Throughout history, some books have changed the world. They have transformed the way we see ourselves—and each other. They have inspired debate, dissent, war and revolution. They have enlightened, outraged, provoked and comforted. They have enriched lives—and destroyed them.
Now, Penguin brings you the works of the great thinkers, pioneers, radicals and visionaries whose ideas shook civilization, and helped make us who we are. Penguin’s Great Ideas series features twelve groundbreaking works by some of history’s most prodigious thinkers, and each volume is beautifully packaged with a unique type-drive design that highlights the bookmaker’s art. Offering great literature in great packages at great prices, this series is ideal for those readers who want to explore and savor the Great Ideas that have shaped the world.
Simon Garfield - To The Letter
To the Letter tells the story of our remarkable journey through the mail. From Roman wood chips discovered near Hadrian's Wall to the wonders and terrors of email, Simon Garfield explores how we have written to each other over the centuries and what our letters reveal about our lives. Along the way he delves into the great correspondences of our time, from Cicero and Petrarch to Jane Austen and Ted Hughes (and John Keats, Virginia Woolf, Jack Kerouac, Anaïs Nin and Charles Schulz), and traces the very particular advice offered by bestselling letter-writing manuals. He uncovers a host of engaging stories, including the tricky history of the opening greeting, the ideal ingredients for invisible ink, and the sad saga of the dead letter office. As the book unfolds, so does the story of a moving wartime correspondence that shows how letters can change the course of life. To the Letter is a wonderful celebration of letters in every form, and a passionate rallying cry to keep writing.
Richard Dawkins - The Greatest Show on Earth
"Darwin's Rottweiler" is at it again. Richard Dawkins, the author of The God Delusion, returns with a comprehensive examination of the current state of evidence for evolution. Unlike the aforementioned book, which described religion as a virus of the mind, The Greatest Show on Earth is not primarily about the absence of a supreme being, but rather about the mechanics of species change and diversification. Dawkins draws on his expertise as an evolutionary biologist to describe how the science of the past two centuries has confirmed and refined Darwinian theory.
Marcus Chown - Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You
The two towering achievements of modern physics are quantum theory and Einstein's general theory of relativity. But, almost a century after their advent, most people haven't the slightest clue what either is about. Did you know that there's so much empty space inside matter that the entire human race could be squeezed into the volume of a sugar cube? Or that you grow old more quickly on the top floor of a building than on the ground floor? Get set for the most entertaining science book of the year.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb - The Black Swan
What have the invention of the wheel, Pompeii, the Wall Street Crash, Harry Potter and the internet got in common? Why are all forecasters con-artists? What can Catherine the Great's lovers tell us about probability? And, why should you never run for a train or read a newspaper? This book is all about Black Swans: the random events that underlie our lives, from bestsellers to world disasters. Their impact is huge; they're impossible to predict; yet after they happen we always try to rationalize them. A rallying cry to ignore the 'experts', "The Black Swan" shows us how to stop trying to predict everything - and take advantage of uncertainty.
Gavin Pretor-Pinney - The Cloudspotter's Guide
'The clouds are nature's poetry, and the most egalitarian of her displays, since everyone has an equally fantastic view of them. Clouds are for dreamers, and their contemplation benefits the soul. Yet their beauty is so everyday as to be in danger of being overlooked...' Gavin Pretor-Pinney is the chairman and founder member of the Cloud Appreciation Society. He contends that we are blessed in this country with a uniquely rich and varied cloudscape, which has hitherto been sadly undervalued. His book teaches us to appreciate their different varieties - the cumulus, nimbostratus and Morning Glory to name only a few - and all their beauties and significances, both meteorological and cultural. We learn how Hindus believed the cumulus clouds were the spiritual cousins of elephants, how thermal air currents act on fair weather cumuli, and how to save a fortune in psychiatric bills by using the clouds as Rorschach images that reflect our state of mind as well as nature's moods. Looking up will never be the same again.
Stephen W. Hawking - Leonard Mlodinow - A Briefer History of Time
Stephen Hawking's worldwide bestseller, A Brief History of Time, remains one of the landmark volumes in scientific writing of our time. But for years readers have asked for a more accessible formulation of its key concepts--the nature of space and time, the role of God in creation, and the history and future of the universe. Professor Hawkings response is this new work that will guide nonscientists everywhere in the ongoing search for the tantalizing secrets at the heart of time and space.... Although briefer, this book is much more than a mere explanation of Hawkings earlier work. A Briefer History of Time both clarifies and expands on the great subjects of the original, and records the latest developments in the field--from string theory to the search for a unified theory of all the forces of physics. Thirty-seven full-color illustrations enhance the text and make A Briefer History of Time an exhilarating and must-have addition in its own right to the great literature of science and ideas.
Stephen W. Hawking - A Brief History of Time
Brief History of Time, published in 1988, was a landmark volume in science writing and in world-wide acclaim and popularity, with more than 9 million copies in print globally. The original edition was on the cutting edge of what was then known about the origins and nature of the universe. But the ensuing years have seen extraordinary advances in the technology of observing both the micro - and the macrocosmic world - observations that have confirmed many of Hawking's theoretical predictions in the first edition of his book. Now a decade later, this edition updates the chapters throughout to document those advances, and also includes an entirely new chapter on Wormholes and Time Travel and a new introduction. It make vividly clear why A Brief History of Time has transformed our view of the universe.
Lucy Hawking - Stephen W. Hawking - George's Secret Key to the Universe
Stephen Hawking, author of the multi-million copy bestselling A Brief History of Time, and his daughter Lucy explain the universe to readers of all ages. George's parents, who have always been wary of technology, warn him about their new neighbors: Eric is a scientist and his daughter, Annie, seems to be following in his footsteps. But when George befriends them and Cosmos, their super-computer, he finds himself on a wildly fun adventure, while learning about physics, time, and the universe. With Cosmos's help, he can travel to other planets and a black hole. But what would happen if the wrong people got their hands on Cosmos? George, Annie, and Eric aren't about to find out, and what ensues is a funny adventure that clearly explains the mysteries of science. Garry Parsons' energetic illustrations add humor and interest, and his scientific drawings add clarity; there are also eight 4-page full-color inserts of scientific photos.
John Farndon - Children's Encyclopedia
The clearly presented information is organised into thematic sections covering all aspect of the natural and human world. The lively text is made highly accessible by the use of sub headings, fact panels and "did you know?" features. Each illustration and photograph is accompanied by a detailed caption.
Stephen W. Hawking - Leonard Mlodinow - The Grand Design
The three central questions of philosophy and science: Why is there something rather than nothing? Why do we exist? Why this particular set of laws and not some other? No one can make a discussion of such matters as compulsively readable as the celebrated University of Cambridge cosmologist Hawking (A Brief History of Time). Along with Caltech physicist Mlodinow (The Drunkard's Walk), Hawking deftly mixes cutting-edge physics to answer those key questions. For instance, why do we exist? Earth occupies a "Goldilocks Zone" in space: just the perfect distance from a not-too-hot star, with just the right elements to allow life to evolve. On a larger scale, in order to explain the universe, the authors write, "we need to know not only how the universe behaves, but why." While no single theory exists yet, scientists are approaching that goal with what is called "M-theory," a collection of overlapping theories (including string theory) that fill in many (but not all) the blank spots in quantum physics; this collection is known as the "Grand Unified Field Theories." This may all finally explain the mystery of the universe's creation without recourse to a divine creator. This is an amazingly concise, clear, and intriguing overview of where we stand when it comes to divining the secrets of the universe.
Carl Sagan - Broca's Brain
Carl Sagan, writer and scientist, returns from the frontier to tell us about how the world works. In his delightfully down-to-earth style, he explores and explains a mind-boggling future of intelligent robots, extraterrestrial life and its consquences, and other provocative, fascinating quandries of the future that we want to see today.
Carl Sagan - The Dragons of Eden
Dr. Carl Sagan takes us on a great reading adventure, offering his vivid and startling insight into the brain of man and beast, the origin of human intelligence, the function of our most haunting legends--and their amazing links to recent discoveries.
Richard Dawkins - The Selfish Gene
The million copy international bestseller, critically acclaimed and translated into over 25 languages. This 30th anniversary edition includes a new introduction from the author as well as the original prefaces and foreword, and extracts from early reviews. As relevant and influential today as when it was first published, _The Selfish Gene_ has become a classic exposition of evolutionary thought. Professor Dawkins articulates a gene's eye view of evolution - a view giving centre stage to these persistent units of information, and in which organisms can be seen as vehicles for their replication. This imaginative, powerful, and stylistically brilliant work not only brought the insights of Neo-Darwinism to a wide audience, but galvanized the biology community, generating much debate and stimulating whole new areas of research.
Richard Dawkins - The God Delusion
Discover magazine recently called Richard Dawkins "Darwin's Rottweiler" for his fierce and effective defense of evolution. Prospect magazine voted him among the top three public intellectuals in the world (along with Umberto Eco and Noam Chomsky). Now Dawkins turns his considerable intellect on religion, denouncing its faulty logic and the suffering it causes. He critiques God in all his forms, from the sex-obsessed tyrant of the Old Testament to the more benign (but still illogical) Celestial Watchmaker favored by some Enlightenment thinkers. He eviscerates the major arguments for religion and demonstrates the supreme improbability of a supreme being. He shows how religion fuels war, foments bigotry, and abuses children, buttressing his points with historical and contemporary evidence. In so doing, he makes a compelling case that belief in God is not just irrational, but potentially deadly. Dawkins has fashioned an impassioned, rigorous rebuttal to religion, to be embraced by anyone who sputters at the inconsistencies and cruelties that riddle the Bible, bristles at the inanity of "intelligent design," or agonizes over fundamentalism in the Middle East—or Middle America.
David J. Hand - The Improbability Principle
In The Improbability Principle, the renowned statistician David J. Hand argues that extraordinarily rare events are anything but. In fact, they’re commonplace. Not only that, we should all expect to experience a miracle roughly once every month. But Hand is no believer in superstitions, prophecies, or the paranormal. His definition of “miracle” is thoroughly rational. No mystical or supernatural explanation is necessary to understand why someone is lucky enough to win the lottery twice, or is destined to be hit by lightning three times and still survive. All we need, Hand argues, is a firm grounding in a powerful set of laws: the laws of inevitability, of truly large numbers, of selection, of the probability lever, and of near enough. Together, these constitute Hand’s groundbreaking Improbability Principle. And together, they explain why we should not be so surprised to bump into a friend in a foreign country, or to come across the same unfamiliar word four times in one day. Hand wrestles with seemingly less explicable questions as well: what the Bible and Shakespeare have in common, why financial crashes are par for the course, and why lightning does strike the same place (and the same person) twice. Along the way, he teaches us how to use the Improbability Principle in our own lives—including how to cash in at a casino and how to recognize when a medicine is truly effective. An irresistible adventure into the laws behind “chance” moments and a trusty guide for understanding the world and universe we live in, The Improbability Principle will transform how you think about serendipity and luck, whether it’s in the world of business and finance or you’re merely sitting in your backyard, tossing a ball into the air and wondering where it will land.
Jennifer Ellen Robertson - Takarazuka: Sexual Politics & Popular Culture in Modern Japan
The all-female Takarazuka Revue is world-famous today for its rococo musical productions, including gender-bending love stories, torridly romantic liaisons in foreign settings, and fanatically devoted fans. But that is only a small part of its complicated and complicit performance history. In this sophisticated and historically grounded analysis, anthropologist Jennifer Robertson draws from over a decade of fieldwork and archival research to explore how the Revue illuminates discourses of sexual politics, nationalism, imperialism, and popular culture in twentieth-century Japan. The Revue was founded in 1913 as a novel counterpart to the all-male Kabuki theater. Tracing the contradictory meanings of Takarazuka productions over time, with special attention to the World War II period, Robertson illuminates the intricate web of relationships among managers, directors, actors, fans, and social critics, whose clashes and compromises textured the theater and the wider society in colorful and complex ways. Using Takarazuka as a key to understanding the "logic" of everyday life in Japan and placing the Revue squarely in its own social, historical, and cultural context, she challenges both the stereotypes of "the Japanese" and the Eurocentric notions of gender performance and sexuality.
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Bill Bryson describes himself as a reluctant traveller, but even when he stays at home he can't contain his curiosity about the world around him. _A Short History of Nearly Everything_ is his quest to understand everything that has happened from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization -- how we got from there, being nothing at all, to here, being us. The ultimate eye-opening journey through time and space, revealing the world in a way most of us have never seen it before.
Mary Roach - Gulp
The bestselling author of Stiff takes on the curious, comical intersection of delight and disgust that is eating(and what comes after). Eating is the most pleasurable, gross, necessary, unspeakable biological process we humans undertake. But very few of us realise what strange wet miracles of science operate inside us after every meal - let alone have pondered the results (of the research). How have physicists made crisps crispier? What do laundry detergent and saliva have in common? Was self-styled 'nutritional economist' Horace Fletcher right to persuade millions of people that chewing a bite of shallot 700 times would yield double the vitamins? And did Elvis actually die from constipation? In her trademark, laugh-out-loud style, Mary Roach breaks bread with spit connoisseurs and enema exorcists, stomach slugs, rectum-examining prison guards, and competitive hot dog eaters as she investigates the beginning - and the end - of our food.
James Trefil - 101 Things You Don't Know About Science
James Trefil takes the reader on a thrilling tour across the borders of current scientific knowledge-from astronomy to genetics, from information technology to cosmology, the great contested questions that preoccupy researchers today and will become headlines tomorrow. In elegant, witty three-page summations, Dr. Trefil "makes sense of science for the rest of us" (Washington Post).