Category: Books

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 …

2019, Books, Non-Fiction

Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis (2019) by Jared Diamond

This is a fascinating, flawed examination of national crises which is really a plea for human beings to better handle climate change (and other major global crises Diamond perceives).

2019, Books, Non-Fiction

Evil: The Science Behind Humanity’s Dark Side (2019) by Julia Shaw

So I listened to the audio book, which I think made a pretty big impression on me. I think I might have enjoyed the book more had I read it instead. This is a wide-ranging examination of the nature of “evil” from the perspective of psychology and, occasionally, philosophy. (Nietzsche gets a lot of references.) …

2013, Books, Non-Fiction

The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and Our Gamble over Earth’s Future (2013) by Paul Sabin

This is an interesting book ostensibly about a bet between a biologist and an economist over the earth’s future, but really about the problems of extremism and the folly of prediction.

2018, Books, Non-Fiction

Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City (2018, Sam Anderson)

I didn’t know I wanted to read a book about Oklahoma City. (I bet you don’t think you need to read a book about Oklahoma City.) I’ve never been there. All I knew about it was that there is a basketball team there (stolen from Seattle), that the Flaming Lips are from there, that there …

1997, Books, Non-Fiction

The Great Adventure (1997) by David Cruise, Alison Griffiths

I normally read a book through and finish it before starting another. But, with this one, I kept finding books I wanted to read at the library and they would show up before I finished this. So my reading of it became extremely disjointed. Some of this, perhaps most of this, had to do with …

2018, Books, Music, Non-Fiction

Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back) (2018) by Jeff Tweedy

At one point in my life Wilco were among my favourite bands, very close to being my favourite. I saw them in 2009 or 2010 and it was perhaps the best concert I’d ever seen to that point. (Live recordings!) I have all their albums but their debut, I have their concert film, I have …

2010, Books, Non-Fiction

War at the Wall Street Journal (2010, Sarah Ellison)

I’m not sure this book is something I would have read were it not for the “Planet Fox” series in the New York Times. But it’s a mostly well-told, compelling story of Robert Murdoch’s purchase of Dow Jones. I’m not sure it does enough to make it an essential read, but if you’re interested in …

2018, Books, Non-Fiction

Rule Makers, Rule Breakers (2018) by Michelle Gelfand

This is a fascinating book about how cultural norms impact our lives. You might not get that from the title, but I’d say ignore the title and look at the subtitle. (The title, to me, sounds like it’s some kind of business success book or something.)

2018, Books, Non-Fiction

The Misinformation Age (2018, Cailin O’Connor, James Owen Weatherall)

This is a compelling examination of mathematical models about the way beliefs spread through human social networks.