Help me decide which books to read

I read many, many words every day. In addition to things I read for work, I subscribe to newsletters from The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Conversation and several more.

But at some point, I need to tackle this stack of books. I have 12 books on my “not yet read” shelf in the basement, six on my nightstand and roughly 13 (depending on how you count various samples, reference books and books of essays that from which I pick and choose).

I’ve decided to prioritize, but I’ll also crowd-source it. Suggestions?

In order of likelihood of reading/finishing it …

Vienna Stories (1950-2000) (Marie Kisner) – Great history of my town, and it relates to a Facebook group I moderate. I’m one-third of the way through it.

Generation Ecch (Jason Cohen and Michael Krugman) – A comical look at my generation, and I’ve been pitching stories along these lines.

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress (Steven Pinker) – I have to read this. It’s the underpinning of some writing I hope to do.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Eric Idle) – Geez, why haven’t I started this yet?

At the Existentialist Cafe (Sarah Bakewell) – Maybe I’ve already read it but can’t prove it.

50 Philosophy Ideas (You Really Need to Know) (Ben Dupre) – I’ve already read parts of it, and it’s good. Can be browsed as needed.

The Boys in the Boat (Daniel James Brown) – It’s an Olympic story, so I should probably read it.

And Be Right ALL the Time: Solving the Riddle of Right and Wrong (Iain King) – I also have a sample of a book called Verbal Judo, both about persuasion.

The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty (Dan Ariely) – Also kind of related

A Little History of Philosophy (Nigel Warburton) – Did I read this already?

Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away (Rebecca Goldstein) – I was jealous because I had the same idea.

The Rest Is Noise: Listening in the Twentieth Century (Alex Ross) – I may still write a book on creativity these days, and I’d want to pull this in.

Bill Bryson’s African Diary (Bill Bryson) – It’s short, and it’s one of my favorite writers.

Our Endangered Values (Jimmy Carter) – I love Carter’s morality, and this seems to be the best synopsis of his thinking.

The Unfinished Presidency (Douglas Brinkley) – This one is *about* Jimmy Carter

Behind the Hedges: Big Money and Power Politics (Rich Whitt) – An investigative work on University of Georgia sports. Probably a bit dated.

10% Happier (Dan Harris) – Self-help-ish. Might depend on when I need the help.

It’s Football, Not Soccer (and Vice Versa) (Stefan Szymanski and Silke-Maria Weineck) – It’s funny how Szymanski writes such flawed stuff on blog posts and Twitter (and quit discussing it with me because he thought I was rude), but his books are essential.

How the Bible Changed Our Lives (Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor) – Yes, the Reduced Shakespeare Company guys. Started it, and it wasn’t bad.

Shredders! (Greg Prato) – Rock guitarists talking about how awesome other guitarists are. Might pick and choose a few.

Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck (Amy Alkon) – I remember being a little bleeping disappointed.

The Paradox of Choice: Why Less Is More (Barry Schwartz) – Interesting issue.

The Elizabethan Renaissance (A.L. Rowse) – How much academia can I read?

Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline (Richard Posner) – Good topic, but I have a negative impression of it.

The Prince (Nicolo Machiavelli) – I’m going to write a Machiavellian guide for something soon, so I figured I should read the original. I read enough to get the gist of it.

Journeyman: One Man’s Odyssey Through the Lower Leagues of English Football (Ben Smith) – Got partway into it. Surely a great idea that someone else can do better.

A Lawyer’s Journey: The Story of Morris Dees (Morris Dees) – I got it from the SPLC.

The Crusades: A Short History (Jonathan Riley-Smith) – It’s not short. It’s not interesting. I got it after Terry Jones’ mini-series (yes, the Monty Python guy) revved up my interest. This book did not build upon that.

Didn’t You Kill My Mother-in-Law? (Roger Wilmut, Peter Rosengard) – A history of British alternative comedy — think “The Young Ones.” It’s terrible.

Uncharted: Creativity and the Expert Drummer (Bill Bruford) – The retired drummer (Yes, King Crimson, etc.) got a Ph.D. after retiring and now writes in fluent academicese, which is not good.

Imagine: How Creativity Works (Jonah Lehrer) – It was recalled by the publisher over plagiarism issues, so … maybe not.


2 thoughts on “Help me decide which books to read

  1. I teach sports and international affairs which naturally includes the Olympics, and the one popular book people know about is Boys in the Boat. I was fairly disappointed – too many imagined conversations, hagiographic representations, and remarkably dramatic races.

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