“I’ve read books… The unbearable lightness of being… Love in the time of cholera… and I think I’ve understood them. They’re about girls, right?” — John Cusack. High Fidelity.
After I published a blog post recently called “An Ode to Books” about my obsession with reading, several people naturally asked what I’ve been reading lately. Here’s the list for the past two years, since I retired, in reverse chronological order — thanks to Amazon for making it as easy as a cut-n-paste.
I’ve annotated the list with a few comments: “recommended”, “highly recommended”, “book of the year”, “book of the decade”, “disappointing”, etc. but didn’t write reviews. There are already many reviews available online for each of these books and I’m not sure I would add much to the discussion.
If I didn’t comment on a book, that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. Some of these are quite good but I tried to limit myself to the top ten or so. If you read my blog posts, you will have noticed quotes from and references to some of my favorite books on the list.
(recommended) The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World — Catherine Nixey
Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals — John Gray
(recommended) Educated: A Memoir — Tara Westover
The Monk and the Philosopher: A Father and Son Discuss the Meaning of Life — Jean Francois Revel and Matthieu Ricard
(highly recommended) The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (Modern Library Paperbacks) — Edmund Morris
Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society — David Sloan Wilson
(highly recommended) The Silk Roads: A New History of the World — Frankopan, Peter
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood — Noah, Trevor
The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World — Pollan, Michael
Freedom from the Known — Jiddu Krishnamurti
(recommended) Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation — Burdick, Alan
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry — deGrasse Tyson, Neil
Letters to a Young Scientist — Wilson, Edward O.
(recommended) Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness — Cahalan, Susannah
(recommended) Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World — Druett, Joan
Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge — Edward Osborne Wilson
(good, but not his best, repeats much of Better Angels) Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress — Pinker, Steven
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City — Desmond, Matthew
Lying — Harris, Sam
When Breath Becomes Air — Kalanithi, Paul
(recommended) Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst — Sapolsky, Robert M.
Profiles in Courage — Kennedy, John F
The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal — Hoffman, David E.
Leonardo da Vinci — Isaacson, Walter
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike — Knight, Phil
DARWIN’S DANGEROUS IDEA: EVOLUTION AND THE MEANINGS OF LIFE — Daniel C. Dennett
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End — Gawande, Atul
(did not finish) The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test — Wolfe, Tom
A Truck Full of Money — Kidder, Tracy
Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World — Grant, Adam
(highly recommended) Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion — Harris, Sam
Homage to Catalonia — Orwell, George
Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power — Meacham, Jon
The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between — Matar, Hisham
The Guns of August — Tuchman, Barbara W.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: 50th Anniversary Edition — Kuhn, Thomas S.
(did not finish) Capital in the Twenty First Century — Piketty, Thomas
(recommended) How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking — Ellenberg, Jordan
The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story — Preston, Douglas
Lab Girl — Jahren, Hope
Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations — Friedman, Thomas L.
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century — Snyder, Timothy
(highly recommended) Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right — Mayer, Jane
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis — Vance, J. D.
Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging — Junger, Sebastian
Between the World and Me — Coates, Ta-Nehisi
The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds — Lewis, Michael
(disappointing, not nearly as good as Sapiens) Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow — Harari, Yuval Noah
The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves (P.S.) — Ridley, Matt
(recommended) The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion — Haidt, Jonathan
(did not finish) The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism — Doris Kearns Goodwin
The Ancestor’s Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution — Dawkins, Richard
(recommended) Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors: A Search for Who We Are — Carl Sagan
The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World — Wulf, Andrea
(did not finish) The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life — Lane, Nick
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness — Alexander, Michelle
(book of the decade) Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind — Harari, Yuval Noah
(recommended) Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption — Stevenson, Bryan
(recommended) Letter to a Christian Nation — Harris, Sam
(book of the year) Alexander Hamilton — Chernow, Ron
(highly recommended) The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood — James Gleick