Category: Books

1984, 1994, 2007, Books, Non-Fiction

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (1984, 1994, 2007) by Robert Cialdini

When this book was published in 1984, it was probably one-of-a-kind, and an absolute must-read. A pop psychology treatment on how businesses (and con men) manipulate us into buying things we don’t want, there was probably not much else out there like it. It’s a landmark and it was likely essential reading pre-internet.

1992, Books, Non-Fiction

A Practical Study of Argument (1992) by Trudy Govier

I’m still not quite sure this textbook found its way into my reading pile. My best guess is that it came from the trove from my former boss. (I can almost hear him quoting the book.) Regardless of where it came from, I really didn’t know what I was in for. I didn’t know, for …

2020, Books, Non-Fiction

10% Less Democracy: Why You Should Trust Elites a Little More and the Masses a Little Less (2020) by Garrrett Jones

This is a frustrating book. I agree with some of what he says and he inspired me to come up with some additional ideas. But I find the presentation ill-thought out, and I find his perspective limited, and rather traditional.

2006, Books, Non-Fiction

War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires (2006) by Peter Truchin

This is a provocative and ambitious (and lay) summary of an attempt to create a science of history by an evolutionary biologist. It is compelling and well-written. (Though my copy isn’t so well edited…) It is also flawed, which it basically must be given what he is trying to achieve. It’s absolutely worth your time, …

2004, Books, Non-Fiction

Out of Gas (2004) by David Goodstein

Note: I read this book in 2020. It was published in 2004. It’s not that wise to read a book about energy reserves and climate change 16 years later, when the situation is continuously evolving. This is a book by a physicist about the energy crisis caused by “peak oil” with some discussion of climate …

1936, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1952, 1953, 1956, Books, Fiction

Ficciones (1941, 1944, 1956) by Jorge Luis Borges

I read “The Aleph” possibly in university or, if not, then a few years later. I thought it was pretty crazy and incredible and resolved to read more Borges. And then I just didn’t for 15 years or so. (Not entirely true: I stumbled upon one other story – a late one – at some …

2010, Books, Non-Fiction

At Home: A Short History of Private Life (2010) by Bill Bryson

Full disclosure: I am a big fan of Bryson’s writing style and eat-up everything I’ve read by him. So i’m predisposed to like this book. But I must say that this is one of his lesser books and it feels like it’s a book at which a concept was created to fit content that was …

2009, Books, Fiction

John Dies at the End (2009) by David Wong

Full disclosure: I didn’t read this when it was on the web, before it was published. But I saw the film at Midnight Madness TIFF in 2012. I don’t really remember the movie much any more but my review suggested I enjoyed it except for two things: 1) the CGI (which I remember being awful) …

1980, 2012, Books, Non-Fiction

How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So kids Will Talk (1980, 2012)

Full disclosure: I have no children, I am not a teacher and I spent virtually no time around children. So I am not the book’s audience. Why did I read it? Because my father recommended it me for as a good tool for communicating better.

1948, Books, Fiction

The Loved One (1948) by Evelyn Waugh

This is a mildly amusing pitch black comedy about the American funeral industry and the British in Hollywood. (And American advice columnists.) It’s pretty slight and it feels like Waugh didn’t exactly know what kind of story he wanted to tell for this. (There are three or four main topics in a book that is …

2013, Books, Non-Fiction, Travel

The Great Canadian Bucket List (2013) by Robin Esrock

I’m of two minds about this book, which was a gift to me who knows when. (And, weirdly, many years after I drove across Canada.) On the one hand, it feels like a bit of a affiliate marketing gimmick, and some of the places and things on the list appear to be here to make …

2006, Basketball, Books, Non-Fiction, Sports

Seven Seconds or Less (2006) by Jack McCallum

For many people this is the definitive basketball book since The Breaks of the Game. It has been written and talked about so much that it was unavoidable that I would have preconceived notions about it and that it would inevitably not live up to those notions. Shock of all shocks, it is different than I …

2015, Books, Non-Fiction

All Who Go Do Not Return (2015) by Shulem Deen

This is an excellent, heartbreaking and infuriating memoir of a man’s loss of faith and subsequent expulsion from an extremist religious sect. I stumbled upon this book due to a Reply All episode (which I would also recommend) and I’m so happy that happened. This is not a world I know anything about so I am happy …

2016, Books, Non-Fiction

Dark Money (2016) by Jane Mayer

This is an alarming – dare I say frightening – examination of the ways in which American billionaires – primarily the Koch brothers – and multimillionaires have used their fortunes to influence US politics, particularly since Obama’s first term. It also chronicles their efforts to create an education and lobbying system to promote their extremist …

2017, Books, Non-Fiction

Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite (2017) by Jake Bernstein

I think tax avoidance/evasion is the second most important issue of our time. So I wanted to be able to recommend this book highly. Alas, I can’t unequivocally recommend it, though I would say it’s worth reading if you are unaware, as I am, of a better book on the subject. (I’m sure it’s out …

2002, Books, Non-Fiction

Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life (2002, Kathleen Dalton)

At long last, I have finished this mammoth, exhaustive one-volume biography of Theodore Roosevelt. Given the depth of this one, I have to wonder about the detail of multi-volume biographies. Anyway, why would I read such a thing? Well, I read this because TR is my dad’s favourite president. I had mixed feelings about him …

2019, Books, Non-Fiction

Republic of Lies (2019, Anna Merlan)

This is a survey of contemporary American conspiracy theories and the extent to which some of them can be found in mouths of the powerful in America. It is well-written, engaging and sometimes quite funny. But if you’ve read anything about American conspiracy theories before, there isn’t much new here.

2019, Books, Non-Fiction

Teardown: Rebuilding Democracy from the Ground Up (2019, Dave Meslin)

Full disclosure: I live in Toronto. I have met the author, Dave Meslin, at least once and possibly up to three times. Moreover, I used to volunteer for a group he founded (but no longer ran when I was a volunteer). So that both makes me likely biased in favour of his ideas and part …

2018, Books, Non-Fiction

Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past (2018, David Reich)

This is a fascinating, if overly academic, examination of the emerging study of “ancient DNA” that is transforming our knowledge of our past. The book covers how mapping the genome is allowing science to prove or disprove long held theories about human migrations and how old populations interacted.

2008, Books

Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood (2008) by Mark Harris

This is an excellent and enthralling survey of the five films nominated for Best Picture for the 40th Academy Awards, a symbolic moment in the history of Hollywood when both “new Hollywood” and “old Hollywood” films were up for Best Picture. The movies are Bonnie and Clyde, Doctor Dolittle (seriously), The Graduate, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and In the Heat …

2018, Books, Non-Fiction

LikeWar (2018) by PW Singer and Emerson T. Brooking

This is a terrifying and depressing book about the weaponization of the internet, and social media in particular, by countries and other actors, in order to alter what the average person thinks is “true” or “factual”. The good news is that this isn’t necessarily the most rigorous analysis, meaning that some of their most dire …

2015, Books, Non-Fiction

Intelligence: All That Matters (2015, Stuart Ritchie)

I am of a generation where skepticism over IQ was widespread. I don’t know where it comes from exactly but I know that it is everywhere. Essentially I was raised with the idea that IQ had been “debunked”. The reason I read this book is because I got into an argument with someone and afterwards …

2017, Books, Non-Fiction

Weaponized Lies (2017) by Daniel J. Levitin

This is a layman’s summary of how to understand probability and statistics and other critical thinking tools Levitin feels are necessary to have in the era of “Post-Truth”. It’s very much meant for the lay reader and it’s likely an expert in statistics or (especially) probability will be bored and possibly even annoyed. At this …

1958, Books, Fiction

The Poorhouse Fair (1958) by John Updike

Updike is a great literary stylist. Even in this very early novel, he does an excellent job. His sentences are often beautiful. And even when they are not beautiful, they are so full of detail about the person and/or the scene that they leave a vivid picture in the mind. I am prone to imagining …

1981, 2001, Books, Non-Fiction

When Bad Things Happen to Good People (1981, 2001) by Harold S. Kushner

I have been incredibly lucky in my life. I was born into privilege (middle class/upper middle class in one of the safest large cities in the world) and I have been very lucky in terms of personal tragedy: I have suffered few major injuries/illnesses, and my family has been pretty much free of them as …