Indie Picks: September 2015

The IndieNext bestseller list is one of the best places to find out what’s hot at independent bookstores around the United States. Based on reporting from hundreds of independent bookstores, here’s a sampling of some of the best nonfiction books right now.

Take a look, and remember to #ChooseIndie.

Being Mortal

Being Mortal

by Atul Gawande


H Is for Hawk

by Helen Macdonald


I Am Malala

by Malala Yousafzai


Think Like a Freak

by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner


David and Goliath

by Malcolm Gladwell

Sign up for our newsletter to hear more about your favorite books and indie booksellers.

6 Brain-Boosting Books

The Alzheimer’s Association recommends we try to stay “mentally alive” in order to stave off Alzheimer’s later in life. Tackling puzzles, exercising, continuing education, reading, and just being curious seem to have an effect on the brain and strengthen brain-cell connection. We live in a lucky age, where we have easy access to books that will help us in our quest to stay “mentally alive” and never stop learning. Even better, there are many books out there that are great entertainment, and cover a variety of interesting topics, rather than presenting facts in a textbook-like fashion.

Here are six of my and the Libro team’s favorite books to give your brain a boost, and learn some interesting facts along the way.

The Shallows

by Nicholas Carr

It’s no great insight that people are using the Internet more and more. But what effect does that have on us? In The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr examines trends among Internet usage, the human brain, and our ever-changing culture. As he notes, “the Net delivers precisely the kind of sensory and cognitive stimuli—repetitive, intensive, interactive, addictive—that have been shown to result in strong and rapid alterations in brain circuits and functions.”


by Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck, a professor of Psychology at Stanford University, compiles her years of research on personality and social development into Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. She breaks people down into having one of two mindsets: fixed and growth. Those with a fixed mindset believe that innate ability is the number one factor in success, whereas those with a growth mindset believe that hard work and diligence matters more. She presents surprising stories and data to support her claim that those with growth mindset are more likely to succeed and succumb to less stress than those with a fixed mindset.

Predictably Irrational

by Dan Ariely

We don’t always make the best decisions. A lot of emotion, bias, and culture affect our choices. While we may seem to use a lot of logic, we behave irrationally—but predictably so. In Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions, Dan Ariely uses his experience in the field of behavioral economics to examine why we do what we do, and to find patterns among the seemingly random sets of human behavior. His goal for the book, as he states, “is to help you fundamentally rethink what makes you and the people around you tick . . . by presenting a wide range of scientific experiments, findings, and anecdotes that are in many cases quite amusing.”

Brain Rules

by John Medina

The human brain is one of the most extraordinary pieces of matter in the universe. Complex and powerful, brain scientists have just begun to fully understand it. Here, John Medina, a molecular biologist and bioengineer, presents his rules for making the most of our brains. From the illusion of multitasking to the energizing effects of naps to the importance of exercise, Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School shows effective ways to improve learning, business, and mental health.

The Willpower Instinct

by Kelly McGonigal

In The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It, psychologist Kelly McGonigal doesn’t just outline what willpower is and it’s importance, but provides guidance in harnessing willpower to meet your goals and change your life. Though she posits that willpower is a result of both the mind and body, people can improve their willpower via mindfulness and good health. Even simple breathing exercises can go a long way to garner more willpower.

Think Like a Freak

by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

After the success of Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics, Levitt and Dubner are back with another groundbreaking book, Think Like a Freak, this time showing readers how to put their insights to practical use. As always, leave preconceived notions behind, and prepare to be amazed. Then, apply your new skills and out-of-the-box thinking to your own life, because as they put it, “the modern world demands that we all think a bit more productively, more creatively, more rationally; that we think from a different angle, with a different set of muscles, with a different set of expectations; that we think with neither fear nor favor, with neither blind optimism nor sour skepticism. That we think—ahem—like a freak.”

Sign up for our newsletter to hear more about great brain-boosting books!

Indie Picks: May 2015

Independent booksellers are the best book curators out there, so each month we’re going to highlight what our friends at indie bookstores are reading (and listening to). Here’s what Andrea, Hannah, Kirstyn, Lily, and Matt from McLean & Eakin Booksellers are recommending.


McLean & Eakin Booksellers

Petoskey, Michigan


American Gods

By Neil Gaiman

Considered by many to be the ultimate masterpiece from a master of storytelling, and winner of the Hugo, Nebula, Locus and Bram Stoker Awards, American Gods is a powerful piece of fantasy that will appeal to lovers of the genre and skeptics alike. Shadow has been released from prison just after the death of his beloved wife. Out of the blue, he is approached by a stranger calling himself Mr. Wednesday, who offers him a job. With nothing to lose, Shadow takes it and finds himself thrown into the center of a conflict for the very soul of America. You see, the old gods are not dead, they have merely taken on new forms and identities as their former worshippers moved across the Atlantic. They live here, in America and they, the old gods of Egypt, Russia, Scandinavia, Africa, the British Isles and everywhere else that has yielded immigrants to the New World, are fighting for everything they have created against the new gods of technology and business that have arisen on the new soil. What could, in the hands of a less skilled writer, have become an overdramatic and overwritten fantasy, is, in Gaiman’s hands, a dark and gripping tale that cuts to the heart of what it is to be human.




By Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

Everyone lies. Realtors lie to sell property faster. Holding out to sell your home for an extra $10,000 only means $150 for the realtor, so waiting for a better price isn’t always the priority they tell you it is. Our law enforcement lie to create or hide “crises” when it serves them to do so. In the run up to the Atlanta Olympics, law enforcement grossly under reported violent crime to increase their chances of winning the Olympic bid. They continue to do so; the Atlanta police department “lost” more than 22,000 reports in 2002 alone! But guess what? There is one thing that doesn’t lie: it’s the numbers Steven D. Levitt, an economist with the University of Chicago, uses the numbers to give greater definition to what many of us see as a very grey world. He is not the kind of economist who is interested in the trade deficit or inflation rates. No, he wants to know if drug dealers make so much why do many still live at home or if naming your child “Loser” will ruin his/her life. Levitt asks these questions and many more in his book, Freakonomics and lets the numbers do the answering. This is the kind of book that will drive your friends and family crazy because you won’t be able to shut up about it.



Seriously . . . I’m Kidding

By Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen is one of those people that just make me laugh, no matter what it is that she says. Reading her book was no different. I had to stop myself from laughing out loud in public places. This is just a cute, goofy book, that is a great way to pass time if you enjoy her humor. Ellen seems to be telling parts of her story, some of which I still do not know if they are true. The book is compiled from short journals, stories, and other forms of her writing, that don’t always make since, but still entertain. If you are looking for a quick, entertaining book, you need to pick this one up!



My Story

By Elizabeth Smart & Chris Stewart

I know what you’re thinking. How could I ever be so in love with a memoir written by a girl who was abducted from her bedroom at knife-point. I do not have an answer for you. However, I cannot remember a book that I got lost in as much as Elizabeth Smart’s My Story. Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly some points in the book that made me cringe and wonder how on earth Elizabeth was able to pen what many of us would think was unimaginable. I think that’s what made me fall so in love with this book. Elizabeth is smart and leaves no rock unturned as she recounts the events she was forced to experience and how she survived them. Elizabeth is truly one of my heroes after learning of her strength and courage to remain optimistic in the darkest of times. It may have taken her 10 years to write, but I am so glad that she didn’t allow anybody else to tell her story. Elizabeth is truly and inspiration and we could all use even a little bit of her strength and courage.




By Veronica Roth

In a world where everyone must fit themselves into one of five factions, choices about how to live your life are extremely limited. Sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior has more choices than most: when she takes the compulsory test that is supposed to reveal a sixteen-year-old’s suitability for a certain faction, her results are “inconclusive”. She shows equal ability for membership in Abnegation, the selfless faction of her birth; Dauntless, the courageous faction that has always fascinated her; and Erudite, the so-called “genius” faction that she despises. In a nutshell, she is Divergent. When Beatrice chooses a faction, Dauntless, the hard part is supposed to be over. But the truth is far from it. If Beatrice, now calling herself Tris, wants to be Dauntless, she must rank in the top ten of her group of initiates, some of whom have been preparing for this all of their lives. The rankings are decided by violent fights, random acts of daring and idiocy, excruciatingly painful tests that delve into the fabric of your fears, and frankly, whether or not those in charge despise you. In the weeks that follow her choice, Tris must remake herself in the image of the Dauntless, figure out a complicated relationship with an enigmatic instructor named Four, and most of all, watch her back: Divergence isn’t safe, and there are people who want her dead. Divergent is a fascinating read, and is entirely un-put-downable. The realistic and utterly human characters of Tris, Four, and their friends and family, as well as their intriguing world, draw in you into the story and keep you there. It is a fresh and show-stopping addition to the ranks of teen literature, and is sure to delight anyone who is tired of the same-old, same-old.


What are you reading and listening to right now? Let us know in the comment section. To get more recommendations and audiobook news delivered to your inbox, sign up for the newsletter.

Malcolm Gladwell: Entertaining and Insightful

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

Certainly that is the case time and time again in Malcolm Gladwell’s invariably entertaining books. Looking at the world through Gladwellian glasses means homing in on details people don’t often think about. It means asking big and small questions to get at the truth of the matter. It means reconsidering established truths.

One of my favorite examples of Gladwell’s analysis comes from his third book, Outliers. Gladwell presents us with the list of the 75 richest people in the history of the world. This is a list historians have put together and includes everyone from the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt to Bill Gates. Of that list, Gladwell notes, 14 were born in a nine-year span in the 19th-century America. Here Gladwell asks a small question with a big answer. Why is that? Why are nearly 20% of the people on that list so close in age and from the same country?

The answer is opportunity. John D. Rockefeller (Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller), J.P. Morgan, Marshall Field, Fredrick Weyerhaeuser, and nine others were all born between the years 1831 and 1840. Because of the economics of the Civil War and postwar periods followed by the boom of the expanding railways and advent of Wall Street, these 14 were perfectly poised to reshape America and her economy. Those born a decade before were too old, stodgy, and set in their ways. Those born a decade later hadn’t come into their own yet. It always makes me wonder what the next auspicious generation will be.

Of course Gladwell doesn’t lead us to believe success is all about luck. In the same chapter that deals with the above subject he defines the now-famous 10,000-hour rule. This is the amount of time Gladwell believes it takes go from amateur to master. It is also the secret to Bill Gates’s as well as The Beatles’ prosperity. Because Bill Gates had access to a computer and began programming when he was 13 years old at the University of Washington—at a time when this was still unusual—he quickly rose to master computer programming. This sets him aside from many other highly intelligent, ambitious people of his generation who did not become multibillionaires. The Beatles played more than 1,200 shows in Hamburg between 1960 and 1964. There, they developed the skills necessary to become one of the world’s all-time greatest bands at such a young age. Gladwell points out that it takes only 20 hours a week for 10 years to achieve mastery level. In theory, anyone can do it. Gladwell admits that he himself spent about 10,000 hours writing for The American Spectator and then The Washington Post before becoming a master of his craft.

Gladwell was most recently obsessed with the old story of David and Goliath. This is the eponymous story in his latest book. In classic form, he reconsidered the two famous opponents, digging into the details of the tale. Through his critical approach, Gladwell discovered that David was not the underdog at all—Goliath was. David was fast, nimble, and well practiced with the sling, as he used it to defend his herd against predators. Goliath on the other hand was weighed down by his arm, and specifics of the story indicate that he had trouble seeing. Goliath expected David to come to him in hand-to-hand combat, but that was never David’s intention. It goes to show that life, and the stories we tell, are not always what we think they are. Gladwell fills his book with other such insights, sometimes turning what we think on its head.

But Gladwell doesn’t just concern himself with historical story or lofty anecdotes. He uses data to take on real-life problems. In his first book, The Tipping Point, Gladwell uses epidemiology to approach topics like the drop in crime rate in 1990s. He believes that crime is contagious. In the 1990s in New York City, police started targeting small crimes such as jumping the turnstiles in subways. Gladwell concludes that this directly correlates with a drop in larger crimes. Because, like disease, if crime is contagious, then reducing smaller crimes snuffs out the crime epidemic.

Through all of his data studies, anecdotes, and theories, Malcolm Gladwell remains immensely enjoyable. His writing feels like a conversation (even more so with audiobooks!) and not like a textbook.

What’s your favorite Gladwell anecdote? Let us know in the comment section. Also, check out our Malcolm Gladwell author page, where you’ll find all his audiobooks.

Watch Malcolm Gladwell’s other TED Talks here
Read Malcolm Gladwell’s work at The New Yorker here.


The Tipping Point

By Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell’s first book, which looks at issues big and small through the lens of epidemiology. Here you’ll find a wide variety of topics from the seemingly inconsequential (shoe trends) to those that affect society as a whole (crime rates).



By Malcolm Gladwell

We think without thinking. Using scientific evidence, Gladwell examines our biases and hunches that lead to sound decisions.



By Malcolm Gladwell

What makes someone successful? Gladwell looks at this question from every angle, from someone’s date of birth to early access to education and technology, distinguishing the most successful people from everyone else.


What the Dog Saw

By Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell selected 19 of his articles previously published in The New Yorker to fill this book. Topics include the fall of Enron, late bloomers, the variety of spaghetti sauces, and the inventor of the birth-control pill, just to name a few.


David and Goliath

By Malcolm Gladwell

In typical form, Gladwell flips everything we think we know on its head, looking at the stories of underdogs and success. Besides the eponymous Biblical story, Gladwell details Northern Ireland, revenge scenarios, civil rights leaders, and more.

To hear more about Malcolm Gladwell and similar authors, sign up for the newsletter. We’ll send great audiobook news right to your inbox.