Freezer cover some of the same ground, but focus on a single disease (ebola, smallpox respectively) in a more sensationalistic way. That makes them a bit more readable at the cost of a larger perspective. Plus, they're a lot shorter.

Why We Get Sick, sort of a Freakonomics of disease theory. I have this at home, but haven't read it yet. I'm recommending it on the strength of the recommendations I've received that encouraged me to buy it.

The Barbarians Speak is interesting, though a bit dry and repetitive. By the end of it, you'll probably never want to read the word 'fibula' again, but you will have learned a lot about the relative positions of the Romans and the "barbarians" they conquered. The Celts, Germans and other groups were a lot more advanced than they're given credit in most histories. Relatively short book, sources and footnotes actually take up a good chunk of pages at the end.

Boilerplate Rhino is a good introduction to David Quammen, a naturalist writer who is very good at what he does. This book is a collection of columns he did for Outside magazine. The Song of the Dodo is also recommended for many points, including a section on the evolution of the Theory of Evolution. In his estimation, Charles Lyell got shortchanged by the scientific community and, while Darwin deserves a lot of credit, he did more or less the same thing as a graduate advisor who realizes that a brilliant student is encroaching on the same territory as his earlier unfinished work and has to scramble to keep the kid from publishing first. He manages to make even technical subjects and relatively dry history interesting and alive.
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Old 12-15-2008, 02:29 AM
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Forgot to add two more practical books that I meant to include before: Starting Strength and Practical Programming both available from the authors' page. Rippetoe is a former lifter and weight training coach with decades of experience and a good deal of academic knowledge in his own right, and Kilgore is a PhD. in Kinesiology with his own decades of experience as a lifter and trainer.

Starting Strength is basically a training manual for people who are new to weight training or coaches/trainers who are working with such athletes. It's useful even for relatively experienced lifters in that it reviews good mechanics and gives practical advice on correcting faults in the core lifts. It's even better for novice to intermediate lifters who want to have an effective, efficient program that will provide a rock-solid base for progression. It also spends a bit of time debunking some training myths. Very useful for anyone who is interested in getting stronger, whether you have performance goals, or just want to get in better shape.

The companion book, Practical Programming, starts with the premise that there is a gap between coaches and trainers, who have practical experience but usually few academic qualifications, and academics, who often lack both proper training in their field and the practical experience that would provide a reality check to their sometimes misguided recommendations. The book is an attempt to bridge that gap, by examining training methods and periodization from a more rigorous and empirically tested perspective. The authors lay out evidence for shortcomings and faults in most training programs and make recommendations based on the principles they have derived from reconciling research with reality. The writing style of the book is actually a lot more conversational and entertaining than my synopsis

I bought both of these relatively recently as part of my continuing research into fitness over the last few years, since I stopped being such a lazy fatass. Just from reading through SS I was able to correct a couple of faults that had crept into my form.
  #27  
Old 12-15-2008, 02:43 AM
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Is he interested in how minds work? Oliver Sacks' books are great, as is The brain that changes itself
I'm glad to hear you say that - I just posted off a copy of The brain that changes itself to my Dad, who is also very much into "how things work" kind of books.

Unfortunately I didn't have time to read it all before I posted it off (is that still considered rude? I don't care anyway, he lives in Oxford so it's the only chance I'll get to borrow it off him ) but the bits I skimmed were rivetting.
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Old 12-15-2008, 02:44 AM
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I was going to recommend The Coming Plague. It's a good, thick, globe-trotting tour of the work of epidemiologists and the origins of disease. Really just completely fascinating.
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Old 12-15-2008, 03:35 AM
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Oh, The Coming Plague is good.

However, on a more lighthearted note you could get Willam Poundstone's Big Secrets and Bigger Secrets...slightly out of date, but still fun.

The Egyptology books Temples Tombs and Hieroglyphs and Red Land, Black Land by Barbara Mertz (who usually writes as Elizabeth Peters, the mystery writer) are very readable.

I recently finished At Day's Close, which is a study on the changing nature of night in early modern Europe. There are a fair amount of quotations of sources (ie, the spelling is strange) but if he's interested in history it could be a great exploration of a less-studied aspect.

ETA: I apologize for the lack of links but if you PM me I can find them.

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  #30  
Old 12-15-2008, 05:35 AM
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The Death & Life of Great American Cities if he's into urban planning.
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Old 12-15-2008, 07:29 AM
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As someone who greatly enjoyed all three of the books you've listed, I recommend Freakonomics. Really interesting, offbeat little book about solving problems in a counterintuitive way.
That's what I came in here to recommend. An intelligent five year old can certainly handle that book. Bonus point: it discourages drug dealing in a refreshing way. In the chapter"Why Do Drug Dealers Still Live With Their Mother?" the book shows that the average starting drug dealer could make more money at less risk by flipping burgers.
  #32  
Old 12-15-2008, 09:20 AM
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For a 15-year-old boy interested in military history, I think John Keegan's The Face of Battle is required reading. It debunks a lot of romantic myths and attempts to understand what battle has been like for actual participants. While parts of it are thrilling to read, other parts bring that immediate sense of "oh, of course!" understanding (I'm particularly thinking of his examination of what cavalry charges were really like). It's also, in the end, profoundly sobering for a boy who might dream of heroism in war.

I also found Howard Bloom's The Lucifer Principle fascinating in much the same way as Guns, Germs, & Steel, although I harbor considerably greater doubt about what it says. It's much more controversial and frankly does not flow as logically, nor is it as well documented, but it is very provocative. In my opinion some of what Bloom says can be taken with a grain of salt, but some parts, for example, his explication of superorganism theory and his application of it to his thesis of human evil is, I think, very thought-provoking, even enlightening.

I found that The Lucifer Principle made me think about Guns, Germs, & Steel in new ways, and vice versa. They sit side-by-side on my bookshelf.

Sailboat
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Old 12-15-2008, 09:23 AM
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It's for a 15 year old boy who seems tickled with large-scale "secrets", not in a tin-foil hat kind of way, but in a figuring out how the world really works kind of way, if that makes any sense.
In that case, I highly recommend The Next American Nation, by Michael Lind.
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Old 12-15-2008, 09:26 AM
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The Death & Life of Great American Cities if he's into urban planning.
Also The City in Mind, by James Howard Kunstler. Very readable and thought-provoking, and not only about city planning as such. As are his The Geography of Nowhere and Home from Nowhere.
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Old 12-15-2008, 09:31 AM
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Marvin Harris's books seem like a great fit. Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches is the best known (and the only one I've read so far). He covers broad cultural themes from that "inside workings" perspective. I found it an invaluable tool for designing civilizations for role-playing games.

Last edited by Umbriel2; 12-15-2008 at 09:32 AM.
  #36  
Old 12-15-2008, 09:32 AM
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I have this one but haven't read it yet: The Measure of All Things: The Seven-Year Odyssey and Hidden Error That Transformed the World. Pierre Méchain and Charles Messier worked to determine part of an arc from England and Spain, and therefore invented the meter -- doctoring some data along the way.
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Old 12-15-2008, 09:35 AM
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I was going to say Freakonomics and Spook, but I think those are taken. But another really great book is the new Physics for Future Presidents--I just finished it and it's really good. The author is my husband's favorite physics prof from college, so you have his endorsement too.
  #38  
Old 12-15-2008, 09:43 AM
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We should start a thread like this a few times a year to see what Dopers have discovered new. I went a got a few from this list - thanks!

a few comments:

- No one's mentioned Simon Winchester yet (sorry if I missed it)? His books The Professor and the Madman, The Map that Changed the World and others are great looks at the thinking behind dictionaries (Professor) and geology and evolution (Map) with great stories used to as the central narrative to fork off of and return to. They don't pull together great "truths" the way GG&S or Blink does, but insightful.

- I would add Thomas Friedman to the list. If the kid likes Gladwell - well, Friedman is trading in ideas at the same level and offers up anecdotes and insights at the same level of thinking. It's just that Friedman is focused on globalization, society and the economy as they exist today, etc. The World is Flat and it's predecessor The Lexus and The Olive Tree are great books about fascinating ideas.

- Justinian's Flea by William Rosen is a great polymath of a book (if a book can be considered...um, polymathic? ) where the author focuses on the Late Antiquity Roman Empire - how the Emperor Justinian, the last to be referred to as "Great," reunited the Western and Eastern Empires only to have the first pandemic of the Plague decimate society and put the Empire back on a path of decline. But while moving through this narrative arc, the author goes off into detailed diversions on war strategy, architecture, human, flea and rat biology and epidemiology - all woven into the expected discussions of historical context, biography of characters, etc. Fascinating and readable.

- I may need to start a new thread about this, but I have read a number of Oliver Sacks' articles in the New Yorker and am halfway through Musicophilia right now and I don't find him to be....all that great. I feel like he spends all of his time telling stories like a batty relative: "why that reminds me of a time that patient H told me he experienced musical hallucinations - he heard Chopin's Scherzo in D minor all time - fascinating! We don't know why, how or what it means - but the mind is a mysterious, dynamic organ!" Uh, okay - thanks Uncle Oliver. So far, I don't see where Sacks is pulling out any deep insights other than "minds are complex and interesting when it comes to music" - and his stories and cataloguing of conditions maps out some areas of brain functioning, but that is about it. If anyone thinks other works of his are more deeply insightful, I would appreciate hearing about it. He is held up so high, but this book is okay at best...

My $.02

Last edited by WordMan; 12-15-2008 at 09:45 AM.
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Old 12-15-2008, 09:52 AM
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What 15yo boy doesn't like sex? He ought to have a sexy book like Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation.

SPOILER:
evolutionary biology is sexy, right?
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Old 12-15-2008, 10:53 AM
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I recently finished Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbuilt and thought it was really good.
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Old 12-15-2008, 11:38 AM
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If he has the slightest interest in architecture, I would recommend How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built, by Stewart Brand.
  #42  
Old 12-15-2008, 11:56 AM
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...not that they really have anything in common. Just that they have all, at various times, been cited in many threads on the Dope, so I assume there are people here who have read and like them. What else would you recommend?
Guns, Germs and Steel and Omnivore's Dilemma both have "sequels".

There's also Poundstone's "Secrets" series, the "Imponderables" series and of course the Straight Dope series.
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Old 12-15-2008, 12:04 PM
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Fast Food Nation

Freakanomics

anything by Jon Krakauer, especially Banner of Heaven

The Tipping Point (though it's not as good as Blink)

Friday Night Lights-this was the very first non-fiction I ever read!

Devil in the White City-sorry to keep editing to add but I just thought of this one because I think you're a Chicago doper, right?

Garlic & Sapphires-Ruth Reichl.

Assasination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

There is an anthology published every year of "Best American ___ Writing of [insert year to date]". I highly recommend the Travel and Science anthologies-those are the 2 I buy every year. This year's travel anthology was edited by Anthony Bourdain. They're rather like interesting short stories on different parts of the world.

I'm not a natural non-fiction reader (my taste runs more to British Lit) so rest assured that all of these have the plotting of a novel

Last edited by anu-la1979; 12-15-2008 at 12:06 PM.
  #44  
Old 12-15-2008, 01:10 PM
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Quote:
There's also Poundstone's "Secrets" series, the "Imponderables" series and of course the Straight Dope series.
There's also Joel Achenbach's Why Things Are series.
  #45  
Old 12-15-2008, 01:38 PM
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Why We Get Sick, sort of a Freakonomics of disease theory. I have this at home, but haven't read it yet. I'm recommending it on the strength of the recommendations I've received that encouraged me to buy it.
Another good one about disease is Survival of the Sickest, which is an explanation of why disease is a GOOD thing for the survival of the human race! Very interesting.

Last edited by Sarahfeena; 12-15-2008 at 01:38 PM.
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Old 12-15-2008, 02:05 PM
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Slightly different from most of the books suggested, but he might enjoy Memoirs of a Sword Swallower, the somewhat fictionalized autobiography of Dan Mannix, who joined a carnival sideshow by accident and learnt how to swallow swords, eat fire, and pick locks. I guess if the kid liked Guns, Germs and Steel, he might find this too light, but might find some of the details about why sword swallowing is physiologically possible interesting.

Last edited by Surok; 12-15-2008 at 02:07 PM.
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Old 12-15-2008, 02:39 PM
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Slightly different from most of the books suggested, but he might enjoy Memoirs of a Sword Swallower, the somewhat fictionalized autobiography of Dan Mannix, who joined a carnival sideshow by accident and learnt how to swallow swords, eat fire, and pick locks. I guess if the kid liked Guns, Germs and Steel, he might find this too light, but might find some of the details about why sword swallowing is physiologically possible interesting.
Heh. Actually, he'd probably love this for reasons you don't know. Among our circle of friends is one sword swallower, one lock picker (professional locksmith, actually) and more people who eat, blow and spin fire than you can shake a stick at. He himself spun fire when he was younger, and then got bored with it, if you can believe that! We're not technically a carnival sideshow, but we probably should be!

Thanks again to everyone. I've got 8 books ordered, and assuming I get the standard Amazon giftcards I usually do for Christmas, I'll order some more for him for his birthday in January. Y'all have saved Christmas, really.
  #48  
Old 12-15-2008, 02:43 PM
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Awww. The Dopers who Saved Christmas.
  #49  
Old 12-15-2008, 03:07 PM
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Heh. Actually, he'd probably love this for reasons you don't know. Among our circle of friends is one sword swallower, one lock picker (professional locksmith, actually) and more people who eat, blow and spin fire than you can shake a stick at. He himself spun fire when he was younger, and then got bored with it, if you can believe that! We're not technically a carnival sideshow, but we probably should be!
In that case, I recommend a novel: Spangle, by Gary Jennings (about an American circus touring Europe in the 1860s and '70s).
  #50  
Old 12-15-2008, 03:18 PM
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Thanks again to everyone. I've got 8 books ordered...
Whadja git, whadja git?? Please tell!
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