Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Favorite Books of 2010

I've referred to several books from time to time on A Pot of Stew, but considering how much I enjoy reading I haven't really given too much space to the books I enjoy the most.  Here are the ten favorite books that I've read in 2010.  Some are old and some are new.  They aren't in any order other than the rough order in which I finished reading each one.

by Leonard Mlodinow

The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives (Vintage)The subtitle of this book says it all.  We attribute so much of what happens in our lives to talent and ability, but Mlodinow says that many of the success stories (and failures) of the world can be explained by simple principles of statistics.  I understood that we are all marked by success and failure experiences.  When those successes come early, we are much more likely to weather the storms later on than when the failures come early and we give up before we even start.  Just like flipping a coin.  Five tails in a row just isn't enough information to decide that your coin is more prone to tails than heads.  So don't give up so quickly.

Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior 
by Ori and Rom Brafman

Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational BehaviorWhat could possibly lead over 50% of a French game show t.v. audience to respond that the Sun revolves around the Earth?  It was the French version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" and apparently the audience did not think the contestant worthy of the prize if he didn't know the moon revolved around the Earth, so they mislead him.  This book is full of stories such as this, backed up with explanations for these behaviors from the world of Social Psychology and Behavior Economics.  I read this book right after Predictibly Irrational and The Drunkard's Walk, and should have given it a little more space, but it was still an enjoyable and interesting read.

 by Timothy Keller

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism After thinking I had read too many psych/social science books in a row, I turned to religion.  I am no fan of apologetics, but Keller's insight on the Christian faith appealed greatly to me.  I get the impression that he is a pretty conservative guy, but he manages to express the Gospel story in a novel and easy to understand way.  He explains why "Jesus is the only way" without alienating.  His answer to "why does a good God allow suffering" satisfies the intellect without insulting the soul.  My intent focus on the dual concept of Justice and Mercy came directly from this book.

by Will Self

The Book of Dave: A NovelThe tone of this book reminded me of "Trainspotting."  It was not an inspiring book and I found it a little on the dark side, but from time to time that can be a good thing.  The book can be hard to follow, bouncing back and forth from present day London to a post-modern (if not post-Apocalyptic) world and using language/dialect that can be sometimes hard to follow.  Reading the book is an experience as the pieces of the puzzle are revealed leading the reader further into understanding exactly what is happening.  Without giving too much away, the psychotic journaling of a London cabbie going through a painful divorce and custody process manages to have a profound impact on a dystopic (I don't really know what that word means, but it sounds right for this) world many years later.

by Francis Collins

The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for BeliefI first heard about Francis Collins when I read a blog post about how a number of individuals at a National Youth Ministry conference got a little worked up over his keynote address.  Francis Collins was a former head of the Human Genome Project.  He grew up across the mountain from my current home and spent some time at UVA.  He is a renown scientist and devout Christian and finds no conflict in the two.  In this book he explains how his faith has developed along side his growth as a scientist.  I greatly appreciate his point of view and draw comfort from his experience.  Anyone who finds that a literal reading of the Bible, especially regarding creation, leads them to struggle in their faith would benefit from this book.

by Jeph Loeb

Batman: The Long HalloweenIt's not a comic book, it's a graphic novel.  At least that's what I tell myself to feel better about reading SuperHero books.  It all started last year with The Watchmen.  Ever since, I've really started getting into comics.  After reading The Watchmen, I read several other Alan Moore works, and one of the Frank Miller Batman novels.  This was my first venture outside of Moore/Miller, and I really enjoyed it.  A killer strikes on Halloween and continues through the major holidays of the year.  The book is a real mystery, leaving the reader wondering just as much as the crime-fighter who the culprit will be.  The book reads like a journey throughout an entire year that changes the lives of all the characters involved.

by Seth Godin

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?I read this book at the beginning of the school year and it really inspired me for a while.  The main idea of the book is alluded to in the title.  Rather than behaving like a cog-- an interchangeable, ultimately replaceable part-- we should strive to become Linchpins.  We do this by, among other things, creating art and sharing it with others.  The definition of art here is pretty loose, but essentially we all have the opportunity to go beyond what is expected to create something of true value that will make us stand out and those around us better.  The book even inspired me to write this piece titled "Teaching and Donuts" on a different blog.

by Michael Pollan

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four MealsEarly in the year, I stumbled upon a free down download of the book Food Rules and loved its simple advice for eating.  For example, if your grandmother wouldn't recognize it as food, don't eat it; regarding cereal, if it turns your milk a different color, don't eat it.  This book was short and pithy, full of excellent advice for better health.  Later in the year, I watched the movie Food, Inc. with my son, and really started thinking about the food that I consume.  Michael Pollan was involved with both of these, and I had talked about Omnivore's Dilemma with a farmer friend of mine, so when I saw it displayed in our school library I decided to read it.  This book impacted me more than anything else that I've read this year.  As Pollan traces the origin of several meals, the true cost of the food we eat is revealed.  We should all consider the food that we eat more deeply-- this book doesn't propose to tell you how you should think about your food, but it definitely frames the ethical, moral, social, and health issues that every human should consider as they consume the food that will sustain their lives.

by Geoff Johns

Blackest NightThis is another graphic novel.  If The Long Halloween was a first venture outside of Moore/Miller, this was my first real superhero book outside of Batman.  This book features nearly all of the DC characters, some of whom I've heard of before (Flash, Green Lantern, etc.) but others of whom I haven't a clue.  I knew enough to know that I didn't know everything that I needed to know to fully "get" this book, but it was still great to sit as an adult and enjoy the action and adventure without getting caught up in the cerebral efforts of reading.  As terrible as this sounds, no matter what the book itself is like, the pictures and art alone are enough to make the book a worthwhile read.

by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThis was one of the first books downloaded on my Kindle.  Best of all it was free.  This volume  contains numerous short stories featuring Holmes and his sidekick, Dr. Watson.  I've been reading on this book all year between reads.  It is a great filler with stories that can be read in just a few sittings (or sometimes one).  I am nearing the end, but I've loved short stories ever since elementary school and I would love to find more collections like this one.

That's my list, I know that at least a few people are reading this blog, so step up and share a little back-- What were your favorite reads of 2010.  You don't even need to explain, just list if you want.  I've got 365 more days coming in 2011 and I'd love some reccomendations.  Click the comment link below if a comment box is not showing.  You may post anonymously or using an account, but let me know if you've encountered a "must read" this year, or if there are any "must reads" on your 2011 reading list.  Happy New Year.

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