Six Degrees of Separation: The Tipping Point

Hosted each month by Kate at Booksaremyfavouriteandbest, Six Degrees of Separation picks a starting book for participants to go wherever it takes them in six more steps.Our starting book this month is the non-Fiction bestseller…

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

This book, first published in 2000, (which I reviewed here in 2009) was one of the first real blockbuster books to try and explain the tricky psychology of business and economics to a general reader. I loved it, and have since read many other books developing and exploring the subject further, such as Freakonomics,  But I am going choose another more recent book as my first link, which has a quote from Malcolm Gladwell on its front cover…

Messy by Tim Harford

I’ve loved Tim Harford’s More or Less programme on Radio 4 for years, and this book, subtitled ‘How to be creative and resilient in a tidy-minded world’ looks at how to use entropy to our advantage. It’s full of wonderful examples from business to the arts to sports management and more. Always entertaining and thought-provoking. Another book about seeing things differently is:

Deviate by Beau Lotto

The improbably named Beau Lotto is a Professor of Neuroscience, and his book published last year (reviewed here) is all about perception and the science of seeing, including loads of science around optical illusions amongst other things.  The book is great fun if a little repetitive, but was pitched a little low for me. However Lotto’s TED talks are great and very entertaining. Another author who has done some TED Talks and whose books are on my shelf is:

GO: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd

Kidd, a revered New York-based graphic designer who has devised many iconic book covers (including Jurassic Park), has also given a couple of extremely entertaining TED talks (here). He uses humour and irony in his talks to illustrate good and bad design. This book, with its ironic title,  while not going into design detail, is designed to make you laugh and think about design. His on stage persona is very much laid out on the page, and  he’s great at getting to the heart of concepts with clarity.  So design is my link to:

My Life in Design by Terence Conran

I was a fan of Conran’s from the 1970s when Habitat first opened in Croydon.  Of course his career started before then, and this book, clad in his signature colours of Yves Klein blue and orange goes through his extraordinary life in design, medium by medium, business by business from textiles to architecture and retail. I wish I could afford his Concept by Conran furniture, let alone his high-end Benchmark pieces, but I love the quality of the line and materials.  Material is the key word to link in a slightly different sense to:

Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik

Miodownik is a materials scientist (Yay! so am I), and he has presented some superbly informative, yet entertaining programmes on TV and radio. In Stuff Matters, which I reviewed for Shiny here, he takes us on a tour through the world of materials.  I love popular science books, and this is one of my favourites from recent years. Another favourite popular science book is:

To Be a Machine by Mark O’Connell

I loved this book (reviewed here), and was so glad when it won this year’s Wellcome Book Prize. I was on the shadow panel for this prize convened by Bookish Beck and this was our winner too, by quite a margin.  O’Connell is a journalist and set off to explore the world of transhumanism – from cryogenics, to cyborgs, to AI, to living forever – he talks to all the people living and working in this subject, and I particularly loved how he humanised it. This is an extremely readable book, and I’d heartily recommend it.


I loved the opportunity of being able to stick with non-fiction books for this six degrees – but I’ve gone from Economics to Neuroscience to Graphic Design to Furniture to Materials Science to Transhumanism!  What a trail. Where will your six degrees take you?

11 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: The Tipping Point

  1. Excellent set of science links, Annabel. We all need a spot of Tim Harford in our lives to correct those innumerate news articles. My very first post here was a book called Hello World about design which let me off the hook at what I felt was my own inepitude by pointing out that if a reasonably intelligent person can’t work out how to use something, hardware or software, it’s often the designer’s fault.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Certainly gets your mind working! I have his two novels on my shelves somewhere too – they are bound to be fun.

  2. Well, your chain and my chain are so different! I don’t know any of your books but they look fascinating, even though they are out of my comfort zone. Conran, of course, I do know about, so I could start with his book.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I’m reading more and more non-fiction these days (or it feels like I am anyway!). The Conran book was fab – with tons of lovely photographs – so not a chore to read at all.

  3. I am completely impressed with your chain! If I had to craft one using only non-fiction books – well, I don’t know what I would do. Now, tell me to use crime novels and I’m so there. Ha! Interesting looking books. Thanks for giving me a glimpse of the other side of reading.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Thanks Kay. I’m reading and enjoying more non-fiction these days, so it was nice be able to indulge that side of my reading.

  4. You have opened my mind up to a whole range of books and ideas I had no idea about before reading your chain. I will definitely check out a few of them, and take a look at the TED talks, too.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I really recommend Chip Kidd’s newest TED talk – it’s 15 minutes of how to use clarity and mystery in graphic design that works – with some prime examples of when it fails! Very witty.

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