Search This Blog

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Books of 2016


As I have annually since 2005, I am posting a nearly complete list of books I read in the preceding year.

Please allow me to repeat the ground rules: First, I generally do not list academic books that I reviewed unless the review was published. In my academic job, for instance, I read a number of books competing for a $100,000 award exhibiting the best "ideas for improving world order." However, only the winning entry is listed here. I read it as a member of the Final Selection Committee.

Of course, since I'm an academic, I read multiple chapters and large sections of many books pertinent to my research and teaching. However, I'm not going to list those here unless I read them cover-to-cover. Save for the books I use in class or read for review, I often skim over some portions even of outstanding books. It's a time/efficiency issue.

So, what did I read this year, mostly for pleasure? (Some of the recommended books include a link to Powell's books; the blog receives a 7.5% commission on sales that begin via my Powell's links). I posted short reviews of most books at Goodreads (migrating from Shelfari). 


Schools for Conflict or for Peace in Afghanistan by Dana Burde

How Bill James Changed Our View of the Game of Baseball ed by Gregory F. Augustine Pierce

Crazy '08 How a Cast of Cranks Rogues Boneheads and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History by Cait Murphy

On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt

I also read just about every word in Baseball Prospectus 2016, but not in cover-to-cover fashion. It was again edited by Sam Miller and Jason Wojciechowski.

Of these non-fiction books, the Burde book really stands out and it won the 2017 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. Though the work focuses on the role of education in US foreign policy towards Afghanistan, it is more widely applicable to education policy in other nations.

I was somewhat disappointed in the Frankfurt book. It was undoubtedly a good political year to read it, but it was kind of dull. I'd heard of the book more than a decade ago and the original essay was written in 1985. Watch the video linked here to see Frankfurt interviewed by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show years ago.

I read the Murphy book because it seemed like 2016 was going to be the Cubs year to end their losing ways. And it was. However, in truth, I kept falling asleep late at night reading the rich detailed history of the 1908 season. It is interesting if you like baseball history, but I could have used a more compact version.

The Festschrift for Bill James had some interesting passages, and it was a quick read, but it does not include a lot of new information for the savvy baseball fan.


As I traditionally do, I place the best works of literature at the top of the list, then the genre fiction (though there are some books that could be placed in either category). The least interesting or entertaining books are listed last in each section.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Rabbit at Rest by John Updike

If He Hollers by Chester Himes

Earth Abides by George R. Stewart

Joyland by Stephen King

The Wheelman by Duane Swierczynski

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

F is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton

Borrowed Time by Robert Goddard

Early Autumn by Robert Parker

The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly 

The Zebra-Striped Hearse by Ross Macdonald

Black Betty by Walter Mosley

The Dreadful Lemon Sky by John D. MacDonald

The Jugger by Donald Westlake (as Richard Stark)

Xenocide by Orson Scott Card

To the Hilt by Dick Francis

Raylan by Elmore Leonard

Dog On It by Spencer Quinn

Jimmy the Kid by Donald Westlake

The Fountain and Updike books are definitely the cream of the crop here. I highly recommend Fountain's tale of a young war hero home for a PR junket to help market the war on terror. It is incisive and very well-written. Updike's Rabbit Angstrom is an interesting character who deserved another book. Put simply, Updike was a master. The book set in the 1980s mentions both Donald Trump and Roger Ailes.

I again read a couple of prominent science fiction works this year, books that true fans probably finished years ago (long before they were my age). Xenocide was OK, but the first book in the Ender universe is difficult to top. Earth Abides is definitely a classic, but some of it seems a little dated now. 

Thanks mostly to Bookmooch and PaperBack Swap, I continue to read books by a diverse array of (mostly) hard-boiled crime story authors. These writers typically develop a single main character across a long series of books: Parker's Spencer, Stark's Parker, John MacDonald's Travis McGee, Grafton's Kinsey Millhone, Mosley's Easy Rawlins, Connelly's Harry Bosch, and Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer.

Spencer and McGee are starting to confront their position in life. Grafton seems to get better with every book.

Several of the books near the bottom have comedic elements -- but the jokes don't always work.

Visit this blog's homepage.

For 140 character IR and foreign policy talk, follow me on twitter.

Or for basketball, baseball, movies or other stuff, follow this personal twitter account.

No comments:

Post a Comment