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’! :wink:

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.

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

How about Connections?


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

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.

I HIGHLY recommend Outliers! I like it better than either The Tipping Point or Blink. Could hardly put it down.

Collapse --> link seems like an obvious one to pick up.

Hmmm, do you think this would be too morbid for a 15 year old? I enjoyed it immensely:


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. :wink:

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

Dorling Kindersley Publishing has big selection of military books. They are fun reading with with lots of pictures.,,231654,00.html

You might want to consider any of several books by Henry Petroski, or maybe The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman.

Why Things Bite Back by Edward Tenner

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.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss is a bit flawed, but does have a good section on the use of the semicolon.


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!

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.

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

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:

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.

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.

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.