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Best nonfiction 2005

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THE WORLD IS FLAT: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY, by Thomas L. Friedman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

In this his third book on global trends, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman describes the leveling process taking place across planet Earth, driven by new technology and software. Friedman's analysis is simple, practical, and rich in insight. (4/5/05)

BLINK: THE POWER OF THINKING WITHOUT THINKING, by Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown, $23.95)

New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell decodes the science of rapid cognition in this work in which he analyzes snap judgments - the split second decisions we so often make with only the subtlest of clues. (1/4/05)

WHEN COMPUTERS WERE HUMAN, by David Alan Grier (Princeton University Press, $35)

For two centuries before the development of computers, there was a class of workers - mostly women - who served as the human drudges of mathematical calculation. This book tells their stories. (7/5/05)

MISS LEAVITT'S STARS, by George Johnson (Atlas Books/W. W. Norton, $22.95)

This biography of Henrietta Swan Leavitt tells the life story of an exceptional example of a human computer (see review above). Leavitt worked at the Harvard University Observatory in the 1880s, and although largely forgotten today, discovered the calculations required to measure the galaxy and map the universe. (7/5/05)

HIS OLDEST FRIEND: THE STORY OF AN UNLIKELY BOND, by Sonny Kleinfield (Times Books, $24)

This lovely tale of an unlikely friendship between a nonagenarian and the teenager hired to keep her company first appeared in The New York Times. Times reporter Sonny Kleinfield fills the story out beautifully in the book-length version. (9/20/05)

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