Book List, Indie Next

Holiday Gift Giving: Science, Psychology & General Nonfiction

It’s time for our annual holiday gift giving recommendations! Check out all of the picks on display in the front corner of the store across from the wine bar!

The Book of Hope by Jane Goodall & Douglas Abrams

As a lifelong admirer of Jane Goodall, this book was an absolute joy. Using dialogue style writing, Jane’s words come to life and make you feel like she is right in the room with you. With wisdom, wit, and humor, Jane takes you on a journey through her life that is both inspiring and humbling, leaving you with feelings awe, tranquility, and happiness. THE BOOK OF HOPE gives you just that, and will leave you with an everlasting smile.

Marielle

In a world that seems so troubled, how do we hold on to hope?

Looking at the headlines—the worsening climate crisis, a global pandemic, loss of biodiversity, political upheaval—it can be hard to feel optimistic. And yet hope has never been more desperately needed.

In this urgent book, Jane Goodall, the world’s most famous living naturalist, and Douglas Abrams, the internationally bestselling co-author of The Book of Joy, explore through intimate and thought-provoking dialogue one of the most sought after and least understood elements of human nature: hope. In The Book of Hope, Jane focuses on her “Four Reasons for Hope”: The Amazing Human Intellect, The Resilience of Nature, The Power of Young People, and The Indomitable Human Spirit.

Drawing on decades of work that has helped expand our understanding of what it means to be human and what we all need to do to help build a better world, The Book of Hope touches on vital questions, including: How do we stay hopeful when everything seems hopeless? How do we cultivate hope in our children? What is the relationship between hope and action? Filled with moving and inspirational stories and photographs from Jane’s remarkable career, The Book of Hope is a deeply personal conversation with one of the most beloved figures in the world today.

While discussing the experiences that shaped her discoveries and beliefs, Jane tells the story of how she became a messenger of hope, from living through World War II to her years in Gombe to realizing she had to leave the forest to travel the world in her role as an advocate for environmental justice. And for the first time, she shares her profound revelations about her next, and perhaps final, adventure.

The second book in the Global Icons Series—which launched with the instant classic The Book of Joy with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu—The Book of Hope is a rare and intimate look not only at the nature of hope but also into the heart and mind of a woman who revolutionized how we view the world around us and has spent a lifetime fighting for our future.

There is still hope, and this book will help guide us to it.

A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller & David Powlison

As a Christian, prayer is one of the most fundamental aspects of my daily life. It can also be one of the hardest aspects of daily life. This book is full of short and easy to digest chapters. This the best book I’ve ever read on prayer!

Becky

Prayer is hard. Often, unless circumstances demand it–such as an illness or saying grace before a meal–most of us simply do not pray. This kind of prayerlessness can leave us with a distressed spirit and practical unbelief characterized by fear, anxiety, joylessness, and spiritual depression.

A Praying Life has encouraged thousands of Christians to pursue a vibrant prayer life full of joy and power. A life of prayer invites you to a life of connection to God. When Jesus describes the intimacy that He seeks with us, He talks about joining us for dinner (Revelation 3:20). This book reminds readers that prayer is simply making conversation with God a rhythm of life.

Now with added chapters addressing prayers of lament and further guidance for using prayer cards, Paul Miller invites you to foster prayer that regularly hopes, trusts, and expects God to act. Learn to develop helpful habits and approaches to prayer that will enable you to return to a childlike faith and witness spiritual growth today

How to Be Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

If you’re an ally and have no idea where to start, this book is for you. How to be an Antiracist is told with stories from Kendi’s childhood coupled with real history. I learned so much. Kendi ends the book with easy actionable steps.

Becky

Antiracism is a transformative concept that reorients and reenergizes the conversation about racism—and, even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. At its core, racism is a powerful system that creates false hierarchies of human value; its warped logic extends beyond race, from the way we regard people of different ethnicities or skin colors to the way we treat people of different sexes, gender identities, and body types. Racism intersects with class and culture and geography and even changes the way we see and value ourselves. In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi takes readers through a widening circle of antiracist ideas—from the most basic concepts to visionary possibilities—that will help readers see all forms of racism clearly, understand their poisonous consequences, and work to oppose them in our systems and in ourselves.

Kendi weaves an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science with his own personal story of awakening to antiracism. This is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond the awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a just and equitable society.

Jesus and John Wayne by Kristin Kobes Du Mez

Having grown up in the Evangelical Christian national movement full of all its patriarchy, culture wars, and racist adjacent rhetoric, this book was a historical journey to how and why 81% of white evangelicals voted for arguably the least “Christian-like” presidential candidate in recent history. This book looks at culture and Christianity from the early 1900s till today. This is a great read for history buffs, political junkies, and yes, even Christians.

Becky

Jesus and John Wayne is a sweeping, revisionist history of the last seventy-five years of white evangelicalism, revealing how evangelicals have worked to replace the Jesus of the Gospels with an idol of rugged masculinity and Christian nationalism—or in the words of one modern chaplain, with “a spiritual badass.”

As acclaimed scholar Kristin Du Mez explains, the key to understanding this transformation is to recognize the centrality of popular culture in contemporary American evangelicalism. Many of today’s evangelicals might not be theologically astute, but they know their VeggieTales, they’ve read John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart, and they learned about purity before they learned about sex—and they have a silver ring to prove it. Evangelical books, films, music, clothing, and merchandise shape the beliefs of millions. And evangelical culture is teeming with muscular heroes—mythical warriors and rugged soldiers, men like Oliver North, Ronald Reagan, Mel Gibson, and the Duck Dynasty clan, who assert white masculine power in defense of “Christian America.” Chief among these evangelical legends is John Wayne, an icon of a lost time when men were uncowed by political correctness, unafraid to tell it like it was, and did what needed to be done.

Challenging the commonly held assumption that the “moral majority” backed Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020 for purely pragmatic reasons, Du Mez reveals that Trump in fact represented the fulfillment, rather than the betrayal, of white evangelicals’ most deeply held values: patriarchy, authoritarian rule, aggressive foreign policy, fear of Islam, ambivalence toward #MeToo, and opposition to Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ community. A much-needed reexamination of perhaps the most influential subculture in this country, Jesus and John Wayne shows that, far from adhering to biblical principles, modern white evangelicals have remade their faith, with enduring consequences for all Americans.

The Sun is a Compass by Caroline Van Hemert

When the thick, muggy Mid-Atlantic summer hits, don’t you just want to leave it all behind and camp out in the snow with the sound of the rushing Yukon River filling your ears? OK, OK, that’s probably just me. Jokes aside, The Sun Is a Compass, a memoir from Van Hemert about her and her husband’s 4,000-mile trek to the north coast of Alaska and across to the west coast of the state, will indeed take you away to places barely anyone has seen while grounding you deeply in truths and questions about the day to day–how we chart a course through life, choose our roles in our relationships, cope with loss, and more. It’s an excellent pick for a recent college grad, too. And if you do need to cool off, you’ll find this book filled with gorgeous photos of the otherworldly Arctic and awe-inducing natural descriptions. Grab an ice pop, head outside (safely, of course), and dive in.

Hadley

For fans of Cheryl Strayed, the gripping story of a biologist’s human-powered journey from the Pacific Northwest to the Arctic to rediscover her love of birds, nature, and adventure.

During graduate school, as she conducted experiments on the peculiarly misshapen beaks of chickadees, ornithologist Caroline Van Hemert began to feel stifled in the isolated, sterile environment of the lab. Worried that she was losing her passion for the scientific research she once loved, she was compelled to experience wildness again, to be guided by the sounds of birds and to follow the trails of animals.

In March of 2012, she and her husband set off on a 4,000-mile wilderness journey from the Pacific rainforest to the Alaskan Arctic, traveling by rowboat, ski, foot, raft, and canoe. Together, they survived harrowing dangers while also experiencing incredible moments of joy and grace — migrating birds silhouetted against the moon, the steamy breath of caribou, and the bond that comes from sharing such experiences.

A unique blend of science, adventure, and personal narrative, The Sun is a Compass explores the bounds of the physical body and the tenuousness of life in the company of the creatures who make their homes in the wildest places left in North America. Inspiring and beautifully written, this love letter to nature is a lyrical testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? by Caitlin Doughty

With her trademark humor and wit, LA mortician Caitlin Doughty returns to the world of death with her new book. But unlike her previous 2 books, children dictate the content here. Kids lack the same death-anxious filter as adults and from the questions they’ve asked “Aunt Caitlin,” adults can take in her answers and, hopefully, start to become more comfortable with life’s inevitable conclusion. (And the illustrations are superb!)

Sarah

Everyone has questions about death. In Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?, best-selling author and mortician Caitlin Doughty answers the most intriguing questions she’s ever received about what happens to our bodies when we die. In a brisk, informative, and morbidly funny style, Doughty explores everything from ancient Egyptian death rituals and the science of skeletons to flesh-eating insects and the proper depth at which to bury your pet if you want Fluffy to become a mummy. Now featuring an interview with a clinical expert on discussing these issues with young people—the source of some of our most revealing questions about death—Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? confronts our common fear of dying with candid, honest, and hilarious facts about what awaits the body we leave behind.

Shit, Actually by Lindy West

I’ve been a Lindy fan since she was writing at Jezebel and I will read anything she writes. After two pretty heavy and hard hitting books, it’s like surfacing from a deep dive and taking a gulp of fresh air to get a collection of funny, yet thought provoking, witty and irreverent film reviews. While I may not agree with each one (even the rankings being based on The Fugitive), I loved them all and was delighted to have a book from her that made me laugh more than cry.

Sarah

**Your Favorite Movies, Re-Watched**New York Times opinion writer and bestselling author Lindy West was once the in-house movie critic for Seattle’s alternative newsweekly The Stranger, where she covered film with brutal honesty and giddy irreverence. In Shit, Actually, Lindy returns to those roots, re-examining beloved and iconic movies from the past 40 years with an eye toward the big questions of our time: Is Twilight the horniest movie in history? Why do the zebras in The Lion King trust Mufasa-WHO IS A LION-to look out for their best interests? Why did anyone bother making any more movies after The Fugitive achieved perfection? And, my god, why don’t any of the women in Love, Actually ever fucking talk?!?!

From Forrest Gump, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and Bad Boys II, to Face/Off, Top Gun, and The Notebook, Lindy combines her razor-sharp wit and trademark humor with a genuine adoration for nostalgic trash to shed new critical light on some of our defining cultural touchstones-the stories we’ve long been telling ourselves about who we are. At once outrageously funny and piercingly incisive, Shit, Actually reminds us to pause and ask, “How does this movie hold up?”, all while teaching us how to laugh at the things we love without ever letting them or ourselves off the hook.

Shit, Actually is a love letter and a break-up note all in one: to the films that shaped us and the ones that ruined us. More often than not, Lindy finds, they’re one and the same.

World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatahil

While I much prefer poetry to prose, everything I love about Nezhukumatathil’s style still shines through in this amazing collection. Illuminating elements of life though animal-based similes and clairvoyant stories, it’s hard to make it through this book without some type of epiphany of your own. While World of Wonders isn’t for everyone (given it is written atypically from most books), if you think you’ll like it, you absolutely have to give it a try.

Christopher

From beloved, award-winning poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil comes a debut work of nonfiction–a collection of essays about the natural world, and the way its inhabitants can teach, support, and inspire us.

As a child, Nezhukumatathil called many places home: the grounds of a Kansas mental institution, where her Filipina mother was a doctor; the open skies and tall mountains of Arizona, where she hiked with her Indian father; and the chillier climes of western New York and Ohio. But no matter where she was transplanted–no matter how awkward the fit or forbidding the landscape–she was able to turn to our world’s fierce and funny creatures for guidance.

“What the peacock can do,” she tells us, “is remind you of a home you will run away from and run back to all your life.” The axolotl teaches us to smile, even in the face of unkindness; the touch-me-not plant shows us how to shake off unwanted advances; the narwhal demonstrates how to survive in hostile environments. Even in the strange and the unlovely,

Nezhukumatathil finds beauty and kinship. For it is this way with wonder: it requires that we are curious enough to look past the distractions in order to fully appreciate the world’s gifts.

Warm, lyrical, and gorgeously illustrated by Fumi Nakamura, World of Wonders is a book of sustenance and joy.

Philosophy for Polar Explorers by Erling Kagge

A fascinating look at how the mindset needed for polar exploration applies to us non-polar explorers as well. With a focus on calming, unplugging, and recentering oneself on nature, it’s the perfect book for heading into the cooler weather.

Sarah

In Philosophy for Polar Explorers, Erling Kagge, renowned explorer and acclaimed author of Silence and Walking, provides a thoughtful and eloquent meditation on adventure and discovery.

Erling Kagge is one of the world’s most accomplished explorers. He was the first to conquer all three poles on foot, by climbing Mount Everest and walking to the North and South Poles. In this thought-provoking and inspiring book, he uses the wisdom and expertise he has gained on his travels to reflect on life, nature, and humanity. Simple things like getting up early and accepting failure can make a difference, whether battling an arctic storm or stuck in traffic. And practices such as cultivating optimism and being open-minded when pursuing goals can benefit our lives enormously, wherever our paths may take us.

Punctuated with lyrical stories from his own experience and travels, Philosophy for Polar Explorers invites us to treat life like a grand exploration and illuminates the possibilities that await us when we do.

Console Wars by Blake J. Harris

The Moneyball of video games, the Console Wars details one of the most revolutionary bouts in the history of modern media. This is the story of how underdogs with dream challenged one of the largest companies to ever exist, dividing corporations, households, and neighborhood arcades around the world. Reading less like a biography and more like a thriller, I can’t recommend this book enough!

Christopher

Following the success of The Accidental Billionaires and Moneyball comes Console Wars—a mesmerizing, behind-the-scenes business thriller that chronicles how Sega, a small, scrappy gaming company led by an unlikely visionary and a team of rebels, took on the juggernaut Nintendo and revolutionized the video game industry. 

In 1990, Nintendo had a virtual monopoly on the video game industry. Sega, on the other hand, was just a faltering arcade company with big aspirations and even bigger personalities. But that would all change with the arrival of Tom Kalinske, a man who knew nothing about videogames and everything about fighting uphill battles. His unconventional tactics, combined with the blood, sweat and bold ideas of his renegade employees, transformed Sega and eventually led to a ruthless David-and-Goliath showdown with rival Nintendo.

The battle was vicious, relentless, and highly profitable, eventually sparking a global corporate war that would be fought on several fronts: from living rooms and schoolyards to boardrooms and Congress. It was a once-in-a-lifetime, no-holds-barred conflict that pitted brother against brother, kid against adult, Sonic against Mario, and the US against Japan.

Based on over two hundred interviews with former Sega and Nintendo employees, Console Wars is the underdog tale of how Kalinske miraculously turned an industry punchline into a market leader. It’s the story of how a humble family man, with an extraordinary imagination and a gift for turning problems into competitive advantages, inspired a team of underdogs to slay a giant and, as a result, birth a $60 billion dollar industry.

Survival of the Friendliest by Brian Hare & Vanessa Woods

Many of us our no doubt familiar with the doctrine of survival of the fittest. The idea that the strongest and most efficient hunter is the most successful, Survival Of The Friendliest posits a slightly different theory. The idea here is that it’s humanities ability to work together towards a common goal that has made us the dominant species on the planet. When the storms come its not the one man living alone on a mountain who survives, it’s the village.

Drew

A powerful new theory of human nature suggests that our secret to success as a species is our unique friendliness

For most of the approximately 300,000 years that Homo sapiens have existed, we have shared the planet with at least four other types of humans. All of these were smart, strong, and inventive. But around 50,000 years ago, Homo sapiens made a cognitive leap that gave us an edge over other species. What happened?

Since Charles Darwin wrote about “evolutionary fitness,” the idea of fitness has been confused with physical strength, tactical brilliance, and aggression. In fact, what made us evolutionarily fit was a remarkable kind of friendliness, a virtuosic ability to coordinate and communicate with others that allowed us to achieve all the cultural and technical marvels in human history. Advancing what they call the “self-domestication theory,” Brian Hare, professor in the department of evolutionary anthropology and the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University and his wife, Vanessa Woods, a research scientist and award-winning journalist, shed light on the mysterious leap in human cognition that allowed Homo sapiens to thrive. 

But this gift for friendliness came at a cost. Just as a mother bear is most dangerous around her cubs, we are at our most dangerous when someone we love is threatened by an “outsider.” The threatening outsider is demoted to sub-human, fair game for our worst instincts. Hare’s groundbreaking research, developed in close coordination with Richard Wrangham and Michael Tomasello, giants in the field of cognitive evolution, reveals that the same traits that make us the most tolerant species on the planet also make us the cruelest. 

Survival of the Friendliest offers us a new way to look at our cultural as well as cognitive evolution and sends a clear message: In order to survive and even to flourish, we need to expand our definition of who belongs.

Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh

When I first started listening to Peace is Every Step, I forgot that it is over 25 years old, written in an age before the internet and various electronic devices ran most of our lives. Most of the points made still resonate today. Whole Peace is Every Step lacks what some might consider concrete and specific steps, it focuses more on changing your perspective and thought process. I’ve come to know understand that this is what mindfulness really is, it’s about thinking through how behaviors and actions affect not only yourself, but other people and the world as a whole. Love and kindness will get you further than anger and hateful rhetoric, and similar sentiments make up the bulk of the book.

Sarah

In the rush of modern life, we tend to lose touch with the peace that is available in each moment.

World-renowned Zen master, spiritual leader, and author Thich Nhat Hanh shows us how to make positive use of the very situations that usually pressure and antagonize us. For him a ringing telephone can be a signal to call us back to our true selves. Dirty dishes, red lights, and traffic jams are spiritual friends on the path to “mindfulness”—the process of keeping our consciousness alive to our present experience and reality. The most profound satisfactions, the deepest feelings of joy and completeness lie as close at hand as our next aware breath and the smile we can form right now.

Lucidly and beautifully written, Peace Is Every Step contains commentaries and meditations, personal anecdotes and stories from Nhat Hanh’s experiences as a peace activist, teacher, and community leader. It begins where the reader already is—in the kitchen, office, driving a car, walking a part—and shows how deep meditative presence is available now. Nhat Hanh provides exercises to increase our awareness of our own body and mind through conscious breathing, which can bring immediate joy and peace. Nhat Hanh also shows how to be aware of relationships with others and of the world around us, its beauty and also its pollution and injustices. The deceptively simple practices of Peace Is Every Step encourage the reader to work for peace in the world as he or she continues to work on sustaining inner peace by turning the “mindless” into the mindFUL.

The Secret of Life by Howard Markel

An authoritative history of the race to unravel DNA’s structure, by one of our most prominent medical historians.

James Watson and Francis Crick’s 1953 discovery of the double helix structure of DNA is the foundation of virtually every advance in our modern understanding of genetics and molecular biology. But how did Watson and Crick do it—and why were they the ones who succeeded?

In truth, the discovery of DNA’s structure is the story of five towering minds in pursuit of the advancement of science, and for almost all of them, the prospect of fame and immortality: Watson, Crick, Rosalind Franklin, Maurice Wilkins, and Linus Pauling. Each was fascinating and brilliant, with strong personalities that often clashed. Howard Markel skillfully re-creates the intense intellectual journey, and fraught personal relationships, that ultimately led to a spectacular breakthrough. But it is Rosalind Franklin—fiercely determined, relentless, and an outsider at Cambridge and the University of London in the 1950s, as the lone Jewish woman among young male scientists—who becomes a focal point for Markel.

The Secret of Life is a story of genius and perseverance, but also a saga of cronyism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, and misconduct. Drawing on voluminous archival research, including interviews with James Watson and with Franklin’s sister, Jenifer Glynn, Markel provides a fascinating look at how science is done, how reputations are undone, and how history is written, and revised.

A vibrant evocation of Cambridge in the 1950s, Markel also provides colorful depictions of Watson and Crick—their competitiveness, idiosyncrasies, and youthful immaturity—and compelling portraits of Wilkins, Pauling, and most cogently, Rosalind Franklin. The Secret of Life is a lively and sweeping narrative of this landmark discovery, one that finally gives the woman at the center of this drama her due.

Fans by Larry Olmsted

The perfect book for everyone cheering from the couch during the Tokyo [and upcoming Beijing] Olympics

Larry Olmsted’s writing and research have been called “eye-opening” (People), “impressive” (Publishers Weekly, starred review), and “enlightening” (Kirkus Reviews).

Now, the New York Times and Washington Post bestselling author turns his expertise to a subject that has never been fully explored, delivering a highly entertaining game changer that uses brand-new research to show us why being a sports fan is good for us individually and is a force for positive change in society. Fans is a passionate reminder
of how games, teams, and the communities dedicated to them are vital to our lives.

Citing fascinating new studies on sports fandom, Larry Olmsted makes the case that the more you identify with a sports team, the better your social, psychological, and physical health is; the more meaningful your relationships are; and the more connected and happier you are. Fans maintain better cognitive processing as their gray matter ages; they have better language skills; and college students who follow sports have higher GPAs, better graduation rates, and higher incomes after graduating. And there’s more: On a societal level, sports help us heal after tragedies, providing community and hope when we need it most. Fans is the perfect gift for anyone who loves sports or anyone who loves someone who loves sports.  

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

In his most extraordinary book, the bestselling author of Awakenings and “poet laureate of medicine” (The New York Times) recounts the case histories of patients inhabiting the compelling world of neurological disorders, from those who are no longer able to recognize common objects to those who gain extraordinary new skills.

Featuring a new preface, Oliver Sacks’s The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat tells the stories of individuals afflicted with perceptual and intellectual disorders: patients who have lost their memories and with them the greater part of their pasts; who are no longer able to recognize people and common objects; whose limbs seem alien to them; who lack some skills yet are gifted with uncanny artistic or mathematical talents. In Dr. Sacks’s splendid and sympathetic telling, his patients are deeply human and his tales are studies of struggles against incredible adversity. A great healer, Sacks never loses sight of medicine’s ultimate responsibility: “the suffering, afflicted, fighting human subject.”

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