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5 Brainy Nonfiction Books, Reviewed

Source: Stencil

Ever since I read Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond in 2015, I’ve been obsessed with its flavor of nonfiction: big ideas and complicated stories, told through the skill of narrative-driven authors.

All of the following short reviews originally appeared in my newsletter. If you’d like reviews of other nonfiction books, you can sign up for my weekly newsletter.

Without any further ado, here are five wonderfully brainy books, reviewed in no particular order.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

A few years ago I picked up a copy of Sapiens during a trip to London. Reading the first few pages on the Underground, I quickly knew this was my kind of book.

I love books that dare to make sense of long stretches of human history. In Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari wrestles with the purpose of early governments, the stories we collectively tell ourselves as a society (like the fact that we tell ourselves that a dollar carries value, which then gives it value), and much more. If you're a fan of grand history books, this is one of my personal favorites.

Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen

In 2016 I discovered a National Geographic interview featuring the author David Quammen. I found the author fascinating and bought his book, Spillover, the next time I visited a bookstore. It has become one of the most frequently-recommended books ever.

In Spillover, Quammen takes on a highly-technical scientific phenomenon — zoonotic diseases — while making the reader feel like they’re reading a fast-paced detective novel. If you love narrative nonfiction as much as I do, Spillover is a must-read. (And of course: the haunting nature of this book is only magnif