1. Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. An edge-of-your-seat account of a cast of characters most of whom deserve what’s coming to them. And yet, watching their deserved fates unfold is like watching a train wreck in excruciating slow motion.
  2. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Wherein Gladwell discusses his now famous 10,000 hour rule, making the case that there’s more to the stories of runaway successes than meets the eye.
  3. Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking by Daniel C. Dennett. By “intuition pump,” Dennett means “parable.” As you’d expect, a lot of food for thought. These aren’t just random, though. Dennett’s point is to debunk the idea that human consciousness involves a separation of body/brain and soul, and that free will and a deterministic universe are not mutually exclusive.
  4. The Sixth Extinctionby Elizabeth Kolbert. The world has seen five mass extinctions over the past 500 million years. Kolbert explores the very real possibility that humans may be responsible for the sixth.
  5. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. A book of advice about writing. Everything from “Shitty First Drafts” to why publication isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Plenty of observations about getting through life in spite of being totally screwed up most of the time.
  6. The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker. Also a book of advice about writing, but from the perspective of cognitive science. Pinker looks deeply at what makes good writing good that goes way beyond what your eighth grade English teacher told you about diagramming sentences.
  7. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. Of the three books about writing on this list, this one sticks mostly to just the advice about writing. While it has more than a few bits of good advice for writers, it wasn’t as interesting.
  8. The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel. A collection of short stories. I admit to having only really “got” half of them. Maybe because I’m just not British. Maybe because I’m just not as smart as I thought. But the ones I did get were skin-crawlingly good.
  9. Small Victories by Anne Lamott. A collection of autobiographical stories about how Anne has found grace in unlikely places and people.
  10. What to Do When It’s Your Turn by Seth Godin. A couple people are getting copies of this for Christmas.