Great books, courses and music for the holidays

At the end of the year, it’s always fun to look back at some of the best books I’ve read. For 2023, I immediately thought of three, each deeply informative and well-written. I’ve also included economics courses from a phenomenal lecturer I watched over a decade ago, but still recommend to friends and family today. Just for fun, I’ve added a playlist of great holiday songs from past and present, as well as from the US and around the world.

I haven’t had time to write a full review, but I should mention that I just watched the series All the light we can’t see on Netflix. I had read the book which was amazing, sometimes an adaptation of a book you love can be disappointing. That’s not the case here — the series is just as good. The actor who plays Von Rumpel, a Nazi gem hunter and villain of the story, is particularly memorable.

I hope you find something fun to read, watch or listen to here. And happy holidays!

The song of the cellby Siddhartha Mukherjee. We will all get sick at some point. We will all have loved ones who get sick. To understand what’s going on in these moments—and to feel optimistic that things will get better—it helps to know something about cells, the building blocks of life. Mukherjee’s latest book will give you that knowledge. He begins by explaining how life evolved from single-celled organisms and then shows how every human disease or consequence of aging comes down to something going wrong with the body’s cells. Mukherjee, who is both an oncologist and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, puts all of his skills into this fantastic book.

Not the end of the worldby Hannah Ritchie. Hannah Ritchie believed – as many environmental activists do – that she was “living through humanity’s most tragic period”. But when she started looking at the data, she realized that wasn’t the case. Things are bad and worse than they were in the distant past, but by virtually all measures they are improving. Richie is now a lead researcher at Our World in Data and at Not the end of the world, she uses data to tell a counterintuitive story that defies doomsday scenarios on climate and other environmental topics without ignoring the challenges. Anyone who wants to have an informed conversation about climate change should read this book.

Invention and innovationby Vaclav Smil. Are we living in the most innovative era in human history? Many people would say so, but Smill argues otherwise. In fact, he writes, the current era shows “unmistakable signs of technical stagnation and slowing progress.” I don’t agree, but that’s not surprising – having read all 44 of his books and talking to him several times, I know he’s not as optimistic as I am about the prospects for innovation. But even though we don’t see the future the same way, no one is better than Smill at explaining the past. If you want to know how human ingenuity got us to this point in time, I highly recommend it Invention and innovation.

Online Economics Lectures by Timothy Taylor. I have watched many lecture series online and Taylor is one of my favorite professors. All three of his Wondrium series are fantastic. The new global economy teaches you about the basic economic history of different regions and how markets work. economy is best suited for people who want to deeply understand the principles of economics. Unexpected economy probably has the widest audience because Taylor applies these principles to everyday things, including gift giving, traffic, natural disasters, sports, and more. You can’t go wrong with any of Taylor’s lectures.

Holiday playlist. This doesn’t need much explanation. I love holiday music and have compiled a list of some favorites – classic and modern tunes from the US and around the world.

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