Brain Trust: 93 Top Scientists Reveal Lab-Tested Secrets to Surfing, Dating, Dieting, Gambling, Growing Man-Eating Plants, and More! by Garth Sundem is science made hands-on, practical and flat-out fun to read. After interviewing the researchiest researchers in psychology, mathematics, network theory, technology, economics, physics and so on, Sundem distilled their collective wisdom into bite-sized chunks of genius. Here are some particulars: how to throw a punch, make people laugh, win the lottery, get your spouse to do more housework, succeed at speed dating, stop buying stuff you don’t need, avoid Facebook fail and get a job. Sundem’s own expertise makes him a worthy guide. His work “at the intersection of science, math, humor and geek culture” already includes Geek Logik, The Geeks’ Guide to World Domination and Brain Candy. “Life is messy,” he says, but “starting to pick it apart with science shows you just how brilliant and wild and interconnected and fascinating it is.”

Brooks Palmer made the world tidier with his first book, Clutter Busting, but the question of why we clutter in the first place became so urgent, he’s back with Clutter Busting Your Life. It “delves more deeply into the nature of our relationships . . . and how clutter intrudes, distorts, and diminishes these connections.” The book begins with questions and exercises that help spotlight our own relationships to clutter, then details basic clutter-busting techniques. Palmer recommends starting with one small area at a time: just one drawer, your computer bookmarks, the car or your Facebook friends list. From there, he moves to people: present and past relationships, co-workers, anyone with whom we connect. To think about relationships as tangible things can help us sort and clear emotional clutter, “cut the crap” and keep only what is of real value.

Just Ride
by Grant Petersen is full of “unconventional wisdom” aimed to make your next bike ride more fun, even “fantastic.” The author, who is the founder of Rivendell Bicycle Works, rails against professional racing’s profound influence upon recreational riders: We tend to “wear the same clothes, pedal in the same shoes, ride the same bikes as racers do,” and have the same goals—speed and mileage. He proposes a far more attractive alternative: “unracing,” or just biking for enjoyment, like kids do.

Petersen explains how to achieve that mindset in short chapters organized into themes: riding, suiting up, safety, health and fitness, accessories, upkeep, technicalities and “velosophy”: bike philosophy. One nugget of advice is to imagine yourself as a potential “predator” when on a bike, which means you must “be saintlike on the bike path” to avoid causing harm. Other chapter titles give a clue to general tone: “Your helmet’s not a bonnet and other tips on how to wear it,” “Fenders, not muddy stripes up your butt” and “Your bike is a toy, have fun with it.”

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