Gift Ideas: Philosophy, Science, Business, Social Science

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ABC’s booksellers don’t just sell books: as well as being voracious readers, almost all ABC staff members are personally responsible for buying the books for one or more sections in the stores. That means you’ll always find someone who can put exactly the right book in your hands when you need it. We asked our buyers for their tips for the best gifts for the upcoming holiday season, and they came up with some great ones: new books, classic books, magazines, games, merchandise, and stationery.

Today you’ll find gift ideas for Philosophy, Business, Science, and Social Science as supplied by Ester, Tom, Sigrid, Jouke, Agnes, Martijn, Jeroen and Femke.

Even more gift ideas can be found here and here!

Philosophy

The Hobbit and Philosophy: For When You’ve Lost Your Dwarves, Your Wizard, and Your Way – Gregory Bassham & Eric Bronson

J.R.R. Tolkien′s The Hobbit is one of the best–loved fantasy books of all time and the enchanting “prequel” to The Lord of the Rings. With the help of some of history′s great philosophers, this book ponders a host of deep questions raised in this timeless tale, such as: Are adventures simply “nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things” that “make you late for dinner,” or are they exciting and potentially life–changing events? What duties do friends have to one another? Should mercy be extended even to those who deserve to die? (more…)

Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story – Jim Holt

‘Why is there a world rather than nothing at all?’ remains the most curious and most enduring of all metaphysical mysteries. Moving away from the narrower paths of Christopher Hitchens, Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking, the celebrated essayist Jim Holt now enters this fascinating debate with his broad, lively and deeply informed narrative that traces all our efforts to grasp the origins of the universe. With sly humour and a highly original personal approach Holt takes on the role of cosmological detective. Suggesting that we might have been too narrow in limiting our suspects to God and the Big Bang, he tracks down, among others, an eccentric Oxford philosopher, a Nobel Laureate physicist, a French Buddhist monk, and John Updike just before he died, to pursue this cosmic puzzle from every angle. As he pieces together a solution – while offering useful insights into time, consciousness, and eternity – he sheds fascinating new light on the meaning of existence.

The Truth – Michael Palin

Keith Mabbut is at a crossroads in his life. When he is offered the opportunity of a lifetime – to write the biography of the elusive Hamish Melville, a highly influential activist and humanitarian – he seizes the chance to write something meaningful.
His search to find out the real story behind the legend takes Mabbut to Orissa and the environmental hotspots of India. The more he discovers about Melville, the more he admires him – and the more he connects with an idealist who wanted to make a difference. But is his quarry really who he claims to be? As Keith discovers, the truth can be whatever we make it…

Business


This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly – Carmen Reinhart & Kenneth Rogoff

Rienhart and Rogoff’s thoroughly-researched book makes a distinction between the ‘real’ economy and the financial economy. They make the compelling case that any well-informed person should have seen the Great Recession coming. The essence of their book is that while financial crises come in different varieties, they are not mysteriously born of undersea earthquakes, but frequently occurring events that can be spotted and even controlled if politicians and regulators know what to look for. Filled to the brim with numbers and statistic, this book can be a bit dry, though.

Crisis Economics : A Crash Course in the Future of Finance – Nouriel Roubini

This myth-shattering book by economist Roubini reveals the methods he used to foretell the current crisis and shows how those methods can help us make sense of the present and prepare for the future using an unconventional blend of historical analysis with masterful knowledge of global economics.

The Lost Bank: The Story of Washington Mutual-The Biggest Bank Failure in American History – Kirsten Grind

For readers that are not very interested in economics at large, this is the perfect book. Kirsten Grind has a talent for presenting complicated financial transaction in an understandable manner and telling the story of the downfall of Washington Mutual with an eye for the company’s culture and personal motives. No wonder she was a Pulitzer Finalist in 2010 for her articles that form the basis of this book!

Debt: The First 5000 Years – David Graeber

Anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom: he shows that before there was money, there was debt. For more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods–that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors. (more…)

Anti-Fragility (a.k.a. Antifragile) – Nassim Nicholas Taleb

In The Black Swan Taleb outlined a problem, and his revelatory new book Antifragile offers a definitive solution: how to live in a world that is unpredicatable, chaotic, and full of shocks, and how to thrive during periods of disaster. Taleb stands uncertainty on its head, making it desirable, even necessary, and proposes that things be built in an antifragile manner. For what Taleb calls the ‘antifragile’ is beyond the merely robust; it benefits from shocks, uncertainty and stressors. Antifragile is about what to do when we don’t understand. It is a new word because it is a new concept. (more…)

Mastery – Robert Greene

What did Charles Darwin, middling schoolboy and underachieving second son, do to become one of the earliest and greatest naturalists the world has known? What were the similar choices made by Mozart and by Caesar Rodriguez, the U.S. Air Force’s last ace fighter pilot? In Mastery, Robert Greene’s fifth book, he mines the biographies of great historical figures for clues about gaining control over our own lives and destinies. Picking up where The 48 Laws of Power left off, Greene culls years of research and original interviews to blend historical anecdote and psychological insight, distilling the universal ingredients of the world’s masters. (more…)

Science


Thinking in Numbers : How Maths Illuminates Our Lives – Daniel Tammet

This is the book that Daniel Tammet, bestselling author and mathematical savant, was born to write. In Tammet’s world, numbers are beautiful and mathematics illuminates our lives and minds. Using anecdotes and everyday examples, Tammet allows us to share his unique insights and delight in the way numbers, fractions and equations underpin all our lives.Inspired by the complexity of snowflakes, Anne Boleyn’s sixth finger or his mother’s unpredictable behaviour, Tammet explores questions such as why time seems to speed up as we age, whether there is such a thing as an average person and how we can make sense of those we love. Thinking in Numbers will change the way you think about maths and fire your imagination to see the world with fresh eyes.

The Future: 50 Ideas You Really Need to Know – Richard Watson

The latest addition to the great and popular 50 Ideas You Really Need to Know series. The publisher promises us ‘a dynamic insight into how science will shape human destiny over the coming century’.

Please note that this title will be published in December 2012!

How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed – Ray Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil is arguably today’s most influential—and often controversial—futurist. In How to Create a Mind, Kurzweil presents a provocative exploration of the most important project in human-machine civilization—reverse engineering the brain to understand precisely how it works and using that knowledge to create even more intelligent machines.
Kurzweil discusses how the brain functions, how the mind emerges from the brain, and the implications of vastly increasing the powers of our intelligence in addressing the world’s problems. He thoughtfully examines emotional and moral intelligence and the origins of consciousness and envisions the radical possibilities of our merging with the intelligent technology we are creating.

Planetfall: New Solar System Visions – Michael Benson

Michael Benson’s masterful book Beyond gave us a magnificent view of the Solar System culled from millions of photographs taken by unmanned spacecraft up to the end of the twentieth century. Since then, probes built with more powerful cameras and greater maneuverability have looked deeper into the turbulent clouds and wheeling satellites of Jupiter; roamed the boulder-strewn red deserts of Mars; studied Saturn’s immaculate rings; and chronicled vast upheavals erupting from the Sun itself. And of course, they’ve shown us the surface of the ravishing Earth from space as well, a blue-white orb with a disturbingly thin atmosphere, as it plunges deeper into ecological crisis. These new images are the subject of Benson’s Planetfall, a truly revelatory photographic book that uses it’s large page size to reproduce the greatest achievements in contemporary planetary photography as they have never been seen before.

Social Science


City: A Guidebook For The Urban Age – Peter D. Smith

City is the ultimate handbook for the archetypal city and contains main sections on ‘History’, ‘Customs and Language’, ‘Districts’, ‘Transport’, ‘Money’, ‘Work’, ‘Tourist Sites’, ‘Shops and markets’, ‘Nightlife’, etc., and mini-essays on anything and everything from Babel, Tenochtitlán and Ellis Island to Beijing, Mumbai and New York, and from boulevards, suburbs, shanty towns and favelas, to skylines, urban legends and the sacred. Drawing on a wide range of examples from cities across the world and throughout history, it explores the reasons why people first built cities and why urban populations are growing larger every year. (more…)

Living Color: The Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color – Nina G. Jablonski

Living Color explains why skin color has come to be a biological trait with great social meaning – a product of evolution perceived by culture. It considers how we form impressions of others, how we create and use stereotypes, how negative stereotypes about dark skin developed and have played out through history – including being a basis for the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Offering examples of how attitudes about skin color differ in the U.S., Brazil, India, and South Africa, Jablonski suggests that knowledge of the evolution and social importance of skin color can help eliminate color-based discrimination and racism. (more…)

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength – Roy Baumeister & John Tierney

Drawing on cutting-edge research and the wisdom of real-life experts, Willpower shares lessons on how to focus our strength, resist temptation, and redirect our lives. It shows readers how to be realistic when setting goals, monitor their progress, and how to keep faith when they falter. By blending practical wisdom with the best of recent research science, Willpower makes it clear that whatever we seek—from happiness to good health to financial security—we won’t reach our goals without first learning to harness self-control.

The End of Men: And the Rise of Women – Hanna Rosin

Men have been the dominant sex since, well, the dawn of mankind. But Hanna Rosin was the first to notice that this long-held truth is, astonishingly, no longer true. At this unprecedented moment, by almost every measure, women are no longer gaining on men: They have pulled decisively ahead. In this landmark book, Rosin reveals how this new state of affairs is radically shifting the power dynamics between men and women at every level of society, with profound implications for marriage, sex, children, work, and more. With wide-ranging curiosity and insight unhampered by assumptions or ideology, Rosin shows how the radically different ways men and women today earn, learn, spend, couple up—even kill—has turned the big picture upside down. And in The End of Men she helps us see how, regardless of gender, we can adapt to the new reality and channel it for a better future.

What Money Can’t Buy – Michael Sandel

Should we pay children to read books or to get good grades? Should we allow corporations to pay for the right to pollute the atmosphere? Is it ethical to pay people to test risky new drugs or to donate their organs? What about hiring mercenaries to fight our wars? Auctioning admission to elite universities? Selling citizenship to immigrants willing to pay?
In What Money Can’t Buy, Michael J. Sandel takes on one of the biggest ethical questions of our time: Is there something wrong with a world in which everything is for sale? If so, how can we prevent market values from reaching into spheres of life where they don’t belong? What are the moral limits of markets?

Untie the Strong Woman: Blessed Mothers Immaculate Love for the Wild Soul – Clarissa Pinkola Estés

“Call her Our Lady, La Nuestra Señora, Holy Mother-or one of her thousands of other names,” says Dr. Estés. “She wears hundreds of costumes, dozens of skin tones, is patroness of deserts, mountains, stars and oceans. Thus she comes to us in billions of images, but at her center, she is the Great Immaculate Heart.” With Untie the Strong Woman, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés invites us to reconnect with “the fierce and loving Blessed Mother who is friendly, but never tame-she who flies to our aid when the road is long and our hearts are broken, ever ready to rekindle the inner fire of our creative souls.”

Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think – Peter H. Diamandis & Steven Kotler

We will soon be able to meet and exceed the basic needs of every man, woman and child on the planet. Abundance for all is within our grasp. This bold, contrarian view, backed up by exhaustive research, introduces our near-term future, where exponentially growing technologies and three other powerful forces are conspiring to better the lives of billions. An antidote to pessimism by tech entrepreneur turned philanthropist, Peter H. Diamandis and award-winning science writer Steven Kotler. (more…)