The 13 New Books to Expand Your Mind in 2023
My favorite new releases span problem-solving, persuading and influencing, meaning-making, leading and working, and motivating and becoming.
As much as I love escaping into fantasy, mystery, and sci-fi, the books that stick with me are the ones that give me a new take on real life. I spent part of winter break devouring the new nonfiction releases for 2023. My top picks offer ideas that are novel and useful, grounded in rigorous evidence or rich experience, packaged in writing that’s accessible and engaging.
1. What’s Our Problem? by Tim Urban (February)
Tim writes my favorite blog, Wait But Why, and I’ve been waiting seven years for him to finish his debut book. If you watched his viral TED talk on procrastination, you knew he would put it off—and I can finally say it’s been worth the wait. It’s an insightful, provocative, and hilariously illustrated analysis of why society is sick and how to fight polarization and tribalism. You won’t agree with every point… but that’s the point. This is a rare book that has the potential to sharpen your thinking, deepen your debates, and open your mind.
2. Drama Free by Nedra Glover Tawwab (February)
Many people go to therapy to work through the issues in their heads, overlooking that their biggest challenges often lie in their family relationships. A wise therapist shares sage advice to help you handle problems with parents, siblings, children… and yes, even in-laws. In a time when mental health is finally getting the attention it deserves, this is a vital guide to family health.
3. The Things We Make by Bill Hammack (March)
This book unravels the mysteries behind many of humanity’s greatest masterpieces. An engineering professor beloved for his YouTube explainers teaches you how to think like an engineer even if you don’t love math.
Persuading and Influencing
4. Fool Proof by Tess Wilkinson-Ryan (February)
An expert in moral psychology and the law examines how we can avoid falling for scams without falling prey to cynicism. It’s a fascinating window into the dynamics of taking smarter risks, building stronger relationships, and living with greater integrity.
5. Magic Words by Jonah Berger (March)
A riveting read on how the language we use shapes the impact we have. Jonah has a knack for making science sparkle, and he doesn’t just tell you how to write and speak more persuasively—he shows you.
6. Soul Boom by Rainn Wilson (April)
Not on my Bingo card for 2023: the guy who played Dwight on The Office releasing a book that’s as edifying as it is entertaining. Serving up a delicious smorgasbord of existential philosophy, self-reflection, social science, and Star Trek, Rainn explores the missing role of spirituality in the modern world. If you’ve ever wondered whether there’s more to life than selling paper, drop what you’re doing and buy this bundle of paper.
7. Life in Five Senses by Gretchen Rubin (April)
The popular writer argues that a key to happiness is getting out of your head and into the world. It’s a charming journey through the science and experience of fully engaging your senses of smell, taste, touch, sight, and sound.
8. Awe by Dacher Keltner (January)
We need more wonder in our lives, and a top psychologist has written the definitive book on where to find it. Dacher demystifies this transcendent emotion and unpacks how it both elevates us and grounds us.
9. The Urgent Life by Bozoma Saint John (February)
Bozoma is renowned for her professional achievements as a marketing exec at Netflix, Uber, and Apple, but her personal story is even more powerful. This is a truly moving read about love, loss, and resilience.
Leading and Working
10. The Portfolio Life by Christina Wallace (April)
In a turbulent world, this is a guide to leading a balanced life. Drawing on her background as a serial entrepreneur, Christina offers actionable advice to help you anticipate—and navigate—disruption.
11. Good Power by Ginni Rometty (March)
The longtime IBM CEO takes you behind the scenes of the memorable moments that propelled her rise and the pivotal principles that sustained her success. It’s a refreshingly personal, resoundingly practical read on gaining power and using it to empower.
Motivating and Becoming
12. Mixed Signals by Uri Gneezy (March)
If you think you understand how incentives work, think again. A pioneering behavioral economist reveals how we can create reward systems that minimize unintended consequences and maximize happiness, health, wealth, and success.
13. Selfless by Brian Lowery (March)
A thoughtful look at how our social world determines who we become. A leading social psychologist challenges us to rethink many of our assumptions about what drives our decisions, our actions, and our identities.
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Excellent! Thank you for sharing. I’ve recently found most joy and insight reading books that expand my thinking rather than entertainment. Broadening my understanding of life, other concepts and humans in general is more rewarding than the distraction of fiction.
Now that I just donated five boxes of books to my local library this list is super timely. Thanks for sharing it!