New and forthcoming

Origin Story

David Christian

'I have long been a fan of David Christian. In Origin Story, he elegantly weaves evidence and insights from many scientific and historical disciplines into a single, accessible historical narrative' Bill Gates

This is the epic story of the universe and our place in it, from 13.8 billion years ago to the remote future

How did we get from the Big Bang to today's staggering complexity, in which seven billion humans are connected into networks powerful enough to transform the planet? And why, in comparison, are our closest primate relatives reduced to near-extinction?

Big History creator David Christian gives the answers in a mind-expanding cosmological detective story told on the grandest possible scale. He traces how, during eight key thresholds, the right conditions have allowed new forms of complexity to arise, from stars to galaxies, Earth to homo sapiens, agriculture to fossil fuels. This last mega-innovation gave us an energy bonanza that brought huge benefits to mankind, yet also threatens to shake apart everything we have created.

This global origin story is one that we could only begin to tell recently, thanks to the underlying unity of modern knowledge. Panoramic in scope and thrillingly told, Origin Story reveals what we learn about human existence when we consider it from a universal scale.

The Art of Gathering

Priya Parker

We spend our lives gathering - first in classrooms and then in meetings, weddings, conferences and away days. Yet so many of us spend this time in underwhelming moments that fail to engage us, inspire us, or connect us. We've all sat in meetings where people talk past each other or go through the motions and others which galvanize a team and remind everyone why they first took the job. We've been to weddings that were deeply moving and others that were run-of-the-mill and simply faded away.

Why do some moments take off and others fizzle? What's the difference between the gatherings that inspire you and the ones that don't?

In The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker gets to the heart of these questions and reveals how to design a transformative gathering. An expert on organizing successful gatherings whether in conference centres or her living room, Parker shows us how to create moving, magical, mind-changing experiences - even in spaces where we've come to expect little.

How to Change Your Mind

Michael Pollan

Could psychedelic drugs change our worldview? One of America's most admired writers takes us on a mind-altering journey to the frontiers of human consciousness

When LSD was first discovered in the 1940s, it seemed to researchers, scientists and doctors as if the world might be on the cusp of psychological revolution. It promised to shed light on the deep mysteries of consciousness, as well as offer relief to addicts and the mentally ill. But in the 1960s, with the vicious backlash against the counter-culture, all further research was banned. In recent years, however, work has quietly begun again on the amazing potential of LSD, psilocybin and DMT. Could these drugs in fact improve the lives of many people? Diving deep into this extraordinary world and putting himself forwardas a guinea-pig, Michael Pollan has written a remarkable history of psychedelics and a compelling portrait of the new generation of scientists fascinatedby the implications of these drugs. How to Change Your Mind is a report from what could very well be the future of human consciousness.

'His approach is steeped in honesty and self-awareness. His cause is just, his thinking is clear, and his writing is compelling' - Washington Post


'An easy-going humane generosity ... mischievous self-regard ... as if Henry David Thoreau had had an encounter with Woody Allen and never been quite the same since' - Simon Schama

Endurance

Scott Kelly

*As featured on BBC Breakfast, Radio 5Live and Steve Wright in the Afternoon on BBC Radio 2*

From the Nasa astronaut who spent a record-breaking year aboard the International Space Station – what it’s like out there and what it’s like now, back here. Enter Scott Kelly's fascinating world and dare to think of your own a little differently.

As soon as you realize you aren’t going to die, space is the most fun you’ll ever have...

The veteran of four space flights and the American record holder for most consecutive days spent in space, Scott Kelly has experienced things very few of us ever have and very few of us ever will.

Kelly's humanity, compassion, humour, and passion shine as he describes navigating the extreme challenge of long-term spaceflight, both existential and banal. He touches on what’s happened to his body, the sadness of being isolated from everyone he loves; the pressures of constant close cohabitation; the catastrophic risks of colliding with space junk, and the still more haunting threat of being absent should tragedy strike at home.

From a natural storyteller Endurance is one of the finest examples the triumph of the human imagination, the strength of the human will, and the boundless wonder of the galaxy.

*

What readers are saying...

'Takes you up into space and lets you be a part of astronaut life'
'Tough to put down! Tells a side you don't often hear or read about for that matter'
'Mind blowing . . . up there with Ernest Shackleton for me'
'My husband said it is the next best thing to going into space yourself'
'Six stars!'

Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear? 200 birds, 12 months, 1 lapsed birdwatcher

Lev Parikian

At twelve years old, Lev Parikian was an avid birdwatcher. He was also a fraud, a liar and a cheat. Those lists of birds seen and ticked off? Lies. One hundred and thirty species? More like sixty.
Then, when he turned fifty, he decided to right his childhood wrongs. He would go birdwatching again. He would not lie. He would aim to see two hundred species of British bird in a year.

Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear? is the story of that year, a story about birds, family, music, nostalgia, the nature of obsession and obsession with nature. It’s about finding adventure in life when you twig it’s shorter than you thought, and about losing and regaining contact with the sights, sounds and smells of the natural world.

It’s a book for anyone who has ever seen a small brown bird and wondered what it was, or tried to make sense of a world in which we can ask, ‘What’s that bird?’ and ‘What’s for lunch?’ and get the same answer.

Cringeworthy

Melissa Dahl

Have you ever said goodbye to someone, only to discover that you're both walking in the same direction? Or had your next thought fly out of your brain in the middle of a presentation? Or accidentally liked an old photo on someone's Instagram or Facebook, thus revealing yourself to be a creepy social media stalker?

Melissa Dahl, New York magazine's "Science of Us" editor, has experienced all of those awkward situations, and many more. Now she offers a thoughtful, original take on what it really means to feel awkward. She invites you to follow her into all sorts of mortifying moments, drawing on personal experience and in-depth psychological research to answer questions you've probably pondered at some point, such as:

* Why are situations without clear rules most likely to turn awkward?

* Are people really judging us as harshly as we think they are?

* Does anyone ever truly outgrow their awkward teenage self?

If you can learn to tolerate life's most awkward situations -- networking, difficult conversations, hearing the sound of your own terrible voice -- your awkwardness can be a secret weapon to making better, more memorable impressions. When everyone else is pretending to have it under control, you can be a little braver and grow a little bigger.

Bullshit Jobs

David Graeber

'The most influential radical political thinker of the moment' - New Yorker

Back in 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes prophesied that by the century's end, technology would see us all working fifteen-hour weeks. But instead, something curious happened. Today, average working hours have not decreased, but increased. And now, across the developed world, three-quarters of all jobs are in services or admin, jobs that don't seem to add anything to society: bullshit jobs. In Bullshit Jobs, David Graeber explores how this phenomenon - one more associated with the 20th-century Soviet Union, but which capitalism was supposed to eliminate - has happened. In doing so, he looks at how we value work, and how, rather than being productive, work has become an end in itself; the way such work maintains the current broken system of finance capital; and, finally, how we can get out of it.

Praise for The Democracy Project: 'Clear, pungent and right ... a compact and incisive account of why capitalism has run with such a smash into the buffers' - Times Higher Education

'Captures the joys and fears of a movement' - Observer

The Book of Why

Judea Pearl (and others)

A pioneer of artificial intelligence shows how the study of causality revolutionized science and the world

'Correlation does not imply causation.' This mantra was invoked by scientists for decades in order to avoid taking positions as to whether one thing caused another, such as smoking and cancer and carbon dioxide and global warming. But today, that taboo is dead. The causal revolution, sparked by world-renowned computer scientist Judea Pearl and his colleagues, has cut through a century of confusion and placed cause and effect on a firm scientific basis. Now, Pearl and science journalist Dana Mackenzie explain causal thinking to general readers for the first time, showing how it allows us to explore the world that is and the worlds that could have been. It is the essence of human and artificial intelligence. And just as Pearl's discoveries have enabled machines to think better, The Book of Why explains how we can think better.

Linescapes

Hugh Warwick

‘Glorious… Political, passionate, perceptive’ Robert Macfarlane

An eye-opening exploration of the lines that cut through our countryside, from hedges to railways, and a passionate manifesto for reconnecting wildlife.

Our landscape has been transformed by a vast network of lines, from hedges and walls to railways and power cables. In Linescapes, Hugh Warwick unravels the far-reaching ecological consequences of these changes. As our lives and our land were fenced in and threaded together, wildlife habitats were cut into ever smaller – and increasingly unviable – fragments.

Yet as Warwick travels across this linescape, he shows that we can help our flora and fauna to flourish once again. With his fresh and bracing perspective on Britain’s countryside, he proposes a challenge and gives ground for hope, for our lines can and do contain a real potential for wildness and for wildlife.

The Matter of the Heart

Thomas Morris

'Thrilling... The “dizzying” story of heart surgery is every bit as important as that of the nuclear, computer or rocket ages. And now it has been given the history it deserves' James McConnachie, Sunday Times

For thousands of years the human heart remained the deepest of mysteries; both home to the soul and an organ too complex to touch, let alone operate on. Then, in the late nineteenth century, medics began going where no one had dared go before.

In eleven landmark operations, Thomas Morris tells us stories of triumph, reckless bravery, swaggering arrogance, jealousy and rivalry, and incredible ingenuity, from the trail-blazing ‘blue baby’ procedure to the first human heart transplant. The Matter of the Heart gives us a view over the surgeon’s shoulder, showing us the heart’s inner workings and failings. It describes both a human story and a history of risk-taking that has ultimately saved millions of lives.

Never miss a story...

Sign up to receive the Penguin Newsletter