The best books for intellectual and creative inspiration

The Books I Picked & Why

Ever Since Darwin: Reflections on Natural History

By Stephen Jay Gould

Ever Since Darwin: Reflections on Natural History

Why this book?

Ever Since Darwin is described as a collection of essays on natural history. But it is much more than that. Ever Since Darwin is an album of captivating, perspicacious, funny, and delightfully crafted stories that explain evolution and the curiosities of the natural world by a writer with a genius for description. From the “spandrels of San Marco” to the “bushes” that natural selection prunes, Stephen Jay Gould deftly uses metaphor to deconstruct the fossil record and illuminate the exquisite complexities of evolution. All of Stephen Jay Gould’s books are brilliant, but Ever Since Darwin is my first love.


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A Natural History of the Senses

By Diane Ackerman

A Natural History of the Senses

Why this book?

A Natural History of the Senses is gorgeously written and poetic while simultaneously presenting accurate basic science about our five senses. Diane Ackerman stunningly shows how a gifted writer can decipher a field, captivate the general public, and elicit the fascination and wonder that a topic deserves. I am also ever delighted by the fact that the book starts with the sense of smell, rather than relegating it to the least and last section as most books on our senses do. A Natural History of the Senses is a beautiful compendium of biology and a tour of human perception.


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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

By Patrick Suskind

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Why this book?

Perfume is a story of bloodlust for scent. It is written with phenomenal pacing, shocking twists, and precise yet intense language that clutches you from the start. I am a murder mystery super fan and what could be better than a book about murder and smell! What is further amazing is the research that Patrick Suskind clearly did for this book. Indeed, I wrote to Suskind asking how he learned what he did about scent, but he did not respond-- I’ve since heard that he is a recluse. No matter-- Suskind has an uncanny intuition for the secrets and powers of scent, and Perfume will grip you by the heart and the nostrils.


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The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

By Thomas S. Kuhn

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Why this book?

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is a philosophical analysis of the history of science that lays bare the elusive nature of progress. Giving us terms like “paradigm shift”— that I love to use—Thomas Kuhn turns the way we think about advancement on its head and shows how unforeseen often vilified discoveries end up being the touchstone for landmark scientific development. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is insightful and impactful far beyond science and philosophy—its groundbreaking revelations will liberate your creativity, enable you to embrace the intellectually unexpected, and teach you how to think.


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Running with Scissors

By Augusten Burroughs

Running with Scissors

Why this book?

Running with Scissors is a hysterically funny, poignant, shocking, and clever memoir. It is not a book about science, scent, or murder though plenty of murderous thoughts are recounted. Running with Scissors is a twisted and delightful coming of age story, it is escapism-- yet highly meaningful, and it spoke to me at a time when I was searching for my writing voice. Running With Scissors exploded my brain, and turned on the switch that gave me the words, enthusiasm, and motivation to write. My selfish benefits notwithstanding, this book is an enormous pleasure to read anytime, anywhere, and by everyone.


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