Monday, January 07, 2013

2011 and 2012 Book Wrap-Up




I keep a book diary on the web to keep track of the books I've read. 

Here are the books read in 2011 and 2012. 

2012

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt ***

The best book I've read all year. In my top five books of all time. I found this book revelatory, over and over. I bought about six copies of it for people for Christmas. It is all about how our moral foundations, many of which are inherited, determine our views about politics and religion. As a democrat, before I read this book I was a little baffled by republicans. Now I understand them. I recommend this book for anyone.

Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson
I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away by Bill Bryson

This year I started reading to my wife at night, and we went through a good bunch of Bryson books. He's a very funny travel writer. We love him.

Dirty Minds by Kayt Sukel

A great book on the neuroscience of sex by my old colleague Kayt.

Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need by Blake Snyder

An interesting story grammar. I found this short book quite inspiring even though none of Snyder's scripts turned into great movies, and even though he got the titles for several movies wrong.

The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal

Another great book. I recommend this to anyone who feels helpless about their own willpower. I will probably require this for reading in my introductory Cognitive Science class. She has good talks online too, if you want a gentle introduction.

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert by John M. Gottman

Interesting stuff. I have heard that his workshops are great.

In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

Funny. Great book.

The Economic Naturalist by Robert H. Frank

A bunch of just-so stories about how things work that might or might not be true. What's good about it is that it gives you insight into how economists think. Also, it's quite episodic, so you can read it piecemeal. That is, it's a good book to keep in the car or in the bathroom.

Faces In the Clouds by Stuart Guthrie

A very solid argument that religions anthropomorphize things. I listened to a lot of this on my kindle using text-to-speech.

Bloom by Wil McCarthy

Interesting science fiction novel about the solar system after a nanotech disaster so incredible that the entire inner solar system is taken over.

Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs

A very funny and somewhat informative book about a guy trying to act in a perfectly healthful way for a year. It inspired me to get a treadmill desk, which I love.

Galilee by Clive Barker

A little long but has some beautiful imagery.

Catcher's Keeper by Johannah Spero

This is a novel written by my sister which I enjoyed very much.

Hard Contact (Star Wars: Republic Commando, Book 1) By Karen Traviss

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker

A wonderful read. It's quite long, but I never got bored with it. It makes a very persuasive argument that the world is getting safer. If you're a worrywart about this kind of thing, check it out.

Ready Player One By Ernest Cline

A riveting science fiction novel about a guy who is trying to win a virtual-reality based video game contest. What's amazing is that most of the novel happens in VR. Highly recommended.

The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths by Michael Shermer

Another great book, with a good deal of overlap with my forthcoming book.

The Scar by China Mieville

I love Mieville, but sometimes I have to force myself through it. He's very creative, but I think it drags sometimes. This is a sequel to probably the most creative book I've ever read, Perdido Street Station.

2011


Dramatica: A New Theory of Story by Phillips & Huntley
You can get a free PDF version of this interesting book at storymind.com/free-downloads/dramatica_book.pdf

This book is a story theory book with an insanely complicated theory. I have read most of it twice and it's still hard to wrap my mind around. However, the free version is worth taking a look at if you're a fiction writer of any kind.

The Work of the Imagination by Paul L. Harris

Imagination and pretend play in children. An academic book.


The God Gene by Dean H. Hamer

A neat book about how aspects of how religious we are are genetic.


Discover Your Inner Economist by Tyler Cowan

Learned some interesting things in this, but overall I can't recommend it.


The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten: 100 Experiments for the Armchair Philosopher by Julian Baggini

Not bad.


Robopacolypse by Daniel H. Wilson

Decent science fiction book about robots and AI taking over the Earth for it's own good. It's a lot like World War Z. Recommended if you like this kind of thing.


Smart and Gets Things Done by Joel Sapolsky

A short, entertaining book about how to hire programmers.


The Best American Science Writing 2006 Edited by Atul Gawande


What They Didn't Teach You In Graduate School by Paul Gray and David E. Drew


Homo Aestheticus by Ellen Dissanayake

About how we evolved to make art.


Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Great reads.


Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer

Great book about memory, the history of people's relationship to it, and also an engaging story about how the author became a champion in the weird world of competitive memory.


*** Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel C. Dennett

Great book. The "spell" is not religion, but our refusal to study it scientifically. Since its publication there has been a lot more study.

Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Great book in a long series. I think the series is better because of Sanderson.

This is Not A Game by Walter Jon Williams

Especially the first half of this is rip-roaring and mind expanding. It's about alternate reality games.

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Corey Doctorow

Pretty good and free on ereaders.

The Art Instinct by Denis Dutton

Fabulous, certainly for my interests.

Pictured: A Russian borzoi. I love pugs, but I think these dogs are so beautiful.



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