1. How Not to be Wrong, by Jordan Ellenberg
Ellenberg, a mathematician and writer, explains how math plays into our daily lives without our even knowing it. Each chapter starts with a subject that seems fairly straightforward—electoral politics, say, or the Massachusetts lottery—and then uses it as a jumping-off point to talk about the math involved.
The book’s larger point is that, as Ellenberg writes, “to do mathematics is to be, at once, touched by fire and bound by reason”.
2. The Vital Question, by Nick Lane
It’s not just theoretica. Nick is trying to right a scientific wrong by getting people to fully appreciate the role that energy plays in all living things. He argues that we can only understand how life began, and how living things got so complex, by understanding how energy works.
3. The Power to Compete, by Ryoichi Mikitani and Hiroshi Mikitani
Why were Japan's companies—the juggernauts of the 1980s—eclipsed by competitors in South Korea and China？ And can they come back？ Those questions are at the heart of this series of dialogues between Ryoichi, an economist who died in 2013, and his son Hiroshi, founder of the Internet company Rakuten. The Power to Compete is a smart look at the future of a fascinating country.
4. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Noah Yuval Harari.
Harari takes on a daunting challenge: to tell the entire history of the human race in just 400 pages. He also writes about our species today and how artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, and other technologies will change us in the future. I would recommend Sapiens to anyone who’s interested in the history and future of our species.
5. Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson
The plot gets going in the first sentence, when the moon blows up. People figure out that in two years acataclysmic meteor shower will wipe out all life on Earth, so the world unites on a plan to keep humanity going by launching as many spacecraft as possible into orbit.