Some ‘better news’ books this time, beginning with The Fix. “Just when it looks like the world’s problems couldn’t get much worse, The Fix cuts through the gloom like a ray of sunshine” says Adam Grant. Find it, and more, in this month’s selections.
The fix : how nations survive and thrive in a world in decline / Jonathan Tepperman.
“From immigration reform to energy resources, from political paralysis to inequality and extremism, we are beset by a raft of huge and seemingly insurmountable issues… What goes under-reported are the success stories. Here, taking ten of the most knotty issues we face today, Jonathan Tepperman examines unsung individuals’ bold and innovative attempts against all odds and expectations to solve some of the important problems governments have struggled with for decades. The solutions described in the book aren’t speculative: they’ve all already been tried, and they work. Controversial, provocative but always stimulating, Tepperman here offers a powerful, data-driven case for optimism.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Age is just a number : what a 97-year-old record-breaker can teach us about growing older / Charles Eugster with Matt Whyman.
“Retired dental surgeon Charles Eugster rekindled a love of competitive rowing he’d neglected for most of his adult life at the age of 63. He took up bodybuilding at the age of 87. And at the age of 95 he started sprinting for the first time in his life, becoming World Champion at 200m indoor and 400m outdoor. He is a world record holder for his age group in a number of sports, and has 40 Gold Medals for World Masters Rowing. In this book, Charles shares his journey and his passionate belief that growing older needn’t slow you down. And he shows his readers how taking on new challenges, learning new things, and improving your body as it ages is not only fun, but rewarding for the individual, and beneficial to society.” (Syndetics summary)
Progress : ten reasons to look forward to the future / Johan Norberg.
“It’s on the televisions, in the papers and in our minds. Every day were bludgeoned by news of how bad everything is. Financial collapse, unemployment, growing poverty, environmental disasters, disease, hunger, war. But the rarely acknowledged reality is that the economic and social progress of the past few decades has been unprecedented and that by almost any index you care to identify, things are markedly better now than they have ever been for almost everyone alive. Examining official data from the worlds most trusted institutions like the United Nations, the World Bank and the World Health Organization, political commentator Johan Norberg traces just how far we have come in tackling the greatest global problems.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Half the sky : how to change the world / Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.
“Two Pulitzer Prize winners issue a call to arms against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women in the developing world. They show that a little help can transform the lives of women and girls abroad and that the key to economic progress lies in unleashing women’s potential.” (Syndetics summary)
Attack of the 50 ft. women : how gender equality can save the world! / Catherine Mayer.
“Not a single country anywhere in the world has achieved gender equality. In more than a few countries, progress for women has stalled or is reversing. Voters in the United States chose a misogynist over a female candidate for President. Yet in many of these countries, the majority of politicians and business leaders profess to believe in gender equality-as well they might. One report predicts a boost to global GDP of GBP8.3 trillion by 2025 simply by making faster progress towards narrowing the gender gap…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The four-dimensional human : ways of being in the digital world / Laurence Scott.
“A constellation of everyday digital phenomena is rewiring our inner lives. We are increasingly coaxed from the three-dimensional containment of our pre-digital selves into a wonderful and eerie fourth dimension, a world of ceaseless communication, instant information and global connection. Our portals to this new world have been wedged open, and the silhouette of a figure is slowly taking shape. But what does it feel like to be four-dimensional? How do digital technologies influence the rhythms of our thoughts, the style and tilt of our consciousness? What new sensitivities and sensibilities are emerging with our exposure to the delights, sorrows and anxieties of a networked world? And how do we live in public, with these recoded private lives?” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
We do things differently : the outsiders rebooting our world / Mark Stevenson.
“Our systems are failing. Old models – for education, healthcare and government, food production, energy supply – are creaking under the weight of modern challenges. As the world’s population heads towards 10 billion, it’s clear we need new approaches. Futurologist Mark Stevenson sets out to find them, across four continents. From Brazilian favelas to high tech Boston, from rural India to a shed inventor in England’s home counties, ‘We Do Things Differently’ travels the world to find the advance guard re-imagining our future.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Man of iron : Thomas Telford and the building of Britain / Julian Glover.
“The enthralling biography of the shepherd boy who changed the world with his revolutionary engineering and whose genius we still benefit from today… With his revolutionary vision, Telford invented the modern road and created the backbone of our national road network, tying England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales together, resulting in his being dubbed ‘The Colossus of Roads’. His elegant bridges are the greatest of the pre-twentieth century, the Menai Bridge a wonder of its time and our own while the famous Pontcysyllte aqueduct in Wales with its dramatic and alarming exposed heights is a UNESCO world heritage site and still a huge draw for tourists…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The master algorithm : how the quest for the ultimate learning machine will remake our world / Pedro Domingos.
Algorithms increasingly run our lives. They find books, movies, jobs, and dates for us, manage our investments, and discover new drugs. And in the world’s top research labs and universities, the race is on to invent the ultimate learning algorithm: one capable of discovering any knowledge from data, and doing anything we want, before we even ask. Pedro Domingos, one of the field’s leading lights, lifts the veil for the first time to give us a peek inside the learning machines that power Google, Amazon, and your smartphone. Step by step, he assembles a blueprint for the future universal learner – the Master Algorithm – and discusses what it means for you, and for the future of business, science, and society… (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The brain defense : murder in Manhattan and the dawn of neuroscience in America’s courtrooms / Kevin Davis.
“In 1991, the police were called to East 72nd St. in Manhattan, where a woman’s body had fallen from a twelfth-story window. The woman’s husband, Herbert Weinstein, soon confessed to having hit and strangled his wife after an argument, then dropping her body out of their apartment window to make it look like a suicide. Shortly after Weinstein was arrested, an MRI revealed a cyst the size of an orange on his brain’s frontal lobe, the part of the brain that governs judgment and impulse control. The Weinstein case marked the dawn of a new era in America’s courtrooms.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The kingdom of women : life, love and death in China’s hidden mountains / Choo WaiHong.
“This is one of the last matriarchal societies on earth, where the women hold power. They make the major decisions, control household finances, have rightful ownership of land and property and full rights to the children born to them. Most notably, the Mosuo practice something called ‘walking marriage’ where, from the age of 13, women can choose to take lovers – as many or as few as they wish – from men within the tribe. Choo Waihong discovered the Mosuo several years ago and lived with them for six years, becoming part of a Mosuo family and of the wider community – the only non-Mosuo to have ever done so. The story of her time in the remote mountains of China is both poignant and compelling: a vibrant glimpse into a way of life that teeters on the knife-edge of extinction.” (Syndetics summary)