Our world is constantly changing, but does it feel like the pace of change is picking up? Even if lawmakers are gridlocked, change in the courts, culture, and technology is humming along. This spring’s crop of social science titles reflects the deep effects of social, legal, technical, and cultural influences on our everyday lives.

Think Like a Freak, the latest from the Freakonomics duo, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, heads the spring list and will surely be a blockbuster for HarperCollins. So much for the days of relaxing retirements—even the way we grow old is facing new changes, and from Simon & Schuster comes Second Wind: Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper, and More Connected Life by Dr. Bill Thomas, one of the country’s foremost authorities on aging and leader in long-term care reform.

On the tech front, Grove Atlantic has Aneesh Chopra’s Innovative State: How New Technologies Can Transform Government, a look at how digital can change, and in some cases disrupt, some long-established institutions. Chopra serves as the nation’s first chief technology officer. And just how is all this mostly tech-driven change affecting the way we live and love? Check out Brigid Schulte’s Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time.

Healthcare has been a hot topic since the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act. But as the conversation changes from a bad Web site to one of policy, look for Ezekiel Emanuel’s Reinventing American Health Care: How the Affordable Care Act will Improve Our Terribly Complex, Blatantly Unjust, Outrageously Expensive, Grossly Inefficient, Error Prone System to kick the discussion up a notch. Emanuel, a physician, is the brother of Obama’s former chief of staff (and current Chicago mayor) Rahm Emanuel.

Over the past year, marriage equality has found crucial support in the courts, and from Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Jo Becker comes the well-timed Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality.

Perhaps one of the most controversial legislative failures in 2013 is the lack of progress on guns following the massacre at Sandy Hook and the murder of Trayvon Martin. An essential primer on the issues is The Gun Debate: What Everyone Needs to Know by Philip J. Cook and Kristin A. Goss.

In 2014, food is once again a major topic. Ellen Gustafson seeks to change the way we look at our food system, one meal at a time, with We the Eaters: If We Change Dinner, We Can Change the World. And from Rowman & Littlefield comes the latest in its delicious history series on meals, Lunch: A History by Megan Elias.

Young people, meanwhile, face a debt bomb that could dwarf the mortgage crisis, detailed in The Student Loan Mess: How Good Intentions Created a Trillion-Dollar Problem by Joel Best and Eric Best.

PW’s Top 10: Social Science

Think Like a Freak. Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Morrow, May

Second Wind: Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper, and More Connected Life. Dr. Bill Thomas. S&S, Mar.

Innovative State: How New Technologies Can Transform Government. Aneesh Chopra. Grove/Atlantic, May

Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time. Brigid Schulte. Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Sarah Crichton Books, Mar.

Reinventing American Health Care: How the Affordable Care Act will Improve Our Terribly Complex, Blatantly Unjust, Outrageously Expensive, Grossly Inefficient, Error Prone System. Ezekiel Emanuel. PublicAffairs, Mar.

Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality. Jo Becker. The Penguin Press, Apr.

The Gun Debate: What Everyone Needs to Know. Philip J. Cook and Kristin A. Goss. Oxford Univ. Press, May

We the Eaters: If We Change Dinner, We Can Change the World. Ellen Gustafson. Rodale, May

Lunch: A History. Megan Elias. Rowman & Littlefield, Feb.

The Student Loan Mess: How Good Intentions Created a Trillion-Dollar Problem. Joel Best and Eric Best. Univ. of California Press, May

Social Science Listings


X vs. Y: A Culture War, a Love Story by Eve Epstein and Leonora Epstein (Mar. 18, paper, $18.95, ISBN 978-1419707704). Sisters Eve Epstein (a former editor of DailyCandy.com), and Leonora Epstein (an editor at Buzzfeed.com) offer a “lively ode to the pop culture that came to define Generations X and Y,” through lists, infographics, essays, anecdotes, and images, with chapters devoted to fashion, TV, music, and technology.

Beacon Press

(dist. by Random House)

Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal by Aviva Chomsky (May 13, paper, $16, ISBN 978-0807001677). Historian and immigrant rights activist Aviva Chomsky aims a fresh lens at one of today’s most pressing debates, exploring what it means to be undocumented in a legal, social, economic, and historical context.

Chelsea Green

Hemp Bound: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution by Doug Fine (Apr. 20, hardcover, $17.50, ISBN 978-1603585439). Get ready for America’s newest billion-dollar industry: hemp. As prohibition on hemp’s psychoactive cousin—marijuana—unravels, Fine explains why one of humanity’s longest-utilized plants is poised to rejuvenate the U.S. economy.

Chicago Review Press

(dist. by IPG)

Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine by Tim Hanley (Apr. 1, paper, $18.95, ISBN 978-1613749098). With her golden lasso and her bullet-deflecting bracelets, Wonder Woman is a symbol of female strength in a world of male superheroes. But this complicated heroine is more than just a female Superman, Hanley argues. The original Wonder Woman was a woman ahead of her time.

Building Atlanta: How I Broke Through Segregation to Launch a Business Empire by Herman J. Russell and Bob Andelman, intro. by Andrew Young (Apr. 1, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-1613746943). Russell shares his inspiring life story, incuding how he overcame racism and poverty in the Jim Crow South to become one of the most successful African-American entrepreneurs and an unsung hero of the civil rights movement.

The Dangerous Divide: Peril and Promise on the U.S.-Mexico Border by Peter Eichstaedt (May 1, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-1613748367). How does America balance both border security and its need for a vital workforce while continuing to provide access to the American dream? Eichstadt looks at how the United States has steadily ramped up security along the U.S.-Mexico border since 9/11.

Cornell Univ. Press/ILR Press

Missing Class: How Seeing Class Cultures Can Strengthen Social Movement Groups by Betsy Leondar-Wright (Apr. 15, paper, $21.95, ISBN 978-0801479205). In the first “comprehensive empirical study” of U.S. activist class cultures, Leondar-Wright looks at class dynamics in 25 groups that run the gamut of social movement organizations in the United States today.

Counterpoint Press/Soft Skull Press

(dist. by PGW)

Slavery Inc.: The Untold Story of International Sex Trafficking by Lydia Cacho, trans. by Roberto Saviano (May 13, paper, $17.95, ISBN 978-1619022966). In this investigative report, journalist Cacho follows the trail of traffickers and victims from Mexico to Turkey, Thailand to Iraq, Georgia to the U.K., exposing the sex trade’s links to the tourism industry, Internet pornography, arms smuggling, and terrorism.

Cocaína: A Book on Those Who Make It by Magnus Linton, trans. by John Eason (Apr. 15, paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-1619022935). Based on three years of research and more than 100 interviews with growers, traffickers, assassins, refugees, police, politicians, and drug tourists, this book gamely tracks how cocaine is made, sold, and distributed.

Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Are Doomed to Repeat It by Lisa Bloom (Mar. 4, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1619023277). Bloom, a New York Times bestselling author and Today Show legal analyst, examines race, gun laws, and gun violence in America through the lens of the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin and the legal case in which his killer was acquitted.

Duke Univ. Press

Paper Knowledge: Toward a Media History of Documents by Lisa Gitelman (Mar. 28, paper, $22.95, ISBN 978-0822356578). A mundane subject—the history of such documents as the library card, the promissory note, the movie ticket, and the PDF—gains a nuanced, anecdote-filled perspective on the waning of old technologies and the emergence of new ones.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Sarah Crichton Books

Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte (Mar. 11, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0374228446). In this fast-paced age how can working parents in America—or anywhere—ever find leisure time? Schulte, Washington Post journalist, offers an insightful look at the pressures of modern living.

Grove/Atlantic/Atlantic Monthly

(dist. by PGW)

Innovative State: How New Technologies Can Transform Government by Aneesh Chopra (May 6, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0802121332). Named the first chief technology officer of the United States in 2009, Chopra recounts his mission to create a more open, tech-savvy government, exploring how private sector innovations can help the U.S. confront today’s biggest challenges, from economic development to affordable healthcare.

Harper Design

Local: The New Face of Food and Farming in America by Douglas Gayeton (May 27, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0062267634). Featuring illustrations, insights, and a lexicon of more than 200 agricultural terms, this book explores one of the most popular environmental trends: rebuilding local food movements.

HarperCollins/It Books

Sexplosion: From Andy Warhol to ‘A Clockwork Orange,’ How a Generation of Pop Rebels Broke All the Taboos by Robert Hofler (Feb. 4, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-0062088345). Variety senior editor Hofler recalls the sex-charged, boundaries-pushing era from 1968 to 1973. In a lively, unapologetically profane narrative, he looks at how a number of “risk-taking rebels” challenged the world’s prevailing attitudes toward sex.

Every Beautiful Thing We Can See: Exploring Twee, Indie, and the New Culture of Kindness by Marc Spitz (June 3, paper, $15.99, ISBN 978-0062213044). Vanity Fair contributor Spitz explores the first great cultural movement since hip-hop: twee, an old-fashioned yet highly modern aesthetic that’s embraced internationally by teens, 20- and 30-somethings, and even some baby boomers.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies by Alastair Bonnett (July 8, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0544101579). This book offers a tour of the world’s most bearutiful hidden geographies, from disappearing islands to forbidden deserts, and a stunning testament to how mysterious the world remains today.

Metropolitan Books

The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age by Astra Taylor (Apr. 15, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0805093568). Cultural commentator Taylor poses a bold challenge to the notion of the Internet as a great leveler.


Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (May 13, hardcover, $29.99, ISBN 978-0062218339). The revolutionary geniuses behind the mega-selling “Freakonomics” phenomenon are back, with insights that will enable readers to see the world more unconventionally, and, they say, more clearly.

The New Press

(dist. by Perseus)

Hold Tight Gently: Michael Callen, Essex Hemphill, and the Battlefield of AIDS by Martin Duberman (Mar. 11, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1595589453). From the historian and activist comes a moving dual biography of two men fighting for their lives in the early days of the AIDS epidemic.

Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America by Wenonah Hauter (Mar. 4, paper, $19.95, ISBN 978-1595589781). In what PW called a “meticulously researched tour de force,” Hauter examines how food corporations are actively undermining a healthy food system.

Two Billion Eyes by Ying Zhu (Mar. 4, paper, $18.95, ISBN 978-1595589798) offers a rare inside look at China Central Television, the Chinese media conglomerate that commands the world’s single largest audience.

W.W. Norton

The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas by Anand Giridharadas (May 5, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0393239508) tells the story of Raisuddin Bhuiyan, a former Bangladeshi Air Force officer, whose dream of a new life in America was shattered after 9/11, when a self-declared “American terrorist” walked into the Dallas minimart where Bhuiyan worked and shot him in the face, nearly killing him. A decade after the shooting, Bhuiyan waged a legal battle to spare his would-be killer from execution.

The Vanishing Neighbor: The Transformation of American Community by Marc J. Dunkelman (July 28, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0393063967). In work that combines history and keen sociological observation, Dunkelman identifies an epochal shift in social structure as routines that once put doctors and lawyers in touch with grocers and plumbers have withered, as technology allows us to connect exclusively with a more select group, a trend eroding the foundations of American exceptionalism.

NYU Press

The Tolerance Trap: How God, Genes, and Good Intentions Are Sabotaging Gay Equality by Suzanna Danuta Walters (May 2, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0814770573). Danuta makes a provocative case that advocates are thinking about gay rights in all the wrong ways, arguing that many gays have settled for a watered-down goal of tolerance and acceptance rather than a robust claim to full civil rights.

Pranksters: Making Mischief in the Modern World by Kembrew McLeod (Apr. 1, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0814796290). From Benjamin Franklin to the Yes Men, McLeod offers a fascinating look at notorious pranks and pranksters in U.S. history, and explores how these semiserious, semihumorous forms of mischief were powerful acts meant to spark important conversations, and sometimes social change.

Oregon State Univ. Press

(dist. by CDC)

Slow News: A Manifesto for the Critical News Consumer by Peter Laufer (May 1, paper, $17.95, ISBN 978-0870717345). A timely and provocative proposal for what journalist and broadcaster Laufer calls a “slow news movement,” featuring the author’s rules for a “balanced and nutritious daily news diet” beyond the frenetic blur of Internet headlines.

Oxford Univ. Press

Chasing the American Dream: Understanding What Shapes Our Fortunes by Mark Robert Rank and Thomas A. Hirschl, with Kirk A. Foster (Apr. 1, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0195377910). This book explores the true cost of making it in America, with a new look into the tension between the promise of economic opportunities, and the amount of turmoil that Americans encounter in their quest for those rewards.

Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism by Benjamin Ross (May 2, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0199360147). This witty and readable work traces how the ideal of a safe, green, orderly retreat where hardworking members of the middle class could raise their children away from urban blight mutated into the “McMansion and strip mall-ridden” suburbs of today.

The Gun Debate: What Everyone Needs to Know by Philip J. Cook and Kristin A. Goss (May 1, paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-0199338993). This balanced and broad-ranging book examines the latest research, data, and developments on gun ownership, gun violence, the firearms industry, and the regulation of firearms, while also tackling such sensitive issues as gun control, mental illness and violent crime, whether more guns make us safer, and how video games and the media might contribute to gun violence.

Ecology or Catastrophe: The Life of Murray Bookchin by Janet Biehl (Mar. 4, hardcover, $34.95, ISBN 978-0199342488). The author’s extensive personal history with Bookchin, as well as access to his papers and archival research permits Biehl to offer unique insight into the founder of the social ecology movement, who foresaw global warming in the 1960s.

Palgrave Macmillan

The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism by Jeremy Rifkin (Apr. 1, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1137278463). New York Times bestselling author Rifkin explores how today’s “unprecedented interconnectedness” is making core institutions like private property, democracy, and national boundaries increasingly irrelevant, and explains what will replace them.

The Penguin Press

The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld (Feb. 4, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1594205460). A husband and wife team of Yale Law professors shows how three traits breed success: a superiority complex, insecurity, and impulse control, supported by statistics and original research.

Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality by Jo Becker (Apr. 22, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1594204449), a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, is the story of how a small but determined group of political and media insiders took the fight for marriage equality all the way to the Supreme Court.


The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown by Paul Taylor with the Pew Research Center (Mar. 4, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-1610393508) is based on the comprehensive surveys of the Pew Research Center, showing how a new America will unfold when the Millenials, who have different values, expectations, and experiences, are the dominant generation, and how totally unlike their grandfathers’ America it will be.

The Doctor Crisis by Jack Cochran and Charles C. Kenney (May 6, hardcover, $23.99, ISBN 978-1610394437). A doctor and administrator explores the growing problem of physician dissatisfaction, and urges organizations to restructure, increase transparency and communication, and reduce bureaucracy to retain talent and give patients the best care possible.

A Chinaman’s Chance: On Being a Chinese American by Eric Liu (July 8, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-1610391948). Weaving history, journalism, and memoir, the author of The Accidental Asian explores the parallel rise of China and the Chinese-American: how Chinese immigrants have excelled despite racism and xenophobia, and what that success really means in a rapidly changing world.

Reinventing American Health Care: How the Affordable Care Act Will Improve Our Terribly Complex, Blatantly Unjust, Outrageously Expensive, Grossly Inefficient, Error Prone System by Ezekiel Emanuel (Mar. 4, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-1610393454). In this book, a leading policy expert, doctor, and high profile government adviser explains the American healthcare system, its resistance to reform, and the significance of the Affordable Care Act for the future.


We the Eaters: If We Change Dinner, We Can Change the World by Ellen Gustafson (May 20, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-1623360535). A wakeup call that will inspire even the most passive eaters to be better stewards of our food system, as well as our own health.

Rowman & Littlefield

(dist. by NBN)

Lunch: A History by Megan Elias (Feb. 1, hardcover, $38, ISBN 978-1442227460). A six-continent survey of the history, customs, and representations of a midday meal explains who eats what for lunch, where and when they eat it, and what it means in the larger cultural context.

The Archaeology of Hollywood: Traces of the Golden Age by Paul Bahn (Mar. 1, hardcover, $37, ISBN 978-0759123786). Discover what’s left of “the Golden Age of Hollywood” with noted archeologist and old Hollywood buff Bahn as he unearths and documents forgotten Tinseltown landmarks, including where the glamorous lived, partied, and played, where they died and were buried, and how they’ve been memorialized.

Men Still at Work: Professionals Over Sixty and on the Job by Elizabeth F. Fideler (Feb. 5, hardcover, $36, ISBN 978-1442222755). In today’s difficult economy, older men are the second-fastest growing group of workers (just behind older women). Through profiles and interviews, Fideler explores issues like modern masculinity and the need to provide for families in an economic and social context.

Tightrope: A Racial Journey to the Age of Obama by Gail Garfield (June 23, hardcover, $38, ISBN 978-1442224230). Sociologist Garfield bridges major historical moments with personal experience of the development, upsets, and achievements of race relations throughout the past 50 years, and how the U.S. arrived “in the Age of Obama.”


The Caregivers: A Support Group’s Stories of Slow Loss, Courage, and Love by Nell Lake (Feb. 11, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1451674149). A chronicle of the extraordinary bravery and strength of a group of people who care for loved ones during long, final illnesses.

Seal Press

(dist. by PGW)

Otherhood: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness by Melanie Notkin (Feb. 25, paper, $16, ISBN 978-1580055215). The Internet’s Savvy Auntie shares funny, sexy, and sometimes heartbreaking stories of today’s well-educated, successful women who expected love, marriage, and children, but instead find themselves in the “Otherhood” as their fertile years wane.

Simon & Schuster

Second Wind: Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper, and More Connected Life by Dr. Bill Thomas (Mar. 11, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1451667561). Thomas, named by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top 10 Americans shaping aging, discusses how to recognize and navigate the most challenging and yet fulfilling developmental stage of life: retirement.

The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Business by Christopher Leonard (Feb. 18, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1451645811). shines a light on the inner workings of Tyson Foods, a pioneer of the industrial system that dominates the market for meat in America.

The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America’s Coldest Cases by Deborah Halber (July 1, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1451657586) explores how amateur sleuths—ordinary people with day jobs—pore over evidence and succeed in providing tips crucial to solving cases, some decades old, demonstrating that persistence and the power of crowdsourcing can alter the way law enforcement has traditionally worked with the public.

The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny by Peter McGraw and Joel Warner (Apr. 1, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1451665413). In what’s part road-trip comedy and part social science experiment, a scientist and a journalist detail their epic quest to discover the secret behind what makes things funny.

Skyhorse Publishing

(dist. by Perseus)

Why Can’t a Man Be More Like a Woman? The Evolution of Sex and Gender by Lewis Wolpert (May 1, hardcover, $22.95, ISBN 978-1626361263). From fertilization and evolution to aggressive men and emotional women, Wolpert explores the gamut of sexual development and gender differentiation, with some surprising discoveries along the way.

St. Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne

Tomlinson Hill: The Remarkable Story of Two Families Who Share the Tomlinson Name—One White, One Black by Chris Tomlinson (July 22, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-1250005472). The basis for the film of the same name, Tomlinson Hill tells the story of two families, one black and one white, who trace their ancestry to the same Texas slave plantation.

Univ. of California Press

The Student Loan Mess: How Good Intentions Created a Trillion-Dollar Problem by Joel Best and Eric Best (May 22, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0520276451). A father and son team probe how we’ve reached the point at which student loan debt threatens to become the sequel to the mortgage meltdown.

Good Catholics: The Battle over Abortion in the Catholic Church by Patricia Miller (May 20, hardcover, $34.95, ISBN 978-0520276000) recounts a history of protest and persecution, demonstrating the profound and surprising influence that the conflict over abortion within the Catholic Church has had on the U.S. political system.

Univ. of Chicago Press

On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City by Alice Goffman (Apr. 21, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0226136714). Goffman spent six years living in a bad neighborhood in Philadelphia, and this up-close result portrays the way that police surveillance affects every part of life for young African-American men.

Yale Univ. Press

It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by Danah Boyd (Feb. 25, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0300166316). Exploring common tropes about identity, privacy, safety, danger, and bullying, Boyd argues that society can fail young people when paternalism and protectionism hinder teenagers’ ability to become informed, thoughtful, and engaged citizens through their online interactions.