Getting Real

Jeff's top non-fiction reads in 2013

Jeff’s top non-fiction reads in 2013

I spend most of my working day in fictional worlds of my own creation. It’s a bit like taking a mental trip to faraway, often fantastical places, without leaving my cluttered office.  Since I’m constantly writing and creating, I don’t tend to read much in the way of fiction – I don’t want to get another author’s voice in my head – so I tend to read almost exclusively non-fiction.

I thought I’d share my top  non-fiction books. These books informed, motivated, inspired, and even terrified me in 2013.

1. 10 Billion by Stephen Emmott


Emmott’s book is more like a pamphlet, a summary of his presentation, but it pack a harrowing punch in a small package. He argues the world is already well beyond its ability to sustain its population and its going to get a lot worse as we add an additional 3 million people to the planet by the end of the century.  It’s terrifying read with no silver lining. Move over Stephen King, the new master of horror is here….and it’s all real.

2. The End of Growth by Jeff Rubin

The End of Growth

Jeff Rubin is a former chief economist at Canadian uber-bank CIBC World Markets. This book is the follow-up to his first book, Why You’re World Is About To Get A Whole Lot Smaller, where he argued for the looming deglobalisation of the world’s economy because of rising fuel prices.  In this outing, Rubin explores the relationship between the price of oil (and coal, natural gas) and economic growth. He argues that affordable oil has enabled the type of economic growth we as consumers have come to expect and that governments have come to rely on.  And we’re about to have our expectations dashed. Rubin thoroughly, but accessibly, outlines the how and why of the complex relationship between the prices of oil and GDP growth. He rightfully reframes the debate on energy supplies away from actual (or theoretical) reserves, and focuses on the only thing that matters: price.  He claims that the era of affordable oil is over and that one simple fact will change the world…perhaps for the better.

Here’s a short of video of Jeff speaking on oil and growth:


3. To Move The World by Jeffrey Sachs


Sachs investigates JFK’s deliberate and strategic process to move the world towards peace, focusing on the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT), perhaps the crowning achievement of his short administration. What Sachs is really doing, however, is offering the leaders of today a workable template (and inspiration) for dealing with this generation’s greatest threat: sustainability. It’s a modern how-to-guide dressed up as a fascinating history lesson.  I hope our world leaders got it in their stockings this Christmas.

4. The Social Animal by David Brooks


New York Times journo David Brooks takes us on a lifetime journey (well, two actually) of fictional Harold and Erica, two strangers who meet, marry, and spend their lives together. Through their lives, Brooks takes us on a  journey into the latest neuroscience, specifically arguing that the subconscious is a far more powerful force in life than the conscious mind.  It’s a fun, fascinating read.

Here’s Brooks’ 2011 TED talk about the book…

In 2014, I’m hoping to take a summer break from writing and jump into my rising pile of novels, but until then I’m looking forward to more non-fiction, starting with Half the Sky, about how to fix the issue of oppression of women in most of the world and what it means for our economic and environmental opportunities.

What else do you recommend?

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