25 Books by TED Speakers That Will Expand Your Mind This Summer

Thanks to Covid, many of us have had to narrow our focus to just getting ourselves, our families, and our businesses through the next week or month (or even, on bad days, just the next Zoom call). 

But while the pandemic is far from over globally, in America we are starting to lift our heads, survey the world around us, and wonder what comes next. If that sounds like you and you’re ready to expand your mind and start dreaming big again, then the folks behind popular lecture series TED have some reading suggestions for you. 

The TED Ideas blog recently rounded up new books by popular TED speakers that are guaranteed to serve up new ideas to refresh your thinking this summer. Here are some from the list that are most relevant to Inc.com readers. (I removed niche topics like dealing with menopause or advice for college kids, though check out the complete list if you’re looking for more specialized suggestions.)  

1. The Handshake by Ella Al-Shamahi 

You probably never thought much about the handshake until the pandemic, but since the coronavirus upended our lives many of us have become hyper aware of the potentially germ-spreading custom. The Handshake, by paleoanthropologist Ella Al-Shamahi, explores its millennia-long history across the globe. 

2. Whole Brain Living by Jill Bolte-Taylor 

Jill Bolte-Taylor understands the marvelous strangeness of the human brain both academically and experientially — she’s a neuroscientist and the survivor of a massive stroke that left her unable to move or speak but filled her with euphoria. In her book, she tells her story and discusses how better understanding your own brain can lead to a wiser, happier life. 

3. You Are Your Best Thing by Tarana Burke and Brené Brown 

A collection of essays on the experience and impact of racism edited by founder of #MeToo and the famed vulnerability researcher and TED star, You Are Your Best Thing explores the lived experience of injustice and digs into the trauma, shame, healing, and hope experienced by diverse Black Americans. 

4. Leading From Anywhere by David Burkus 

This book from organizational psychologist David Burkus sounds incredibly timely. It offers “research-based insights about how organizations can grow and keep their employees happy and motivated, even when we’re all online,” TED Ideas explains. 

5. Remember by Lisa Genova 

This reassuring read from neuroscientist Lisa Genova digs into the science of memory and explains why small memory slips, like forgetting where you parked your car, are more likely a sign of a well-functioning brain than early dementia. 

6. Women and Leadership by Julia Gillard and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

For this book, the powerhouse authorial duo (Gillard was Australia’s first female prime minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is director general of the WTO) interviewed eight remarkable female leaders, from New Zealand’s Jacinda Arden to Hillary Clinton, about the barriers to female empowerment and what we should do to overcome them. 

7. Think Again by Adam Grant 

The latest book from star Wharton professor Adam Grant argues for embracing doubt and thinking like a scientist, as well as offering tips for those who would like to be more curious, humble, and open-minded in their thinking. My Inc.com colleague Lindsay Blakely wrote up a sneak preview. 

8. The Data Detective by Tim Harford 

Our data-driven world is making statistical literacy ever more important. In The Data Detective, economist Tim Harford offers 10 simple rules to help you better understand and use all the numbers that surround you. Again, a quick sneak peak is available here on Inc.com if you’re trying to decide if this book is for you. 

9. The Lonely Century by Noreena Hertz 

Research shows that loneliness can be as bad for you as a pack-a-day smoking habit. It also suggests we’re currently in the midst of a loneliness epidemic. In this book, academic Noreena Hertz suggests ways to counteract our disconnection and form stronger communities. 

10. Professional Troublemaker by Luvvie Ajayi Jones 

“This book is a middle finger up to fear,” declares writer Luvvie Ajayi Jones. “You’ll read, you’ll laugh — and you’ll leave feeling inspired to cause some trouble of your own,” promises TED Ideas of Professional Troublemaker

11. Extra Life by Steven Johnson 

In 1880, life expectancy in wealthy countries was just 40 years. Now it’s around 80. What happened to make that extraordinary progress possible? That’s the topic of the latest book by respected science writer Steven Johnson. For a preview, check out This New York Times Magazine article by the author. 

12. Noise by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, and Cass R. Sunstein

This much-chattered-about book from an all-star writing team, including a Harvard professor and a Nobel Laureate, digs into a common flaw that messes up our decision making and offers tips to help readers make smarter choices. 

13. Dusk, Night, Dawn by Anne Lamott 

The essays in this latest book from the beloved writer take on everything from being a first time newlywed at age 65 to California’s wildfires and the Trump presidency. 

14. You’re Invited by Jon Levy 

“What did 1960’s white, self-described ‘formerly fat housewife’ Jean Nidetch, the founder of Weight Watchers International, have in common with Black 19th-century formerly enslaved abolitionists Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas and Sojourner Truth? All of them were able to catalyze lasting change as a result of the connections they had forged with other people,” claims TED Ideas. This book from business professor Jon Levy explains how to build your influence too. 

15. The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee 

Some Americans fear that social justice is a zero-sum game — what one group gains another must lose. This book is policy analyst Heather McGhee’s argument against that way of thinking, offering suggestions for how we can create a society that is equitable and prosperous for all.

16. Wild Souls by Emma Marris 

Thanks to human activity, we are now in the midst of the sixth extinction with earth losing species at an alarming rate. In Wild Souls environmental journalist Emma Marris explores what we can do to halt this catastrophe. 

17. A World Without Email by Cal Newport

As of 2019, the average professional received 120 emails a day (and that’s not even considering Slack, Zoom, and all the rest). In A World Without Email computer science professor Cal Newport argues that amounts to a productivity disaster and offers alternative ways to work.  

18. The Extended Mind by Annie Murphy Paul 

“Science writer Annie Murphy Paul uses research to explore and explain how we can increase our knowledge and understanding by using our physical movements, the space that surrounds us and the minds of others around us, rather than relying solely on our own brains,” says TED Ideas of The Extended Mind.  

19. This Is Your Mind on Plants by Michael Pollan 

In this book, journalist Michael Pollan offers a deep dive into how three plant-derived substances — opium, caffeine and mescaline — have changed the world. “A perfect read to accompany a morning cup of coffee or tea,” claims TED Ideas. 

20. No One Succeeds Alone by Robert Reffkin 

In No One Succeeds Alone, entrepreneur Robert Reffkin shares his secrets for building relationships with those from very different backgrounds, as well as dispensing advice on overcoming your fears to achieve your goals. 

21. Futureproof by Kevin Roose 

Forget worrying whether a robot will steal your job. In Futureproof, tech journalist Kevin Roose argues we should instead calm down and focus on how best to work productively together with artificial intelligence.  

22. Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard

In this book, ecologist Suzanne Simard “compares the forest floor to a human brain’s neural network,” explains TED Ideas. “Simard’s discoveries are not only awe-inspiring, but they also challenge assumptions of how to preserve forests and what we can do to create a more sustainable future.” 

23. The Empathy Diaries by Sherry Turkle 

In The Empathy Diaries, MIT professor Sherry Turkle takes a less academic, more personal approach to investigating the role of empathy in our lives. In this memoir, Turkle traces the impact on her life of her relationships with two men who lacked the quality.  

24. As a Woman by Paula Stone Williams 

As a Woman offers a candid, eye-opening account of a remarkable life. Paula Stone Williams came out as transgender while serving as pastor at an evangelical church. This memoir details her ostracism, transition, and what she learned about the differences in how society treats men and women. 

25. You Are What You Risk by Michele Wucker 

In this book, policy analyst Michele Wucker walks readers through identifying their own “personal risk fingerprint,” or attitude and appetite for risk, so they make better decisions about personal, professional and financial risk in their own lives.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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