Choosing to capitalize every first letter for the title words is hard (I’m still not sure I made the right choice). Reading three non-fiction books definitely sounds like it’s harder. But it’s not!
Actually, I read six, but three of them happened to be really great. They not only gave me a clearer understanding of the world, they also gave me a clearer understanding of myself. My passions, interests, and personality all made more sense after reading them, which is one of the great things about literature. Here are three books I really enjoyed reading this summer:
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harrari
Is our species happier than it’s ever been? Why did humanity spend so long as cavemen? What momentous thing happened that allowed those cavemen to suddenly make pyramids and religion? Why did the Europeans colonize the rest of the world instead of Asians? These are some of the questions Yuval Noah Harrari tackles in his provocative inspection of our species’ narrative.
This book changed the way I saw the world. The kind of lives my own ancestors lived just four generations back is crazy to think about! To be born in this generation seems remarkable now. Everything is a gift, and every amenity is a privilege.
Harrari gave me a look behind the curtain of our manufactured lives. You get a peek behind the scenes. Instead of the spectre of modern civilization being less captivating, it becomes more captivating. Humanity enjoys a standard of life our nearest animal siblings haven’t even fathomed. How did an upright ape get to smart phones and space travel?
2. The Grid, by Gretchen Bakke
Electricity makes modern life possible. Without it, we lose our computers. We lose Wi-Fi and the internet it brings. We lose our credit cards, Netflix subscriptions, Amazon Prime, we lose air conditioning and every lamp everywhere goes out.
The conversation about the source of our electricity is really loud right now. Out with fossil fuels! In with solar! But no one is really talking about how that electricity is sent from the source to our homes. I barely knew how a power plant worked. We can’t talk about the source of our energy without fully understanding our grid. That’s where the big problems lie, and that’s where really creative people are finding some amazing solutions. To those interested, we really have a chance here to save the world.
Energy is a big topic for us to know right now, and Gretchen Bakke really breaks down that complexity into bite sized pieces. It’s an important book for future American citizens to read.
3. The End of Power, by Moisés Naím
Here’s a piece of good news: centralized power is becoming more democratic. Oh wait, it’s kind of bad news, too. Because it means the rise of militant groups like ISIS and xenophobic presidents like Donald Trump. It also empowers the citizen to fight for his/her rights! But that comes with decreased privacy and slower growth.
In short, lots of things are changing for everybody, everywhere. Is America really falling behind China? Are we ever going to “win” the war on terror? What are the implications of a genuine species-wide middle class? We are witnessing a revolution unfold on a canvas 7 billion people wide and as tall as each of their stories. From casinos in Vegas to fisherman in Bali, child soldiers in Uganda to startups in San Francisco, the decay of power has implications for all of our lives.
Moisés Naím is really talented. He was the Executive Director of the World Bank as well as Venezuela’s Minister of Industry. And the man knows how to write. Sharply worded and informative, his book makes order out of the chaos of modern civilization.
Reading is hard. It’s not as instantly entertaining as movies or TV. But you can do it during the day or at night, in a cafe or in bed. Once you start, it’s much more rewarding than any other form of entertainment.
It’s like riding on the bus or train and looking out the window. Perhaps a light in a window reminds you of that fact that inside of those holes, a story is being written. Every lamp has a little hairless monkey behind it, perhaps sleeping or brainstorming deep captions to sunset pictures or scratching his/her butt. With books, you get to explore the things that are happening beyond the boundaries of your existence. It might make you feel small or ask terrifying questions of you, but you’ll feel better than you did before.
Reading was a great part of this summer, and through it I learned more about this fascinating world we’ve got to play with. I hope you have a great time with these books, too.