Are you shopping for a deep thinker this holiday season? A book is a great and thoughtful gift choice for friends or relatives. You may know someone who is fascinated by how the human brain works. Perhaps you have a co-worker or neighbor who can’t wait to discuss economic or political theories with you. Check out this list to get some great book ideas to satisfy the people on your list that aren’t content to stay on the surface of even the toughest topics. You could even treat yourself with one of these great selections – just don’t forget to pack it in your carry-on when you’re traveling to visit relatives during the holidays this year or jetting off on a New Year’s vacation.
- Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
This international bestseller, written by Nobel Prize-winner and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Daniel Kahneman, has received too many accolades to list. It was the winner of the National Academy of Sciences Best Book Award Major and was named one of the ten best books of 2011 by the New York Times Book Review. Kahneman, a psychologist by training, delves deeply into the human mind and how it functions in this informative yet practical book. Kahneman neatly explains two systems that our brains use to process information. System 1 is faster, but often errs due to the influence of emotion; System 2 is slower, but less prone to making logical mistakes. Kahneman encourages his readers to find ways to recognize when they are using System 1 or System 2 and to find ways to think more “slowly” in order to make better choices in both their professional and personal lives.
- Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks
The late Dr. Oliver Sacks is renowned in both the medical and literary worlds for his compassionate and detailed works regarding patients who suffer from strange and interesting diseases, usually of the brain. Though he is better known for his bestseller The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Oliver Sacks explores the place music occupies in the brain and how it affects the human condition in our pick, Musicophilia. Many mysterious musical maladies are explored in this work which includes accounts of patients who are “hypermusical” as well as those suffering from “amusia.” Dr. Sacks applies his gentle expert touch to these captivating stories of music’s profound effect on the brain and our lives.
- The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver
If you enjoy statistics, you’ve probably heard Nate Silver’s name everywhere since he predicted the outcome of the 2008 election with uncanny accuracy. As the founder of FiveThirtyEight.com, Silver has become one of the foremost statisticians and analysts working today. In The Signal and the Noise, named one of Wall Street Journal's Best Ten Works of Nonfiction in 2012, Silver explains why some forecasters are more accurate than others while providing valuable insights into probability theories.
Look for forecasting skill to only become more valuable in the future for problems ranging from politics to medicine to the economy.
- The Glass Universe by Dava Sobel
In her most recent work, prolific science writer Dava Sobel weaves the stories of the women employed as “human calculators” by the Harvard College Observatory during the mid-nineteenth century. This well-researched work, enlivened in Sobel’s typical style with excerpts from letters, diaries, and other personal touches, should satisfy fans of both science and history. You don’t have to take our word for it either - it was named one of the best books of the year by NPR, The Economist, Smithsonian, and Nature in addition to being nominated for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award.
- The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene
Clever enough to challenge the reader but clearly written enough for even armchair scientists, The Elegant Universe has been widely acclaimed since its first publication in 2010. An international bestseller and the inspiration for a major Nova special, Greene’s mind-bending work explains the ins and outs of string theory, a compelling theory that tantalizes readers with the chance to understand better how the entire universe works. Despite the daunting subject matter, Greene, who is a renowned string theorist, brings clear prose and a sense of humor to this work to keep the reader entertained throughout all eleven dimensions.