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Us and Our World

These nonfiction books take us all across the globe and inside our own minds to show us how the world works.

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The God Equation

- by Michio Kaku

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Michio Kaku, renowned theoretical physicist and #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Future of the Mind and The Future of Humanity, tells the story of the greatest quest in all of science.

When Newton discovered the law of gravity, he unified the rules governing the heavens and the Earth. Since then, physicists have been placing new forces into ever-grander theories. But perhaps the ultimate challenge is achieving a monumental synthesis of the two remaining theories--relativity and the quantum theory. This would be the crowning achievement of science, a profound merging of all the forces of nature into one beautiful, magnificent equation to unlock the deepest mysteries in science: What happened before the Big Bang? What lies on the other side of a black hole? Are there other universes and dimensions? Is time travel possible? Why are we here? Kaku also explains the intense controversy swirling around this theory, with Nobel laureates taking opposite sides on this vital question. It is a captivating, gripping story; what's at stake is nothing less than our conception of the universe. Written with Kaku's trademark enthusiasm and clarity, this epic and engaging journey is the story of The God Equation.

Until the End of Time

- by Brian Greene

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Instant New York Times Best-seller

From the world-renowned physicist and best-selling author of The Elegant Universe comes a captivating exploration of deep time and humanity's search for purpose.


"Few humans share Greene's mastery of both the latest cosmological science and English prose."
--The New York Times (notable book of 2020)

Until the End of Time is Brian Greene's breathtaking new exploration of the cosmos and our quest to find meaning in the face of this vast expanse. Greene takes us on a journey from the big bang to the end of time, exploring how lasting structures formed, how life and mind emerged, and how we grapple with our existence through narrative, myth, religion, creative expression, science, the quest for truth, and a deep longing for the eternal. From particles to planets, consciousness to creativity, matter to meaning--Brian Greene allows us all to grasp and appreciate our fleeting but utterly exquisite moment in the cosmos.

Square Haunting

- by Francesca Wade

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A NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS' CHOICE o LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE o "A beautiful and deeply moving book."--Sally Rooney, author of Normal People

An engrossing group portrait of five women writers, including Virginia Woolf, who moved to London's Mecklenburgh Square in search of new freedom in their lives and work.


NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY POPMATTERS

"I like this London life . . . the street-sauntering and square-haunting."--Virginia Woolf, diary, 1925

In the early twentieth century, Mecklenburgh Square--a hidden architectural gem in the heart of London--was a radical address. On the outskirts of Bloomsbury known for the eponymous group who "lived in squares, painted in circles, and loved in triangles," the square was home to students, struggling artists, and revolutionaries.

In the pivotal era between the two world wars, the lives of five remarkable women intertwined at this one address: modernist poet H. D., detective novelist Dorothy L. Sayers, classicist Jane Harrison, economic historian Eileen Power, and author and publisher Virginia Woolf. In an era when women's freedoms were fast expanding, they each sought a space where they could live, love, and--above all--work independently.

With sparkling insight and a novelistic style, Francesca Wade sheds new light on a group of artists and thinkers whose pioneering work would enrich the possibilities of women's lives for generations to come.

Praise for Square Haunting

"A fascinating voyage through the lives of five remarkable women . . . moving and immersive."--Edmund Gordon, author of The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography

"Elegant, erudite, and absorbing, Square Haunting is a startlingly original debut, and Francesca Wade is an author to watch."--Frances Wilson, author of Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas De Quincey

"Outstanding . . . I'll be recommending this all year."--Sarah Bakewell, author of At the Existentialist Café

"I much enjoyed Francesca Wade's book. It almost made me wish I belonged to the pioneering generation of women spoiling eggs on the gas ring and breaking taboos."--Sue Prideaux, author of I Am Dynamite! A Life of Friedrich Nietzsche

Park Bagger

- by BUTCHER

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An inspiring collection of thrilling personal adventures and stunning photographs sharing the incredible diversity and profound beauty of Canada's national parks.

Distributed across the second-largest country in the world, the Canadian national parks can be challenging to get to. Many of them are so remote that they have no road access or infrastructure of any kind, but they are not impossible to visit. Although much of the vast Canadian wilderness is fraught with challenging terrain, unpredictable weather, and sometimes threatening wildlife, there are also pleasant beaches, waterfalls, and places to kick back and relax in.

Explorer Marlis Butcher has "bagged" all of the Canadian national parks. In her quest to visit and get to know the parks, Marlis canoed, kayaked, mountain biked, backpacked, hiked, snowshoed, snorkelled, and trekked by whatever means of travel she could devise. During her park explorations she's encountered grizzly and black bears, polar bears, wolves, and wolverines. She's survived incredible storms, falls off mountainsides, and sinking boats. Marlis has investigated uncharted lands and travelled down quaint country roads. In Park Bagger, she shares her adventures, with the objective to encourage others to explore the national parks and to protect Canada's vast wilderness.

Dirt

- by Bill Buford

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER

A highly obsessive, hilariously self-deprecating account of the world of French haute cuisine, from the author of the best-selling modern classic, Heat.


In Dirt, Bill Buford--author of the bestselling, now-classic, Heat--moves his attention from Italian cuisine to the food of France. Baffled by the language, determined that he can master the art of French cooking--or at least get to the bottom of why it is so revered--Buford begins what will become a five-year odyssey by shadowing the revered French chef Michel Richard in Washington, D.C. He soon realizes, however, that a stage in France is necessary, and so he goes--this time with his wife and three-year-old twin sons in tow--to Lyon, the gastronomic capital of France. Studying at l'Institut Bocuse, cooking at the storied, Michelin-starred Mère Brazier, Buford becomes a man obsessed--to prove that French cooking actually derives from the Italian, to prove himself on the line, to prove that he is worthy of these gastronomic secrets. With his signature humor, sense of adventure, and masterful ability to immerse himself in his surroundings, Bill Buford has written what is sure to be the food-lover's book of the year.

You Look Like a Thing and I Love You

- by Janelle Shane

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"A deft, informative, and often screamingly funny primer on the ways that machine learning can (and often does) go wrong." --Margaret Harris, Physics World
"You look like a thing and I love you" is one of the best pickup lines ever...according to an artificial intelligence trained by the scientist Janelle Shane, creator of the popular blog AI Weirdness. Shane creates silly AIs that learn how to name colors of paint, create the best recipes, and even flirt (badly) with humans--all to understand the technology that governs so much of our human lives.
We rely on AI every day, trusting it for matters both big and small, from unlocking our phones to hospital care. But how smart is AI really...? Shane delivers the answer to every AI question you've ever asked, and some you definitely haven't--such as: How can a computer design the perfect sandwich? What does robot-generated Harry Potter fan fiction sound like? And is the world's best Halloween costume really "vampire hog bride"?

In this smart, often hilarious introduction to the most interesting science of our time, Shane shows how these machines learn, fail, and adapt--and how they reflect both the best and worst of humanity.

"I can't think of a better way to learn about artificial intelligence, and I've never had so much fun along the way." --Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Originals

Values

- by Mark Carney

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER
 
A bold and urgent argument by economist and former bank governor Mark Carney on the radical, foundational change that is required if we are to build an economy and society based not on market values but on human values.


Our world is full of fault lines--growing inequality in income and opportunity; systemic racism; health and economic crises from a global pandemic; mistrust of experts; the existential threat of climate change; deep threats to employment in a digital economy with robotics on the rise. These fundamental problems and others like them, argues Mark Carney, stem from a common crisis in values. Drawing on the turmoil of the past decade, Mark Carney shows how "market economies" have evolved into "market societies" where price determines the value of everything.
     When we think about what we, as individuals, value most highly, we might list fairness, health, the protection of our rights, economic security from poverty, the preservation of natural diversity, resources, and beauty. The tragedy is, these things that we hold dearest are too often the casualties of our twenty-first century world, where they ought to be our bedrock.
     In this profoundly important new book, Mark Carney offers a vision of a more humane society and a practical manifesto for getting there. How we reform our infrastructure to make things better and fairer is at the heart of every chapter, with outlines of wholly new ideas that can restructure society and enshrine our human values at the core of all that we build for our children and grandchildren.

This Is the Fire

- by Don Lemon

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In this 'vital book for these times' (Kirkus Reviews), Don Lemon brings his vast audience and experience as a reporter and a Black man to today's most urgent question: How can we end racism in America in our lifetimes?
 
The host of CNN Tonight with Don Lemon is more popular than ever. As America's only Black prime-time anchor, Lemon and his daily monologues on racism and antiracism, on the failures of the Trump administration and of so many of our leaders, and on America's systemic flaws speak for his millions of fans. Now, in an urgent, deeply personal, riveting plea, he shows us all how deep our problems lie, and what we can do to begin to fix them.

Beginning with a letter to one of his Black nephews, he proceeds with reporting and reflections on his slave ancestors, his upbringing in the shadows of segregation, and his adult confrontations with politicians, activists, and scholars. In doing so, Lemon offers a searing and poetic ultimatum to America. He visits the slave port where a direct ancestor was shackled and shipped to America. He recalls a slave uprising in Louisiana, just a few miles from his birthplace. And he takes us to the heart of the 2020 protests in New York City. As he writes to his young nephew: We must resist racism every single day. We must resist it with love.

On Time and Water

- by Andri Snae Magnason

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Finalist for the 2021 Nordic Council Literature Prize Asked by a leading climate scientist why he wasn't writing about the greatest crisis mankind has faced, Andri Snær Magnason, one of Iceland's most beloved writers and public intellectuals, protested: he wasn't a specialist, he said. It wasn't his field. But the scientist persisted: "If you cannot understand our scientific findings and present them in an emotional, psychological, poetic or mythological context," he told him, "then no one will really understand the issue, and the world will end." Based on interviews and advice from leading glacial, ocean, climate, and geographical scientists, and interwoven with personal, historical, and mythological stories, Magnason's resulting response is a rich and compelling work of narrative nonfiction that illustrates the reality of climate change and offers hope in the face of an uncertain future. Moving from reflections on how one writes an obituary for a glacier to exhortation for a heightened understanding of human time and our obligations to one another, throughout history and across the globe, On Time and Water is both deeply personal and globally minded: a travel story, a world history, a desperate plea to live in harmony with future generations--and is unlike anything that has yet been published on the current climate emergency.

Life's Edge

- by Carl Zimmer

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"Stories that both dazzle and edify... This book is not just about life, but about discovery itself. It is about error and hubris, but also about wonder and the reach of science."
--Siddhartha Mukherjee, New York Times Book Review

We all assume we know what life is, but the more scientists learn about the living world--from protocells to brains, from zygotes to pandemic viruses--the harder they find it is to locate life's edge.
 
Carl Zimmer investigates one of the biggest questions of all: What is life? The answer seems obvious until you try to seriously answer it. Is the apple sitting on your kitchen counter alive, or is only the apple tree it came from deserving of the word? If we can't answer that question here on earth, how will we know when and if we discover alien life on other worlds? The question hangs over some of society's most charged conflicts--whether a fertilized egg is a living person, for example, and when we ought to declare a person legally dead.
 
Life's Edge is an utterly fascinating investigation that no one but one of the most celebrated science writers of our generation could craft. Zimmer journeys through the strange experiments that have attempted to re-create life. Literally hundreds of definitions of what that should look like now exist, but none has yet emerged as an obvious winner. Lists of what living things have in common do not add up to a theory of life. It's never clear why some items on the list are essential and others not. Coronaviruses have altered the course of history, and yet many scientists maintain they are not alive. Chemists are creating droplets that can swarm, sense their environment, and multiply. Have they made life in the lab?
 
Whether he is handling pythons in Alabama or searching for hibernating bats in the Adirondacks, Zimmer revels in astounding examples of life at its most bizarre. He tries his own hand at evolving life in a test tube with unnerving results. Charting the obsession with Dr. Frankenstein's monster and how Coleridge came to believe the whole universe was alive, Zimmer leads us all the way into the labs and minds of researchers working on engineering life from the ground up.

Neglected No More

- by Andre Picard

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It took the coronavirus pandemic to open our eyes to the deplorable state of so many of the nation's long-term care homes: the inhumane conditions, overworked and underpaid staff, and lack of oversight. In this timely new book, esteemed health reporter André Picard reveals the full extent of the crisis in eldercare, and offers an urgently needed prescription to fix a broken system.

When COVID-19 spread through seniors' residences across Canada, the impact was horrific. Along with widespread illness and a devastating death toll, the situation exposed a decades-old crisis: the shocking systemic neglect towards our elders.

Called in to provide emergency care in some of the hardest-hit facilities in Ontario and Quebec, the military issued damning reports of what they encountered. And yet, the failings that were exposed--unappetizing meals, infrequent baths, overmedication, physical abuse and inadequate personal care--have persisted for years in these institutions.

In Neglected No More, André Picard takes a hard look at how we came to embrace mass institutionalization, and lays out what can and must be done to improve the state of care for our elders, a highly vulnerable population with complex needs and little ability to advocate for themselves.

Picard shows that the entire eldercare system--fragmented, underfunded and unsupported--is long overdue for a fundamental rethink. We need to find ways to ensure seniors can age gracefully in the community for longer, with supportive home care and respite for family caregivers, and ensure that long-term care homes are not warehouses of isolation and neglect. Our elders deserve nothing less.

The Soul of a Woman

- by Isabel Allende

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From the New York Times bestselling author of A Long Petal of the Sea comes "a bold exploration of womanhood, feminism, parenting, aging, love and more" (Associated Press).

"The Soul of a Woman is Isabel Allende's most liberating book yet."--Elle

"When I say that I was a feminist in kindergarten, I am not exaggerating," begins Isabel Allende. As a child, she watched her mother, abandoned by her husband, provide for her three small children without "resources or voice." Isabel became a fierce and defiant little girl, determined to fight for the life her mother couldn't have.

As a young woman coming of age in the late 1960s, she rode the second wave of feminism. Among a tribe of like-minded female journalists, Allende for the first time felt comfortable in her own skin, as they wrote "with a knife between our teeth" about women's issues. She has seen what the movement has accomplished in the course of her lifetime. And over the course of three passionate marriages, she has learned how to grow as a woman while having a partner, when to step away, and the rewards of embracing one's sexuality.

So what feeds the soul of feminists--and all women--today? To be safe, to be valued, to live in peace, to have their own resources, to be connected, to have control over our bodies and lives, and above all, to be loved. On all these fronts, there is much work yet to be done, and this book, Allende hopes, will "light the torches of our daughters and granddaughters with mine. They will have to live for us, as we lived for our mothers, and carry on with the work still left to be finished."

Hooked

- by Michael Moss

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From the #1 bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Salt Sugar Fat, the troubling story of how food companies have exploited our most fundamental evolutionary instincts to get us hooked on processed foods.

Everyone knows how hard it can be to maintain a healthy diet. But what if some of the decisions we make about what to eat are beyond our control? Is it possible that processed food is addictive, like drugs or alcohol? Motivated by these questions, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Michael Moss began searching for answers, to find the true peril in our food.

In Hooked, Moss explores the science of addiction and uncovers what the scientific and medical communities--as well as food manufacturers--already know, which is that food can, in some cases, be even more addictive than alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs. Our bodies are hard-wired for sweets, so food manufacturers have deployed fifty-six types of sugar to add to their products, creating in us the expectation that everything should be cloying; we've evolved to prefer convenient meals, so three-fourths of the calories we get from groceries come from ready-to-eat foods. Moss goes on to show how the processed food industry has not only tried to deny this troubling discovery, but exploit it to its advantage. For instance, in a response to recent dieting trends, food manufacturers have simply turned junk food into junk diets, filling grocery stores with "diet" foods that are hardly distinguishable from the products that got us into trouble in the first place. With more people unable to make dieting work for them, manufacturers are now claiming to add ingredients that can effortlessly cure our compulsive eating habits.

A gripping account of the legal battles, insidious marketing campaigns, and cutting-edge food science that have brought us to our current public health crisis, Hooked lays out all that the food industry is doing to exploit and deepen our addictions, and shows us what we can do so that we can once again seize control.

The Sum of Us

- by Heather Mcghee

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER o One of today's most insightful and influential thinkers offers a powerful exploration of inequality and the lesson that generations of Americans have failed to learn: Racism has a cost for everyone--not just for people of color.
 
"This is the book I've been waiting for."--Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist

Heather McGhee's specialty is the American economy--and the mystery of why it so often fails the American public. From the financial crisis to rising student debt to collapsing public infrastructure, she found a common root problem: racism. But not just in the most obvious indignities for people of color. Racism has costs for white people, too. It is the common denominator of our most vexing public problems, the core dysfunction of our democracy and constitutive of the spiritual and moral crises that grip us all. But how did this happen? And is there a way out?

McGhee embarks on a deeply personal journey across the country from Maine to Mississippi to California, tallying what we lose when we buy into the zero-sum paradigm--the idea that progress for some of us must come at the expense of others. Along the way, she meets white people who confide in her about losing their homes, their dreams, and their shot at better jobs to the toxic mix of American racism and greed. This is the story of how public goods in this country--from parks and pools to functioning schools--have become private luxuries; of how unions collapsed, wages stagnated, and inequality increased; and of how this country, unique among the world's advanced economies, has thwarted universal healthcare.
 
But in unlikely places of worship and work, McGhee finds proof of what she calls the Solidarity Dividend: gains that come when people come together across race, to accomplish what we simply can't do on our own.

The Sum of Us is a brilliant analysis of how we arrived here: divided and self-destructing, materially rich but spiritually starved and vastly unequal. McGhee marshals economic and sociological research to paint an irrefutable story of racism's costs, but at the heart of the book are the humble stories of people yearning to be part of a better America, including white supremacy's collateral victims: white people themselves. With startling empathy, this heartfelt message from a Black woman to a multiracial America leaves us with a new vision for a future in which we finally realize that life can be more than a zero-sum game.

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster

- by Bill Gates

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
NATIONAL BESTSELLER

In this urgent, singularly authoritative book, Bill Gates sets out a wide-ranging, practical--and accessible--plan for how the world can get to zero greenhouse gas emissions in time to avoid an irreversible

climate catastrophe.


Bill Gates has spent a decade investigating the causes and effects of climate change. With the help and guidance of experts in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, political science and finance, he has focused on exactly what must be done in order to stop the planet's slide toward certain environmental disaster. In this book, he not only gathers together all the information we need to fully grasp how important it is that we work toward net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases but also details exactly what we need to do to achieve this profoundly important goal.

He gives us a clear-eyed description of the challenges we face. He describes the areas in which technology is already helping to reduce emissions; where and how the current technology can be made to function more effectively; where breakthrough technologies are needed, and who is working on these essential innovations. Finally, he lays out a concrete plan for achieving the goal of zero emissions--suggesting not only policies that governments should adopt, but what we as individuals can do to keep our government, our employers and ourselves accountable in this crucial enterprise.

As Bill Gates makes clear, achieving zero emissions will not be simple or easy to do, but by following the guidelines he sets out here, it is a goal firmly within our reach.

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