Non-fiction Books of the Year

Tyler Cowen gives his list. I agree on Charles Murray and George Dyson. I also read Gertner and Fallows (primarily on Tyler’s previous blog recommendations), and I was happy I did so but not ready to grant best-of-the-year status.

My additions to the list would include James Manzi’s Uncontrolled, Enrico Moretti’s The New Geography of Jobs (in my opinion, one cannot put Murray on the list and leave out Moretti), Bruce Schneier’s Liars and Outliers (that one does not seem to have impressed anyone else I know), Paul Reid’s completion of William Manchester’s three-volume biography of Winston Churchill, and Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind (this is on an even higher plane, in my opinion–a candidate for book of the decade? See my review essay.)

10 thoughts on “Non-fiction Books of the Year

  1. I’m with you on the Schneier book. Did other people not like it, or have they just not read it? He seems to occupy a strange space, and I rarely see people too far beyond computing circles acknowledge much of his work. That, Manzi, and Haidt are my three non-fiction books of the year. I’d put Murray and Gertner a tier down, while I struggled a bit with Dyson. Haven’t read the others.

  2. I’m in the computer field, and I thought that Liars and Outliers was one of the best two books of the year, along with Thinking Fast and Slow.

  3. A book that didn’t make your list (and maybe that’s just) but has been sadly underrecognized is Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor, Jr. “Mismatch: how affirmative action hurts students it’s intended to help, and why universities won’t admit it,” which those interested in the fate of universities and minorities need to read.

  4. Also enjoyed Jim Manzi’s Uncontrolled. A very thoughtful book in a number of ways. I found strong appeal in the argument to let states experiment as much as they want (or, perhaps more accurately, as much as is feasible) provided they perform RCTs. The evolutionary process is important in policy formulation, and perhaps the best way to discover what works and what doesn’t.

  5. “the hypothesis that our capacity to think about moral and social problems evolved from an ability to rationalize our actions. ”

    This looks odd. To rationalize means “to attempt to explain or justify (one’s own or another’s behavior or attitude) with logical, plausible reasons”
    Thus the ability to rationalize is a part of our general ability to reason.
    The concept of “a plausible reason” is not prior to the concept of “a valid reason”.

    What other definition of “rationalize” could Haidt be using?. Also
    shouldn’t the title rather be “The Self-Righteous Mind”?

  6. terrible idea. If you take individual patents then you eliminate the reason to invent new technologies. With no patents, a company is SO MUCH better off simply expecting somebody else to do the hard work of perfecting a good deal technology then simply steal it from their store. What we need is better patents. This one was really in addition broad, from the sound from it. That, however, involves giving the obvious office enough funding to complete its job. That turns into “funding a long time bloated government beurocracy” alongside campaign trail.

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