Blog Class


June 27, 2015


Book lets you live someone else’s life for a bit. Reading teaches you about your history and makes you question how social changes happen, stimulates your creativity or teaches you interesting trivia about things you didn’t even know existed.

Mind-bending fiction, picked by David Eagleman
The Bear by William Faulkner. “I bought this short novel for fifty cents at a garage sale when I was 17. The storytelling and language blew my socks off. I immediately became an English major.”

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. “Written in 1937 by a black woman artist extraordinaire, this treasure breathes with awe, ache and everything in between. Zora Neale Hurston’s prose is legend. Her story is epic, but her approach is intimate. I can’t say enough about this work.”

Books on historical moments, picked by David Rothkopf
The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore. “This book is about the man who invented Wonder Woman, and the women around him who reflected historical changes in the role of women in society. It’s smart and funny, a refreshing look into a corner of cultural history that I would never have thought to explore.”

Joan of Arc: A History by Helen Castor. “I’m fascinated by Joan of Arc and, until recently, by the lack of a really good, modern biography of her. This book fills that void. It tells the story of one of those extraordinary lives that, even when stripped of mythologies, mesmerizes because it illustrates how single individuals can make a difference.”

Illuminating nonfiction, picked by Bill Gates
The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin. “Doris Kearns Goodwin studies the lives of these presidents to answer a question that fascinates me: How does social change happen? Can it be driven by an inspirational leader, or do other factors have to lay the groundwork? In Roosevelt’s case, it was the latter; his famous soft speaking and big stick weren’t effective in driving reform until journalists rallied public support.”

Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization by Vaclav Smil. “In this book, Smil examines the materials we use to meet the demands of modern life — like cement, iron, aluminum, plastic and paper. The book is full of staggering statistics: for example, China used more cement in just three years than the US used in the entire twentieth century. Smil is an original thinker who never gives simple answers to complex questions.”

Incredible interviews, picked by Dave Isay
Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell. “The astounding collection of profiles from a legendary The New Yorker writer. Too many good stories to list, but I named my daughter after ‘Mazie,’ his profile of the foul-mouthed ticket taker/bouncer/angel of a low-rent movie theatre catering to homeless men in New York.”

Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman. “In this graphic novel one of the greatest works of the twentieth century, in my opinion Spiegelman interviews his father about living through the Holocaust.”

Books on art and race, picked by Anne Pasternak
Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon. “Over the past year, several people were shocked I hadn’t heard of this book. So I bought it and dove in. If you’ve ever questioned why there were struggles for equality between the end of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement in the US, this book illuminates the conditions that led to the disinvestment, misery and tragedy that have lasted for generations.”

Nick Cave: Epitome by Nick Cave et al. “In this brand-new coffee-table book, Nick Cave’s beaded and feathered Soundsuits pop off the page. You can almost feel these gorgeous creatures dancing around you. I confess that I haven’t read the essays yet, simply because the pictures are just so captivating.”

Books on creativity, picked by Tony Fadell
How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough. “By offering evidence that traits like empathy, determination and self-control tend to be better predictors of success than IQ, Tough will make you think differently about raising kids in a highly competitive world.”

The Art of War by Sun Tzu. “It’s hard to believe that a 2,000-year-old book could still be relevant for businesses today, but Sun Tzu’s masterpiece is as applicable to the world we live in as ever.”

Thought provoking fiction by Nadia Goodman
The Transcriptionist by Amy Rowland. “A lonely woman in New York City, the last transcriptionist at a major newspaper, discovers a story she can’t forget. It’s a quiet, beautifully observed book about who gets remembered, who gets forgotten and how we decide whose stories deserve to be told. One of my favorite finds in a long time.”

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi. “A loose retelling of Snow White, set in New England in the mid-1900s. It’s a brilliant exploration of beauty, race, identity and the pain we inflict on others to protect ourselves. The ending is just …*mind blown.*”

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill. “I devoured this book in one sitting. It’s insightful, heartbreaking, brutally honest and peppered with such a dry sense of humor that I found myself laughing out loud. More than anything, it humanized the trials of love and marriage.”

Are you finished with these, and want to devour even more? Check out the entire list on

source:chapterfriday &


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