How by Dov Seidman (Wiley, $28). When we look at the challenges facing our nation, how we go about addressing them is usually considered the question. The premise of Seidman's 2007 book is that "how" is the solution — that the way we relate to each other is the determinative variable in the way those challenges will be resolved, in the prosperity of the country, and in the quality of our lives.
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30). If Seidman is saying that how we work at our challenges is the answer, Kahneman's current best seller says, Here's how. Kahneman is a psychologist, and he asks us to understand that our brains have two systems for solving problems, and that we each need to recognize when the rational side is being overridden by the system driven by emotion.
Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson (Crown, $17). This autobiography by the founder of Virgin Records and Virgin Airlines is an exhibition on how — not how to make money but how to create a life based on entrepreneurship, adventure, problem-solving, and audacity.
Republic Lost by Lawrence Lessig (Twelve, $27). This book describes the single biggest barrier to America's achieving a quality "how" — the corrupting influence of money on our political system. Professor Lessig is wonderfully articulate in detailing the scope of the problem and advancing a potential solution.
The End of War by John Horgan (McSweeney's, $22). A reason for hope: Horgan's assertion is that the history of humanity is not a history of war — that war has been used as a problem-solving technique for only about 10,000 years. Because the existence of an anonymous "them" is a precondition of war, he also argues that the world's increasing interconnectedness will soon render war obsolete.
The Shadow Effect by Deepak Chopra et al. (HarperOne, $15). Chopra speaks to the need for each of us to resolve what's unresolved in our own lives before we can address unresolved issues in our communities and nation. If we do the first, achieving the larger objective will come naturally.