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I think if you're really looking to get a sense of how the world works, the best stuff to read are journalistic accounts and histories. Just pick a subject your interested in, do a bit of googling on well regarded accounts of that subject, than go to town.

The reason I think these are more valuable than the pop psychology/business airport books is they don't operate under the pretense that the world's great truths can be boiled down to 240 pages. Rather, learning about people's experiences and stories on there own terms helps you develop a much more nuanced worldview.

For example, I'm reading The Battle Cry of Freedom, an overview of the Civil War, and it's astounding how much more insight a book about something 150 years ago offers into today's society than just about any of the Gladwell genre stuff.




I've also been reading The Battle Cry of Freedom and it's been amazing. The analysis and insights the author can pack into every single page is just incredible. And all those political, social, and historical insights have just as much applicability today. It really has been essential reading for understanding the major fault lines that have defined American life, and continue to do so in major ways.


I've been (slowly) working through the series (Oxford History of the United States) and want to put a mention in for "What Hath God Wrought", covering 1815-1848. Similar in scope and depth to Battle Cry, gave me similar feelings of "How can a book so long feel like it's barely abel to get all this information in."

Thats the period I was least interested in going in, but have ranked as the best History book I've read.


I also think histories and biographies can be great for high S/N nonfiction. Good examples that I really enjoyed include "Ignition" by John D. Clark and "Excuse me sir, would you like to buy a kilo of isopropyl bromide?" by Max Gergel.


I'll second these picks as having lots of information wrapped up inside engaging writing.

Ignition: http://web.gccaz.edu/~wkehowsk/ignition.pdf

"Excuse me, sir...": ftp://www.fourmilab.ch/pub/etexts/www/gergel/isopropyl_bromide.pdf





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