Best Non-Fiction of 2014     
In This Issue
The Innovators
Kitten Clone: Inside Alcatel-Lucent
The Oh She Glows Cookbook
Capital in the Twenty-First Century
Extreme Mean
Unsinkable
The Sixth Extinction
Yes Please
You Are Here
This Changes Everything
The Art of Asking
The Third Plate
Waking Up
The End of Absence
Sous Chef
Quick Links
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The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster  

(Oct. 7 2014)  

ISBN-10: 147670869X

ISBN-13: 978-1476708690

Technology / History

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What were the talents that allowed certain inventors and entrepreneurs to turn their visionary ideas into disruptive realities? What led to their creative leaps? Why did some succeed and others fail?

In his masterly saga, Isaacson begins with Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron's daughter, who pioneered computer programming in the 1840s. He explores the fascinating personalities that created our current digital revolution, such as Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, John von Neumann, J.C.R. Licklider, Doug Engelbart, Robert Noyce, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Tim Berners-Lee, and Larry Page.

This is the story of how their minds worked and what made them so inventive. It's also a narrative of how their ability to collaborate and master the art of teamwork made them even more creative.

For an era that seeks to foster innovation, creativity, and teamwork, The Innovators shows how they happen.
Kitten Clone: Inside Alcatel-Lucent by Douglas Coupland

Publisher: Random House Canada (Sept. 30 2014)  

ISBN-10: 0345814118

ISBN-13: 978-0345814111

Technology / Social Issues
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Douglas Coupland takes an inside look at the global company that keeps us connected, and wonders what all that connectivity is doing to our brains and our sense of ourselves as humans.

He reports from inside the corporate offices and science labs of Alcatel-Lucent, a globally influential business whose work is largely unknown to consumers. "Were it to vanish tomorrow," he writes, "our modern world would grind to a halt. The Internet would implode--your Internet would implode." Although his examination of the company is playful and fascinating in its own right, Coupland's account is driven by his thoughtful reflections on the larger cultural and sociological significance of the transformative information technology Alcatel works on: fiber wire, microprocessors, the Internet and mobile technologies. And by a larger meditation about what the Internet is doing to us as it relentlessly colonizes the planet, and our brains.

Like Coupland's best work, Kitten Clone is a wildly entertaining yet penetrating encounter with the technological and cultural forces that surround us. And also a surprising and unique exploration of a possible future.
The Oh She Glows Cookbook: Vegan Recipes to Glow from the Inside Out by Angela Liddon

  

Publisher: Penguin Canada (March 4 2014)
ISBN-10: 0143187228

ISBN-13: 978-0143187226

Food
/ Cooking
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A self-trained chef and food photographer, Angela Liddon has spent years perfecting the art of plant-based cooking, creating inventive and delicious recipes that have brought her devoted fans from all over the world. After struggling for a decade with an eating disorder, Angela vowed to change her diet - and her life - once and for all. She traded the low-calorie, processed food she'd been living on for whole, nutrient-packed vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and more. The result? Her energy soared, she healed her relationship with food, and she got her glow back, both inside and out. Eager to share her realization that the food we put into our bodies has a huge impact on how we look and feel each day, Angela started a blog, Oh She Glows, which is now an internet sensation and one of the most popular vegan recipe blogs on the web.

 

This is Angela's long-awaited debut cookbook, with a treasure trove of more than a hundred mouth-watering, wholesome recipes - from revamped classics that even meat-eaters will love, to fresh and inventive dishes - all packed with flavor. From rich and hearty entrees like the Crowd Pleasing Tex Mex Casserole and 15-Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta to decadent desserts such as Chilled Chocolate Espresso Torte with Hazelnut Crust and Angela's famous Glo Bakery Glo Bars, there is something for everyone. The Oh She Glows Cookbook also includes recipes free of common food allergens - with more than ninety gluten-free recipes - and many recipes free of soy, nuts, sugar, and grains, too! 
Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty

Publisher: Belknap Press (April 15 2014)  

ISBN-10: 067443000X

ISBN-13: 978-0674430006

Economics / Finance
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What are the grand dynamics that drive the accumulation and distribution of capital? Questions about the long-term evolution of inequality, the concentration of wealth, and the prospects for economic growth lie at the heart of political economy. But satisfactory answers have been hard to find for lack of adequate data and clear guiding theories. In Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty analyzes a unique collection of data from twenty countries, ranging as far back as the eighteenth century, to uncover key economic and social patterns. His findings will transform debate and set the agenda for the next generation of thought about wealth and inequality.

 

Piketty shows that modern economic growth and the diffusion of knowledge have allowed us to avoid inequalities on the apocalyptic scale predicted by Karl Marx. But we have not modified the deep structures of capital and inequality as much as we thought in the optimistic decades following World War II. The main driver of inequality--the tendency of returns on capital to exceed the rate of economic growth--today threatens to generate extreme inequalities that stir discontent and undermine democratic values. But economic trends are not acts of God. Political action has curbed dangerous inequalities in the past, Piketty says, and may do so again.

Extreme Mean: Trolls, Bullies and Predators Online by Paula Todd

Publisher: Signal (May 21 2014)  

ISBN-10: 077108403X

ISBN-13: 978-0771084034

Technology / Social Issues
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It seems as if each week our news broadcasts, newspaper headlines, Twitter feeds, and Facebook timelines are dominated by stories of cyberbullying and other digital abuse. This isn't the playground teasing and name-calling of generations before the Internet. This new abuse's unique characteristics - anonymity, permanence, and viral audience - can relentlessly exacerbate the humiliation, pain, and danger of its victims.
 
Ugly rumours that once snaked through school hallways and around the office water cooler are now delivered at lightning speed to the world, while sexual extortion and revenge-porn sites target those who've shared intimate images or had them stolen by hackers. Cyberstalkers who target adults destroy reputations and careers. And the splendid connectivity of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, also makes us vulnerable to "interpersonal terrorism," while apps that promise privacy and rapid deletion are ridden with loopholes.
 
With vivid reportage, Paula Todd goes deep into the world of "extreme mean," uncovering the people who use the Internet to undermine lives rather than improve them.
Unsinkable: My Untold Story by Silken Laumann

 

Publisher: HarperCollins (Jan. 13 2014)  

ISBN-10: 1443419079

ISBN-13: 978-1443419079

Sports / Memoir
 

 

Just ten weeks before the 1992 Olympic Games, Silken Laumann, the reigning world champion in single sculls rowing, suffered a brutal accident that left her right leg shattered and useless. Doctors doubted that she would ever row competitively again. But twenty-seven days, five operations and countless hours of gruelling rehabilitation later, Silken was back in her racing shell, ready to pursue her dream. When the starter's pistol rang out on August 2, she made the greatest comeback in Canadian sports history, rowing to a bronze-medal finish while the world watched, captivated by her remarkable story. Silken became one of Canada's most beloved Olympians and has continued to inspire, encouraging people to dream, live in the moment and embrace life's unexpected, difficult, and  amazing journey .

 

But there was a massive barrier in her path that she has never before spoken about, a hidden story much darker than the tale of her accident. Now, Silken bravely shines a spotlight on all the obstacles she has encountered-and overcome-in Unsinkable, a memoir that reveals not only new insights into her athletic success and triumph over physical adversity, but also the intense personal challenges of her past and the fierce determination she applies to living a bold, loving and successful life today.

The Sixth Extinction: an Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (Feb. 11 2014)  

ISBN-10: 0805092994

ISBN-13: 978-0805092998

Ecology / Endangered Species
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Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In The Sixth Extinction, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef. She introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy; as Kolbert observes, it compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human. 

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Publisher: HarperCollins (Oct. 27 2014)  

ISBN-10: 1443424528

ISBN-13: 978-1443424523

Entertainment / Memoir
 

 

In a perfect world...We'd get to hang out with Amy Poehler, watching dumb movies, listening to music, and swapping tales about our coworkers and difficult childhoods. Because in a perfect world, we'd all be friends with Amy - someone who seems so fun, is full of interesting stories, tells great jokes, and offers plenty of advice and wisdom (the useful kind, not the annoying kind you didn't ask for, anyway). Unfortunately, between her Golden Globe-winning role on Parks and Recreation, work as a producer and director, place as one of the most beloved SNL alumni and cofounder of the Upright Citizens Brigade, involvement with the website Smart Girls at the Party, frequent turns as acting double for Meryl Streep, and her other gig as the mom of two young sons, she's not available for movie night.

 

Luckily, we have the next best thing: Yes Please, Amy's hilarious and candid book. A collection of stories, thoughts, ideas, lists, and haiku from the mind of one of our most beloved entertainers, Yes Please offers Amy's thoughts on everything from her "too safe" childhood outside of Boston to her early days in new York City, her ideas about Hollywood and "the biz," the demon that looks back at all of us in the mirror, and her joy at being told she has a "face for wigs." Yes Please is a chock-full of words and wisdom to live by. 

You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes by Chris Hadfield
 

Publisher: Random House Canada (Oct. 14 2014)

ISBN-10: 0345814940

ISBN-13: 978-0345814944

Photo Essays
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Astronaut Chris Hadfield creates a surprisingly intimate and compelling visual essay about the planet we live on, choosing the best from the thousands of photos he took on the International Space Station.

Chris Hadfield's new book shows us our home--our city, country, continent, our whole planet--from a unique perspective. The millions of us who followed Chris's Twitter feed from the ISS thought we knew what we were looking at when we saw his photos. This photo documentary shows us we didn't. We caught the beauty but missed the meaning. Curated from images never before shared, Chris's big picture reveals why our planet looks the way it does and why we live where we do. Chris sees more in these images than we do, not just because he's spent months in space but because his in-depth knowledge of geology, geography and meteorology allows him to read the mysteries the photos reveal. 
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein

Publisher: Knopf Canada (Sept. 16 2014)

ISBN-10: 0307401995

ISBN-13: 978-0307401991

Economics / Social Issues
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Forget everything you think you know about global warming. The really inconvenient truth is that it's not about carbon - it's about capitalism. The convenient truth is that we can seize this existential crisis to transform our failed system and build something radically better. In her most provocative book yet, Naomi Klein, author of the global bestsellers The Shock Doctrine and No Logo, tackles the most profound threat humanity has ever faced: the war our economic model is waging against life on earth.  

Klein exposes the myths that are clouding the climate debate. We have been told the market will save us, when in fact the addiction to profit and growth is digging us in deeper every day. We have been told it's impossible to get off fossil fuels when in fact we know exactly how to do i t- it just requires breaking every rule in the "free-market" playbook: reining in corporate power, rebuilding local economies and reclaiming our democracies. We have also been told that humanity is too greedy and selfish to rise to this challenge. In fact, all around the world, the fight back is already succeeding in ways both surprising and inspiring. 
The Art of Asking: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (Nov. 11 2014)

ISBN-10: 1455581089

ISBN-13: 978-1455533770

Creativity / Music Memoir
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Rock star, crowdfunding pioneer, and TED speaker Amanda Palmer knows all about asking. Performing as a living statue in a wedding dress, she wordlessly asked thousands of passersby for their dollars. When she became a singer, songwriter, and musician, she was not afraid to ask her audience to support her as she surfed the crowd (and slept on their couches while touring). And when she left her record label to strike out on her own, she asked her fans to support her in making an album, leading to the world's most successful music Kickstarter.

Even while Amanda is both celebrated and attacked for her fearlessness in asking for help, she finds that there are important things she cannot ask for - as a musician, as a friend, and as a wife. She learns that she isn't alone in this, that so many people are afraid to ask for help, and it paralyzes their lives and relationships. In this groundbreaking book, she explores these barriers in her own life and in the lives of those around her, and discovers the emotional, philosophical, and practical aspects of The Art of Asking.
The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food by Dan Barber

Publisher: Penguin Press (May 20 2014)

ISBN-10: 1594204071

ISBN-13: 978-1594204074

Food / Food Production
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At the heart of today's optimistic farm-to-table food culture is a dark secret: the local food movement has failed to change how we eat. It has also offered a false promise for the future of food. Our concern over factory farms and chemically grown crops might have sparked a social movement, but chef Dan Barber reveals that even the most enlightened eating of today is ultimately detrimental to the environment and to individual health. And it doesn't involve truly delicious food. Based on ten years of surveying farming communities around the world, Barber's The Third Plate offers a radical new way of thinking about food that will heal the land and taste good, too.

The Third Plate is grounded in the history of American cuisine over the last two centuries. Traditionally, we have dined on the "first plate," a classic meal centered on a large cut of meat with few vegetables. Thankfully, that's become largely pass¸«±. The farm-to-table movement has championed the "second plate," where the meat is from free-range animals and the vegetables are locally sourced. It's better-tasting, and better for the planet, but the second plate's architecture is identical to that of the first. It, too, is damaging-disrupting the ecological balances of the planet, causing soil depletion and nutrient loss-and in the end it isn't a sustainable way to farm or eat.

The solution, explains Barber, lies in the "third plate": an integrated system of vegetable, grain, and livestock production that is fully supported-in fact, dictated-by what we choose to cook for dinner. The third plate is where good farming and good food intersect.
Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Sept. 9 2014)

ISBN-10: 1451636016

ISBN-13: 978-1451636017

Spirituality / Meditation
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Waking Up is a guide to meditation as a rational practice informed by neuroscience and psychology.

From Sam Harris, neuroscientist and author of numerous New York Times bestselling books, Waking Up is for the twenty percent of Americans who follow no religion but who suspect that important truths can be found in the experiences of such figures as Jesus, the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Rumi, and the other saints and sages of history. Throughout this book, Harris argues that there is more to understanding reality than science and secular culture generally allow, and that how we pay attention to the present moment largely determines the quality of our lives.

Waking Up is part memoir and part exploration of the scientific underpinnings of spirituality. No other book marries contemplative wisdom and modern science in this way, and no author other than Sam Harris - a scientist, philosopher, and famous skeptic-could write it.
The End Of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in a World of Constant Connection by Michael Harris

Publisher: HarperCollins (July 28 2014)

ISBN-10: 144342627X

ISBN-13: 1443426275

Technology / Social Issues
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Only one generation in history (ours) will experience life both with and without the Internet. For everyone who follows us, online life will simply be the air they breathe. Today, we revel in ubiquitous information and constant connection, rarely stopping to consider the implications for our logged-on lives.

Michael Harris chronicles this massive shift, exploring what we've gained - and lost - in the bargain. In this eloquent and thought-provoking book, Harris argues that our greatest loss has been that of absence itself-of silence, wonder and solitude. It's a surprisingly precious commodity, and one we have less of every year. Drawing on a vast trove of research and scores of interviews with global experts, Harris explores this "loss of lack" in chapters devoted to every corner of our lives, from sex and commerce to memory and attention span. The book's message is urgent: once we've lost the gift of absence, we may never remember its value.
Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line by Michael Gibney

Publisher: Ballantine Books (March 25 2014)

ISBN-10: 0804177872

ISBN-13: 978-0804177870

Food / Cooking Memoir
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The back must slave to feed the belly. . . . In this urgent and unique book, chef Michael Gibney uses twenty-four hours to animate the intricate camaraderie and culinary choreography in an upscale New York restaurant kitchen. Here readers will find all the details, in rapid-fire succession, of what it takes to deliver an exceptional plate of food-the journey to excellence by way of exhaustion.
 
Told in second-person narrative, Sous Chef is an immersive, adrenaline-fueled run that offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the food service industry, allowing readers to briefly inhabit the hidden world behind the kitchen doors, in real time. This exhilarating account provides regular diners and food enthusiasts alike a detailed insider's perspective, while offering fledgling professional cooks an honest picture of what the future holds, ultimately giving voice to the hard work and dedication around which chefs have built their careers.
 
In a kitchen where the highest standards are upheld and one misstep can result in disaster, Sous Chef conjures a greater appreciation for the thought, care, and focus that go into creating memorable and delicious fare. With grit, wit, and remarkable prose, Michael Gibney renders a beautiful and raw account of this demanding and sometimes overlooked profession, offering a nuanced perspective on the craft and art of food and service.