How do we make sense of the disparity between the rich and poor? Why do some nations prosper and others fail? Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson argue that the common explanations of geography, culture, and ignorance are all inadequate. The answer to the question of inequality is found in institutions. Some nations have political and economic institutions conducive to growth while others do not. Why Nations Fail tells us why popular hypotheses don’t work and why institutions are the true difference makers.
Read on for key insights from Why Nations Fail.
Anyone who has taken an American history course has heard about Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and old King George III. But what were these people like? Why did they do what they did? Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard team up again to bring the latest installment of the Killing series, providing the behind the scenes context for key figures in the fight for American freedom. O’Reilly and Dugard’s account gives dimension to the statesmen, rebels, traitors, and tyrants of that era, helping us understand how a ragtag American army managed to pull off a win against the world’s most powerful nation.
Read on for key insights from Killing England.
Seventy thousand years ago, organisms from the species Homo sapiens emerged on the scene. The study of their development and activities is called history. In his ambitious study, Yuval Noah Harari explains that human history has been propelled forward by three revolutions: the Cognitive Revolution, the Agricultural Revolution, and the Scientific Revolution. Humans have shown their capacity for profoundly impacting their environment, and each of the three revolutionary thresholds that we have crossed increased this capacity. Humankind ignores its powerful and often destructive tendencies at its own peril and the planet’s, but there is still reason to hope for a better tomorrow. Time will tell which path humanity will take.
Read on for key insights from Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.
12 Minute Read
In this brief, popular-level treatise, Yale professor of history Timothy Synder argues that, “History does not repeat, but it does instruct.” He appeals to the practice of the United States’ Founding Fathers who, in the face of threats to the political order, examined the rise and fall of ancient democracies to gain insights and establish a political system that would safeguard a free society against tyranny. Snyder invites his reader to continue the tradition of understanding history in the interest of preserving liberty. He offers twenty lessons from the twentieth century European experience, a period full of destruction and bloodshed under fascist and communist regimes. Snyder advises that it would be wise to learn from the missteps and mishaps that allowed tyranny to gain footholds in the not-so-distant past.
Read on for several key insights from On Tyranny.
5 Minute Read
In Enlightenment Now, Pinker argues that our twenty-first-century world would benefit greatly from a revitalization of the values of reason, science, humanism and progress. In contrast with the somber tenor of most social commentary, Enlightenment Now is a celebration of human accomplishment and the enlightenment goals for human betterment that will keep progress coming.
Read on for key insights from Enlightenment Now.
Leonardo da Vinci is an intimate examination of one of history’s greatest minds. Walter Isaacson’s sincere, humanizing account provides fuller context to Leonardo’s life: his humble origins, his growth as an artist and engineer, and the stories behind his masterpieces. Isaacson goes on to argue that more than simply admiring Leonardo’s qualities, we should strive to learn and emulate them.
Read on for key insights from Leonardo da Vinci.
In the face of unspeakable cruelty and crushing conditions in Nazi concentration camps, Viktor Frankl learned that it is still possible to live a life with dignity and purpose. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl reflects upon his experience and how he found hope in the most unlikely places.
Read on for key insights from Man’s Search for Meaning.
“Well done is better than well said.” “You may delay, but time will not.” Ben Franklin is known for his witty homespun aphorisms and creative inventions, but there’s so much more to explore in the life of one of America’s most influential sons.
Read on for key insights from Benjamin Franklin.
In a post-9/11 world, New Atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris rail not only against Islam but all religions. They view them as dangerous, immoral, and irrational. Some of their more strident comments are directed against the God of the Old Testament as harsh, racist, genocidal, and oppressive. Is God a Moral Monster? responds to these and other charges. It examines many challenging biblical texts, places them in their historical context, and seeks to correct a number of popular caricatures propounded by critics.
Read on for key insights from Is God a Moral Monster?
Over the course of earth’s history, there have been five cataclysmic events that have radically altered—or ended—life for the planet’s inhabitants. Author and journalist Elizabeth Kolbert argues that humanity’s growing influence over climate and ecosystems is ushering in a sixth catastrophe that large swaths of plants and animals—including humans—may not survive.
Read on for key insights from The Sixth Extinction.
It’s often tempting to surround ourselves with people who will tell us what we want to hear. Lincoln demonstrated courage and concern for country over his own sense of self-importance when he incorporated into his cabinet the very men against whom he’d run—all of whom had more political experience than Lincoln at the time of his election. This is the story of Lincoln’s ability to win unlikely hearts and minds to his cause, to mediate conflicts, and assuage the concerns of a torn and anxious nation.
Read on for key insights from Team of Rivals.
Read a firsthand account of the horrors of American slavery and bravery in the face of oppression, written by a man who found freedom from slavery through education and escape from Baltimore to New York.
Read on for key insights from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.
10 Minute Read
Across the plains of Osage, Oklahoma, small flowers begin to bloom in April. By May, however, larger plants spring up, overshadow, and choke out the smaller flowers that had blossomed first. The Osage Indians refer to May as the season of “the flower-killing moon.” This natural cycle is a fitting metaphor for the systematic murder of Osage Indians at the hands of greedy settlers wanting claim to Osage lands.
Read on for key insights from Killers of the Flower Moon.
12 Minute Read
As a political philosopher and German Jew during the rise of Nazism, Hannah Arendt had a lot to say about totalitarianism and the elements that give rise to such movements.
Read on for key insights from The Origins of Totalitarianism.
How do you enrich your inner life in a culture that cares far more about the externals? Columnist David Brooks marks out for us the forgotten road to character and introduces us to remarkable individuals from history who have walked it.
Read on for key insights from The Road to Character.