I have a tendency to start waaay more books than I finish. But I did manage to get through a few this fall. Here are some of them:
Against the machine : being human in the age of the electronic mob / Lee Siegel – This is about the dark side of Web 2.0. A little paranoid for my tastes, but I did get a lesson out of it. “Don’t sound more like everyone else than anyone else is able to sound like everyone else. Write meaningful and original thoughts and write them well.
Oddballs / Bruce Shlain – I was looking for Danny Peary’s book on cult baseball players, but it wasn’t in the stacks. I picked this up a substitute. It wasn’t memorable.
Perfect : Don Larsen’s miraculous World Series game and the men who made it happen / Lew Paper – I picked this up on Chuck Klosterman’s recommendation. I was expecting it to be more like Dan Okrent’s Nine Innings. The book was about baseball of the early ’80s viewed through the prism of a Brewers-Orioles game. Okrent would digress about such diverse topics such as the invention of the slider and look behind the scenes of the Brewer’s marketing department. Paper’s book was more structured. Essentially it was nineteen bios of the nineteen ballplayers who appeared in the boxscore interspersed with game action. But I learned just as much about midcentury baseball from this book as I learned about baseball of my youth from Okrent’s book. For instance, I probably read or heard this before, but Duke Snider wasn’t exactly known for hustling. I think that I sometimes overlook the more famous stories while I search for more obscure ones and it gets to the point where I think I know what I don’t know.
Big bang : the origin of the universe / Simon Singh – My buddy Zac was reading some physics this fall to keep up with his daughter who is taking it in high school. So I was trying to get into the subject. After fits and starts with other books, I happened to pick this one up. It’s about cosmology, but there’s some physics (and quite a bit of astronomy) involved. Singh is one of the more accessible science writers I have come across. I’ve also read his books on cryptography and Fermat’s theorem. Since college, one of my occasional interests is the history of ideas (we never had a history of economic thought course on our curriculum, but I read books on it on my own.) This book gives that to you; up until string theory. That’s a book for another day.
The book of basketball : the NBA according to the sports guy / Bill Simmons – No need for me to add my voice to the cacophony of those already out there.
Everything bad is good for you : how today’s popular culture is actually
making us smarter / Steven Johnson – Intriguing. I’m not sure if video games, reality shows, and long arc TV storylines are making us smarter. But they’re making us think differently.
For next time, I am thinking about writing something on a ballplayer or two who was famous during his day, but who is long forgotten.