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Awe-inspiring books recommended by TED 2017 speakers

Tarun Mittal
31st Jul 2017
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The annual TED conference is the focal point where the brightest mind in the world congregate to share their in-depth knowledge with the rest of us. Entrepreneurs, economists, humanists, writers, psychologists and more divulge invaluable insights and advice that changes the way we think, the way we view the world and ourselves. But listening to their 'talks' isn't the only way to broaden your intellectual horizons.

Books have always been the most powerful resource for changing and expanding our thought process. Every year, TED speakers share the books that have impacted their lives and the 2017 event was no exception. The vast list, compiled by ParrotRead, comprises of books from every genre, from sci-fi to fantasy to business to self-improvement and everything in between. To make it easier for you to find a book that interests you, we've short-listed 20 books recommended by TED 2017 speakers:

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

Our Final Invention by James Barrat

recommended by Elon Musk (entrepreneur and inventor) 

Will our eagerness to create artificial intelligence systems that rival our own intellect ultimately spell our doom? Barrat explores the perils of the unhindered pursuit of advanced AI through profiles of tech visionaries, industry watchdogs and ground-breaking AI systems.

Kill Decision by Daniel Suarez

recommended by Elon Musk 

Unmanned aerial vehicles, a.k.a drones, have been for the past decade employed by several countries to carry out military operations. And the decision to deploy weapons, the "kill decision", is always in human hands. But what if it wasn't?

Kill Decision is a book that imagines a world where the decision is placed in the hands of machines not humans — a disconcertingly believable vision of the world's near future.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

recommended by Tim Ferriss (entrepreneur and author)

The story of a boy who escapes his family's murderer, while still a toddler and lives out his childhood in a graveyard, The Graveyard Book is a fantasy fiction book that is as profound as it is absorbing. Gaiman's book touches topics like family, friends and love, through gripping adventures and supernatural encounters.

Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez

recommended by Tim Ferriss 

Bearing the alternate title 'How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player', this book is the story of famed independent screenwriter and director Robert Rodriguez. Part inspirational diary and part guidebook for working in the film industry, Rebel Without a Crew is above all a remarkable story.

Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari

recommended by Martin Ford (futurist)

A compelling and provocative blend of science, history, philosophy and everything in between, Homo Deus is a book that envisages the next step in the evolution of humankind. From overcoming death and artificial intelligence to war and self-inflicted misery, Harari tackles all the things that will shape the decades to come.

Where We Belong by Hoda Kotb

recommended by Gayle King (editor and TV show personality) 

Where We Belong is about people who weren't content with the direction their life was headed in and decided to make drastic changes for the better. Kotb's book contains stories about people who quit their mundane lives to pursue their passions and found fulfilment in doing so.

Success Through Stillness by Russell Simmons and Chris Morrow

recommended by Serena Williams (tennis player)

Entrepreneur, hip-hop artist and author Russell Simmons explains the correlation between inner peace and outward success in this book - which tries to decrypt the power of meditation. Through interviews with industry leaders and his personal anecdotes, Simmons tells his readers how to achieve greater clarity and focus, and how to be healthier in both mind and body.

Surfing Uncertainty by Andy Clark

recommended by Anil Seth (neuroscientist)

How do physical entities such as ourselves think, dream, understand and create? How do our brains work? In Surfing Uncertainty, Andy Clark finds the answer to this long-standing conundrum at the intersection of neuroscience, psychology, artificial intelligence and robotics.

The Stress-Proof Brain by Melanie Greenberg

recommended by Guy Winch (psychologist) 

It isn’t no secret that stress-levels in people are increasing at phenomenal rates. Neither is the fact that all this stress is spawning physical and mental health epidemics. Melanie Greenberg, in The Stress-Proof Brain, gives her readers the tools to manage stress through practising mindfulness and regulating emotions.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

recommended by Adam Alter (psychologist) 

Habits are powerful things. Good ones can help you achieve success, happiness and fulfilment, while the bad ones can trap you in miserable lives. In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explains the science behind how habits work while teaching us how we can change ours for the better.

Alone Together by Sherry Turkle

recommended by Dan Ariely (behavioural psychologist)

The rapid rise of technology, from social media to smartphones, has dramatically impacted our social lives. In this enlightening, well-researched book, Shelly Turkle explores the ethical and social ramifications of technology's role in diminishing the need for inter-personal connections.

Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock by Nik Cohn

recommended by Emily Esfahani Smith (author) 

This bizarrely-named book is hailed as the first cogent historical account of the Rock 'n' Roll era. Cohn covers the period from the rise of Bill Haley to the death of Jimi Hendrix; recounting outrageous anecdotes and providing vivid descriptions of the music without any of the typical hype. This book is also responsible for spawning the literary form of rock criticism.

The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall

recommended by Emily Esfahani Smith 

Humankind lives in and through stories told in novels, films, sporting events, and even criminal acts. These stories shape us, they change our worldviews and behaviours. In The Storytelling Animal, Gottschall draws on research in neuroscience, psychology and evolutionary biology to tell us how they do so and what it means to be a storytelling animal.

What Customers Really Want by Scott McKain

recommended by Guy Winch

Business executive Scott McKain addresses the biggest problems faced by companies in today's crowded, ultra-competitive market: how to give customers what they want. Drawing from his own considerable experience, McKain tells businesses how to provide the best customer experience, maintain loyalty, and hence drive revenue.

Strangers Drowning by Larissa MacFarquhar

recommended by Atul Gawande (surgeon)

We are all aware of the myriad sufferings that plague millions of people the world over. But there are only a handful of us who dedicate their lives to helping complete strangers in need. A collection of true stories, Strangers Drowning is MacFarquhar's exploration of what drives people to be so unimaginably selfless and the implications of their ethical acts.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

recommended by Lisa Genova (neuroscientist) 

A touching, funny and uplifting account of family, love, loyalty and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a book about the wonders and absurdities of human life. What makes it different from the several other books that tackle these subjects is the narrator — an intelligent and philosophical dog with a nearly human soul.

Lucky Jim by James Hart

recommended by Anne Lamott

James Hart is a funny and charming businessman who is well known among celebrity circles. This book is his memoir, that retells stories of his upbringing in a violent home, his struggle with alcohol and drug addictions, his relationship with his disabled son, and his struggle with his sexuality. Lucky Jim is a wonderfully written book that is at times funny, at times touching, and gripping throughout.

Against Empathy by Paul Bloom

recommended by Rutger Bregman (historian)

In Against Empathy, Paul Bloom challenges the widely-accepted notion that empathy is the most powerful genesis of goodness. His argument, backed by scientific findings, is that empathy is actually one of the leading motivators of inequality and immorality in society. He isn't against trying to understand another person's perspective though; he just calls for rational compassion rather than plain-old empathy.

Inviting Disaster by James R Chiles

recommended by Robin Hanson (economist)

Humankind has strived to push technological advancement to the highest limits since time immemorial. And this relentless drive has been the cause of some of history's worst catastrophes. In Inviting Disaster, James R Chiles weaves a captivating narrative that explains how breakdowns in increasingly 'smart' systems — from the Concorde to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station — led to human tragedies.

The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner

recommended by Robin Hanson

A disturbingly prescient sci-fi book published in 1972, The Sheep Look Up describes a dystopian Earth where the environment has been irreversibly damaged by humankind's actions. The air is unbreathable and the water undrinkable, there are riots and epidemics, and corporate greed is still causing problems. This book paints a worrying yet utterly imaginable scenario of what life in the near future will look like.

Have you read any of these books? Which one do you want to read first? Let us know in the comments below.

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