He's written fascinating biographies of cod, salt and the genius behind frozen veggies, landing on bestseller lists and nabbing a few awards—including a James Beard Award for Excellence in Food Writing—along the way. In his new book, Ready for a Brand New Beat, Mark Kurlansky documents the enormous and enduring impact that the song "Dancing in the Streets" had upon its release in the turbulent summer of 1964 and beyond.

We were curious about the books Kurlansky enjoys reading, so we asked him to recommend three recent reads. Here they are:

socialconquestofearthThe Social Conquest of Earth
By Edward O. Wilson

What prompted you to read it?
In the interest of full disclosure, this is the 10th book I have read by Ed Wilson. Also, I once spent possibly the most fascinating two hours of my life in a conversation with him at his Harvard office. To indulge in the odious vice of comparison, he is like Albert Einstein combined with William Faulkner. He writes beautifully.

Why do you recommend it?
The Social Conquest of the Earth
is an astoundingly ambitious work in which he uses a lifetime in evolutionary biology to explore the human condition—what are we like, how did we get that way, and what is likely to become of us. Wilson sets your mind ablaze.

miniaturewifeThe Miniature Wife and Other Stories
By Manuel Gonzales

What prompted you to read it?
My absolute favorite form of writing both as a reader and writer is the short story, and I am always looking for new ones. I like the collections, like to see how they are put together.

Why do you recommend it?
This first book by Gonzales puts together 18 well-crafted stories artfully. His view of the world is slightly wacky, so you are never sure what to expect. He has an absurdist view of the banal that takes the most ordinary situations and turns them illogically on their head. Great fun to read.

shortstrangelifeofhersechelThe Short, Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan: A Boy Avenger, a Nazi Diplomat, and a Murder in Paris
By Jonathan Kirsch

What prompted you to read it?
This caught my attention because I have never seen a book about this mysterious, hard-to-explain, and critical moment in history.

Why do you recommend it?
One of the strangest and most mysterious and obscure chapters in Nazi history. A Jewish teenager assassinated a minor Nazi official, and it became the premise for the unleashing of what eventually became known as the Holocaust. A strange and gripping tale thoroughly researched and well told with a lot of relevance on subjects such as political assassination and terrorism.

What say you, readers? Will you be adding Ready for a Brand New Beat or any of Kurlansky's recommendations to your TBR list? 

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