Introducing good non-fiction books



Non-fiction books of my preference

  1. 55 days: The fall of South Vietnam (55 ngày chế độ Sài Gòn sụp đổ) – Alan Dawson
  2. A brief history of time (Lược sử thời gian)– Stephen Hawking
  3. A people’s history of the United States – Howard Zinn
  4. A short history of nearly everything – Bill Bryson
  5. Abhidhamma in daily life (Đạo Phật trong đời sống hàng ngày)– Nina van Gorkom
  6. An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations – Adam Smith
  7. + An lạc từng bước chân (Peace is every step: The path of mindfulness in everyday life) – Thich Nhat Hanh, Arnold Kotler (editor), Dalai Lama XIV (contributor)
  8. Bare feet, iron will (Chân trần, chí thép)– James G. Zumwalt
  9. Chaos and harmony: Perspectives on scientific revolutions of the Twentieth Century – Trịnh Xuân Thuận
  10. Cosmos – Carl Sagan
  11. Dōngzhōu Lièguó Zhì (Chronicles of the Eastern Zhou kingdoms; Đông Chu liệt quốc)– Feng Menglong
  12. Economics – Paul A. Samuelson & William D. Nordhaus
  13. Einstein: His life and universe (Einstein: Cuộc đời và vũ trụ)– Walter Isaacson
  14. Fundamentals of ecology – Eugene P. Odum
  15. Đường xưa mây trắng (Old path white clouds) – Thích Nhất Hạnh
  16. Giận (Anger: Wisdom for cooling the flames) – Thích Nhất Hạnh
  17. God’s playground: A history of Poland (Sân chơi của Chúa: Lịch sử Ba Lan)– Norman Davies
  18. Guns, germs, and steel: The fates of human societies – Jared Diamond
  19. Het achterhuis dagboekbrieven 16 Juni – 1 Augustus 1944 (The diary of a young girl; Nhật ký Anne Frank) – Anne Frank
  20. How not to die (Ăn gì không chết)– Michael Greger & Gene Stone
  21. I know why the caged bird sings – Maya Angelou
  22. How to win friends and influence people (Đắc nhân tâm)– Dale Carnegie
  23. iGen – Jean M. Twenge
  24. Influence: The psychology of persuasion (Những đòn tâm lý trong thuyết phục) – Robert Cialdini
  25. La mélodie secrète (Giai điệu bí ẩn; The secret melody) – Trịnh Xuân Thuận
  26. Last words of notable people – William B. Brahms
  27. Little house on the prairie (Ngôi nhà nhỏ trên thảo nguyên) – Laura Ingalls Wilder
  28. Memoirs of a geisha (Hồi ký của một kỹ nữ; Đời kỹ nữ) – Arthur Golden
  29. Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness – Richard H. Thaler,  Cass R. Sunstein
  30. Papillon (Papillon; Người tù khổ sai) – Henry Charrière
  31. Perfect spy (Điệp viên hoàn hảo) – Larry Berman
  32. Peter the Great: His life and world (Pyotr Đại đế: Người con vĩ đại của nước Nga) – by Robert K. Massie
  33. Plants: Why you can’t live without them – Bill Wolverton & Kozaburo Takenaka
  34. Plant materials in Thailand – Uamporn Veesommai, Thaya Janjitikul, Arunee Wongpanasin
  35. Richard Halliburton’s complete book of marvels – Richard Halliburton
  36. Sapiens: A brief history of humankind (Sapiens: Lược sử về loài người) – Yuval Noah Harari
  37. Shiji (Records of the grand historian) – Sima Qian
  38. Silent spring – Rachel Carson, Linda Lear  (Introduction), Edward O. Wilson (Afterword)
  39. Thai ways – Denis Segaller
  40. The art of happiness (Nghệ thuật tạo hạnh phúc) – Dalai Lama & Howard C. Cutler
  41. The Cambridge history of ancient China: From the origins of civilization to 221 BC – Michael Loewe (Editor), Edward L. Shaughnessy
  42. The ecological rift – John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, Richard York
  43. The essays of Warren Buffett – Warren Buffett & Lawrence A. Cunningham
  44. + The last lecture – Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow
  45. The Nazi officer’s wife – Edith Hahn Beer & Susan Dworkin
  46. The pianist: The extraordinary story of one man’s survival in Warsaw, 1939–45 (Nghệ sĩ dương cầm) – Władysław Szpilman, Anthea Bell (Translator)
  47. The rise and fall of the Third Reich (Sự trỗi dậy và suy tàn của Đế chế Thứ Ba) – William L. Shirer
  48. + The Second World War – Antony Beevor
  49. The world is flat (Thế giới phẳng) – Thomas Loren Friedman
  50. + Thiền tập cho người bận rộn (Peace is every breath: A practice for our busy lives) – Thich Nhat Hanh
  51. Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance – Robert Pirsig

Goodreads Ratings

The Guardian’s 100 best non-fiction books of all time

TIME magazine’s all-time 100 best non-fiction books

Best non-fiction books to give as gifts



Due to various reasons, the compiler cannot put the sources for this treatise, which is not an academic work, not even a serious compilation – on this non-profit website. The purpose is to encourage the joy of reading: once you know about the contents of a book  of your interest, you would want to find a way to read that book. Then my quoting information without providing the sources would be tolerated.

When by chance I come across suitable materials, I put them together without looking for thorough reviews, simply because I do not have adequate time and means. Due to this reason, the description for each book may be only a limited viewpoint related to that book. It’s up to you to find more details on the books of your interest.

In the following sections, opinions of different persons are separate by the mark * * *, the translation titles between the round brackets (), and my personal ratings between the square brackets [ ].

Books that are added during the previous 3 months are marked with the plus sign (+).

Non-fiction books of my preference

55 days: The fall of South Vietnam (55 ngày chế độ Sài Gòn sụp đổ)  – Alan Dawson

Goodreads rating: 3.9

The book starts with betrayal and ends with betrayal. 55 days: The fall of South Vietnam chronicles the events that started with the Communist attack on Ban Me Thuot and ends in early May with the occupation of Saigon by the forces of North Vietnam. The opening chapter deals with the fall of Saigon and many of the sad and sometimes unbelievable stories that occurred there. The book then moves on to develop the complex background for the events that unfold over the next 55 days. It details the many battles and events, from the struggle for Hue to the flight from Da Nang, that develop into a complete rout of the forces of South Vietnam.

A brief history of time (Lược sử thời gian) – Stephen Hawking

Goodreads rating: 4.2

This book is in TIME magazine’s list of “All-time 100 best non-fiction books”.

Introduction by Goodreads:

In the ten years since its publication in 1988, Stephen Hawking’s classic work has become a landmark volume in scientific writing, with more than nine million copies in forty languages sold worldwide. That edition was on the cutting edge of what was then known about the origins and nature of the universe. But the intervening years have seen extraordinary advances in the technology of observing both the micro- and the macrocosmic worlds. These observations have confirmed many of Professor Hawking’s theoretical predictions in the first edition of his book, including the recent discoveries of the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite (COBE), which probed back in time to within 300,000 years of the universe’s beginning and revealed wrinkles in the fabric of space-time that he had projected. Eager to bring to his original text the new knowledge revealed by these observations, as well as his own recent research, Professor Hawking has prepared a new introduction to the book, written an entirely new chapter on wormholes and time travel, and updated the chapters throughout.

* * *

This modern classic is to help non-scientists understand fundamental questions of physics and our existence: where did the universe come from? How and why did it begin? Will it come to an end, and if so, how?

Hawking attempts to deal with these questions (and where we might look for answers) using a minimum of technical jargon. Among the topics gracefully covered are gravity, black holes, the Big Bang, the nature of time and physicists’ search for a grand unifying theory.

This is deep science; the concepts are so vast (or so tiny) that they cause mental vertigo while reading, and one can’t help but marvel at Hawking’s ability to synthesize this difficult subject for people not used to thinking about things like alternate dimensions. The journey is certainly worth taking for as Hawking says, the reward of understanding the universe may be a glimpse of “the mind of God”.

* * *

“It’s one of a very few books in this category that continues to fascinate despite the fact that much of its contents stretch the reader further than is usually expected in a book of this sort.”
Popular Science

A people’s history of the United States – Howard Zinn

Goodreads rating: 4.1

This book is in

  • Powell’s City of Books list of “25 books to read before you die”.
  • TIME magazine’s list of “All-time 100 best non-fiction books”.

Known for its lively, clear prose as well as its scholarly research, A people’s history of the United States is the only volume to tell America’s story from the point of view of—and in the words of—America’s women, factory workers, African Americans, Native Americans, working poor, and immigrant laborers.

* * *

Awesome. Insightful. View history from the perspective of those people who are seldom recognized – the middle class and minorities. The people who really built this country. Well documented. This isn’t the lifestyles of the rich and famous. A very serious read. About the people who sacrificed and suffered for their families and their country. It will make you think.

* * *

This is the history of the U.S. that should be taught in all schools. This is an elegant read with the truth being told about the U.S. and its history rather than the glossed over versions taught in our schools in the past and today. Howard Zinn is a master in his research and his writing. It is long but worth every minute spent reading it.

A short history of nearly everything (Lược sử vạn vật)– Bill Bryson

Goodreads rating: 4.2

This book is:

winner of the Aventis Prize for best general science book, 2004. Bryson later donated the GBP£10,000 prize to the Great Ormond Street Hospital children’s charity.

winner of the EU Descartes Prize for science communication, 2005.

shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize, 2005.

A popular science book that explains some areas of science, using easily accessible language that appeals more so to the general public than many other books dedicated to the subject. It was one of the bestselling popular science books of 2005 in the United Kingdom, selling over 300,000 copies.

A short history deviates from Bryson’s popular travel book genre, instead describing general sciences such as chemistry, paleontology, astronomy, and particle physics. In it, he explores time from the Big Bang to the discovery of quantum mechanics, via evolution and geology.

Bill Bryson wrote this book because he was dissatisfied with his scientific knowledge—that was, not much at all. He writes that science was a distant, unexplained subject at school. Textbooks and teachers alike did not ignite the passion for knowledge in him, mainly because they never delved in the whys, hows, and whens.

“It was as if [the textbook writer] wanted to keep the good stuff secret by making all of it soberly unfathomable.”
— Bryson, on the state of science books used within his school.

Abhidhamma in daily life (Đạo Phật trong đời sống hàng ngày) – Nina van Gorkom

Goodreads rating: not considered (8 ratings)

This is an exposition of absolute realities in detail. Abhidhamma means higher doctrine, and the book’s purpose is to encourage the right application of Buddhism in order to eradicate wrong view and eventually all defilements. Many terms in Pali the language of early Buddhism are used and are defined as they are introduced. The book is therefore suitable for beginners as well as practicing Buddhists. It is detailed and precise and an invaluable aid to unlocking the deep meaning of the entire Buddhist canon and applying the theory to our daily lives for the benefit of ourselves and others.

An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations
– Adam Smith

Goodreads rating: 3.9

This book is in The Guardian‘s 100 best non-fiction books of all time.

Generally referred to by its shortened title The Wealth of Nations, this is the magnum opus of the Scottish economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith. First published in 1776, the book offers one of the world’s first collected descriptions of what builds nations’ wealth, and is today a fundamental work in classical economics. By reflecting upon the economics at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the book touches upon such broad topics as the division of labor, productivity, and free markets.

It is the second most cited book in the social sciences published before 1950, behind Karl Marx’s Capital.

+ An lạc từng bước chân (Peace is every step: The path of mindfulness in everyday life) – Thich Nhat Hanh,  Arnold Kotler (editor), Dalai Lama XIV (contributor)

Goodreads rating: 4.3 for the English version

Introduction by Goodreads:

In the rush of modern life, we tend to lose touch with the peace that is available in each moment. World-renowned Zen master, spiritual leader, and author Thich Nhat Hanh shows us how to make positive use of the very situations that usually pressure and antagonize us. For him a ringing telephone can be a signal to call us back to our true selves. Dirty dishes, red lights, and traffic jams are spiritual friends on the path to “mindfulness”—the process of keeping our consciousness alive to our present experience and reality. The most profound satisfactions, the deepest feelings of joy and completeness lie as close at hand as our next aware breath and the smile we can form right now.

Lucidly and beautifully written, Peace is every step contains commentaries and meditations, personal anecdotes and stories from Nhat Hanh’s experiences as a peace activist, teacher, and community leader. It begins where the reader already is—in the kitchen, office, driving a car, walking a part—and shows how deep meditative presence is available now. Nhat Hanh provides exercises to increase our awareness of our own body and mind through conscious breathing, which can bring immediate joy and peace. Nhat Hanh also shows how to be aware of relationships with others and of the world around us, its beauty and also its pollution and injustices. the deceptively simple practices of Peace is every step encourage the reader to work for peace in the world as he or she continues to work on sustaining inner peace by turning the “mindless” into the mindFUL.

Bare feet, iron will (Chân trần, chí thép)  – James G. Zumwalt

Goodreads rating: 4.4

Chan tran chi thep 5Ever since the American Revolution, military service has been a proud tradition for the Zumwalt family. Tradition initially led the author to join his father and brother in the Navy, before later transferring to the US Marine Corps. During his 26 years in uniform, the author saw service in three conflicts – Vietnam, Panama and the first Persian Gulf war. It was Vietnam, however, that ultimately would launch him on an unexpected journey – long after the guns of that war had fallen silent – triggered by the loss of a brother who had fought there. This journey was an emotional one – initially of anger towards the Vietnamese and the conflict that claimed his older brother. But it unexpectedly took a change in direction.

In Vietnam almost two decades after Saigon’s fall, the author, in a private talk with a former enemy general officer, came to understand an aspect of the war he never before had. In that talk, they shared personal insights about the war-discovering a common bond. It unlocked a door through which the author passed to start his own healing process. It began a journey where he would meet hundreds of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong veterans-listening to their personal stories of loss, sacrifice and hardship. It opened the author’s eyes to how a technically inferior enemy, beaten down by superior US firepower, was able to get back up-driven by an “iron will” to emerge triumphant. Bare feet, iron will takes the reader on a fascinating journey, providing stories-many never before told-as to how enemy ingenuity played a major role in the conflict, causing us not to see things that were there or to see things there that were not! It shares unique insights into the sacrifice and commitment that took place on the other side of Vietnam’s battlefields.

* * *

One book reviewer states that the author occasionally falls into the trap of accepting at face value 100 percent of Vietnamese claims. He does frequently caveat those claims, but too often the book reads as if at every turn the North Vietnamese were invincible and the Americans bumblers. It’s true that the Vietnamese population was at total war, whereas among Americans, it was only total for those deployed to Vietnam and its nearby waters. But individually, American soldiers were hardly bumblers.

The reader is advised to absorb skeptically the stories passed on by Col. Zumwalt. For example, he reports an aircraft carrier strike on the Thanh Hoa Bridge, during which 41 American carrier aircraft were shot down. This is preposterous. Had the U.S. Navy lost 41 aircraft in one day, there would have been banner headlines around the world and the Navy might well have withdrawn from the Tonkin Gulf. It did not withdraw, and 41 aircraft were not downed on one strike.

Another problem is that it is often stated or implied throughout that the Vietnamese bore no grudge toward the American fighting man, treating him well, reasoning that he was merely fighting for his country as the Vietnamese were for theirs. Tell that to a Hanoi Hilton graduate.

In the same context, while, “From the Other Side,” is most interesting, the book would have been much better had there been a modicum of fact-checking. Instead, the author, with only a small caveat here and there, seems to accept everything told to him by the North Vietnamese as gospel.

Shortcomings aside, Bare feet, iron will is a recommended read, especially for anyone who fought in the jungles or skies or on the waters of Vietnam and for their families. It provides hindsight of the first order. Would that the Americans learned the lessons.

Chaos and harmony: Perspectives on scientific revolutions of the Twentieth Century – Trịnh Xuân Thuận

Goodreads rating: 4.2

For 300 years, Trinh Xuan Thuan writes, since the time of Isaac Newton, scientists saw reality as a giant clock–a sterile mechanism in which one part acts on another in a deterministic fashion. But the discoveries of the last few decades have changed all that, conjuring up instead a universe brimming with unpredictability, creativity, and chance.

Writing with exceptional grace and clarity, Thuan vividly describes these important scientific discoveries, intriguing new theories about chaos, gravity, strange attractors, fractals, symmetry, superstrings, and the strangeness of atoms. Equally important, he reveals how these discoveries have shaped our view of the universe–for instance, how quantum mechanics brought indeterminism to the subatomic universe. Thuan deftly describes quantum mechanics, discusses its relationship to the theories of relativity (which deal inability to accept it. Indeed, throughout Chaos and Harmony, he makes clear as never before the mind-bending ideas of modern physics, such as the effect of gravity on time (it slows it down), the impossibility of crossing the speed-of-light barrier (it would actually reverse time), the role of fractals as “the language of nature,” and the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in understanding the universe.

From the subatomic world to the vast realm of quasars and galaxies, from the nature of mathematics to the fractal characteristics of the human circulatory system, Trinh Xuan Thuan takes us on a breathtaking tour of the universe. With striking examples and clear, plain language, he shows how science has actually restored mystery to the world around us–a world of symmetry and chaos, contingency and creativity

Cosmos (Vũ trụ) – Carl Sagan

Goodreads rating: 4.4

Cosmos is a 1980 popular science book by astronomer and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Carl Sagan. Its 13 illustrated chapters, corresponding to the 13 episodes of the Cosmos TV series, which the book was co-developed with and intended to complement, explore the mutual development of science and civilization. One of Sagan’s main purposes for the book and television series was to explain complex scientific ideas to anyone interested in learning.

Cosmos spent 50 weeks on the Publishers Weekly best-sellers list and 70 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list to become the best-selling science book ever published at the time.

In 1981, it received the Hugo Award for Best Non-Fiction Book. The book’s unprecedented success ushered in a dramatic increase in visibility for science-themed literature. The success of the book also jumpstarted Sagan’s literary career.

Dōngzhōu Lièguó Zhì (Chronicles of the Eastern Zhou kingdoms;
Đông Chu liệt quốc)
– Feng Menglong

Goodreads rating: unavailable

This Chinese historical novel, set in the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, starts from the Chinese kingdom beginning to break apart into smaller states and ends with the first unification of the land accomplished by Qin Shi Huang.

The novel is considered to possess high historical value, and also to be a greatly influential historical novel in Chinese literary history.

The novel has been translated into several languages, including Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese.

Economics – Paul A. Samuelson & William D. Nordhaus

Goodreads rating: 4.0.

Basic economics textbooks are enormously influential. One, in particular, has been extraordinarily so: Paul Samuelson’s Economics, first published in 1948, has taught at least two generations of Americans (and many others elsewhere) all they know about the subject.

It is difficult to exaggerate the worldwide impact of Mr Samuelson’s Economics. It has sold nearly 5 million copies, and it has been translated into 41 languages , including Arabic, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, and Vietnamese. Though its popularity has waned somewhat in recent years, many millions of people learned their economics from the textbook’s lively prose – and, in recent editions, from the joint authorship of Mr Samuelson and William Nordhaus.

The book continues to be the standard-bearer for principles courses, and the revision in 2004 continues to be a clear, accurate, and interesting introduction to modern economics principles. Bill Nordhaus, an economics at Yale University, is now the primary author of this text, and he has revised the book to be as current and relevant as ever.

If you are not economist but work is more or less related to economics, you should consult relevant chapters in this book. Else, if you want to go through this book out of curiosity, you can find it interesting, the more so when you do not forget all the mathematics you learn at high school.

* * *

Paul A. Samuelson (1915-2009) was born in Indiana into a Jewish family that had emigrated from Poland. In 1923 he moved to Chicago, where he began studying economics at the university at age 16. His talent was soon recognized, and he presented his doctoral thesis at Harvard in 1941. He won the David A. Wells prize in 1941 for writing the best doctoral dissertation at Harvard University in economics. Samuelson moved to MIT as an assistant professor in 1940 and remained there until his death. Beginning in 1947 he was Professor of Economics at MIT, and beginning in 1962 he was Institute Professor, MIT’s highest faculty honor.

He was the first American to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. The Swedish Royal Academies stated, when awarding the prize in 1970, that he “has done more than any other contemporary economist to raise the level of scientific analysis in economic theory”. He spent his career at MIT where he was instrumental in turning its Department of Economics into a world-renowned institution by attracting other noted economists to join the faculty, including Robert M. Solow, Franco Modigliani, Robert C. Merton, Joseph E. Stiglitz, and Paul Krugman, all of whom went on to win Nobel Prizes.

Growing up during the Depression influenced his economic and political views. He served as an advisor to both John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. His 1948 work, Economics, written to help provide for his six children, has become the world’s best-selling economic textbook.

Economic historian Randall E. Parker has called him the “Father of Modern Economics”, and The New York Times considered him to be the “foremost academic economist of the 20th century”.

Einstein: His life and universe (Einstein: Cuộc đời và vũ trụ) – Walter Isaacson

Goodreads rating: 4.2.

How did his mind work? What made him a genius? Isaacson’s biography shows how his scientific imagination sprang from the rebellious nature of his personality. His fascinating story is a testament to the connection between creativity and freedom.

Albert-Einstein 3Based on newly released personal letters of Einstein, this book explores how an imaginative, impertinent patent clerk – a struggling father in a difficult marriage who couldn’t get a teaching job or a doctorate – became the mind reader of the creator of the cosmos, the locksmith of the mysteries of the atom, and the universe. His success came from questioning conventional wisdom and marveling at mysteries that struck others as mundane. This led him to embrace a morality and politics based on respect for free minds, free spirits, and free individuals.

These traits are just as vital for this new century of globalization, in which our success will depend on our creativity, as they were for the beginning of the last century, when Einstein helped usher in the modern age.

* * *

Einstein was a rebel and nonconformist from boyhood days, and these character traits drove both his life and his science. In this narrative, Walter Isaacson explains how his mind worked and the mysteries of the universe that he discovered.

Fundamentals of ecology – Eugene P. Odum & Gary Barrett

Goodreads rating: 4.2

The late Eugene Odum was a pioneer in systems ecology and is credited with bringing ecosystems into the mainstream public consciousness as well as into introductory college instruction. Fundamentals of ecology was first published in 1953 and was the vehicle Odum used to educate a wide audience about ecological science. This Fifth Edition of Fundamentals of ecology is co-authored by Odum’s protege Gary Barrett and represents the last academic text Odum produced.

The text retains its classic holistic approach to ecosystem science, but incorporates and integrates an evolutionary approach as well. In keeping with a greater temporal/spatial approach to ecology, new chapters in landscape ecology, regional ecology, and global ecology have been added building on the levels-of-organization hierarchy. Also, a final chapter entitled “Statistical Thinking for Students of Ecology” provides a quantitative synthesis to the field of statistics. Contemporary and engaging, this text brings clarity and specificity to the study of ecology in the twenty-first century.

This book is, of course, a must-read for students in the fields of ecology, environmental science and environmental engineering. However, when your work is related only slightly to ecology, consult the relevant chapter(s) of this book. You may even go through the relevant matters out of your curiosity. Whatever your purpose, you will find it highly worth reading.

Even though this book is for ecological professionals, it requires only basic knowledge of biology and chemistry that you learned in your high school.

Đường xưa mây trắng (Old path white clouds) – Thích Nhất Hạnh

Goodreads rating: 4.5

Scholar, poet and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh retells the story of the Buddha in his own.

Inimitably beautiful style. He draws upon Pali, Sanskrit and Chinese sources to trace the Buddha’s life slowly and gently through the course of eighty years. Seen partly through the eyes of the Buddha himself and partly through those of Svasti, the buffalo boy, Old path white clouds brings the Buddha closer to us as we journey with him on his path to enlightenment and nirvana.

Giận (Anger: Wisdom for cooling the flames) – Thích Nhất Hạnh

Goodreads rating: 4.2 for the English version

It was under the bodhi tree in India twenty-five centuries ago that Buddha achieved the insight that three states of mind were the source of all our unhappiness: wrong knowing, obsessive desire, and anger. All are difficult, but in one instant of anger—one of the most powerful emotions—lives can be ruined, and health and spiritual development can be destroyed. With exquisite simplicity, Buddhist monk and Vietnam refugee Thich Nhat Hanh gives tools and advice for transforming relationships, focusing energy, and rejuvenating those parts of ourselves that have been laid waste by anger. His extraordinary wisdom can transform your life and the lives of the people you love, and in the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, can give each reader the power to “change everything.”

God’s playground: A history of Poland (Sân chơi của Chúa: Lịch sử Ba Lan) – Norman Davies

Goodreads rating: 4.2

The most comprehensive survey of Polish history available in English, God’s playground demonstrates Poland’s importance in European history from medieval times to the present. Abandoning the traditional nationalist approach to Polish history, Norman Davies instead stresses the country’s rich multinational heritage and places the development of the Jewish German, Ukrainian, and Lithuanian communities firmly within the Polish context.

Davies emphasizes the cultural history of Poland through a presentation of extensive poetical, literary, and documentary texts in English translation. In each volume, chronological chapters of political narrative are interspersed with essays on religious, social, economic, constitutional, philosophical, and diplomatic themes.

* * *

With God’s playground, Davies has proven himself to be one of the greatest historians, historical writers, and historical theorists that the English language has known. Davies combines the narrative and thematic approaches to achieve a historical study that provides a chronology of events as well as an understanding of deeper changes and cultural contexts. How Davies does this? First, he provides a chapter that is written in the traditional narrative style from n-date to x-date. Then he follows that up with several chapters on each facet of Polish life and how that developed from n-date to x-date. Typically, he uses political, military, economic, religious, and cultural (the arts, etc.) as his primary themes. By using this technique Davies is able to impart much more knowledge and much deeper understanding to his readers. Finally, these two volumes also contain some of the best and most useful maps encountered in any history book. The maps alone are worth the price of the book, and anyone teaching a European history course will find them to be invaluable in helping students understand Eastern Europe.

Guns, germs, and steel: The fates of human societies – Jared Diamond

Goodreads rating: 4.2

This book is

  • The New York Times bestseller;
  • in TIME magazine’s list of “All-time 100 best non-fiction books”;
  • winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science, the Rhone-Poulenc Prize, and the Commonwealth Club of California’s Gold Medal.

In this “artful, informative, and delightful” (William H. McNeill, New York Review of Books) book, Jared Diamond convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Societies that had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed writing, technology, government, and organized religion—as well as nasty germs and potent weapons of war—and adventured on sea and land to conquer and decimate preliterate cultures. A major advance in our understanding of human societies, Guns, Germs, and Steel chronicles the way that the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history.

Het achterhuis dagboekbrieven 16 Juni – 1 Augustus 1944 (The diary of a young girl; Nhật ký Anne Frank) – Anne Frank

Goodreads rating: 4.2

Anne Frank 2This book is in BookBub’s list of “Reading challenge: 55 non-fiction books to read in a lifetime”.

It is 1942 in Holland and the Germans have invaded. All Jewish people are frightened for their lives, so the Frank family hide. Life is dangerous but they hope for the best – until they are finally discovered. Anne Frank was a real person, and this is her diary.

* * *

This book is the writings from the Dutch language diary kept by Anne Frank while she was in hiding for two years with her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The family was apprehended in 1944, and Anne Frank died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945. The diary was retrieved by Miep Gies, who gave it to Anne’s father, Otto Frank, the family’s only known survivor, just after the war was over. The diary has since been published in more than 60 languages.

* * *

Anne Frank’s The diary of a young girl is among the most enduring documents of the twentieth century. Since its publication in 1947, it has been a beloved and deeply admired monument to the indestructible nature of the human spirit, read by millions of people and translated into more than fifty-five languages. Doubleday, which published the first English translation of the diary in 1952, now offers a new translation that captures Anne’s youthful spirit and restores the original material omitted by Anne’s father, Otto – approximately thirty percent of the diary. The elder Frank excised details about Anne’s emerging sexuality, and about the often-stormy relations between Anne and her mother.

How not to die (Ăn gì không chết) – Michael Greger & Gene Stone

Goodreads rating: 4.5

Sub-title: Discover the foods scientifically proven to prevent and reverse disease. From the physician behind the wildly popular website, How not to die reveals the groundbreaking scientific evidence behind the only diet that can prevent and reverse many of the causes of disease-related death.

An gi khong chetThe vast majority of premature deaths can be prevented through simple changes in diet and lifestyle. In How not to die, Dr. Michael Greger, the internationally-renowned nutrition expert, physician, and founder of, examines the fifteen top causes of premature death in America — heart disease, various cancers, diabetes, Parkinson’s, high blood pressure, and more — and explains how nutritional and lifestyle interventions can sometimes trump prescription pills and other pharmaceutical and surgical approaches, freeing us to live healthier lives.

The simple truth is that most doctors are good at treating acute illnesses but bad at preventing chronic disease. The fifteen leading causes of death claim the lives of 1.6 million Americans annually. This doesn’t have to be the case. By following Dr. Greger’s advice, all of it backed up by strong scientific evidence, you will learn which foods to eat and which lifestyle changes to make to live longer.

History of prostate cancer in your family? Put down that glass of milk and add flaxseed to your diet whenever you can. Have high blood pressure? Hibiscus tea can work better than a leading hypertensive drug-and without the side effects. Fighting off liver disease? Drinking coffee can reduce liver inflammation. Battling breast cancer? Consuming soy is associated with prolonged survival. Worried about heart disease (the number 1 killer in the United States)? Switch to a whole-food, plant-based diet, which has been repeatedly shown not just to prevent the disease but often stop it in its tracks.

In addition to showing what to eat to help treat the top fifteen causes of death, How not to die includes Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen — a checklist of the twelve foods we should consume every day. Full of practical, actionable advice and surprising, cutting edge nutritional science, these doctor’s orders are just what we need to live longer, healthier lives.

I know why the caged bird sings – Maya Angelou

Goodreads rating: 4.1

I know why the caged bird singsThis book is in

  • TIME magazine’s list of “All-time 100 best non-fiction books”;
  • BookBub’s list of “Reading challenge: 55 non-fiction books to read in a lifetime”

The original essays in this set examine Maya Angelou’s pivotal work from several perspectives. One essay discusses the historical events that surround Angelou’s life: the civil rights, black power, and black arts movements as well as the emergence of black women’s literature. Another provides a survey of the major pieces of criticism on Caged Bird, paying special attention to the book’s early reception and how it fits in the autobiographical genre and the history of slave narratives, as well as issues of race, gender, aesthetics, and identity. The third essay discusses the struggle for black identity through readings of both Caged Bird and James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk.

How to win friends and influence people (Đắc nhân tâm) 
– Dale Carnegie

Goodreads rating: 4.7

This book is in

  • TIME magazine’s list of “All-time 100 best non-fiction books”;
  • The Guardian‘s 100 best non-fiction books of all time.

This is a self-help book first published in 1936. Over 30 million copies have been sold world-wide, making it one of the best-selling books of all time. In 2011, it was number 19 on Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential books.

In 1934, Leon Shimkin of the publishing firm Simon & Schuster took one of Carnegie’s 14-week courses; afterward, Shimkin persuaded Carnegie to let a stenographer take notes from the course to be revised for publication. The book sold exceptionally well from the start, going through 17 editions in its first year alone.

In 1981, a revised edition containing updated language and anecdotes was released. The revised edition reduced the number of sections from six to four, eliminating sections on effective business letters and improving marital satisfaction.

In 2011, a third edition was released, How to win friends and influence people in the digital age. Written by Dale Carnegie & Associates, it applies Carnegie’s prescription for relationship and business success to the digital age.

iGen – Jean M. Twenge

Goodreads rating: 4.2

The title iGen may make you confused, so read its subtitle: Why today’s super-connected kids are growing up less rebellious, more tolerant, less happy – and completely unprepared for adulthood – and what that means for the rest of us. When your kid is small, you read a book on baby care, and when he/she grows up a bit, a book child psychology. Now your child is a teenager, you are recommended to read this book.

A highly readable and entertaining first look at how today’s members of iGen—the children, teens, and young adults born in the mid-1990s and later—are vastly different from their Millennial predecessors, and from any other generation, from the renowned psychologist and author of Generation Me.

With generational divides wider than ever, parents, educators, and employers have an urgent need to understand today’s rising generation of teens and young adults. Born in the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s and later, iGen is the first generation to spend their entire adolescence in the age of the smartphone. With social media and texting replacing other activities, iGen spends less time with their friends in person – perhaps why they are experiencing unprecedented levels of anxiety, depression, and loneliness.

But technology is not the only thing that makes iGen distinct from every generation before them; they are also different in how they spend their time, how they behave, and in their attitudes toward religion, sexuality, and politics. They socialize in completely new ways, reject once sacred social taboos, and want different things from their lives and careers. More than previous generations, they are obsessed with safety, focused on tolerance, and have no patience for inequality. iGen is also growing up more slowly than previous generations: eighteen-year-olds look and act like fifteen-year-olds used to.

As this new group of young people grows into adulthood, we all need to understand them: Friends and family need to look out for them; businesses must figure out how to recruit them and sell to them; colleges and universities must know how to educate and guide them. And members of iGen also need to understand themselves as they communicate with their elders and explain their views to their older peers. Because where iGen goes, so goes our nation – and the world.

Dr. Twenge frequently gives talks and seminars on teaching and working with today’s young generation based on a dataset of 11 million young people. Her audiences have included college faculty and staff, high school teachers, military personnel, camp directors, and corporate executives. Her research has been covered in Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, USA Today, U.S. News and World Report, and The Washington Post, and she has been featured on Today, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Fox and Friends, NBC Nightly News, Dateline NBC, and National Public Radio.

Influence: The psychology of persuasion
(Những đòn tâm lý trong thuyết phục)
– Robert Cialdini

Goodreads rating: 4.2

Influence, the classic book on persuasion, explains the psychology of why people say “yes” – and how to apply these understandings. Dr. Robert Cialdini is the seminal expert in the rapidly expanding field of influence and persuasion. His thirty-five years of rigorous, evidence-based research along with a three-year program of study on what moves people to change behavior has resulted in this highly acclaimed book.

You’ll learn the six universal principles, how to use them to become a skilled persuader – and how to defend yourself against them. Perfect for people in all walks of life, the principles of Influence will move you toward profound personal change and act as a driving force for your success.

* * *

Robert Cialdini is the Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University and was a visiting professor of marketing, business and psychology at Stanford University, as well as at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

La mélodie secrète (Giai điệu bí ẩn; The secret melody) – Trịnh Xuân Thuận

Goodreads rating: 4.5 (for the English translation)

“If the cosmos is vast,” says astrophysicist Trinh Xuan Thuan, “it is by no means silent.” Nature “delights in continuously sending us her notes of music.” In this book, originally published in English by Oxford University Press in 1995 and now back in print, Thuan explores the universe, life, and human consciousness in terms of a musical score. As prelude, Thuan describes the many other cosmologies that preceded the Big Bang theory of creation: the magical universe of cavemen, the ancient Chinese concept of the universe, the mathematical universe introduced by Pythagoras, and the helio-centric universe of Copernicus.

He then explores the work of Galileo, Thycho Brahe, and other early scientists before moving on to our current understanding of the universe, the ways in which modern astronomers study the universe, the equipment they use, and their major discoveries. An examination of the origin and nature of the universe inevitably raises philosophical and religious questions. Thuan addresses these questions, presenting a provocative case for the anthropic principle and illuminating the place of God in a Big Bang cosmology. Blending up-to-the-minute descriptions of the forefront of astronomy with thoughtful reflections on science’s possible impact on philosophical and religious belief, this sweeping monograph explores the boundary between science and philosophy, science and art, and science and religion.

With many beautiful and informative illustrations, The secret melody presents an enthralling look at our endless efforts to understand the cosmos and to hear the music of the stars.

Last words of notable people – William B. Brahms

Goodreads rating: 4.5

With the sub-title Final words of more than 3500 noteworthy people throughout history, this book is a comprehensive reference work on “last words,” “dying words” or “famous last words”. A work of unprecedented scope and study… Covering the final utterances of noted people over the span of thousands of years and the entire globe; each person is presented with a relevant biographical treatment. Each entry is meticulously documented, citing best sources available. Connection or relation of cited sources to entries are presented. Accuracy or veracity of reputed “last words” is often questioned. Conflicting variations of reported “last words” for many entries are presented for the purpose of further research. Contains a detailed selected annotated bibliography of significant “last word” sources. Well indexed. The conclusion of more than a dozen years work and consultation of tens of thousands of sources, Last words of notable people is far and away the definitive compilation and treatment of recorded “last words” compiled to date.

Little house on the prairie (Ngôi nhà nhỏ trên thảo nguyên) – Laura Ingalls Wilder

Goodreads rating: 4.2

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls 1936 CLittle House on the Prairie is a series of American children’s novels written by Laura Ingalls Wilder based on her childhood in the northern Midwestern United States during the 1870s and 1880s. Eight were completed by Wilder, and published by Harper & Brothers from 1932 and 1943. The first draft of a ninth novel was published posthumously in 1971 and is commonly included in the Little House series.

Little house on the prairie is also the title of the third-published book in the series.

* * *

From her images of the “great, dark trees of the Big Woods” to the endless grass of the prairies in the west, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s depictions of frontier life for America’s pioneers in her beloved “Little House” series of children’s books have won her countless fans.

Memoirs of a geisha (Hồi ký của một kỹ nữ; Đời kỹ nữ) – Arthur Golden

Goodreads rating: 4.1

This historical novel, told in first person perspective, tells the story of a fictional geisha working in Kyoto, Japan, before and after World War II.

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A literary sensation and runaway bestseller, this brilliant debut novel presents with seamless authenticity and exquisite lyricism the true confessions of one of Japan’s most celebrated geisha.

Speaking to us with the wisdom of age and in a voice at once haunting and startlingly immediate, Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha. It begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, when, as a nine-year-old girl with unusual blue-gray eyes, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. We witness her transformation as she learns the rigorous arts of the geisha: dance and music; wearing kimono, elaborate makeup, and hair; pouring sake to reveal just a touch of inner wrist; competing with a jealous rival for men’s solicitude and the money that goes with it.

In Memoirs of a geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl’s virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion. It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction – at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful – and completely unforgettable.

* * *

The geisha who was the main source for Arthur Golden’s best-selling Memoirs of a Geisha has hit back at what she claims are slurs on her profession by releasing her own memoirs. Mineko Iwasaki, now 52 [by 2001] and in retirement, published her book in Japan in order to dispel the idea that geisha are prostitutes, as she claims the original work had suggested.

Memoirs of a Geisha portrays the struggle of Sayuri, a young girl, to become a geisha. A key part of the story tells how her virginity was auctioned to the highest bidder. But Mrs Iwasaki was incensed at the suggestion that geisha are forced to sell their bodies. In her book she responds by detailing how she lost her virginity at the age of 21 to Shintaro Katsu, the Japanese actor and a married man, with whom she had fallen in love. According to her account, when the actor first approached her she tried to prevaricate by insisting that he would have to visit her every day for three years, after which they would talk again. Only after he had faithfully fulfilled her condition did she decide to become his lover.

She stresses that geisha, or geiko as they are called in Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, are independent professionals whose job is to entertain with conversation and performances of traditional arts.

Mrs Iwasaki gave extensive interviews to Golden in 1992 when he was carrying out research for his book. But in April this year she brought legal action against the writer, alleging that he had breached her confidentiality and had damaged her reputation. She said she had considered taking her own life when she read the book and asked that her name be removed from the acknowledgments. However, the book came out bearing the words: “I am indebted to one person above all others. Mineko Iwasaki.”

Mrs Iwasaki’s book, The Geiko Mineko’s Struggle, has yet to appear on any bestseller list in Japan, partly because the author is apparently reluctant to advertise the fact that she was the source behind Golden’s work. Kodansha, her publisher, printed a fairly small first run of 17,000 books.

Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness – Richard H. Thaler,  Cass R. Sunstein

Goodreads rating: 3.8

This book is

in New York Times bestseller

named a Best Book of the Year by The Economist and the Financial Times.

Every day we make choices – about what to buy or eat, about financial investments or our children’s health and education, even about the causes we champion or the planet itself. Unfortunately, we often choose poorly. Nudge is about how we make these choices and how we can make better ones. Using dozens of eye-opening examples and drawing on decades of behavioral science research, Nobel Prize winner Richard H. Thaler and Harvard Law School professor Cass R. Sunstein show that no choice is ever presented to us in a neutral way, and that we are all susceptible to biases that can lead us to make bad decisions. But by knowing how people think, we can use sensible “choice architecture” to nudge people toward the best decisions for ourselves, our families, and our society, without restricting our freedom of choice.

* * *

The book’s central claim is this: since people are so susceptible to various counterproductive behavioural and cognitive tendencies, it is appropriate for social planners, policy makers, and other ‘choice architects’ to modify decision-making situations in ways that nudge people toward better choices, where ‘nudging’ is distinguished from ‘forcing’ by the fact that people can still choose the de-emphasized option relatively easily

Papillon (Papillon; Người tù khổ sai) – Henry Charrière

Goodreads rating: 4.2

PapillonThis is an autobiographical novel written by Henri Charrière, first published in France in 1969. Papillon is Charrière’s nickname, deriving from a butterfly tattoo inscribed on his chest. The novel details Papillon’s incarceration and subsequent escape from the French penal colony of French Guiana, and covers a 14-year period between 1931 and 1945.

The book was an immediate sensation and instant bestseller, achieving widespread fame and critical acclaim, and is considered a modern-day classic. Upon publication it spent 21 weeks as number 1 bestseller in France, with more than 1.5 million copies sold in France alone. 239 editions of the book have since been published worldwide, in 21 different languages.

Although Charrière always maintained, until his death in 1973, that events in the book were truthful and accurate (allowing for minor lapses in memory), since the book’s publication there have been questions raised about its accuracy. However, there are a number of facts which are not in question, which do validate Charrière’s novel.

Papillon is perhaps best regarded as a narrative novel, depicting the adventures of Charrière and several fellow inmates.

Perfect spy (Điệp viên hoàn hảo) – Larry Berman

Goodreads rating: 4.1

The sub-title is: The incredible double life of Pham Xuan An, Time magazine reporter & Vietnamese communist agent.

During the Vietnam War, Time reporter Phạm Xuân Ẩn befriended everyone who was anyone in Saigon, including American journalists such as David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan, the CIA’s William Colby, and the legendary Colonel Edward Lansdale – not to mention the most influential members of the South Vietnamese government and army. None of them ever guessed that he was also providing strategic intelligence to Ha Noi, smuggling invisible ink messages into the jungle inside egg rolls. His early reports were so accurate that General Giap joked, “We are now in the U.S. war room.”

In the book, Larry Berman, who Ẩn considered his official American biographer, chronicles the extraordinary life of one of the twentieth century’s most fascinating spies.

* * *

This book is a well written description of General Pham Xuan An’s activities as a communist agent in South Vietnam from the 1940s through 1975 and afterwards. It is a biography of a young nationalist disillusioned by the Japanese occupation, disgusted by the French reoccupation, and drawn into the communist fight against all comers. It documents the journey of one man to understand the enemy. It is a journey that takes a trained intelligence operative to a small southern California college to study journalism, through internships at an American newspaper and the United Nations, positions with the government of the Republic of Viet Nam, a job with Time Magazine and close personal relationships with senior Vietnamese and American journalists, military officers, and intelligence agents. And all of this was at the direction and for the benefit of communist efforts. At the end, this is a story of a very capable, complicated man who, as the author deftly describes, personifies the complicated and conflicted history of his country.

Through this biography, we see pivotal players in U.S. and Vietnamese history in a different way. People such as Edward Lansdale, William Colby, Nguyen Cao Ky, Stanley Karnow, David Halberstam, Frances FitzGerald, just to name a few, are shown in a new perspective. This book describes the view of one man whose hidden goal was to report the public and private thoughts of as many of the enemy as he could. After reading this book we may, or may not, question anew how we view our history in Vietnam.

Most significantly, from this reviewer’s point of view, the book provides a fascinating insight into the effects of a highly placed agent. It is one of the best examples of the wilderness of mirrors often used to describe the world of intelligence. Behind the narrative lie a host of questions suggesting that many policy makers did not know what they thought they knew. At the same time, the book shows that South Vietnamese or U.S. policy makers did not know their deliberations and plans were soon in their adversaries’ hands. The author’s claims regarding the importance of An’s reporting and effect on specific battles, such as Ap Bac, or campaigns or negotiating tactics deserve further evaluation.

The author does a good job of checking, and quoting, sources who corroborate An’s unique stories and accomplishments. These sources include both current Vietnamese, past South Vietnamese, and U.S. government people, journalists, and others. Nonetheless, this reviewer was left with a feeling of disquiet. Rather than describing those concerns, I recommend readers evaluate the book on their own with the following questions in mind. How do we evaluate the claims of someone who spent his whole life dissembling to others? How do we value the observations of someone whose job it was to influence people with a particular outcome in mind? How trusted are our sources?

Peter the Great: His life and world (Pyotr Đại đế: Người con vĩ đại của nước Nga) – by Robert K. Massie

Goodreads rating: 4.2 [4.5]

Against the monumental canvas of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe and Russia, unfolds the magnificent story of Peter the Great, crowned at the age of 10. A barbarous, volatile feudal tsar with a taste for torture; a progressive and enlightened reformer of government and science; a statesman of vision and colossal significance: Peter the Great embodied the greatest strengths and weaknesses of Russia while being at the very forefront of her development.

Peter_Paul Delaroche-bRobert K. Massie delves deep into the life of this captivating historical figure, chronicling the pivotal events that shaped a boy into a legend – including his ‘incognito’ travels in Europe, his unquenchable curiosity about Western ways, his obsession with the sea and establishment of the stupendous Russian navy, his creation of an unbeatable army, and his relationships with those he loved most: Catherine, his loving mistress, wife, and successor; and Menshikov, the charming, unscrupulous prince who rose to power through Peter’s friendship. Impetuous and stubborn, generous and cruel, a man of enormous energy and complexity, Peter the Great is brought fully to life.

* * *

This historical book is written like an adventure novel, so it is not boring but in fact to the common readership it is easy to read. At the beginning of many chapters, the author presents the geographical or historical background, like the scene of Moscow and the important buildings on Kremlin Quarter, the old traditions in the wedding ceremony, the strelzsy (an equivalent to the musketeers in France), the warfare, the socio-economic background of Holland, England and Poland, the torture methods, the building of St. Peterburg, etc. Therefore, the book is not about Peter only; it is also about old Russia in a big picture, referring to a lot of sources in English and Russian. For this reason, this fascinating book – illustrate by maps and pictures – deserves a rating of 4.5.

Plant materials in Thailand – Uamporn Veesommai, Thaya Janjitikul, Arunee Wongpanasin

Simply put: if you see a tree (wooden) or a plant (non-wooden), consult this comprehensive book, compare the photo with what you see, and you can find the Thai name, the English name and the scientific name of that tree or plant. So handy!

Plants: Why you can’t live without them
– Bill Wolverton & Kozaburo Takenaka

Goodreads rating: 4.2

Though essential to our existence, plants get sidelined in the hustle and bustle of city life. The revolutionary concept of ‘eco-landscaping’ heralds the effort to bring greenery back into the concrete jungle we inhabit. Plants: Why you can’t live without them explores how our homes and offices can be made healthier and more cheerful with plants.

Plants book coverAir-conditioned rooms, synthetic building materials and inadequate ventilation cause numerous respiratory and nervous disorders. The mere presence of plants has been proved to lessen environmental pollution, increase labor productivity and reduce the cost of healthcare. Plants also provide medical herbs and nutritious food that go a very long in extending our lifespan. From the refreshing up of indoor space, to creating a variety of gardens, and to natural methods of waste recycling, plants elaborates the diverse means by which to enhance our living.

Produced after many years of scientific research and data collection, this book is a comprehensive study of the amazing benefits of plants, which are nature’s gift to us and provide us sustenance.

Bill Wolverton is a retired NASA scientist who conducted significant research in the area of environmental pollution, based on a key observation that your office, your apartment and NASA spaceship has one thing in common: indoor contamination. So he grew some plants indoor and evaluated them as a possible means of reducing indoor air pollutants. He used the plants that are also common in Vietnam, so you can find some applications for your sweet home. Kozaburo Takenaka is founder of the Takenaka Garden Afforestation, a plant leasing company in Japan. Together, they give the reader a brief overview of some of our current environmental problems and offers practical proposals for several viable solutions.

Richard Halliburton’s complete book of marvels – Richard Halliburton

Goodreads rating: 4.6

Have you ever wanted to visit the ancient cities of the Aztecs and the Incas? Or see the harbor of Rio de Janeiro? How about treasure hunting — would you like to search for King Solomon’s legendary treasure? You would? Well, then! Come along with Richard Halliburton’s party, and you will see and touch the marvels of the world! You’ll climb Half Dome Mountain in Yosemite National Park, U.S.A., and Popocatepetl in Mexico and Fujiyama in Japan. You’ll swim in the Dead Sea and in the fire-filled waters of the Blue Grotto. You’ll visit New York City and the tombs of the Pharaohs, Moscow and ancient Pompeii, the Rock of Gibraltar and Timbuctoo (yes, this is too a real city named Timbuctoo!) The complete book of marvels will take you to all these places and many more.

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The exciting travels in the New World and Old of America’s foremost adventurer-Fully illustrated with maps and photographs, 2 in 1 book.

Sapiens: A brief history of humankind (Sapiens: Lược sử về loài người) – Yuval Noah Harari

Goodreads rating: 4.3

100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens.

How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?

In this book, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, paleontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come?

Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, the book challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power… and our future.


Shiji (Records of the grand historian; Sử ký) – Sima Qian (Tư Mã Thiên)

Goodreads rating: 4.4 [4.6]

A monumental history of ancient China and the world finished around 94 BC by the Han dynasty official Sima Qian after having been started by his father, Sima Tan, Grand Astrologer to the imperial court. The work covers the world as it was then known to the Chinese and a 2500-year period from the age of the legendary Yellow Emperor to the reign of Emperor Wu of Han in the author’s own time.

The Records has been called a “foundational text in Chinese civilization”. After Confucius and the First Emperor of Qin, “Sima Qian was one of the creators of Imperial China, not least because by providing definitive biographies, he virtually created the two earlier figures.” The Records set the model for the 24 subsequent dynastic histories of China. In contrast to Western historical works, The Records do not treat history as “a continuous, sweeping narrative”, but rather break it up into smaller, overlapping units dealing with famous leaders, individuals, and major topics of significance.

* * *

The work is so voluminous and accurate, after the author checked many documents and went to the sites mentioned in the stories to talk to the local people and to look at the scenes, so that he could feel the essence buried deep below. The book is not only about history in a systematic method (well developed for this time); it is also literature in extensive essays, a comprehensive research work that provides a big socio-economic view. The writer had to work under various constraints in slow transportation, inadequate indexing method…, and pressure from the royal family! For example, he mentioned that a prime minister mainly worked in the imperial palace in order to convey the idea that the queen had an affair with him. Many readers understand the hint but many others do not, such that one translator in the modern time has to provide a footnote to explain this hint. The book deserves a rating of 4.6 – the highest among the books introduced here, the same as The rise and fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer.

Silent spring – Rachel Carson, Linda Lear  (Introduction),
Edward O. Wilson (Afterword)

Goodreads rating: 4.0

The compiler’s class of environmental engineering in 1976-1978 was required to read this book which at that time had already become famous. So I am surprised to see this book is still mentioned in several up-to-date lists of best non-fiction books. Incredible, 50 years after the book was published!

Read this book even if you are not working in the fields of environmental science but you want to know about environmental issues.

In 1996, a follow-up book, Beyond Silent Spring, co-written by H.F. van Emden and David Peakall, was published.

Rachel Carson’s Silent spring was first published in three serialized excerpts in the New Yorker in June of 1962. The book appeared in September of that year and the outcry that followed its publication forced the banning of DDT and spurred revolutionary changes in the laws affecting our air, land, and water. Carson’s passionate concern for the future of our planet reverberated powerfully throughout the world, and her eloquent book was instrumental in launching the environmental movement. It is without question one of the landmark books of the twentieth century.

* * *

The book Silent spring by biologist and nature writer Rachel Carson was published in 1962. Carson’s research on the effect of insecticides (specifically DDT) on bird populations coupled with her moving prose made Silent spring a best-seller, though chemical companies attacked it as unscientific. While noting the benefits of pesticides in fighting insect-borne disease and boosting crop yields, Carson warned about the invisible dangers of indiscriminate insecticide use and its unintended effect on nature. The publication of Silent spring led to an increased public awareness of humanity’s impact on nature and is credited as the beginning of the modern environmental movement, leading to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 and the banning of DDT in 1972.

* * *

Silent spring has been featured in many lists of the best nonfiction books of the twentieth century. Particularly this book is:

  • listed in “The Modern Library 100 Best Non-fiction”, 1998
  • one of the 25 greatest science books of all time, by the editors of Discover Magazine, 2006
  • in the top ten of TIME Magazine’s “All-time best 100 non-fiction books”, 2015

Thai ways – Denis Segaller

Goodreads rating: 4.4

This is a compilation of his regular weekly column in the Bangkok World beginning in 1975. It is considered an essential reference for foreigners living in Thailand. The subsequent book is entiled More Thai ways.

* * *

Thai ways is a delightful collection of nearly everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Thai customs and beliefs, engagingly explained in a grandfatherly way by a long-time English resident of Thailand. Compiled from a series of articles published in the popular weekly column “Thai Ways” from the 1970s, the selections remain as current and informative today as when the author first wrote them. They demystify constructs like the system of royal ranks and the Thai musical scale, and customs like the Loi Krathong festival and the Wai Khru ceremony.

Test your knowledge of these aspects of Thai cultural consciousness:

  • What color is associated with Tuesday?
  • Why was King Mongkut so important?
  • What is the twelve-year cycle?
  • How does one address a Thai?
  • What is the legend of the Buddha’s Footprint?

If you are stumped by any of these, this book is for you. Both tourists and residents alike will find Thai ways to be an enlightening and friendly guide through the perplexities of Thai culture.

The art of happiness (Nghệ thuật tạo hạnh phúc)
– Dalai Lama & Howard C. Cutler

Goodreads rating: 3.9

Nearly every time you see him, he’s laughing, or at least smiling. And he makes everyone else around him feel like smiling. He’s the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet, a Nobel Prize winner, and an increasingly popular speaker and statesman. What’s more, he’ll tell you that happiness is the purpose of life, and that “the very motion of our life is towards happiness.”

How to get there has always been the question. He’s tried to answer it before, but he’s never had the help of a psychiatrist to get the message across in a context we can easily understand. Through conversations, stories, and meditations, the Dalai Lama shows us how to defeat day-to-day anxiety, insecurity, anger, and discouragement.

Together with Dr. Cutler, he explores many facets of everyday life, including relationships, loss, and the pursuit of wealth, to illustrate how to ride through life’s obstacles on a deep and abiding source of inner peace.

The Cambridge history of ancient China: From the origins of civilization to 221 BC – Michael Loewe (Editor), Edward L. Shaughnessy

Goodreads rating: 3.9

This book provides a survey of the cultural, intellectual, political, and institutional developments of the pre-imperial period. The four sub-periods of Shang, Western Zhou, Spring and Autumn and Warring States, are described on the basis of literary and material sources and the evidence of recently found manuscripts. Chapters on the prehistoric background, the growth of language, and relations with the peoples of Central Asia provide the major context of China’s achievements in the 1,500 years under review. The teachings of China’s early masters are set alongside what is known of the methods of astronomers, physicians and diviners. A final chapter leads the reader forward to imperial times, as described in the volumes of The Cambridge History of China.

The ecological rift – John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, Richard York

Goodreads rating: 4.4

This is the winner of the 2010 Gerald L. Young Book Award, bestowed by the Society for Human Ecology

Humanity in the 21st century is facing what might be described as its ultimate environmental catastrophe: the destruction of the climate that has nurtured human civilization and with it the basis of life on earth as we know it. All ecosystems on the planet are now in decline. Enormous rifts have been driven through the delicate fabric of the biosphere. The economy and the earth are headed for a fateful collision – if we don’t alter course.

In The ecological rift: Capitalism’s war on the Earth, environmental sociologists John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, and Richard York offer a radical assessment of both the problem and the solution. They argue that the source of our ecological crisis lies in the paradox of wealth in capitalist society, which expands individual riches at the expense of public wealth, including the wealth of nature. In the process, a huge ecological rift is driven between human beings and nature, undermining the conditions of sustainable existence: a rift in the metabolic relation between humanity and nature that is irreparable within capitalist society, since integral to its very laws of motion.

Critically examining the sanguine arguments of mainstream economists and technologists, Foster, Clark, and York insist instead that fundamental changes in social relations must occur if the ecological (and social) problems presently facing us are to be transcended. Their analysis relies on the development of a deep dialectical naturalism concerned with issues of ecology and evolution and their interaction with the economy. Importantly, they offer reasons for revolutionary hope in moving beyond the regime of capital and toward a society of sustainable human development.

* * *

Economics has been criticized for years by other social scientists, particularly sociologists, for many of the same reasons that authors present. Economists create elegant mathematical models that unfortunately do not explain reality very well. This is certainly a problem when dealing with poverty and other social issues, but when pertaining to the viability of the global life support system the limitations seem worth reemphasizing. Yet, they point out that many disciplines, including sociology, suffer from the failure to integrate humanity with the nonhuman world in a dialectical manner. What is necessary is for a “realist constructivism” perspective in which the relationship between the two is seen as mutually influential and continually unfolding.

As the book points out, one of the most troubling issues in neoclassical economics, and similarly in modern accounting standards, is the under-valuation of the natural environment and the corresponding ability to under-expense its degradation. This is the externalization problem; i.e., the ecological costs of private activity are accrued to the public, or at best, to the state for cleanup. This is a significant issue for healthcare, as particulate emissions from fossil fuel combustion are known to increase asthma rates, among other health problems due to low quality environments. The oil “spill” in the Gulf and the on-going nuclear disaster in Japan are only the most well-known of recent ecological costs that will be primarily borne by the public and nature. The authors point to the loss of the distinction between value and wealth as the original sin here by occluding the appreciation of nature as having a value beyond what it can command in the marketplace.

* * *

John Bellamy Foster has been a pioneering writer on Marxist approaches to climate change and ecology. His book Marx’s Ecology overturned many of the stereotypical interpretations of Karl Marx as somebody unconcerned about the state of the natural world. Foster built upon Marx’s writings on topics as diverse as the effects of early capitalist agriculture on soil erosion to evolutionary theory, to reassert a vision of Marxism as a holistic worldview of which ecology is an integral part. More recently Foster, along with his co-authors Brett Clark and Richard York, has written many articles in the US publication Monthly Review which seek to relate this interpretation to contemporary capitalism.

It is these articles that form the basis of The ecological rift: Capitalism’s war on the Earth. As its subtitle suggests, the authors locate the causes of the degradation of our environment within the workings of the capitalist system.

The book has a number of strengths. The authors cast the net of their analysis much more widely than simply climate change, taking into account a whole range of “planetary boundaries” which are threatened by industrial capitalism. They argue that, in key areas such as biodiversity loss and chemical pollution, the ecosystem is at a tipping point. Moreover, they show how the interconnectedness of these planetary boundaries exacerbates the scale of the crisis we face.

The book rails against those social and natural scientists who seek to promote sustainable capitalism and market-based solutions to the ecological crisis, arguing that there needs to be a far more thoroughgoing critique of the fundamentals of the system than “mainstream environmental technocrats” are capable of. Over the course of the book, the authors present a well-argued and incredibly thorough analysis of the environmental crisis.

The genesis of the book as a collection of articles leads to more repetition than is necessary, but this is a minor criticism. More serious criticism is needed of the means proposed of healing the ecological rift. The authors build on an interesting discussion of the Hungarian Marxist István Mészáros’s work on the Marxist theory of alienation and his concept of “absolute limits to capital” to suggest that the only solution to the crisis is the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and its replacement with a 21st century socialism. At this point the book lurches into all too typical generalizations about “movements in the Global South” in which the people and governments of Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela and Brazil take centre stage.

This book is an invaluable resource for anybody who wants to get to grips with a radical Marxist interpretation of the totality of the ecological crisis faced by the planet. But readers should not expect proposals for solutions rooted in working class activity which do not slip into Third Worldism.

* * *

This book is desperately needed, because it ends any illusion that we can solve our pressing environmental crises within the same system that created them.
– Annie Leonard, author and host, Story of Stuff

It is a scholarly, well-referenced, and important contribution.
– Herman E. Daly, Professor Emeritus, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland and author, Beyond Growth

This timely new work promises to become a basic resource in understanding the incompatibility between capitalism and ecology, and also in arguing for the ecological dimensions of any future socialism.
– Fredric Jameson, Professor, Duke University; author, Valences of the Dialectic

The Ecological Rift deserves to – and needs to – become a classic in its field.
– Simon Butler, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

John Bellamy Foster is professor of sociology at the University of Oregon and author of The Ecological Revolution, The Great Financial Crisis (with Fred Magdoff), Ecology against Capitalism, Marx’s Ecology, and The Vulnerable Planet.

Brett Clark is assistant professor of sociology at North Carolina State University. He is coauthor (with John Bellamy Foster and Richard York) of Critique of Intelligent Design.

Richard York is associate professor of sociology at the University of Oregon. He is co-editor of the journal Organization & Environment and coauthor (with John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark) of Critique of Intelligent Design.

The essays of Warren Buffett – Warren Buffett & Lawrence A. Cunningham

Goodreads rating: 4.4

This is a must read for anybody interested in investment, management or business in general. It not only provides, in my opinion, the most sound investment strategies and advice, but also provides guidelines on how to run businesses with moral integrity and focus on providing value. It heavily criticizes various self-serving practices of “modern” CEOs, while at the same time not saying CEOs should not be well compensated.

+ The last lecture – Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow

Goodreads rating: 4.3

When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn’t have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave, ‘Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams’, wasn’t about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because time is all you have and you may find one day that you have less than you think). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.

Randy Pausch
Randy Pausch

In this book, Randy Pausch has combined the humour, inspiration, and intelligence that made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible form. It is a book that will be shared for generations to come.

Excerpts from the book Introduction:

I have ten tumors in my liver and I have only a few months left to live.

I am a father of three young children, and married to the woman of my dreams. While I could easily feel sorry for myself, that wouldn’t do them, or me, any good.

So, how to spend my very limited time?

The obvious part is being with, and taking care of, my family. While I still can, I embrace every moment with them, and do the logistical things necessary to ease their path into a life without me.

The less obvious part is how to teach my children what I would have taught them over the next twenty years. They are too young now to have those conversations. All parents want to teach their children right from wrong, what we think is important, and how to deal with the challenges life will bring. We also want them to know some stories from our own lives, often as a way to teach them how to lead theirs. My desire to do that led me to give a “last lecture” at Carnegie Mellon University. […]

If I were a painter, I would have painted for them. If I were a musician, I would have composed music. But I am a lecturer. So I lectured.

I lectured about the joy of life, about how much I appreciated life, even with so little of my own left. I talked about honesty, integrity, gratitude, and other things I hold dear. And I tried very hard not to be boring.

This book is a way for me to continue what I began on stage. […]

None of this is a replacement for a living parent. […] it’s about doing the best you can with limited resources. Both the lecture and this book are my attempts to do exactly that.

The Nazi officer’s wife – Edith Hahn Beer & Susan Dworkin

Goodreads rating: 4.2

Edith Hahn was an outspoken young woman in Vienna when the Gestapo forced her into a ghetto and then into a labor camp. When she returned home months later, she knew she would become a hunted woman and went underground. With the help of a Christian friend, she emerged in Munich as Grete Denner. There she met Werner Vetter, a Nazi Party member who fell in love with her. Despite Edith’s protests and even her eventual confession that she was Jewish, he married her and kept her identity a secret.

In wrenching detail, Edith recalls a life of constant, almost paralyzing fear. She tells of German officials who casually questioned the lineage of her parents; of how, when giving birth to her daughter, she refused all painkillers, afraid that in an altered state of mind she might reveal something of her past; and of how, after her husband was captured by the Soviet army, she was bombed out of her house and had to hide while drunken Russian soldiers raped women on the street.

Yet despite the risk it posed to her life, Edith created a remarkable record of survival. She saved every document and set of papers issued to her, as well as photographs she managed to take inside labor camps. Now part of the permanent collection at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., these hundreds of documents, several of which are included in this volume, form the fabric of a gripping new chapter in the history of the Holocaust — complex, troubling, and ultimately triumphant.

The book was made into a movie with the same name, directed by Liz Garbus.

The pianist: The extraordinary story of one man’s survival in Warsaw, 1939–45 (Nghệ sĩ dương cầm)
– Władysław Szpilman, Anthea Bell (Translator)

GoodReads rating: 4.2

This book is in the BookBub’s list of “Reading challenge: 55 nonfiction books to read in a lifetime”.

The last live broadcast on Polish Radio, on September 23, 1939, was Chopin’s Nocturne in C# Minor, played by a young pianist named Wladyslaw Szpilman, until his playing was interrupted by German shelling. It was the same piece and the same pianist, when broadcasting resumed six years later. The Pianist is Szpilman’s account of the years in-between, of the death and cruelty inflicted on the Jews of Warsaw and on Warsaw itself, related with a dispassionate restraint borne of shock. Szpilman, born in 1911, has not looked at his description since he wrote it in 1946 (the same time as Primo Levi’s If this is a man?; it is too personally painful. The rest of us have no such excuse.

Szpilman’s family were deported to Treblinka, where they were exterminated; he survived only because a music-loving policeman recognized him. This was only the first in a series of fatefully lucky escapes that littered his life as he hid among the rubble and corpses of the Warsaw Ghetto, growing thinner and hungrier, yet condemned to live. Ironically it was a German officer, Wilm Hosenfeld, who saved Szpilman’s life by bringing food and an eiderdown to the derelict ruin where he discovered him. Hosenfeld died seven years later in a Stalingrad labour camp, but portions of his diary, reprinted here, tell of his outraged incomprehension of the madness and evil he witnessed, thereby establishing an effective counterpoint to ground the nightmarish vision of the pianist in a desperate reality.

Szpilman originally published his account in Poland in 1946, but it was almost immediately withdrawn by Stalin’s Polish minions as it unashamedly described collaborations by Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Poles and Jews with the Nazis. In 1997 it was published in Germany after Szpilman’s son found it on his father’s bookcase. This admirably robust translation by Anthea Bell is the first in the English language. There were 3,500,000 Jews in Poland before the Nazi occupation; after it there were 240,000. Wladyslaw Szpilman’s extraordinary account of his own miraculous survival offers a voice across the years for the faceless millions who lost their lives.

The rise and fall of the Third Reich
(Sự trỗi dậy và suy tàn của Đế chế Thứ Ba)
– William L. Shirer

Goodreads rating: 4.3 [4.5]

This book is in TIME magazine’s list of “All-time 100 best non-fiction books”.

Hitler boasted that The Third Reich would last a thousand years. It lasted only 12. But those 12 years contained some of the most catastrophic events Western civilization has ever known.

No other powerful empire ever bequeathed such mountains of evidence about its birth and destruction as the Third Reich. When the bitter war was over, and before the Nazis could destroy their files, the Allied demand for unconditional surrender produced an almost hour-by-hour record of the nightmare empire built by Adolph Hitler. This record included the testimony of Nazi leaders and of concentration camp inmates, the diaries of officials, transcripts of secret conferences, army orders, private letters—all the vast paperwork behind Hitler’s drive to conquer the world.

The famed foreign correspondent and historian William L. Shirer, who had watched and reported on the Nazis since 1925, spent five and a half years sifting through this massive documentation. The result is a monumental study that has been widely acclaimed as the definitive record of one of the most frightening chapters in the history of mankind.

This worldwide bestseller has been acclaimed as the definitive book on Nazi Germany; it is a classic work.

The accounts of how the United States got involved and how Hitler used Mussolini and Japan are astonishing, and the coverage of the war – from Germany’s early successes to her eventual defeat – is fascinating.

* * *

This definitive chronicle of Hitler’s rise to power is hailed by The New York Times as “one of the most important works of history of our time”.

* * *

The author spent considerable effort in going through piles and piles of documents, and combines his observation of real facts, in order to compile this voluminous book. Practically every fact has a reference source in English or German. Therefore, this book deserves a rating of 4.5.

The Second World War – Antony Beevor

Goodreads rating: 4.4

This book is readable and enjoyable for the most part, and is useful for its competent analysis of World War 2. The book discusses all of the battles on all of the fronts of the war. That is a lot of battles. Mr. Beevor goes into detail about commanders, equipment and all that goes into what makes war and battles happen. His approach is not to offer new interpretations, but rather to find new material that expands the scope of the study. Not only does the author treat the whole war as one integrated event, as opposed to splitting it up into Europe and the Pacific, but he shows how one event affected another. He writes in a way that makes it difficult to put the book down. It’s not simply a chronological arrangement of events but a story which is endlessly fascinating.

The one thing that may bother some readers is Mr. Beevor’s descriptions of Hitler. He seemed to be treating him as a puppet rather than as the dictator of the Reich. He never has Hitler fully taking charge of, or giving him responsibility for the Holocaust. It seems like the author takes Hitler off the hook for that horror.

Another drawback is imbalance: too much space given to the Eastern front. With so vast the subject, no-one is perfect. Antony Beevor receives good reviews for his previous book, Stalingrad. Now with The Second World War, you have a good reference for the Eastern front.

The world is flat (Thế giới phẳng) – Thomas Loren Friedman

Goodreads rating: 3.7

The world is flat: A brief history of the twenty-first century is an international best-selling book by that analyzes globalization, primarily in the early 21st century. The title is a metaphor for viewing the world as a level playing field in terms of commerce, wherein all competitors have an equal opportunity. As the first edition cover illustration indicates, the title also alludes to the perceptual shift required for countries, companies, and individuals to remain competitive in a global market in which historical and geographic divisions are becoming increasingly irrelevant.

Friedman himself is a strong advocate of those changes, calling himself a “free-trader” and a “compassionate flatist”, and he criticizes societies that resist the changes. He emphasizes the inevitability of a rapid pace of change and the extent to which the emerging abilities of individuals and developing countries are creating many pressures on businesses and individuals in the United States; he has special advice for Americans and for the developing world (but says almost nothing about Europe).

Friedman’s is a popular work based on much personal research, travel, conversation, and reflection. In his characteristic style, through personal anecdotes and opinions, he combines in The world is flat a conceptual analysis accessible to a broad public.

The world is flat won the inaugural Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award in 2005.

* * *

In this brilliant new book, the award-winning New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman demystifies the brave new world for readers, allowing them to make sense of the often bewildering global scene unfolding before their eyes. With his inimitable ability to translate complex foreign policy and economic issues, Friedman explains how the flattening of the world happened at the dawn of the twenty-first century; what it means to countries, companies, communities, and individuals; and how governments and societies can, and must, adapt. The world is flat is the timely and essential update on globalization, its successes and discontents, powerfully illuminated by one of our most respected journalists.

An expanded and revised version was published in hardcover in April 2006.

+ Thiền tập cho người bận rộn (Peace is every breath: A practice for our busy lives) – Thich Nhat Hanh

Goodreads rating: 4.2

Introduction by Goodreads:

“Among Buddhist leaders influential in the West, Thich Nhat Hanh ranks second only to the Dalai Lama.” —New York Times

“Thich Nhat Hanh is a holy man…. His ideas for peace, if applied, would build a monument to ecumenism, to world brotherhood, to humanity.” —Martin Luther King, Jr., nominating Thich Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967.

In this much-anticipated follow-up to his bestselling classic, Peace is every step, Thich Nhat Hanh—one of the most revered spiritual leaders in the world today—offers an insightful guide to living a fuller life. In this deeply insightful meditation, the world-renowned Vietnamese Zen Buddhist master, poet, scholar, and peace activist illuminates how each of us can incorporate the practice of mindfulness into our every waking moment. In the tradition of The art of happiness and living Buddha, Living Christ, Thich Nhat Hanh’s Peace is every breath opens a pathway to greater spiritual fulfillment through its patient examination of how we live our lives.

Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance – Robert Pirsig

Goodreads rating: 3.7

This book is in TIME magazine’s list of “All-time 100 best non-fiction books”.

Acclaimed as one of the most exciting books in the history of American letters, this modern epic became an instant bestseller upon publication in 1974, transforming a generation and continuing to inspire millions. A narration of a summer motorcycle trip undertaken by a father and his son, the book becomes a personal and philosophical odyssey into fundamental questions of how to live. Resonant with the confusions of existence, Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance is a touching and transcendent book of life.

* * *

“The real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called ‘yourself.” –From Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance (ZMM)

Few books transform a generation and then establish themselves as touchstones for the generations that follow. ZMM is one such book. Years in the writing; rejected by 121 publishers; this modern epic of a man’s search for meaning became an instant bestseller on publication in 1974, acclaimed as one of the most exciting books in the history of American letters. It continues to inspire millions. An autobiography of the mind and body, ZMM is a deceptively simple narration about a motorcycle trip taken by a father and his eleven-year-old son; a summer junket that confronts mortal truths on the journey of life.

Goodreads Ratings

As in any other rating systems, Goodreads Ratings are based on personal perception and, therefore, are for the reference purpose only, to give an idea of the book popularity, not necessarily the true reflection of quality.

The writer decides what books to introduce here before referring to their Goodreads Ratings. In other words, the selection of books is not influenced by their Goodreads Ratings.

The books could be evaluated based the Goodreads Ratings (maximum 5.0) as follows.

4.5 and above: masterpiece
4.0 to below 4.5: excellent
3.5 to below 4.0: very good
3.0 to below 3.5: good

The Guardian’s 100 best non-fiction books of all time

After two years of careful reading, moving backwards through time, Robert McCrum has concluded his selection of the 100 greatest nonfiction books. Take a quick look at five centuries of great writing.

  1. The Sixth Extinction – Elizabeth Kolbert (2014)
    An engrossing account of the looming catastrophe caused by ecology’s “neighbours from hell” – mankind.
  2. The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion (2005)
    This steely and devastating examination of the author’s grief following the sudden death of her husband changed the nature of writing about bereavement.
  3. No Logo – Naomi Klein (1999)
    Naomi Klein’s timely anti-branding bible combined a fresh approach to corporate hegemony with potent reportage from the dark side of capitalism.
  4. Birthday Letters – Ted Hughes (1998)
    These passionate, audacious poems addressed to Hughes’s late wife, Sylvia Plath, contribute to the couple’s mythology and are a landmark in English poetry.
  5. Dreams from My Father – Barack Obama (1995)
    This remarkably candid memoir revealed not only a literary talent, but a force that would change the face of US politics for ever.
  6. A Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawking (1988)
    The theoretical physicist’s mega-selling account of the origins of the universe is a masterpiece of scientific inquiry that has influenced the minds of a generation.
  7. The Right Stuff – Tom Wolfe (1979)
    Tom Wolfe raised reportage to dazzling new levels in his quest to discover what makes a man fly to the moon.
  8. Orientalism – Edward Said (1978)
    This polemical masterpiece challenging western attitudes to the east is as topical today as it was on publication.
  9. Dispatches – Michael Herr (1977)
    A compelling sense of urgency and a unique voice make Herr’s Vietnam memoir the definitive account of war in our time.
  10. The Selfish Gene – Richard Dawkins (1976)
    An intoxicating renewal of evolutionary theory that coined the idea of the meme and paved the way for Professor Dawkins’s later, more polemical works.
  11. North – Seamus Heaney (1975)
    This raw, tender, unguarded collection transcends politics, reflecting Heaney’s desire to move “like a double agent among the big concepts”.
  12. Awakenings – Oliver Sacks (1973)
    Sacks’s moving account of how, as a doctor in the late 1960s, he revived patients who had been neurologically “frozen” by sleeping sickness reverberates to this day.
  13. The Female Eunuch – Germaine Greer (1970)
    The Australian feminist’s famous polemic remains a masterpiece of passionate free expression in which she challenges a woman’s role in society.
  14. Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom – Nik Cohn (1969)
    This passionate account of how rock’n’roll changed the world was written with the wild energy of its subject matter.
  15. The Double Helix – James D Watson (1968)
    An astonishingly personal and accessible account of how Cambridge scientists Watson and Francis Crick unlocked the secrets of DNA and transformed our understanding of life.
  16. Against Interpretation – Susan Sontag (1966)
    The American novelist’s early essays provide the quintessential commentary on the 1960s.
  17. Ariel – Sylvia Plath (1965)
    The groundbreaking collection, revolving around the poet’s fascination with her own death, established Plath as one of the last century’s most original and gifted poets.
  18. The Feminine Mystique – Betty Friedan (1963)
    The book that ignited second-wave feminism captured the frustration of a generation of middle-class American housewives by daring to ask: “Is this all?”
  19. The Making of the English Working Class – EP Thompson (1963)
    This influential, painstakingly compiled masterpiece reads as an anatomy of pre-industrial Britain – and a description of the lost experience of the common man.
  20. Silent Spring – Rachel Carson (1962)
    This classic of American advocacy sparked a nationwide outcry against the use of pesticides, inspired legislation that would endeavour to control pollution, and launched the modern environmental movement in the US.
  21. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions – Thomas S Kuhn (1962)
    The American physicist and philosopher of science coined the phrase “paradigm shift” in a book that is seen as a milestone in scientific theory.
  22. A Grief Observed – CS Lewis (1961)
    This powerful study of loss asks: “Where is God?” and explores the feeling of solitude and sense of betrayal that even non-believers will recognise.
  23. The Elements of Style – William Strunk and EB White (1959)
    Dorothy Parker and Stephen King have both urged aspiring writers towards this crisp guide to the English language where brevity is key.
  24. The Affluent Society – John Kenneth Galbraith (1958)
    An optimistic bestseller, in which JFK’s favoured economist promotes investment in both the public and private sectors.
  25. The Uses of Literacy: Aspects of Working-Class Life – Richard Hoggart (1957) This influential cultural study of postwar Britain offers pertinent truths on mass communication and the interaction between ordinary people and the elites.
  26. Notes of a Native Son – James Baldwin (1955)
    Baldwin’s landmark collection of essays explores, in telling language, what it means to be a black man in modern America.
  27. The Nude: A Study of Ideal Art – Kenneth Clark (1956)
    Clark’s survey of the nude from the Greeks to Picasso foreshadows the critic’s towering claims for humanity in his later seminal work, Civilisation.
  28. The Hedgehog and the Fox – Isaiah Berlin (1953)
    The great historian of ideas starts with an animal parable and ends, via a dissection of Tolstoy’s work, in an existential system of thought.
  29. Waiting for Godot – Samuel Beckett (1952/53)
    A bleakly hilarious, enigmatic watershed that changed the language of theatre and still sparks debate six decades on. An absurdist masterpiece.
  30. A Book of Mediterranean Food – Elizabeth David (1950)
    This landmark recipe book, a horrified reaction to postwar rationing, introduced cooks to the food of southern Europe and readers to the art of food writing.
  31. The Great Tradition – FR Leavis (1948)
    The controversial critic’s statement on English literature is an entertaining, often shocking, dissection of the novel, whose effects are still felt to this day.
  32. The Last Days of Hitler – Hugh Trevor-Roper (1947)
    The historian’s vivid, terrifying account of the Führer’s demise, based on his postwar work for British intelligence, remains unsurpassed.
  33. The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care – Dr Benjamin Spock (1946)
    The groundbreaking manual urged parents to trust themselves, but was also accused of being the source of postwar “permissiveness”.
  34. Hiroshima – John Hersey (1946)
    Hersey’s extraordinary, gripping book tells the personal stories of six people who endured the 1945 atom bomb attack.
  35. The Open Society and Its Enemies – Karl Popper (1945)
    The Austrian-born philosopher’s postwar rallying cry for western liberal democracy was hugely influential in the 1960s.
  36. Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth – Richard Wright (1945)
    This influential memoir of a rebellious southern boyhood vividly evokes the struggle for African American identity in the decades before civil rights.
  37. How to Cook a Wolf – MFK Fisher (1942)
    The American culinary icon was one of the first writers to use food as a cultural metaphor, describing the sensual pleasures of the table with elegance and passion.
  38. Enemies of Promise – Cyril Connolly (1938)
    Connolly’s dissection of the art of writing and the perils of the literary life transformed the contemporary English scene.
  39. The Road to Wigan Pier – George Orwell (1937)
    Orwell’s unflinchingly honest account of three northern towns during the Great Depression was a milestone in the writer’s political development.
  40. The Road to Oxiana – Robert Byron (1937)
    Much admired by Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh, Byron’s dazzling, timeless account of a journey to Afghanistan is perhaps the greatest travel book of the 20th century.
  41. How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie (1936)
    The original self-help manual on American life – with its influence stretching from the Great Depression to Donald Trump – has a lot to answer for.
  42. Testament of Youth – Vera Brittain (1933)
    Brittain’s study of her experience of the first world war as a nurse and then victim of loss remains a powerful anti-war and feminist statement.
  43. My Early Life: A Roving Commission – Winston Churchill (1930)
    Churchill delights with candid tales of childhood and boy’s own adventures in the Boer war that made him a tabloid hero.
  44. Goodbye to All That – Robert Graves (1929)
    Graves’s account of his experiences in the trenches of the first world war is a subversive tour de force.
  45. A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf (1929)
    Woolf’s essay on women’s struggle for independence and creative opportunity is a landmark of feminist thought.
  46. The Waste Land – TS Eliot (1922)
    Eliot’s long poem, written in extremis, came to embody the spirit of the years following the first world war.
  47. Ten Days That Shook the World – John Reed (1919)
    The American socialist’s romantic account of the Russian revolution is a masterpiece of reportage.
  48. The Economic Consequences of the Peace – John Maynard Keynes (1919)
    The great economist’s account of what went wrong at the Versailles conference after the first world war was polemical, passionate and prescient.
  49. The American Language – HL Mencken (1919)
    This declaration of linguistic independence by the renowned US journalist and commentator marked a crucial new chapter in American prose
  50. Eminent Victorians – Lytton Strachey (1918)
    Strachey’s partisan, often inaccurate but brilliant demolitions of four great 19th-century Britons illustrates life in the Victorian period from different perspectives.
  51. The Souls of Black Folk – WEB Du Bois (1903)
    The great social activist’s collection of essays on the African American experience became a founding text of the civil rights movement.
  52. De Profundis – Oscar Wilde (1905)
    There is a thrilling majesty to Oscar Wilde’s tormented tour de force written as he prepared for release from Reading jail.
  53. The Varieties of Religious Experience – William James (1902)
    This revolutionary work written by Henry James’s less famous brother brought a democratising impulse to the realm of religious belief.
  54. Brief Lives – John Aubrey, edited – Andrew Clark (1898)
    Truly ahead of his time, the 17th-century historian and gossip John Aubrey is rightly credited as the man who invented biography.
  55. Personal Memoirs – Ulysses S Grant (1885)
    The civil war general turned president was a reluctant author, but set the gold standard for presidential memoirs, outlining his journey from boyhood onwards.
  56. Life on the Mississippi – Mark Twain (1883)
    This memoir of Samuel Clemens’s time as a steamboat pilot provides insight into his best-known characters, as well as the writer he would become.
  57. Travels With a Donkey in the Cévennes – Robert Louis Stevenson (1879)
    The Scottish writer’s hike in the French mountains with a donkey is a pioneering classic in outdoor literature – and as influential as his fiction.
  58. Nonsense Songs – Edward Lear (1871)
    The Victorians loved wordplay, and few could rival this compendium of verbal delirium by Britain’s “laureate of nonsense”.
  59. Culture and Anarchy – Matthew Arnold (1869)
    Arnold caught the public mood with this high-minded but entertaining critique of Victorian society posing questions about the art of civilised living that still perplex us.
  60. On the Origin of Species – Charles Darwin (1859)
    Darwin’s revolutionary, humane and highly readable introduction to his theory of evolution is arguably the most important book of the Victorian era.
  61. On Liberty – John Stuart Mill (1859)
    This fine, lucid writer captured the mood of the time with this spirited assertion of the English individual’s rights.
  62. The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands – Mary Seacole (1857)
    A gloriously entertaining autobiography by the widely revered Victorian sometimes described as “the black Florence Nightingale”.
  63. The Life of Charlotte Brontë – Elizabeth Gaskell (1857)
    Possibly Gaskell’s finest work – a bold portrait of a brilliant woman worn down by her father’s eccentricities and the death of her siblings.
  64. Walden – Henry David Thoreau (1854)
    This account of one man’s rejection of American society has influenced generations of free thinkers.
  65. Thesaurus – Dr Peter Mark Roget (1852)
    Born of a Victorian desire for order and harmony among nations, this guide to the English language is as unique as it is indispensable.
  66. London Labour and the London Poor – Henry Mayhew (1851)
    The influence of the Victorian journalist’s detailed, dispassionate descriptions of London lower-class life is clear, right up to the present day.
  67. Household Education – Harriet Martineau (1848)
    This protest at the lack of women’s education was as pioneering as its author was in Victorian literary circles.
  68. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave – Frederick Douglass (1845)
    This vivid memoir was influential in the abolition of slavery, and its author would become one of the most influential African Americans of the 19th century.
  69. Essays – RW Emerson (1841)
    New England’s inventor of “transcendentalism” is still revered for his high-minded thoughts on individuality, freedom and nature expressed in 12 essays.
  70. Domestic Manners of the Americans – Frances Trollope (1832)
    Rich in detail and Old World snobbery, Trollope’s classic travelogue identifies aspects of America’s national character still visible today.
  71. An American Dictionary of the English Language – Noah Webster (1828)
    Though a lexicographical landmark to stand alongside Dr Johnson’s achievement, the original sold only 2,500 copies and left its author in debt.
  72. Confessions of an English Opium-Eater – Thomas De Quincey (1822)
    An addiction memoir, by the celebrated and supremely talented contemporary of Coleridge and Wordsworth, outlining his life hooked on the the drug.
  73. Tales from Shakespeare – Charles and Mary Lamb (1807)
    A troubled brother-and-sister team produced one of the 19th century’s bestselling volumes and simplified the complexity of Shakespeare’s plays for younger audiences.
  74. Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa – Mungo Park (1799)
    The Scottish explorer’s account of his heroic one-man search for the river Niger was a contemporary bestseller and a huge influence on Conrad, Melville and Hemingway.
  75. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin – Benjamin Franklin (1793)
    The US founding father’s life, drawn from four different manuscripts, combines the affairs of revolutionary America with his private struggles.
  76. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman – Mary Wollstonecraft (1792)
    This radical text attacked the dominant male thinkers of the age and laid the foundations of feminism.
  77. The Life of Samuel Johnson LLD – James Boswell (1791)
    This huge work is one of the greatest of all English biographies and a testament to one of the great literary friendships.
  78. Reflections on the Revolution in France – Edmund Burke (1790)
    Motivated by the revolution across the Channel, this passionate defence of the aristocratic system is a landmark in conservative thinking.
  79. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano – Olaudah Equiano (1789)
    The most famous slave memoir of the 18th century is a powerful and terrifying read, and established Equiano as a founding figure in black literary tradition.
  80. The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne – Gilbert White (1789)
    This curate’s beautiful and lucid observations on the wildlife of a Hampshire village inspired generations of naturalists.
  81. The Federalist Papers – ‘Publius’ (1788)
    These wise essays clarified the aims of the American republic and rank alongside the Declaration of Independence as a cornerstone of US democracy.
  82. The Diary of Fanny Burney (1778)
    Burney’s acutely observed memoirs open a window on the literary and courtly circles of late 18th-century England.
  83. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire – Edward Gibbon (1776-1788)
    Perhaps the greatest and certainly one of the most influential history books in the English language, in which Gibbon unfolds the narrative from the height of the Roman empire to the fall of Byzantium.
  84. The Wealth of Nations – Adam Smith (1776)
    Blending history, philosophy, psychology and sociology, the Scottish intellectual single-handedly invented modern political economy.
  85. Common Sense – Tom Paine (1776)
    This little book helped ignite revolutionary America against the British under George III.
  86. A Dictionary of the English Language – Samuel Johnson (1755)
    Dr Johnson’s decade-long endeavour framed the English language for the coming centuries with clarity, intelligence and extraordinary wit.
  87. A Treatise of Human Nature – David Hume (1739)
    This is widely seen as the philosopher’s most important work, but its first publication was a disaster.
  88. A Modest Proposal – Jonathan Swift (1729)
    The satirist’s jaw-dropping solution to the plight of the Irish poor is among the most powerful tracts in the English language.
  89. A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain – Daniel Defoe (1727)
    Readable, reliable, full of surprise and charm, Defoe’s Tour is an outstanding literary travel guide.
  90. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding – John Locke (1689)
    Eloquent and influential, the Enlightenment philosopher’s most celebrated work embodies the English spirit and retains an enduring relevance.
  91. The Book of Common Prayer – Thomas Cranmer (1662)
    Cranmer’s book of vernacular English prayer is possibly the most widely read book in the English literary tradition.
  92. The Diary of Samuel Pepys – Samuel Pepys (1660)
    A portrait of an extraordinary Englishman, whose scintillating firsthand accounts of Restoration England are recorded alongside his rampant sexual exploits.
  93. Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial, or A Brief Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns Lately Found in Norfolk – Sir Thomas Browne (1658)
    Browne earned his reputation as a “writer’s writer” with this dazzling short essay on burial customs.
  94. Leviathan – Thomas Hobbes (1651)
    Hobbes’s essay on the social contract is both a founding text of western thought and a masterpiece of wit and imagination.
  95. Areopagitica – John Milton (1644)
    Today, Milton is remembered as a great poet. But this fiery attack on censorship and call for a free press reveals a brilliant English radical.
  96. Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions – John Donne (1624)
    The poet’s intense meditation on the meaning of life and death is a dazzling work that contains some of his most memorable writing.
  97. The First Folio – William Shakespeare (1623)
    The first edition of his plays established the playwright for all time in a trove of 36 plays with an assembled cast of immortal characters.
  98. The Anatomy of Melancholy – Robert Burton (1621)
    Burton’s garrulous, repetitive masterpiece is a compendious study of melancholia, a sublime literary doorstop that explores humanity in all its aspects.
  99. The History of the World – Walter Raleigh (1614)
    Raleigh’s most important prose work, close to 1m words in total, used ancient history as a sly commentary on present-day issues.
  100. King James Bible: The Authorised Version (1611)
    It is impossible to imagine the English-speaking world celebrated in this series without the King James Bible, which is as universal and influential as Shakespeare.
  • This article was amended on 9 April 2018.


TIME magazine’s all-time 100 best non-fiction books

On 30-Aug-2011 TIME magazine announced the list of 100 best non-fiction books written since 1923, the beginning of TIME magazine.

Autobiography / Memoir

  1. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas – Gertrude Stein
  2. Black Boy – Richard Wright
  3. Dreams from My Father – Barack Obama
  4. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – Dave Eggers
  5. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
  6. Manchild in the Promised Land – Claude Brown
  7. Maus – Art Spiegelman
  8. A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway
  9. Notes of a Native Son – James Baldwin
  10. On Writing – Stephen King
  11. Speak, Memory – Vladimir Nabokov
  12. A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson


  1. The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as told to Alex Haley – Malcolm X, Alex Haley, Attallah Shabazz
  2. The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill – William Manchester
  3. The Power Broker – Robert Caro


  1. Capitalism and Freedom – Milton Friedman
  2. Fast Food Nation – Eric Schlosser
  3. The General Theory – John Maynard Keynes
  4. How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
  5. No Logo – Naomi Klein
  6. Unsafe at Any Speed – Ralph Nader
  7. What Color Is Your Parachute? – Richard Nelson Bolles


  1. The American Cinema – Andrew Sarris
  2. A Child of the Century – Ben Hecht
  3. Within the Context of No Context – George W.S. Trow
  4. Mystery Train – Greil Marcus
  5. The Story of Art – H. Gombrich


  1. Against Interpretation, and Other Essays – Susan Sontag
  2. A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf
  3. Slouching Towards Bethlehem – Joan Didion
  4. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again – David Foster Wallace

Food Writing

  1. How to Cook a Wolf – F.K. Fisher
  2. Mastering the Art of French Cooking – Julia Child
  3. The Omnivore’s Dilemma – Michael Pollan


  1. And the Band Played On – Randy Shilts
  2. The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care – Benjamin Spock
  3. The Joy of Sex – Alex Comfort
  4. The Kinsey Reports – Alfred Kinsey
  5. Our Bodies, Ourselves – the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective


  1. The Best and the Brightest – David Halberstam
  2. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee – Dee Brown
  3. Carry Me Home – Diane McWhorter
  4. The Fatal Shore – Robert Hughes
  5. The Gnostic Gospels – Elaine Pagels
  6. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men – James Agee
  7. A People’s History of the United States – Howard Zinn
  8. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich – William L. Shirer


  1. The Closing of the American Mind – Allan Bloom
  2. The End of History and the Last Man – Francis Fukuyama
  3. Godel, Escher, Bach – Douglas Hofstadter
  4. The Hero with a Thousand Faces – Joseph Campbell
  5. Imagined Communities – Benedict Anderson
  6. The Nature and Destiny of Man – Reinhold Niebuhr
  7. Orientalism – Edward Said
  8. Syntactic Structures – Noam Chomsky
  9. A Theory of Justice – John Rawls
  10. Understanding Media – Marshall McLuhan
  11. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert Pirsig

Non-fiction Novels

  1. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test – Tom Wolfe
  2. The Executioner’s Song – Norman Mailer
  3. In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
  4. Out of Africa – Isak Dinesen


  1. All the President’s Men – Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
  2. The Clash of Civilizations – Samuel Huntington
  3. Conscience of a Conservative – Barry Goldwater
  4. God & Man at Yale – William F. Buckley Jr.
  5. Homage to Catalonia – George Orwell
  6. The Making of the President – Theodore White
  7. The Origins of Totalitarianism – Hannah Arendt
  8. The Paranoid Style in American Politics – Richard Hofstadter
  9. What It Takes – Richard Ben Cramer


  1. A Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawking
  2. Coming of Age in Samoa – Margaret Mead
  3. The Double Helix – James Watson
  4. The Emperor of All Maladies – Siddhartha Mukherjee
  5. The Lives of a Cell – Lewis Thomas
  6. The Naked Ape – Desmond Morris
  7. On Human Nature – Edward O. Wilson
  8. The Selfish Gene – Richard Dawkins
  9. Silent Spring – Rachel Carson
  10. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions – Thomas S. Kuhn

Self-Help / Instructional

  1. The Big Book – Alcoholics Anonymous
  2. Elements of Style – Strunk and White

Social History

  1. The American Way of Death – Jessica Mitford
  2. Animal Liberation – Peter Singer
  3. The Beauty Myth – Naomi Wolf
  4. The Death and Life of Great American Cities – Jane Jacobs
  5. The Feminine Mystique – Betty Friedan
  6. Guns, Germs, and Steel – Jared Diamond
  7. Nickel and Dimed – Barbara Ehrenreich
  8. The Other America – Michael Harrington
  9. Why We Can’t Wait – Martin Luther King Jr.
  10. Working – Studs Terkel


  1. Ball Four – Jim Bouton
  2. The Sweet Science – J. Liebling


  1. The Civil War – Shelby Foote
  2. Dispatches – Michael Herr
  3. The Great War and Modern Memory – Paul Fussell
  4. Hiroshima – John Hersey
  5. The Looming Tower – Lawrence Wright

Some remarks from reviewers:

  • The list is extremely US-centric.
  • The list is explicitly restricted to books written in English.
  • The Origin of Species is not on the list because that was written before the cut-off date of 1923.

Best non-fiction books to give as gifts

Over 100 fascinating and must-have book gifts that’ll put you on Santa’s nice list.

By RIF Editorial Team • Oct-2018

Nonfiction encompasses so much—anything that is rooted in truth can be considered nonfiction. Personal essays, cookbooks, DIY manuals, odd and unknown histories, even coloring books fall into this broad category. Here, we’ve got the best gifts for trendsetters, DIYers, and foodies, fascinating looks at our planet and its creatures: these are the best nonfiction books to give as gifts.

Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans – Brian Kilmeade

Before his oft-debated years in the White House, Andrew Jackson was known for his military exploits—specifically the Battle of New Orleans, which played a massive role in ending the War of 1812. Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans tells the story of this battle, and the unlikely combination of forces Jackson used en route to victory. —Tobias Carroll

The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth – Thomas Morris

Medical historian Thomas Morris examines some bizarre and cringe-inducing cases from the past, including the title mystery, which was exactly what it sounds like: people’s teeth were exploding. Other cases include a woman who peed through her nose and a soldier who operated on his own bladder stone. These stranger-than-fiction tales offer more than oddball anecdotes, but teach us a lot about the progression of medicine and the blunders that have gotten us to where we are today. —Jonathan Russell Clark

21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Yuval Noah Harari

Yuval Noah Harari’s past books were nothing short of histories of mankind. Turning his erudite attention to the overwhelming present, Harari gives us blistering insights into some of our most pressing conundrums, such as the relevancy of nation states and religions. This is a book not only for our own learning, but for the education of our children as well. —Jonathan Russell Clark

Brief Answers to the Big Questions – Stephen Hawking

When Stephen Hawking died, the world lost its greatest scientific mind. But fortunately for us, Hawking left behind one final contribution to our collective understanding. Brief Answers to the Big Questions has the super-genius cosmologist tackling important subjects—ranging from the future of humanity to the existence of God—and answering them with his trademark wit, humor, and, of course, intelligence. —Jonathan Russell Clark

Palaces for the People – Eric Klinenberg

NYU professor of sociology Eric Klinenberg posits that rather than shared ideologies, it’s our shared spaces—like libraries, churches, bookstores, and parks—that are America’s keys to coming together. The current climate of extreme division must be amended, and Klinenberg believes we should step out of our heads and into the real world, to the physical places we communally utilize, to find our literal common ground. —Jonathan Russell Clark

The Personality Brokers – Merve Emre

Merve Emre’s The Personality Brokers offers an important look into our obsession with reductive identity labels and the concept of self-definition. In a culture hoping to break away from simplistic categories of who a person can be, Emre’s book is an essential step forward. —Jonathan Russell Clark

The Poison Squad – Deborah Blum

Did you know that milk used to kill thousands of children every year because it contained formaldehyde? Before the Food and Drug Act was passed in 1906, food manufacturers had no oversight and could basically peddle whatever they wanted. That is, until Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley became chief chemist of the agriculture department and began testing food on a group of men known as “the Poison Squad.” Wiley, along with others like Upton Sinclair, waged a war against unsafe food and saved generations of Americans. —Jonathan Russell Clark

Shaping the Future of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – Klaus Schwab

Shaping the Future of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, offers a practical guide to the oncoming shift in human economies and culture. For anyone who hopes to be alive for the near future, this is a must-read. —Jonathan Russell Clark

Everything All at Once – Bill Nye

Bill Nye explains how his personal history—from being an engineer at Boeing to a stand-up comedian to the beloved Science Guy—taught him to look at problems through a nerd’s lens, i.e., with rapacious curiosity, optimism, and a willingness to act, and how this has helped him solve numerous issues he’s personally faced and some that confront the world at large. If you’re going to listen to anyone about tackling problem-solving, who better than the man whose middle name is Science? —Jonathan Russell Clark

The Feather Thief – Kirk Wallace Johnson

In 2009, an American flautist stole hundreds of bird skins from the British Museum of Natural History and then vanished. But why? That’s the question journalist Kirk Wallace Johnson tries to answer in his riveting book, which delves into the niche world of salmon fly-tying (a fascinating topic in and of itself) and uncovers a years-long investigation in the hunt for the criminal behind this strange robbery. —Jonathan Russell Clark

Living with the Gods – Neil MacGregor

Art historian Neil MacGregor, author of the bestseller A History of the World in 100 Objects, takes on religion’s influence on cultures. By examining national narratives and sacred places, he discovers the relationship between beliefs and the society of those who subscribe to them. A rich and educational tour through contemporary religion, Living with the Gods helps us understand how the inarticulable shapes the way we live. —Jonathan Russell Clark

The Indispensable Composers – Anthony Tommasini

As the chief classical music critic for The New York Times, Anthony Tommasini loves to invite participation in his treatment of the greats: he once crowd-sourced a list of the all-time top ten composers (and then horrified some readers by omitting Gustav Mahler—the nerve!). As a concert pianist, he also has a very personal relationship with them. This unabashedly subjective essay collection offers his scholarly and intimate impressions of 17 artists—and invites both neophytes and aficionados to roll up their sleeves and engage with these legacies. —Lauren Oster

The Bullet Journal Method – Ryder Carroll

The Brooklyn designer-inventor-TED-talker Ryder Carroll is to the messy modern schedule what Marie Kondo is to a cluttered home. His old-school Bullet Journal method encourages devotees to plan their 21st-century lives with pen and paper, and since its eruption on social media a few years ago, #bujo has become a very, very big deal. Curious newbies and intentional-living all-stars can bask in Carroll’s analog wisdom with his first book, which promises to help everyone “track the past, order the present, and design the future.” —Lauren Oster

Queer Eye – Antoni Porowski

Netflix’s Fab Five joined forces for a coffee-table-worthy version of the game-changing guidance they offer TV audiences, and it’s much, much more than a how-to manual (though there are plenty of Hip Tips to round out its pages). Each expert helms his own section with input from his co-stars: Antoni Porowski’s food writing, for instance, shares space with favorite food and drink recipes from all five Queer Eye personalities. It’s also a peek behind-the-scenes and a collective celebration of individuality: these guys want everyone to live their best lives. —Lauren Oster

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls – Elena Favilli

Featuring an all-star, all-female cast of narrators—including Alicia Keys, Ashley Judd, Janeane Garofalo, and Esperanza Spalding—Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls reinvents fairy tales by telling the true stories of hundreds of extraordinary women, including Serena Williams, Beyoncé, Cleopatra, and Elizabeth I. —Jonathan Russell Clark

Accessory to War – Neil deGrasse Tyson

“The universe,” writes famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and writer Avis Lang, “is a laboratory for one and a battlefield for the other.” Exploring the often unexamined relationship between science and the military, Accessory to War—narrated by veteran actor Courtney D. Vance—is a fascinating exploration into the ways our greatest discoveries have aided in some of our greatest wars. —Jonathan Russell Clark

True Crime from Texas Monthly – Various

Texas Monthly publishes some of the best and most horrifying true crime stories. This collection of pieces from the magazine features a mother willing to murder to ensure her daughter gets on the cheerleading squad, a high school girl who tries to get her ex-boyfriend to murder her, and a bank robber who tricked police for years by disguising herself as a man. —Jonathan Russell Clark

Well-Read Black Girl – Glory Edim

From the founder of the eponymous book club and online community comes this collection of essays by black women authors. Literary stars like Jacqueline Woodson, Rebecca Walker, and Barbara Smith offer inspiring words for self-discovery—whether to fire up a feminist side, or deepen an appreciation for diversity. —Romy Weinberg

My Reading Journal – Potter Gift

For the literary Luddite, this journal is an attractive tag-along to book club meetings and the perfect bedside table accessory—for those middle-of-the-night musings, or a place to record completed titles. Suggested readings are listed in the back, where they can keep track of loves, hates, and everything in between. —Romy Weinberg

A Drinkable Feast – Philip Greene

Francophiles and mixologists can unite over this tongue-in-cheek history of 1920s Paris. Greene documents cocktails and the ex-pats who loved them—a little like an alcohol-infused survey of the Lost Generation—and even provides authentic recipes. Photos throughout the book transport you to those cafés and bars loved by Hemingway and Fitzgerald. —Romy Weinberg

Liberated Spirits – Hugh Ambrose

A window on the time when two Constitutional Amendments were passed—the 18th, which banned the sale of alcohol, and the 19th, which gave women the right to vote—Liberated Spirits will ignite a conversation around women and politics in the roaring ’20s. Prohibition and voting rights were entwined in a complicated relationship, and readers will love dissecting it. —Romy Weinberg

Geomorphia – Kerby Rosanes

The ebb of the coloring book frenzy has happily separated the wheat from the chaff, and only the best remain. At the top of the list is this wondrous, new single-sided book featuring the polymorphous, intricately detailed, and always stunning images from the creator of three previous transporting books: Fantomorphia, Mythomorphia, and Animorphia. —Elizabeth Anne Hartman

The Ultimate Brush Lettering Guide – Peggy Dean

Indulge in the playful art of a modern, more forgiving style of calligraphy that enables you to letter outside the traditional box with creative flourishes and neat imprecision. The artist behind the Pigeon Letters website shares all her expertise, from choosing pens and paper to templates for labels and cards, all designed to unlock the unbridled calligrapher. —Elizabeth Anne Hartman

Make and Mend – Jessica Marquez

This exquisite guide to sashiko, a simple Japanese stitching technique, shows how—with just a needle and thread—you can save your favorite sweater, add pizzazz to your home, and save the planet. According to Marquez, Americans throw away about 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles every year, but with her inspiration, we can make more, buy less, and hold on to things we cherish. —Elizabeth Anne Hartman

The Gift of Calligraphy – Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls

Another master calligrapher invites you to bask in the allure of lettering with 25 gorgeously photographed projects from invitations to wall art to tote bags. Imasa-Stukuls begins with the ABCs—literally demonstrating how to create a simple alphabet—and then guides the reader step-by-step through the delightful projects. —Elizabeth Anne Hartman

Woodworking – Andrea Brugi

A stunning collection of woodworking projects by a husband-and-wife team melds rustic Italian style with Scandinavian design. This is the perfect gift for a couple, for your Rosie-the-Riveter friend, or for the man who really doesn’t need another tie. Striking photography and step-by-step instructions make it nice and easy. —Elizabeth Anne Hartman

Creative Thread – Jo Dixey

Royal School of Needlework-trained professional embroiderer Jo Dixey offers a project-by-project guide that will rev up the reader’s creativity quotient. Each one introduces new embroidery stitches and techniques to make one-off pieces of art, embellish clothing, and craft beautiful gifts. —Elizabeth Anne Hartman

Crepe Paper Flowers – Lia Griffith

The doyenne of DIY crafts focuses on flowers in this collection of 30 projects that showcase the magic of crafting with paper. Griffith focuses on crepe paper because it’s malleable and forgiving, making it the perfect material for beginners. For the fully supplied crafter who owns a Cricut Maker, downloadable templates are available for free on Griffith’s website. —Elizabeth Anne Hartman

Almost Everything – Anne Lamott

Leave it to Anne Lamott to make us laugh when the chips are down. Her sunny optimism and witty encouragement tumble off the pages and into your consciousness. She’s the voice that reestablishes your sense of hope and belief in the future. You cry on her shoulder, cand then feel eons lighter. —Romy Weinberg

Cook Like a Pro – Ina Garten

It’s a little-known fact that Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, is a self-taught chef. For all her prowess in the kitchen, she learned by studying others. In Cook Like a Pro, she shares her secrets and tips to gain her kind of confidence when cooking for friends and family. —Romy Weinberg

Red Truck Bakery Cookbook – Brian Noyes

Virginia’s Red Truck Rural Bakery—beloved by everyone from Mary Chapin Carpenter and Barack Obama to the Lee Brothers—extends its Southern hospitality to your kitchen with this collection of recipes, gorgeous photographs, and charming anecdotes. —Romy Weinberg

The Independent Woman – Simone de Beauvoir

This collection contains excerpts from The Second Sex, a groundbreaking modern classic first published in 1949 that confronted the inequality between men and women, and the ways women are othered in society. Now, The Independent Woman takes three chapters from The Second Sex that look at practical steps to cultivate a more equal society. —Swapna Krishna

The Future Is History – Masha Gessen

Winner of the 2017 National Book Award for Nonfiction and named Best Book of 2017 by numerous publications, The Future Is History—penned by Masha Gessen, the bestselling biographer of Vladimir Putin—reveals how Russia surrendered to a new strain of autocracy in a single generation. —Ben Kassoy

Playing with Fire – Lawrence O’Donnell

Political upheaval. Two assassinations. Riots. A country on the brink. “Playing with Fire is Lawrence O’Donnell at his best,” raves Rachel Maddow. “This is a thriller-like, propulsive tour through 1968, told by a man who is in love with American politics, and who knows how all the dots connect.” —Ben Kassoy

The Point of It All – Charles Krauthammer

Created and compiled by Charles Krauthammer before his death, The Point of It All brings together the most important works from the celebrated columnist, political commentator, and physician. A collection of writings personal, political, and philosophical, The Point of it All also includes never-before-published speeches and a profound new essay about populism and the future of global democracy. —Ben Kassoy

Impeachment – Jon Meacham

What are the motives behind impeachment? What factors contribute to it? What clues does history offer as to how impeachment may be used in the future? In Impeachment, four experts revisit the three presidencies during which impeachment was invoked (Johnson, Nixon, Clinton) and explain what they may teach us today. —Ben Kassoy

We Were Eight Years in Power – Ta-Nehisi Coates

A New York Times bestseller and a work that topped many of the Best Books of 2017 lists, We Were Eight Years in Power features Coates’s iconic essays first published in The Atlantic, along with eight new essays that revisit each year of Obama’s presidency. In a starred review, Kirkus calls it “emotionally charged, deftly crafted, and urgently relevant.” —Ben Kassoy

A Savage Order – Rachel Kleinfeld

Gangs, organized crime, state brutality. Why are some democracies—including our own—plagued by violence? How can they—we—regain security? Rachel Kleinfeld offers answers in this powerful, urgent book that Kirkus Reviews applauds as highly researched yet accessible, “a solid, convincing argument based on experience, research, travel, and intelligence.” —Ben Kassoy

What the Eyes Don’t See – Mona Hanna-Attisha

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, is the Iraqi American pediatrician who helped expose the Flint water crisis. “In What the Eyes Don’t See, she lays bare the bureaucratic bunk and flat-out injustice at the heart of the environmental disgrace,” says O, The Oprah Magazine. It’s a gripping, heartbreaking story of our time. —Ben Kassoy

In the Hurricane’s Eye – Nathaniel Philbrick

Nathaniel Philbrick has written numerous gripping books dealing with history—especially nautical history—over the years. His latest, In the Hurricane’s Eye, explores the final year of the Revolutionary War and the seismic role that the French Navy played in turning the tide for the U.S. —Tobias Carroll

American Dialogue – Joseph J. Ellis

Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning historian Joseph J. Ellis asks one simple question in his latest book: what would the founding fathers think of America today? The result is American Dialogue, a fascinating tour through the minds of America’s authors that sheds light on the divisive conflicts of the present day. —Jonathan Russell Clark

The Joy of Syntax – June Casagrande

You may not have believed it in sixth grade, but grammar can be fun! OK, even if you still don’t believe it, June Casagrande’s handy guide will diminish the pain you felt back in middle school, when you were just never sure where that comma should go or whether—once and for all—it’s “who” or “whom.” This one belongs on the shelf next to Eats, Shoots and Leaves. —Romy Weinberg

How to Cook Without a Book, Completely Updated and Revised – Pam Anderson

It’s been 17 years since Anderson’s blockbuster made “cooking by heart” a thing. Here, she builds on her principle that most recipes are simply variations on a theme, with new ingredients that reflect today’s tastes: chicken thighs instead of boneless breast, kale and Swiss chard instead of romaine, and more. —Elizabeth Anne Hartman

The Staub Cookbook – Staub

Francis Staub, the grandson of a cookware merchant, created Staub cookware in 1974, and his eponymous pots and pans have become the favorites of chefs and home cooks alike. This gorgeously illustrated book brings together 100 modern recipes from top chefs and foodie bloggers from around the country, featuring everything from chocolate babka to chicken meatballs. —Elizabeth Anne Hartman

Martha Stewart’s Pressure Cooker – Editors of Martha Stewart Living

Quick cooking is having a big moment, and this essential guide is perfect for both beginners who want in on the fabulousness and pros who want more recipes. It’s neatly divided into three chapters that go from building blocks and simple recipes to hearty main courses, and a final chapter on desserts—yes, desserts!—done entirely in one easy appliance. —Elizabeth Anne Hartman

Cravings: Hungry for More – Chrissy Teigen

OK, Chrissy: you had me at Pad Thai Carbonara. For those who loved Teigen’s first cookbook, Cravings—which is more or less everybody—this follow-up will bring provide even more culinary joy. Her Mom’s Thai cooking influences many of the recipes in this edible diary that brings us even closer into her kitchen and her life. —Elizabeth Anne Hartman

Bong Appétit – Editors of Munchies

Admit it: you would buy this book for its title, which finds its roots in the very popular Munchies and Viceland TV series. Keeping in mind that “pot brownies” have been around for at least half a century, it’s clear that the 65 sophisticated recipes here—for both sweet and savory dishes—will satisfy the munchies for millennial hipsters and old hippies alike. —Elizabeth Anne Hartman

The MeatEater Fish and Game Cookbook – Steven Rinella

Fans of Rinella, the renowned hunter and host of the MeatEater show and podcast, will be over the moon for his collection of mouthwatering recipes that Publishers Weekly called a “must read cookbook for those seeking a taste of the wild.” From a bird (or fish) to sauces and rubs, he covers it all. —Elizabeth Anne Hartman

Cooking from Scratch – PCC Community Markets

The folks at Seattle’s popular grocer have put together 120 recipes for seasonal delights, along with nutritional information and expert advice about preparing food from scratch. The perfect gift for the farmer’s market phobic—or even the regulars who’ve been cooking the same locally sourced dish on repeat—this lushly illustrated book offers meals for every time of the day. —Elizabeth Anne Hartman

Mississippi Vegan – Timothy Pakron

No, Mississippi Vegan is not an oxymoron. Setting the fried chicken and pulled pork aside, Pakron shares 125-plant based recipes inspired by the Cajun, Creole, and Southern classics of his youth. Evocative stories and exquisite photographs accompany recipes that range from My Father’s Hash Browns to Gumbo Z’fungi. —Elizabeth Anne Hartman

Sister Pie – Lisa Ludwinski

Here’s a plucky and personality-infused cookbook from the two-time James Beard Award-finalist who’s transforming the Motor City into the Sweet City, via her pie shop in a former beauty salon on Detroit’s east side. She shares 75 drool-worthy recipes such as Toasted Marshmallow-Butterscotch Pie and Sour Cherry-Bourbon Pie, all accompanied by her charming illustrations and mouth-watering photographs. —Elizabeth Anne Hartman

The Women’s Atlas – Joni Seager

The completely updated and revised fifth edition of this groundbreaking work couldn’t be more timely—and it’s a safer gift than a pink pussy hat. Seager, who’s consulted on several global gender and environmental policies with the UN, provides a wealth of up-to-date information on how women are living today across continents and cultures. —Elizabeth Anne Hartman

Winter Drinks – Editors of PUNCH

As long as your giftee isn’t a snow-bird, this beautifully illustrated collection of cocktails—built to fortify against the winter chill—will bring peace between the Capulets and Montagues. It features essential classics, updated riffs on traditional toddies, punches, nogs, spiked coffee, and many other thoroughly modern drinks. —Elizabeth Anne Hartman

The Fox and the Star: A Keepsake Journal – Coralie Bickford-Smith

Now in clothbound notebook form is the beloved story of friendship between a lonely Fox and the Star who guides him through the frightfully dark forest. Created by the award-winning designer of Penguin’s Hardcover Classics, the lined pages are adorned by five-color illustrations from the original book. —Elizabeth Anne Hartman

Martha’s Flowers – Martha Stewart

This essential resource boasts beauty and brains. Stunning photographs accompany the wisdom gained from of a lifetime of gardening in this book of expert advice. From how and when to plant to advice on building stunning arrangements, this book has it all. —Elizabeth Anne Hartman

Ottolenghi Simple – Yotam Ottolenghi

For those who like to cook but are over all the fuss, they’ll adore these streamlined recipes that can be made in 30 minutes or less, use ten or fewer ingredients, and can be made ahead in a single pot. Powerhouse author and chef Ottolenghi infuses his signature Middle Eastern-inspired flavors in these simply made delectable delights, such as Lamb and Feta Meatballs, and Braised Eggs with Leeks and Za’atar. —Elizabeth Anne Hartman

The Power of Love – Michael Curry

Michael Curry, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, enthralled two billion people with his sermon at the 2018 royal wedding of Harry and Meghan. Included in this elegant and spiritual book is that sermon, as well as four others touching on themes of love, commitment, and social justice. —Elizabeth Anne Hartman

Americana – Bhu Srinivasan

The right books can help turn complex systems and ideas into thrilling reading. Bhu Srinivasan’s Americana: A 400-Year History of American Capitalism explores the ways that the United States and capitalism have been interwoven across the nation’s history, and how this has shaped the evolution of the nation in ways both expected and unexpected. —Tobias Carroll

The War Before the War – Andrew Delbanco

Prior to the start of the Civil War, the North and South were already engaged in a heated struggle over slavery. Andrew Delbanco’s The War Before the War explores how fugitive slaves seeking their freedom played a role in this conflict, and how their cause persuaded many of the evils of slavery. —Tobias Carroll

Dear Los Angeles – David Kipen

Covering nearly 500 years of history, the anthology Dear Los Angeles provides readers with an assortment of documents telling the story of a certain California city. Represented in the book are the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Susan Sontag, and Cesar Chavez, providing an array of perspectives on the City of Angels. —Tobias Carroll

How to Invent Everything – Ryan North

In recent years, Ryan North has earned plenty of acclaim for his unique takes on Romeo and Juliet and To Be Or Not To Be. In How to Invent Everything, he explores the nature of technology and civilization via the notion of, as the book’s subtitle puts it, “the stranded time traveler.” —Tobias Carroll

Cocktail Codex – Alex Day

It’s amazing what you can do with a home bar and the right knowledge. Cocktail Codex reunites the authors of Death & Co. for an organized look at cocktails: specifically, showcasing the links between the techniques used to craft different drinks. The results are both educational and tasty. —Tobias Carroll

American Sanctuary – A. Roger Ekirch

In American Sanctuary, A. Roger Ekirch hearkens back to a time more than 200 years ago, when the fate of a British sailor seeking refuge in the United States has a seismic effect on the nation’s political landscape, and influenced the way we think about political asylum today. —Tobias Carroll

The Fresh and Healthy Instant Pot Cookbook – Megan Gilmore

The Instant Pot is the multifunction device that’s taking kitchens by storm, so chances are, your giftee already own one. If so, this cookbook of lighter, healthier meals for the appliance is a perfect gift. The author is a certified nutritionist, and each of the recipes has a gorgeous photograph to show off just how delicious they are. —Swapna Krishna

Presidents of War – Michael Beschloss

The relationship between the American presidency and war is a complicated one, which is exactly what author Michael Beschloss traces in this important new book. Beschloss examines American presidents from James Madison to the present day to look at how these men coped with the challenges and demands of leadership during war—or how they didn’t. —Swapna Krishna

Life Is Long! – Karen Salmansohn

Is your gift recipient intent on living a healthy lifestyle? Then they’ll love the book Life is Long, a guide to living a healthier, longer life. The book includes tips such as spices that improve cardiovascular health and how often we should stand up and move around during the day. It takes information from the latest studies to offer the best advice on how to live a longer (and happier!) life. —Swapna Krishna

Speeches of Note – Shaun Usher

We all need some inspiration in our lives every now and then, and this book of speeches is just the tool to provide it. By the author of Letters of Note, this book gathers 75 of the most interesting speeches, some of which were delivered by well-known figures such as Albert Einstein and Frederick Douglass. If your loved one enjoys thumbing through history, you can’t go wrong with this gift. —Swapna Krishna

Spineless – Juli Berwald

After earning a PhD in ocean science and spending years building algorithms to interpret satellite images of the briny deep, Juli Berwald followed her husband to landlocked Texas. The tide of her first love proved to be an irresistible pull, and her return to the world of marine studies is a splashy one: Spineless dives deep into the world of jellyfish, the most ancient and least-understood creatures on earth. Berwald’s passion is infectious, and you just might find the behemoths she glimpsed from Japanese fishing boats and the delicate creatures she raised in her own dining room floating through your dreams. —Lauren Oster

American Wolf – Nate Blakeslee

Twenty-two years ago, the elk population in Yellowstone was threatening other species’ abilities to survive and thrive, and biologists relocated eight gray wolves from Canada’s Jasper National Park to reset the region’s ecological balance. What became known as the Yellowstone Wolf Project triggered an avalanche of change, one that Nate Blakeslee explores through O-Six, a female descendant of the Canadian wolves who became a mother, pack leader, and household name for nature-lovers. His intimate look at her community is a powerful reminder of what we owe our non-human neighbors. —Lauren Oster

City of Dogs – Ken Foster

When Traer Scott agreed to follow Ken Foster around New York City and photograph local canines and their companions, he didn’t expect to appreciate the humans he’d meet: “I am much more comfortable around dogs than people. Always.” To his great surprise, the stories they shared—recounted by Foster in the text that accompanies his photographs—forged a new connection between him and his own species. Like Scott, dog lovers will fall hard for the two-and-four-legged families that call the Big Apple home: “Loving and needing dogs in our lives is something that brings us together, no matter how different we are in other ways.” —Lauren Oster

Animals of a Bygone Era – Maja Säfström

This beautiful compendium of creatures that no longer walk the earth is not for the T. rex fan in your life: as the Stockholm-based illustrator explains in her table of contents beside a puzzled Stegosaurus, “Dinosaurs have been intentionally left out of this book to give some attention to other fascinating—but less famous—creatures that once lived on this planet.” Her gorgeous images and cheeky commentary introduce quirky, long-extinct characters like walking whales, horned gophers, dawn horses, and terror birds (!). Natural history has never come roaring to life quite like this. —Lauren Oster

Distillery Cats – Brad Thomas Parsons

The next time you find yourself raising a glass and in need of a speech, might we suggest a toast to the tireless felines that make so many tipples possible? Once charged with providing “organic pest control” at distilleries and breweries, working pusses are now brand ambassadors and social media darlings to boot. Brad Thomas Parsons, a James Beard Award-winning writer, offers 30 illustrated “profiles in courage of the world’s most spirited mousers”—as well as 15 cocktail recipes, should readers find themselves inspired to wet their whistles. —Lauren Oster

The Genius of Birds – Jennifer Ackerman

“Bird brain” entered the English language as an insult a century ago, science writer Jennifer Ackerman notes, “because people thought of birds as mere flying automatons, with brains so small they had no capacity for thought at all.” As scientific breakthroughs in the past few decades have demonstrated, it’s high time to consider it a compliment: we now know that birds are capable of mental feats comparable to ours. After traveling the world to gather the latest intelligence on avian cognition, Ackerman presents her findings in thrilling language that mimics the brilliance she describes. —Lauren Oster

Storm Lake – Art Cullen

Art Cullen is 25% of the news staff of The Storm Lake Times, a family-owned Iowa twice-weekly that won the Pulitzer Prize last year for taking corporate polluters to task for poisoning the local lake and rivers. In his first book, Cullen introduces the world to the remarkable people who call his small town home. The prairie is changing, as is its human population: unlike agricultural communities that have vanished elsewhere in America, Storm Lake is growing, thanks to immigrants from nations like Laos and Mexico who have built new lives there (more than 30 languages are now spoken in town). Cullen has seen more than his share of crises, but his message is stubbornly optimistic and timely. —Lauren Oster

The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth – Rachel Ignotofsky

Rachel Ignotofsky puts the world in the palms of her adolescent readers’ hands, both literally and figuratively: her illustrated guide to the Earth’s ecosystems explains how they work and how each of us can work to protect them. Through stunning art, maps, and infographics, she offers clear and compelling breakdowns of everything from the carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and water cycles to how every human impacts nature. It’s a fascinating and empowering look at our shared home: “The big world we live in,” she writes, “is smaller than you think.” —Lauren Oster

The Songs of Trees – David George Haskell

Pulitzer Prize finalist David George Haskell calls trees “nature’s great connectors,” and he offers meticulous portraits of a dozen of them. From the concrete jungle of Manhattan to the verdant jungles of the Amazon, he makes a lyrical case for their positions at the hearts of biological networks: microbes, fungi, other plants, animals, and even humans all depend on trees for their well-being. The Songs of Trees is a kind of ecological poetry, and it will change the way you think about your relationship with (and responsibility to) the life around you. —Lauren Oster

Unladylike – Cristen Conger

If your giftee’s hobbies include smashing the patriarchy, this is a book you should absolutely check out. Rather than being a humorous take on identifying as female or nonbinary in today’s world, Unladylike is a practical guide to pushing the conversation about intersectional feminism forward. —Swapna Krishna

Food 52 Cook in the Blank – Amanda Hesser

Following a recipe can be a great way to learn to cook, but what about the next step? That’s where Food 52 Cook in the Blank comes in. This fill-in-the-blank book of recipe templates will help you become more creative in your cooking, offering a guided way to improvise and think about how you cook in whole new ways. —Swapna Krishna

The Mini Bar – Editors of PUNCH

If your holiday hostess loves mixing cocktails and making the perfect drink for guests, The Mini Bar is an absolute must-buy. It consists of eight small notebooks in adorable packaging, and the recipes are organized by the base ingredient, ensuring that the giftee can become an expert in making all kinds of drinks, and even create their own. —Swapna Krishna

Call Me Ishmael Postcards – Pop Chart Lab

This fun set of postcards from Pop Chart Lab is a sure conversation-starter. Twenty-four postcards in 12 unique designs diagram the first sentence from popular works of literature. They can serve as a charming gift, or you can send them to friends and family. (Who doesn’t love a love note?) —Swapna Krishna

The New Rules of Coffee – Jordan Michelman

For those who love their morning cup of joe, this guide will show them how to prepare, store, and even drink the world’s favorite morning beverage. This isn’t so much about etiquette and protocol as it is about how to best enjoy coffee at home or in the café. It also answers popular questions about the beverage and busts myths (who knew darker coffee isn’t always stronger?). —Swapna Krishna

This Is Mexico City – Abby Clawson Low

For the friend who loves to visit foreign countries or thoroughly enjoys armchair traveling, this incredible guide to Mexico City will make a perfect gift. It’s not your typical travel guide: as a resident herself, Abby Clawson Low focuses on lifestyle, using gorgeous pictures and design to show off the best of the city. —Swapna Krishna

All About Cake – Christina Tosi

Who doesn’t like cake? It’s an almost universal love, which is why All About Cake makes the ideal gift. This collection of lip-smacking recipes covers everything to do with cake, including microwavable mug cakes to the fanciful creations that Christina Tosi makes at Milkbar. —Swapna Krishna

The Sommelier’s Atlas of Taste – Rajat Parr

This field guide is the perfect book for wine-lovers, especially those who enjoy terroir and the art of European wines. Parr describes how wines from different regions of Europe should taste—a tour of taste buds, if you will. Whether your giftee considers herself a vino expert or someone just getting into grapes, this book will have something for her. —Swapna Krishna

Made Out of Stars – Meera Lee Patel

Meera Lee Patel’s guided journals, including Start Where You Are, have helped an abundance of readers better understand themselves and make connections with others. Made Out of Stars focuses on finding a better sense of self and discovering our unique qualities: a useful and inspiring journey. —Tobias Carroll

That Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means – Ross Petras

When presented in the right light, there’s something deeply entertaining about the way language can be misused and misunderstood. In That Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means, Ross Petras and Kathryn Petras explore 150 of the words people most often misuse, and delve into their complex histories for clues as to why. —Tobias Carroll

Wall of Orchids – The New York Botanical Garden

The exhibits and plants that can be found at The New York Botanical Garden have a rich history and regularly dazzle visitors and locals alike. Wall of Orchids collects 20 prints of orchid paintings—immersing readers in the natural world while venturing into art history as well. Perfect for sprucing up someone’s empty home or cubicle. —Tobias Carroll

The Job – Ellen Ruppel Shell

The nature of work has changed dramatically over the past few decades, inspiring a sense of instability and concerns about how subsequent changes will affect, well, everyone. In Ellen Ruppel Shell’s book The Job, she focuses on notable workplaces and explores the larger factors affecting our relationships to the work we do. —Tobias Carroll

Bestia – Ori Menashe

There’s something deeply compelling about a great cookbook—both the lovingly designed interiors and the prospect of being able to make great food from the recipes within. Bestia takes its cues from the acclaimed Los Angeles restaurant of the same name, offering up the way to make a host of Italian-influenced dishes and desserts. —Tobias Carroll

Dare to Lead – Brené Brown

In her earlier books, Brené Brown explored questions around subjects like courage and vulnerability, delving into both their emotional and scientific sides. In Dare to Lead, she applies the same approach to the questions surrounding leadership, probing how leaders can act in a more daring and courageous manner, and what we can all learn from them. —Tobias Carroll

The Comic Book Story of Professional Wrestling – Aubrey Sitterson

If your favorite sports fan is drawn to larger-than-life figures, bizarre physical feats, and unexpected twists of fate, it’s very likely that professional wrestling holds more than a little appeal for them. In this illustrated book, Aubrey Sitterson and Chris Moreno delve into wrestling’s history, explore some of its most infamous figures, and trace its popularity across the globe. —Tobias Carroll

Quarterback – John Feinstein

John Feinstein has written extensively about the world of sports, providing both a ground-level view of the athlete’s perspective and a broader context of how sports are played and perceived. In his new book, he focuses on five NFL quarterbacks, exploring what their experiences can teach the reader about the nature of the sport and its effect on those who play it. —Tobias Carroll

How Cycling Can Save the World – Peter Walker

The appeal of cycling spans geography: for some, it’s an ideal way to get around a city, while for others, it’s perfect for exploring rural trails and woodlands. In Peter Walker’s How Cycling Saves the World, he explores the positive impacts of spending time on one’s bicycle, from bringing cities together to improving personal health. —Tobias Carroll

Astroball – Ben Reiter

In 2014, Ben Reiter correctly predicted in Sports Illustrated that the Houston Astros would win the World Series three years later—a claim that baffled many at the time. Astroball is Reiter’s exploration of just how the Astros pulled this off, and the different factors that contributed to a shift in thinking that dramatically paid off. —Tobias Carroll

Tigerland – Wil Haygood

In 1968 and 1969, two teams from the same segregated Ohio high school won statewide championships in baseball and basketball—an unexpected feat during a period of massive social change. Wil Haygood’s Tigerland provides a dramatic and compelling window into the people who made this possible, along with a sense of how those victories echoed larger shifts in the nation. —Tobias Carroll

Boom Town – Sam Anderson

In Sam Anderson’s Boom Town, the author explores the history and unlikely rise of Oklahoma City since its founding in 1889. A major part of this story comes through the tumultuous history of the Oklahoma City Thunder, a gripping tale of one team’s ups and downs, and how they came to reflect the pulse of a city. —Tobias Carroll

Joe Beef: Surviving the Apocalypse – Frederic Morin

We leave it to the late, great Anthony Bourdain on this one: “…the rogue princes of Canadian cuisine and hospitality show us the way out of the numbing, post-apocalyptic restaurant Hell of pretentiousness and mediocrity that threatens to engulf us all. It makes us believe that the future is shiny, bright, beautiful, delicious—and probably Québécois. This book will change your life.” —Ben Kassoy

In Paris – Jeanne Damas

When you think of fashion, one city probably comes to mind: Paris. In this book, Jeanne Damas and Lauren Bastide take a look at 20 women in the city, showcasing their different occupations, ages, lifestyles, and hopes. It’s a gorgeous book filled with color photographs that will feed readers’ dreams of living in the City of Light. —Swapna Krishna

In Intimate Detail – Cora Harrington

Lingerie isn’t something that should be intimidating, and yet many find it so. In this book, lingerie expert Cora Harrington wants to help us understand lingerie and how it should fit—both physically and mentally. From bras and panties to corsets, shapewear, and more, Harrington’s accessible and inclusive tones make this a must-read for any fashionista. —Swapna Krishna

The Accessory Handbook – Alison Freer

Alison Freer fully believes our fashion choices should be based on whatever increases our happiness. That means even if you worry you can’t pull off that hat or scarf, Freer thinks you can. And in this book, she includes tips, tricks, and advice to help you figure out how to wear it, care for it, and shop for it. —Swapna Krishna

Tokyo Street Style – Zoe de las Cases

It’s fascinating to look at fashion trends around the world, and that’s just what this new coloring book does for the city of Tokyo. Tokyo is home to all kinds of fashion trends, from genderless fashion to the looks of everyday work attire, and Tokyo Street Style aims to chronicle all of them in a unique and provocative biography of a city. —Swapna Krishna

The Authentics: A Lush Dive into the Substance of Style – Melanie Acevedo

It’s always interesting to analyze the publicly displayed creative choices of fashion trailblazers, but what do the choices they make for their private retreats say about them? That’s what The Authentics seeks to answer. This book takes readers into the private homes of style icons who have defined the culture around us, showing us that being iconic starts at home. —Swapna Krishna

Contemporary Muslim Fashions – Jill d’Allesandro

Muslim fashion is book-worthy, yet often overlooked in modern media. This collection seeks to rectify that by taking a look at everything from high-fashion couture to streetwear in Muslim cultures. It also takes a look at different regions and the varying fashion influences therein. If your gift recipient loves international fashion, this is a must-buy. —Swapna Krishna

The Curated Closet Workbook – Anuschka Rees

What do you really need in your closet? What do you not need? This guide seeks to help you curate the perfect closet for your personal style, based on your work, interests, and more. It’ll help you find your favorite color palettes to create a wardrobe that’s effortlessly cohesive and make agonizing about what you’re going to wear a thing of the past. —Swapna Krishna

You Are a Badass Every Day – Jen Sincero

There’s no better time—or greater need—to keep your motivation strong, your vibe high, and your quest for transformation unstoppable. Thus, there’s no better time—or greater need—to pick up You Are a Badass Everyday, the pocket-size compendium of guidance and inspiration from bestselling author Jen Sincero that will keep your head held high. —Ben Kassoy

Apéritif – Rebekah Peppler

“Being French, some of my warmest memories and most interesting conversations have taken place at apéro time, that magical moment of the day when friends unwind and connect,” says Clotilde Dusoulier, author of Tasting Paris. “Now, Rebekah’s gorgeous book gives you everything you need to create your own.” Apéritif is your definitive (and effortless!) guide to cocktail hour the French way. —Ben Kassoy

A Common Table – Cynthia Chen McTernan

Cynthia Chen McTernan is a lawyer and the self-taught home cook and photographer behind Two Red Bowls, winner of the 2015 Saveur Blog Award for Most Delicious Food. Now she’s back with A Common Table, which shares more than 80 Asian-inspired recipes that marry the author’s Chinese ancestry, Southern rearing, and in-laws’ Korean cuisine. —Ben Kassoy


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Note: This article is still open, to be updated when there is new information.

Compiled by Diệp Minh Tâm – Sep-2019


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