Amanda Ripley

• NY Times Bestselling author of 'The Smartest Kids in the World' 'The Unthinkable' & 'High Conflict'

• Investigative journalist

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Amanda Ripley is a New York Times bestselling author and an investigative journalist who writes for the Atlantic and the Washington Post. She is the author of High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out, The Smartest Kids in the World--and How They Got That Way and The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes, and Why.

In her books and magazine writing, Amanda explores human behavior through the science and stories of people who have experienced a transformation of one kind or another.

The Unthinkable chronicled the stories and wisdom of people who have survived disasters of all kinds. It was published in 15 countries, turned into a PBS documentary and selected by Hudson Booksellers as one of the Top 10 Nonfiction Books of the year.

The Smartest Kids in the World followed three American teenagers who spent one year far from home, attending public high school in the countries with the strongest education systems in the world. A New York Times bestseller, it was published in 15 countries and chosen by The Economist, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Amazon as one of the most notable books of the year.

High Conflict describes what happens when regular conflict distills into a good-versus-evil kind of feud, the type with an "us" and a "them." In this state, the brain behaves differently, and the normal rules do not apply. High Conflict accompanies four people who get trapped in very different kinds of conflict, from the personal to the political, and then find their way out.

Amanda’s recent stories include this Washington Post piece about what it takes to get the public to comply with extreme public-health directives and an Atlantic story about the least politically prejudiced town in America. She’s also been investigating what journalists can do to revive curiosity in a time of outrage, in cooperation with the Solutions Journalism Network. Earlier in her career, Amanda spent a decade writing about human behavior for Time Magazine in New York, Washington, and Paris. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, Slate, Politico, The Guardian and The Times of London. Her stories helped Time win two National Magazine Awards.

To discuss her writing, Amanda has appeared on ABC, NBC, CNN, FOX News and NPR. She has spoken at the Pentagon, the U.S. Senate, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as dozens of conferences on leadership, conflict resolution, disaster behavior and education. She currently lives in Washington, DC, with her family.

[📁 Amanda's Press Kit]

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The New Rules of Engagement: How to Be Heard in a Polarized World

Conflict, whether political or personal, can escalate and become toxic. At this level, known as "high conflict," we start sorting the world into good and evil, us and them. Things become suddenly very clear. Our brains behave differently. We tend to exaggerate the differences between ourselves and the other political party or racial or religious group (or sibling or co-worker), without realizing we are doing it. We believe the other side cannot change, even when it can. We lose valuable skills. It’s impossible to feel curious, for example, while also feeling threatened. To try to understand how to communicate in times of discord and division, Amanda spent a year following people who navigate conflict in different ways--including psychologists, rabbis, peace negotiators, and conflict mediators from all over the world. She discovered that it is possible to revive complexity and curiosity, even in high conflict. But the traditional methods of explaining, arguing or avoidance will not work. Drawing on stories of people in all kinds of conflict, as well as research into human behavior, Amanda has developed specific rules of engagement for high conflict--including smarter questions to ask any opponent, better ways to share information that people don't want to hear, and conversational tactics to excavate deeper, more interesting truths. This work is surprising and ultimately hopeful, and it has transformed how Amanda operates as a journalist. Her major book on this theme will be published in 2021.

A Global Quest to Save America's Schools

How did other countries manage to make their public schools fairer and smarter than ours while spending dramatically less than we do? To find out, Amanda spent a year following three American high school students temporarily embedded in schools in Finland, Poland and South Korea. Through the students' stories and new research into education outcomes worldwide, Amanda helps unravel a mystery at the center of our global competitiveness. Her reporting led to the New York Times bestseller, The Smartest Kids in the World. In the end, Amanda returned home more optimistic than when she'd left--convinced that the U.S. can outperform the rest of the world, if we can sustain the political and public will.

Disaster Mythology – What really happens at the worst of times

Amanda Ripley draws on years of disaster reporting to explain the three phases most people go through in life-or-death experiences—and how we can learn to do better. She tells detailed stories of specific survivors from recent news-making calamities and combines their wisdom with the latest science into how the brain functions under extreme stress.

Presentation features: Case studies from the evacuation of the World Trade Center on 9/11, the 2004 tsunami and the 2009 crash of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River.


High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Smartest Kids in the World comes the first major book to use cutting-edge science and investigative reporting to explain the lure of malignant conflict in our private and public lives—and to reveal how we can escape it.


To find out how people can escape high conflict, Ripley takes us inside the lives of real people. She appeared on CBS Sunday Morning to talk about the book...

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The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way

Through the compelling stories of three American teenagers living abroad and attending the world’s top-notch public high schools, an investigative reporter explains how these systems cultivate the “smartest” kids on the planet.

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why

It lurks in the corner of our imagination, almost beyond our ability to see it: the possibility that a tear in the fabric of life could open up without warning, upending a house, a skyscraper, or a civilization.

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