Sin in the Second City by Karen Abbott (Random House, $15). Ever wonder about the inner workings of a top-of-the-line brothel in early 20th-century Chicago? So did we. Karen Abbott has the details, and they’re extraordinary.
Nudge by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein (Penguin, $16). These two learned men are the superheroes of a movement known as libertarian paternalism, which is nowhere near as pompous or dull as it sounds. It simply means using “choice architecture” to nudge people—and, therefore, societies—to make good decisions about everything from health care to personal finance.
How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman (Mariner, $16). The title says it all—but it’s even better than that, since Groopman is not only a renowned physician himself but a true thinker, a maverick, an anti-status-quo man, and (it’s almost unfair) an excellent writer, as well.
Sustainable Energy—Without the Hot Air by David J.C. MacKay (UIT Cambridge, $50). Anyone who wants to understand global warming—and not everyone does, since they’ve got their platitudes to defend—needs to find a physicist to cut through the fog. MacKay might be your man. His clarifying mantra: “Numbers, not adjectives.” Go ahead and unplug your phone charger every night if you must, he writes, but that’s the equivalent to “bailing the Titanic with a teaspoon.”
Start-Up Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer (Twelve, $27). This forthcoming book (Nov. 4) addresses a tantalizing puzzle: How on earth does Israel have more companies on the NASDAQ than any country other than the United States, and what accounts for this tiny nation’s outsize high-tech accomplishments? An eye-opening look at a side of Israel that most people never think about.
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (Free Press, $14). Yes, it’s a novel, the only one on our list, but anyone looking for a good snapshot of modern India would do well to read this rambunctious, tragicomic story of a young striver whose ambitions lead him off the rails. It’s all of India writ small: the corruption, the tradition, the hope, the commerce, the sex—and, alas, always another layer of corruption.