As with romance, memoirs, and horror novels, the large and wide-ranging “thought-leader” bookshelf comprises a genre with its own landscape and appeal. Here are five titles that illustrate its spread and varying approaches—from wicked-smart indictment to cautionary tale to contextual warring.
- Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town by Brian Alexander (St. Martin’s).
Journalist Alexander presents a portrait of many cities across America, as seen in the microcosm of his hometown, Lancaster, OH. The area went from doing well by its residents to a place cursed with the blight of drugs, unemployment, and social decay. What happened? Corporate greed.
- Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science, and Society by Cordelia Fine (Norton).
Confronting—and dismantling—assumptions about gender, Fine details why our notions about being female or male are wrong, where such thoughts came from historically, and the ways the current culture propagates a range of gender myths.
- A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order by Richard Haass (Penguin).
The president of the nonprofit Council on Foreign Relations offers a survey of the state of the world—its shifting ground, allegiances, and growing threats. His book outlines both past and contemporary issues and extends into the future with considerations of next steps.
- Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari (Harper).
What is coming? Harari suggests that humans will turn themselves into deities with the ability to overcome death, advance artificial intelligence, and reshape the planet itself. This vision of tomorrow is dark and disastrous, the stuff of dystopian sf.
- Age of Anger: A History of the Present by Pankaj Mishra (Farrar).
The mad whirlwind of hate and destruction that seems to mark the modern age parallels the past, says social critic Mishra. Here, he draws connections to the 18th century, another period in which humanity’s shadowy nature expressed itself in violent upheaval.