So, I'm still watching Lost and I'm nearly done with the first season. This is seriously cutting into my reading and blogging time.
I told my husband, who's done a fair amount of reading lately, that if he put together a list of his favorite books of the year I'd post them. He read 50 books in 2008, and what is most impressive, and puts me shame, is that all but 2 or 3 them of them are non-fiction. Besides the ones below, he also finished 1776, The Devil in the White City, The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression, Alexander Hamilton, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, and a slew of other political, history, economic, and religious books. This guy is a serious intellectual, but don't tell him I said so!
So without further ado, here are the books of the year for Mr. Books and Cooks:
Manhunt by James Swanson:
Probably the best book I read this year, it covers the chase to track down the killer(s), following Lincoln’s assassination. It’s very informative, covering the entire event in detail (including the additional attempted assassinations that occurred that same night, as well). It reads like a novel, covering all of the action as John Wilkes Booth is tracked down (including the infamous Dr. Samuel Mudd).
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely :
The book is among many in the line of behavioral economics books that have been out recently (following the popularity of Freakonomics). In my opinion, this book is better than Freakonomics. It delves into why we do the things we do – often repeatedly – if it’s not the “right” thing to do. Economics often start from the premise that people act rationally – this book points out that the premise may not be all that useful in some circumstances. There are a number of fascinating studies that are always fun to have at the ready to share at the next dinner party.
The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb:
This book became very pertinent in light of the current financial situation. This book looks at why we are caught off guard with unexpected outcomes. Our current financial models are not adequate (and we put too much blind faith into them) to explain the likelihood of potential outcomes (and specifically catastrophic losses). The Black Swan represents something that we don’t believe exists – until we see it. We don’t think that a certain outcome is possible, simply because we haven’t seen it yet. But just because we haven’t seen it, doesn’t mean it’s not possible.
The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs:
This is a lighthearted look at the Bible and its interpretation. Jacobs (with a Jewish background – but not a practicing one) decides to live as close to a literal interpretation of the Bible as possible (including not shaving, eating only as the Bible prescribes, etc.). Given the Jewish slant, it’s focused on the Old Testament and Jacobs is not a professed believer, to begin. But he enters with an open mind and it’s a very entertaining read, regardless of belief.
The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller:
This is a very thoughtful book about evidence pointing to a belief in God. This book stands somewhat in opposition to the plethora of recent books pointing the other direction (e.g., Dawkins, Hitchens, etc.). It attempts to respond to a number of the most common doubts that this pastor has heard over the years. It’s certainly going to be 100% persuasive (which is certainly impossible regardless of book size, let alone in 200+ pages). But it is a brief, compelling counterpoint, on the side of faith.