Books To get You Thinking 2013 Holiday Edition I

The lengthening shadows of evening and glistening early morning frost signal the inevitable change of seasons. Along with the first signs of winter comes the excitement of the approaching Holiday Season - a time to take a step back from the humdrum of daily life and reconnect with friends and family over food, laughter and  wrapped-up presents. To help ease that nagging panic about what gifts to get for all your favorite people, here is a collection of great book titles that are sure to delight just about everyone on your list. This month the suggested titles cover nonfiction as well as biographies and memoirs. In December come back to Books To Get You Thinking Holiday Edition II for exciting titles in fiction, food and entertainment.

Non Fiction 

The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation by Jon Gertner
Jon Gertner  provides a fascinating look into the origin of the modern communications industry through the compelling history of Bell Labs and the experiences of the leading engineers, scientists and mathematicians who worked there in the five decades spanning the late-1930s to the mid-1970s. The book explores the key questions of how, why and under what conditions innovations take place and identifies collaboration and  teamwork as the critical elements for fostering a dynamic and innovative technological environment.

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell
The bestselling author of The Tipping Point and  Outliers introduces readers to  another thought-provoking read,  this time about how personal disadvantages and obstacles that may prove challenging and daunting at times can be turned around and ultimately leveraged to one’s advantage. One of the instances the author cites is how living with dyslexia has encouraged people to develop other strengths through which they ultimately achieve significant accomplishments. Gladwell uses the example of David and Goliath to illustrate his premise that underdogs have hidden strengths that can be honed to battle against seemingly stronger forces.

Dog Songs: Thirty Five Dog Songs and One Essay by Mary Oliver
Mary Oliver, best selling writer of poems and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Awards and a host of other distinctions and honors has penned this heartwarming collection of poems about the dogs who have been her constant companions over the years. The volume, replete with beautiful illustrations, also provides a window into the poet’s life and her close affinity with Nature. The poems reflect on the transience of life, the many moments of joy as well as the grief and sorrow that inevitably follows.

Thinking: The New Science of Decision-Making, Problem-Solving, and Prediction edited by John Brockman
A collection of sixteen essays written by noted experts and scholars in the diverse areas of neuroscience, statistics, psychology and philosophy that explore the complexities and facets of the human thought process and decision-making. Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking Fast and Slow, delves into the area of intuitive thinking; Vilayanur Ramachandran  examines how  neurology can help explain aspects of human nature;  Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of Black Swan, analyzes the limitation of statistics in decision making while Daniel Dennet examines the intricate architecture of the human mind.

Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier
The book  introduces readers to the fascinating world of Big Data and the different areas where this new technology is quietly transforming the way  business is being conducted  Vast amounts of data coming from different sources can be mined to promote innovation and growth by helping to shape policies in public health, scientific research,  business and government. The authors cite the example of Google – the company stores all its search queries and, during the time of the H1N1 flu outbreak, was able to predict the path of the epidemic in advance by simply analyzing millions of search queries in different regions of the country involving questions about flu symptoms and medications.

Biography and Memoirs

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou
A beautiful biographical treatise about her life, and her relationship with her mother, Vivian Baxter. Maya Angelou attributes her strengths and successes and all that she is today to her mother and to her mother’s love, support and unwavering faith in her daughter. Angelou shares her personal story and her deep relationship with her mother in this poignant memoir that provides readers with a window into her extraordinary life, to her struggles and triumphs, the years she spent separated from her mother, the subsequent reconciliation and the invincible spirit of her mother behind it all.

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone
Brad Stone takes readers to a behind the scenes look at the story of Amazon and Jeff Bezos, the man who founded the company in the 1990s and turned it into a multibillion dollar company. The author gives a view of what has  led to Amazon’s phenomenal success over the last twenty years based on over three hundred interviews with different executives at Amazon, with family and friends of Bezos as well as interaction over the years with Jeff  Bezos himself. At the same time, readers get a glimpse into the life and distinctive personality of Jeff  Bezos, his early years in Texas and his career on Wall Street. His vision for his company, and his strategic focus on long term growth and customer needs were largely behind Amazon's success.

Provence 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste by Luke Barr
A fascinating read of how the chance meeting of individuals who happened to be some of the finest luminaries of the culinary world may have influenced the evolution of American cuisine and modern American cooking. In December 1970, M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, Simone Beck, Judith Jones, Richard Olney and James Beard coincidentally found themselves together in Provence, France.  In the months that followed, the group met often, both in restaurants and at their homes, while creating and perfecting delectable meals and discussing and arguing about the subtle intricacies of different recipes. This chance gathering heralded the start of a new style of cooking that was quintessentially American but had its roots in classic French cuisine.

Still Foolin' 'Em : Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and Where The Hell Are My Keys?  by Billy Crystal
Billy Crystal, comedian, actor, producer, director and host of nine Oscars shares his reflections on his life, career and aging in this humorous and engaging book. Published a few months after his 65th birthday, Crystal looks back at the many special moments in his life, his triumphs as well as lost opportunities. He shares with readers interesting episodes about the movies he did and the events he participated in, all interspersed with his usual wit and humor, making this a wonderfully entertaining memoir from one of America’s greatest icons in the world of comedy.

The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Historian, and Pulitzer Prize winning author, Doris Kearns Goodwin writes this fascinating book about Theodore Roosevelt and his falling out with his chosen successor and close friend, William Howard Taft against the backdrop of muckraking journalists and the first decade of the Progressive Era. With public fervor fueled by the writings of an amazing group of journalists, Roosevelt succeeded in introducing regulations to control the influence of monopolies and big money. In the subsequent feud between Roosevelt and Taft (who had aligned himself with big business),  both fought for the presidential nomination  – ultimately the progressive wing of the Republican Party was weakened  and Woodrow Wilson was elected as President.

-Nita Mathur 


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