The Best Nonfiction of October

Jon Foro on October 23, 2017

Here are just a few of our favorite nonfiction titles for October. See more of our nonfiction picks, and all of the Best Books of the Month.

Brief-HistoryA Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived by Adam Rutherford

Our obsession with where we come from has recently leapfrogged past the genealogy efforts of retired relatives to mail-in DNA tests that can provide the broad strokes of our genetic makeup for less than $100. But, as Rutherford points out in his intriguing exploration of humankind, DNA tests offer only a sensationalized peek at our roots, and the tangled, still-evolving truth is far more fascinating. Armed with his disarming British wit, Rutherford delves into the migration, interbreeding and isolation, and extinction of hominid branches that has shaped the modern human. Holes in our fossil record and the lack of DNA in fossils we’ve actually found still make genome research a challenge, yet the more we learn, the more we have to change our perception of who Homo sapiens are and what we’re made of. Challenging the simplistic thinking bolstered by the media, Rutherford adds both nuance and the thrill of excitement to viewing our species through a wider, stronger lens that can now see deep into our past.--Adrian Liang


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The Chicago Cubs: Story of a Curse by Rich Cohen
As I write this, the Los Angeles Dodgers are preparing for their first World Series appearance since 1988, sending the Cubs--last year's champions, then hailed as proto-dynastic juggernaut--into a long, cold Chicago winter, presumably fraught with fears of a fresh century-long curse. Or maybe 2016 was enough. In any case, fans can console themselves with this history of the lovably beleaguered North Siders from the always reliable (and Cubs devotee) Cohen.

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From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty
Few people have the nerve to dig into the subject of mortality the way Doughty does. A career in the death industry inspired her first book, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory , while her latest expands her investigation into funereal customs worldwide, as she seeks an enlightened path for dealing with the End. Seem off-putting? Read our recent interview with her here.

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WTF?: What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us by Tim O'Reilly
You know what's wrong with "futurists"? They're almost always wrong, and to such degrees that they'd be more accurately called "dadaists." This is not a problem for O'Reilly, who has consistently read the tea leaves of emerging technologies (and technology-driven movements and subcultures) to position himself and his O'Reilly Media at the forefront of world-changing phenomena, including the World Wide Web, Open Source Software, and Artificial Intelligence. WTF? teaches readers not only how to think about coming disruptions, but also that we're not powerless to influence their impacts. (Coincidentally, this is just one of two October nonfiction picks featuring "WTF" in the title, but the other "F" means something different altogether.)


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