Monday, January 3, 2011

Best Books 2010

Here are my favorite reads and listens for 2010. I will save the favorite in both fiction and non-fiction to the end. Some of these I’ve not posted before (been a bit inattentive of late), but many I’ve posted on before, so I’ll link those to my earlier notes. Besides the last two, I’ll go from the beginning of the year forward. I will include only published books or recorded books . I know the list is long, but I don’t read dogs (or I don’t finish them, although I don’t finish a lot of books that are quite good, but I get distracted to a different topic.) Anyway, enjoy:

If I can get this figured out, I'll re-post with the links that I have with the original reviews. Sorry, but having technical difficulties.

Peter Brown, The World of Late Antiquity: AD 150-750. (See the second entry on the blog this date.)

Atul Gawande: The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. (See the second entry on the blog this date.)

Pierre Hadot, The Present Alone is Our Happiness: Conversations with Jean Carlier and Arnold Davidson.

John Cassidy, How Markets Fail: The Logic of Economic Catastrophes.

Geoff Colvin, Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else. (Second entry.)

Garry Wills, Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State.

Thomas Cahill, The Mysterious Middle Ages and the Beginning of the Modern World. (2nd entry.)

Peter Clarke, Keynes: the rise, fall, and return of the 20th century's mos influential economist

Robert Skidelksy, Keynes: The return of the master

Mark Johnston, Saving God: Religion After Idolatry (2nd entry).

Daniel Pink, Drive.

David Shenk, The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything that You’ve Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ is Wrong.

Jack Matlock, Superpower Illusions: How Myths and False Ideologies Led America Astray—And How to Return to Reality.

Peter Beinart, The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris

Matt Ridley, The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

Dave R. Loy, A Buddhist History of the West: Studies in Lack

Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon

George Lukacs, George Kennan: A Study in Character (2nd & 4th entries)

David R. Loy, Money, Sex, War, Karma: Notes for a Buddhist Revolution (2nd entry)

John Lewis Gaddis, The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past

Ian Rankin, The Naming of the Dead

Clotaire Rapaille, The Culture Code

John Lukas & George Kennan, Through the History of the Cold War: The Correspondence of George F. Kennan & John Lukacs

Richard Evans In Defense of History

Garry Wills, Outside Looking In: Adventures of an Outsider

David Loy, The World is Made of Stories

Ganga White, Yoga Beyond Belief

John LeCarre, A Most Wanted Man (2nd entry)

Tim Ferriss, The Four Hour Body

Art De Vany, The New Evolution Diet

Fiction work of the year: Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game.

Non-fiction work of the year: Max Hastings, Winston’s War: Churchill 1940 to 1945 (2nd entry)

And here is hoping for lots of good books for all in 2011!

Art De Vany: The New Evolution Diet

Reading Nassim Taleb's Fooled by Randomness in the spring of 2007, I came across the name of Art De Vany, the author of Hollywood Economics. Taleb mentioned it in his book because it addressed the issue of the difficulty of predicting winning movies. De Vany, an academic economist, talks about power laws, stochastic events, complexity, etc. in that academic work. Taleb noted in passing that De Vany also applied these principles to fitness. I checked it out on the web and discovered De Vany's web site, which I've read off and on since that time. Now, he has out his book. It was worth the wait.

De Vany argues that we will benefit greatly from aspects of the environment that human beings evolved in during the paleolithic age. Put most simply, a diet of meat, nuts, vegetables, and not much else. No grain or dairy, not to mention sugar. And as for exercise: brief bursts of intense exercise with lots of rest in between. Now mind you, De Vany isn't a cave man--he writes a blog and is a retired academic! Indeed, his back story provides an interesting lead up to his recommendations. He was a minor league baseball player before becoming an academic economist. His son and then his wife developed type 1 diabetes (so-called juvenile diabetes), which led him to learn all that he could about the physiology of insulin and how it affects the body. He applied his know-how as an economist to consider the body, and he drew on evolutionary studies to get a sense of how the body evolved. This places him in the lead of the growing area of Paleolithic fitness,diet, and health thinking (with others such as Mark Sisson, Rob Wolff, Erwan Le Corre, etc.)

This is an excellent and thought-provoking book. The guy knows whereof he speaks (as an academic he can read the professional literature, but since it's not his professional field, he doesn't have to kow-tow to anyone.)

BTW, Nassim Taleb, who has since adopted a De Vany-like fitness regimen, authored an Afterward for the book.

To your health!

Orson Scott Card: Ender's Game

Since I'm catching up and doing my end of the year reading pick, I'll say it here: this was my favorite fiction work this year. I thought I learned somewhere that a movie production was coming out, and something prodded me to want to read it. It turns out, no movie. However, I certainly have no regrets in listening to this great SF work (winner of both the Hugo & Nebula awards). Comparisons? It reminded me in some ways of The Lord of the Flies, although the setting is much different. However, it is about children (although some females have roles in this book), and how difficult and sometimes mean-spirirted the world of children can be.

This rightly should be considered an SF classic, and if you're at all of an SF reader, I can recommend it highly. BTW, the audio edition that I listened to was excellent, and an talk by the author amended to the end. The author stated that he preferred the audio production as a way to experience the book. Amen.

Tim Ferris: The 4 Hour Body

This book, one of three in a series that I'll review, comes from writer Tim Ferris, who, in his early 30's, has set himself up as a bit of a publishing phenomena. This title riffs off of his earlier success with The Four Hour Week, and beyond that connection, the title means little. The book, however, is interesting because Ferris has used himself as a human guinea pig. That is, he has tested what he recommends when it comes to hacking the human body for various types of performance or appearance advantages. He does it, so he claims and recommends, all legally. He does mention a lot of supplements, and I don't want to mess with supplements and expensive drugs, even if legal; however, for some it may prove worthwhile. I do like his n=1 experimental style that he pulls from the Seth Roberts, among others (and from whom he includes a brief essay). Ferris invites his readers to pick and choose among his recommendations and experiments, he recommends that you test his recommendations, an attitude of good old-fashioned American pragmatism that I admire. He also give nods to the likes of Pavel Tsatsouline, Art De Vany, Nassim Taleb, and Dr. Doug McGuff, among others, all persons that I think have some very important ideas about health and fitness.

In all, a fun read that you can dip into and find useful and provocative information that might prove useful on the health and fitness path.