Your Favorites For The Best Books of 2012

From philosophy and weight loss to writing and worldly wisdom, you read a lot in 2012. After hours of sifting through data, here is a look at your 15 favorite reads in 2012.

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

Just as human bones get stronger when subjected to stress and tension, and rumors or riots intensify when someone tries to repress them, many things in life benefit from stress, disorder, volatility, and turmoil. What Taleb has identified and calls “antifragile” is that category of things that not only gain from chaos but need it in order to survive and flourish.

In The Black Swan, Taleb showed us that highly improbable and unpredictable events underlie almost everything about our world. In Antifragile, Taleb stands uncertainty on its head, making it desirable, even necessary, and proposes that things be built in an antifragile manner. The antifragile is beyond the resilient or robust. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better and better.

Furthermore, the antifragile is immune to prediction errors and protected from adverse events. Why is the city-state better than the nation-state, why is debt bad for you, and why is what we call “efficient” not efficient at all? Why do government responses and social policies protect the strong and hurt the weak? Why should you write your resignation letter before even starting on the job? How did the sinking of the Titanic save lives? The book spans innovation by trial and error, life decisions, politics, urban planning, war, personal finance, economic systems, and medicine. And throughout, in addition to the street wisdom of Fat Tony of Brooklyn, the voices and recipes of ancient wisdom, from Roman, Greek, Semitic, and medieval sources, are loud and clear.

Antifragile is a blueprint for living in a Black Swan world.

Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness

Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can’t control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible.” The Stoic philosopher Epictetus was born on the eastern edges of the Roman Empire in A.D. 55, but The Art of Living is still perfectly suited for any contemporary self-help or recovery program. To prove the point, this modern interpretation by Sharon Lebell casts the teachings in up-to-date language, with phrases like “power broker” and “casual sex” popping up intermittently. But the core is still the same: Epictetus keeps the focus on progress over perfection, on accomplishing what can be accomplished and abandoning unproductive worry over what cannot.

Bull: A History of the Boom and Bust, 1982-2004

In 1982, the Dow hovered below 1000. Then, the market rose and rapidly gained speed until it peaked above 11,000. Noted journalist and financial reporter Maggie Mahar has written the first book on the remarkable bull market that began in 1982 and ended just in the early 2000s. For almost two decades, a colorful cast of characters such as Abby Joseph Cohen, Mary Meeker, Henry Blodget, and Alan Greenspan came to dominate the market news.

This inside look at that 17-year cycle of growth, built upon interviews and unparalleled access to the most important analysts, market observers, and fund managers who eagerly tell the tales of excesses, presents the period with a historical perspective and explains what really happened and why.

Explaining Social Behavior: More Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences

explaining social behavior

This book is an expanded and revised edition of the author’s critically acclaimed volume Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences. In twenty-six succinct chapters, Jon Elster provides an account of the nature of explanation in the social sciences. He offers an overview of key explanatory mechanisms in the social sciences, relying on hundreds of examples and drawing on a large variety of sources-psychology, behavioral economics, biology, political science, historical writings, philosophy and fiction. Written in accessible and jargon-free language, Elster aims at accuracy and clarity while eschewing formal models.

Free The Animal: Lose Weight & Fat With The Paleo Diet

free the animal

Drawing on evolutionary logic, scientific research, and his own personal experiences, Richard Nikoley presents a complete guide to losing weight and fat the natural way.

After many frustrating years of trying to lose weight by adhering to mainstream nutritional guidelines, Richard made a radical decision to throw the rules out. Instead of eating whole grains and lean meat, he ate what his body had always craved: animal fat, and lots of it—and the extra weight started falling away.

In Free The Animal: How To Lose Weight & Fat On The Paleo Diet, Richard shares his tips for eating, fasting, and exercising as wild humans did for millenia. Find out how to embrace your primal cravings for nutritionally dense animal fats and fiber-rich plant sources. Learn to stop listening to the “experts” and start tuning in to your body’s natural signals. Richard’s approach to the Paleo lifestyle will help you lose fat, gain muscle, and unleash the energy of the animal inside you.

How Will You Measure Your Life?
How will you measure your life

In 2010 world-renowned innovation expert Clayton M. Christensen gave a powerful speech to the Harvard Business School’s graduating class. Drawing upon his business research, he offered a series of guidelines for finding meaning and happiness in life. He used examples from his own experiences to explain how high achievers can all too often fall into traps that lead to unhappiness.

The speech was memorable not only because it was deeply revealing but also because it came at a time of intense personal reflection: Christensen had just overcome the same type of cancer that had taken his father’s life. As Christensen struggled with the disease, the question “How do you measure your life?” became more urgent and poignant, and he began to share his insights more widely with family, friends, and students.

In this groundbreaking book, Christensen puts forth a series of questions: How can I be sure that I’ll find satisfaction in my career? How can I be sure that my personal relationships become enduring sources of happiness? How can I avoid compromising my integrity—and stay out of jail? Using lessons from some of the world’s greatest businesses, he provides incredible insights into these challenging questions.

How Will You Measure Your Life? is full of inspiration and wisdom, and will help students, midcareer professionals, and parents alike forge their own paths to fulfillment.

I Think, Therefore I Laugh
I think therefore i laugh

The preeminent explicator of mathematical logic to non-mathematicians, John Allen Paulos is familiar to general readers not only from his bestselling books but also from his media appearances, including The David Letterman Show and National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation” and “Science Friday,” as well as articles in Newsweek, Nature, Discover, Business Week, the New York Times Book Review, The Nation, New York Review of Books, and The London Review of Books.

Paulos originally wrote this charming little book on analytic logic, its mathematics, and its puzzles in 1985. And as in his later books, he uses jokes, stories, parables, and anecdotes to elucidate difficult concepts, in this case, some of the fundamental problems in modern philosophy.

Information: The New Language of Science

information-hans-christian-von-baeyer

Confronting us at every turn, flowing from every imaginable source, information defines our era–and yet what we don’t know about it could–and does–fill a book. In this indispensable volume, a primer for the information age, Hans Christian von Baeyer presents a clear description of what information is, how concepts of its measurement, meaning, and transmission evolved, and what its ever-expanding presence portends for the future.

Information is poised to replace matter as the primary stuff of the universe, von Baeyer suggests; it will provide a new basic framework for describing and predicting reality in the twenty-first century. Despite its revolutionary premise, von Baeyer’s book is written simply in a straightforward fashion, offering a wonderfully accessible introduction to classical and quantum information. Enlivened with anecdotes from the lives of philosophers, mathematicians, and scientists who have contributed significantly to the field, Information conducts readers from questions of subjectivity inherent in classical information to the blurring of distinctions between computers and what they measure or store in our quantum age. A great advance in our efforts to define and describe the nature of information, the book also marks an important step forward in our ability to exploit information–and, ultimately, to transform the nature of our relationship with the physical universe.

Mean Genes: From Sex to Money to Food Taming Our Primal Instincts

Mean Genes

Why do we want—and why do we do—so many things that are bad for us? And how can we stop? In Mean Genes economist Terry Burnham and biologist Jay Phelan offer advice on how to conquer our own worst enemy—our survival-minded genes. Having evolved in a time of scarcity, when our ancestors struggled to survive in the wild, our genes are poorly adapted to the convenience of modern society. They compel us to overeat, spend our whole paycheck, and cheat on our spouses. But knowing how they work, Burnham and Phelan show that we can trick these “mean genes” into submission and cultivate behaviors that will help us lead better lives. A lively, humorous guide to our evolutionary heritage, Mean Genes illuminates how we can use an understanding of our biology to beat our instincts—before they beat us.

Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness

search inside yourself

Early Google engineer and personal growth pioneer Chade-Meng Tan first designed Search Inside Yourself as a popular course at Google intended to transform the work and lives of the best and brightest behind one of the most innovative, successful, and profitable businesses in the world . . . and now it can do the same for you. Meng has distilled emotional intelligence into a set of practical and proven tools and skills that anyone can learn and develop.

Created in collaboration with a Zen master, a CEO, a Stanford University scientist, and Daniel Goleman (the guy who literally wrote the book on emotional intelligence), this program is grounded in science and expressed in a way that even a skeptical, compulsively pragmatic, engineering-oriented brain like Meng’s can process. Whether your intention is to reduce stress and increase well-being, heighten focus and creativity, become more optimistic and resilient, build fulfilling relationships, or just be successful, the skills provided by Search Inside Yourself will prove invaluable for you. This is your guide to enhancing productivity and creativity, finding meaning and fulfillment in your work and life, and experiencing profound peace, compassion, and happiness while doing so.

Search Inside Yourself reveals how to calm your mind on demand and return it to a natural state of happiness, deepen self-awareness in a way that fosters self-confidence, harness empathy and compassion into outstanding leadership, and build highly productive collaborations based on trust and transparent communication. In other words, Search Inside Yourself shows you how to grow inner joy while succeeding at your work. Meng writes: “Some people buy books that teach them to be liked; others buy books that teach them to be successful. This book teaches you both. You are so lucky.”

Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger (One of my all-time favorites)

Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger, Peter Bevelin

Peter Bevelin begins his fascinating book with Confucius’ great wisdom: “A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it, is committing another mistake.” Seeking Wisdom is the result of Bevelin’s learning about attaining wisdom. His quest for wisdom originated partly from making mistakes himself and observing those of others but also from the philosophy of super-investor and Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charles Munger. A man whose simplicity and clarity of thought was unequal to anything Bevelin had seen. In addition to naturalist Charles Darwin and Munger, Bevelin cites an encyclopedic range of thinkers: from first-century BCE Roman poet Publius Terentius to Mark Twain-from Albert Einstein to Richard Feynman-from 16th Century French essayist Michel de Montaigne to Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett. In the book, he describes ideas and research findings from many different fields.

This book is for those who love the constant search for knowledge. It is in the spirit of Charles Munger, who says, “All I want to know is where I’m going to die so I’ll never go there.” There are roads that lead to unhappiness. An understanding of how and why we can “die” should help us avoid them. We can’t eliminate mistakes, but we can prevent those that can really hurt us. Using exemplars of clear thinking and attained wisdom, Bevelin focuses on how our thoughts are influenced, why we make misjudgments and tools to improve our thinking. Bevelin tackles such eternal questions as: Why do we behave like we do? What do we want out of life? What interferes with our goals? Read and study this wonderful multidisciplinary exploration of wisdom. It may change the way you think and act in business and in life.

Social Cognition: Making Sense of People

social cognition making sense of people, ziva kunda

How do we make sense of other people and of ourselves? What do we know about the people we encounter in our daily lives and about the situations in which we encounter them, and how do we use this knowledge in our attempt to understand, predict, or recall their behavior? Are our social judgments fully determined by our social knowledge, or are they also influenced by our feelings and desires?Social cognition researchers look at how we make sense of other people and of ourselves. In this book Ziva Kunda provides a comprehensive and accessible survey of research and theory about social cognition at a level appropriate for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as researchers in the field.The first part of the book reviews basic processes in social cognition, including the representation of social concepts, rules of inference, memory, “hot” cognition driven by motivation or affect, and automatic processing. The second part reviews three basic topics in social cognition: group stereotypes, knowledge of other individuals, and the self. A final chapter revisits many of these issues from a cross-cultural perspective.

Style: The art of writing well

Style: The Art of writing well

Lost for almost forty years, Style has acquired the status of a legend. Loved by some of the greatest modern authors and acclaimed by critics, this guide to recognising and writing stylish prose was written by a Cambridge don and veteran of Bletchley Park. Imbued with a lifetime of wit and wisdom, it retains its power today.

Writing forcefully and persuasively has never mattered so much – and Style is the perfect guide for the busy, the ambitious, and the creative.

With unique authority and good humour, F. L. Lucas takes us through his ten points of effective prose style and provides a tour of some of the best (and worst) that has been written in a number of languages and literatures. Wry, perceptive and rich in quotation and anecdote, the book reads like a personal conversation on the art of writing well – with a master of the art.

The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism

The Charisma Myth

What if charisma could be taught?

For the first time, science and technology have taken charisma apart, figured it out and turned it into an applied science: In controlled laboratory experiments, researchers could raise or lower people’s level of charisma as if they were turning a dial.

What you’ll find here is practical magic: unique knowledge, drawn from a variety of sciences, revealing what charisma really is and how it works. You’ll get both the insights and the techniques you need to apply this knowledge. The world will become your lab, and every person you meet, a chance to experiment.

The Charisma Myth is a mix of fun stories, sound science, and practical tools. Cabane takes a hard scientific approach to a heretofore mystical topic, covering what charisma actually is, how it is learned, what its side effects are, and how to handle them.

The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills

the-little-book-of-talent-52-tips-for-improving-your-skills

The Little Book of Talent is a manual for building a faster brain and a better you. It is an easy-to-use handbook of scientifically proven, field-tested methods to improve skills—your skills, your kids’ skills, your organization’s skills—in sports, music, art, math, and business. The product of five years of reporting from the world’s greatest talent hotbeds and interviews with successful master coaches, it distills the daunting complexity of skill development into 52 clear, concise directives. Whether you’re age 10 or 100, whether you’re on the sports field or the stage, in the classroom or the corner office, this is an essential guide for anyone who ever asked, “How do I get better?”