When We Cease to Understand the World, by Benjamin Labatut
Sometimes there’s a book every bookseller evangelizes for and this year it’s Benjamín Labatut’s When We Cease to Understand the World. Nominated for the Booker International and the National Book Award for translated literature, this is a true nonfiction novel about math and physics and faith that brilliantly slips between fiction and fact to humanize some of our greatest mathematical breakthroughs. Labatut beautifully illuminates the horror and transcendence of science in the last century through the lives of some it’s most recognizable geniuses; Werner Heisenberg, Fritz Haber, Alexander Grothendieck are characters in a narrative that resonates acutely with a time when we question the ethics of scientific discovery and confront the knowledge that improving some lives may come at the expense of others and of the planet itself. The most strangely compelling book I’ve read in a long time.