The 6 best nonfiction books of fall 2019

Penguin Press ; BenBella Books

Breaking news from the Next Big Idea Club: Curators Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain, Adam Grant, and Daniel Pink have hand-picked the six most exciting nonfiction reads of the fall season. Of these, they will soon select the two books that Next Big Idea Club members will enjoy throughout the season. Without further ado, the Finalists are…

You Look Like a Thing and I Love You: How Artificial Intelligence Works and Why It’s Making the World a Weirder Place

Artificial intelligence researcher Janelle Shane pulls back the curtain on the technology that has become so integral to our Facebook feeds, our autocorrected text messages, and life as we know it. Shane has taught AI to tell knock-knock jokes, design the perfect sandwich, and even flirt with humans, making her an ideal, witty tour guide through the inner workings of AI.

The Meritocracy Trap: How America’s Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite

The American Dream is fueled by the belief that advantage should be earned through ability and effort. But eminent Yale law professor Daniel Markovits shows that in practice, the meritocratic ideal does much more harm than good, blocking upward mobility and subjecting even the elite to absurd demands and crushing pressure. He then points out a powerful alternative, outlining the first steps toward a better, more prosperous, more dignified future.

Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life

Behavioral design expert and former Stanford lecturer Nir Eyal literally wrote the book on how people get hooked on attention-grabbing technology. But as emails and phone notifications consume more and more of our time, he now turns his attention toward the psychology of distraction, providing practical, novel techniques to help us control our attention and choose the lives we want.

The Invention of Yesterday: A 50,000-Year History of Human Culture, Conflict, and Connection

Prolific author Tamim Ansary chronicles the evolution of the world’s major cultural movements—including Confucianism, Nomadism, Christianity, and beyond—tracing the dramatic, sometimes ruinous, sometimes transformative effects of their ever closer intertwinement that is the defining feature of the world today.

Chasing My Cure: A Doctor’s Race to Turn Hope into Action

When medical school student David Fajgenbaum began suffering from a life-threatening condition, doctors struggled to identify what exactly the disease was, let alone treat it. So Fajgenbaum took matters into his own hands, studying his own charts and testing his own blood in the hopes of discovering a treatment that could save his life. His memoir chronicles a new, groundbreaking approach to medical research, and stands as a testament to the power of determination.

Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century

Just a century ago, scientists believed that everyone was fated by their race, sex, and nationality to be more or less intelligent, nurturing, or warlike. But award-winning historian Charles King tells the incredible story of the anthropologists who cast their biases aside, defied the prevailing wisdom, and led the way to a richer, more empathetic reimagining of human diversity.

This article first appeared on Heleo.