A new way to look at the world...
January 10, 2008 8:23 AM   Subscribe

Looking for books that talk about aspects of society or culture in new and interesting ways.

I loved Freakonomics, I love the work of Malcolm Gladwell, but I'm not really sure how books in this vein are categorized.

What I like most about the above are the new and interesting way they look at sometimes mundane subjects or are able to find connections between seemingly unrelated topics.

Any suggestions on similar types of books from the hive mind?

posted by reenum to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
James Burke?
posted by box at 8:24 AM on January 10, 2008

Best answer: Love it or hate it, I'd consider Nation of Rebels this kind of book.
posted by drezdn at 8:33 AM on January 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

I just checked out Amazon's recommendations based on going to their page for Freakonomics, and the ones I know about seem pretty much like what you're looking for, so there are some leads for you.
posted by kimota at 8:50 AM on January 10, 2008

If you like history, "Guns, Germs & Steel" might be up your alley, plus his follow-up (Collapse?).
posted by epersonae at 9:02 AM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

A Thousand Plateaus
posted by rhizome at 9:34 AM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Nature's Metropolis. Maybe Imperial San Francisco. Legacy of Conquest.

I was a ph.d. student, and of my three shelves of non-fiction, none of the other books I read had quite as much of the impact you're asking for (giving new insights into things you see and hear every day). I hear Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee will similarly blow your mind but haven't gotten around to that one yet.
posted by salvia at 9:52 AM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Omnivore's Dilemma
posted by entropy at 10:09 AM on January 10, 2008

I highly recommend All Consuming Images.
posted by zebra3 at 10:17 AM on January 10, 2008

Best answer: Well, once I am done Richistan I the next books on my list to read or re-read are (mostly focusing on economics and society more than culture):

Tim Harford Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich Are Rich, the Poor Are Poor--and Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car!

Henry Petrowski The Evolution of Useful Things

Evertt Rogers Diffusion of Innovations

John Perkins Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

John Kenneth Galbraith The Economics of Innocent Fraud; The Affluent Society

Steven Johnson Ghost Map. Not to be confused with Ghost Maps, a lovely collection of poerty inspired by a WWII vetern

John Allen Paulos A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper

Paco Underhill Call of the Mall

Mark Kurlansky Salt: A World History
Matthew Hart Diamond
Robert Sullivan Rats
Mark Kurlanksy Cod

You should also try going into your public library and finding a librarian who loves non-fiction readers advisory. There are tonnes of awesome non-fiction books I could point you to if I did a proper refrence interview with you.
posted by saucysault at 10:28 AM on January 10, 2008 [4 favorites]

You might try David Bohm & David Peat: Science Order and Creativity. This treats the subject in a new and very intriguing way.
posted by donfactor at 10:34 AM on January 10, 2008

I really dig Paco Underhill's stuff -- particularly Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.
posted by ph00dz at 10:37 AM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Stumbling on Happiness, about how our expectations about how we will feel in future situations match up pretty poorly with reality, and what lessons we can take from it. It's light reading with fun scientific results, in the style of Freakonomics.
posted by wyzewoman at 11:10 AM on January 10, 2008

The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can't be Jammed

I used to blame the NeoCons for everything, but now I blame the hippies too. The hippies were were basically an anti-intellectual movement who believed that the whole system is corrupt and people should drop out and, 'I don't know, do something'.

The book explains the modern drum-circles-and-giant-puppets
protest culture and why the left is very bad at effecting meaningful social change, even though its heart is in the right place.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:25 PM on January 10, 2008

I enjoyed Douglas Rushkoff's 'Coercion', which I think fits in the 'new ways to look at things' box...
posted by pompomtom at 2:47 PM on January 10, 2008

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan

The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein
posted by Bigfoot Mandala at 4:58 PM on January 10, 2008

Another good one is Michael Adam's American Backlash. All of his books have terrible titles but are thoroughly researched through his polling firm.
posted by saucysault at 8:23 PM on January 10, 2008

Them: Adventures with Extremists and The Men Who Stare at Goats, both by Jon Ronson.

The first is closer to your request - a kind of tour of various paranoid subcultures - but both have the stylistic zing and readability that characterize the books you named.
posted by snoe at 11:56 PM on January 10, 2008

Not a book, but an online novella:

Marshall Brain's Manna stopped me in my tracks nicely.
posted by panamax at 2:02 AM on January 11, 2008

Technics & Civilization
posted by LC at 2:21 PM on January 11, 2008

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