A great book accomplishes many things: It should tell a powerful story, make you reflect on the subject at hand and maybe even start a thoughtful conversation with other people in our lives. Around the holidays, especially leading up to the New Year, is a great time to kick back and treat our minds to some thoughtful and engaging prose. Modern American literature is rich with a diverse set of stories from men and women across the political spectrum, sharing their takes on the art of living. And if you want to go deeper, our shared human history has a nearly endless abundance of tomes on how to live our best lives, in the most meaningful sense that transcends frivolous trends in popular culture.

But a great book, especially one with a socially conscious edge, should challenge our ways of thinking, not just reaffirm that which we already know and believe. So, here is a list of 8 of our favorite books that meet this criteria. No one will be entirely satisfied by our list, and that's the idea! These books are meant to educate, provoke, inspire and even cause debate. If you're thinking of starting a book club this year, put down the Harry Potter and Game of Thrones and pick up one of these. You'll be thankful for it and can proudly display any one of these on your bookshelf or around the office water cooler.

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Your weekly reminder that our species can be pretty F’n awesome when we want to be.

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All Books Come From Trees, This Book Turns Into One

Once you finish reading Mi Papa Estuvo en la Selva, simply plant it in the ground, add water, and wait.

image via youtube screen capture

The next big thing in children’s literature isn’t necessarily an imaginative story or lush illustrations. In fact, if you’re looking for a particularly innovative children’s book, you might not even find it on a bookshelf at all.

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Bjarke Ingels and Stefan Sagmeister on the Inspirational Power of Great Design

The starchitect and graphic design legend discuss their newest collaboration Hot To Cold, designing for a greater good, and the creative life well-lived.

Ingels and Sagmeister signing copies of their collaboration Hot To Cold (TASCHEN, 2015).

They arrived at least an hour early, if not more. By the time architect Bjarke Ingels and famed graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister took the mic at TASCHEN Books, the tiny Soho store was filled with over 300 people, the line snaking out the door and down the block. Many were young architects who treated Ingels, a wunderkind designer who at 40 is already a legend, as a star, asking for handshakes and chattering among themselves with excitement. Sagmeister, a veteran of the design world who, among many accomplishments, created some of David Byrne and the Talking Heads’ most iconic album covers, retained his trademark cool, calm stance as fans swirled past. The two had come to TASCHEN to celebrate and discuss their collaboration, Hot To Cold, a weighty tome highlighting some of Bjarke Ingels Group’s (BIG) greatest works, dreams, and unrealized projects, featuring Sagmeister's distinctive design. In this case, Sagmeister had created a rainbow gradient that splashes the cover, meant to conjure a heat map. The book sold out almost immediately.

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