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Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Books of 2013

too much penguin @ home, pune
Photo credit: Rituparna Choudhury, Flickr
As I have annually since 2005, I am posting a nearly complete list of books I read in the preceding year.

Allow me to repeat the ground rules: I will not list books that I reviewed, unless those reviews were published. In my academic job, for instance, I reviewed 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 may include a link to Powell's books; the blog receives a 7.5% commission on sales that begin via these links).


Achieving Nuclear Ambitions by Jacques Hymans

The Tragic Vision of Politics by Ned Lebow

What’s Wrong with Climate Politics How to Fix It by Paul Harris

What We Know About Climate Change by Kerry Emanuel

The Race For What’s Left by Michael Klare

Scorecasting; The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports are Played and Games are Won by Tobias J. Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim

The White Rat by Whitey Herzog

The Extra 2% by Jonah Keri

They Tasted Glory by Wil Linkugel and Edward J. Pappas

Additionally, I read just about every word in Baseball Prospectus 2013, but not in cover-to-cover fashion. It was edited again by King Kaufman and Cecilia M. Tan. 

Of these non-fiction books, most were worth reading. The Hymans book quite deservingly won the 2014 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. I 
blogged about it at the Duck of Minerva. 

I read Lebow as part of my comedy book project. I appreciate Lewbow’s reading of realist tragedy, but I think his perspective is often much more consistent with critical international relations theory than it is with realism. 

The Harris, Emanuel and Klare books were all used in my fall Global Environmental Politics class. I really liked the Harris volume and the students seemed to especially appreciate the chapter on happiness. The Klare book is not as strong as other works by him that I've used previously in this class or in American foreign policy.

I already blogged about Scorecasting a few weeks ago. It's a good book, though not flawless. If you enjoyed Freakonomics and would like to see that kind of thinking applied to various sports questions, then pick it up. I especially enjoyed the chapters explaining the Cubs long history of losing and the chapter explaining why football teams should "go for it" more frequently on 4th down.

None of the baseball books are classics, but the Herzog autobiography is a quick and interesting read. Herzog managed my favorite team (KC Royals) during an era when they were among the best franchises in the major leagues. 

I was frustrated that my former professor, Wil Linkugel, did not utilize contemporary baseball statistics when evaluating players who had very short careers for one reason or another. In contrast, Jonah Keri explains how the Tampa Bat Rays have taken advantage of the most current methods to become a winning franchise. 


As I have in most years, I place the best works of literature at the top of the list, then the genre fiction. The least interesting or entertaining books are listed last in each section.

Terrorist by John Updike

The Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Slam by Nick Hornby

Person of Interest by Susan Choi. 

Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo

World War Z by Max Brooks

All of this fiction is worth reading. I don’t usually read books that are on the best-seller lists, but my wife recommended Flynn’s book highly, as did an old friend from college, so I read it and enjoyed it very much. Hornby’s book is perhaps directed at a young adult audience, but it is quite good. Both of the books by Updike and Choi are responses to the “war on terror,” but both frame their stories in domestic U.S. settings.

From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming

The Way Some People Die by Ross Macdonald

In the Midst of Death by Lawrence Block

Black Ice by Michael Connelly

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

The Outfit by Donald E. Westlake (wring as Richard Stark)

C is for Corpse by Sue Grafton

Promised Land by Robert Parker

Ipcress File by Len Deighton

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

Sideswipe by Charles Willeford

The Prop by Pete Hautman

Dancing Bear by James Crumley

Tan and Sandy Silence by John MacDonald

Nature Girl by Carl Hiassen

Thanks mostly to 
Bookmooch and PaperBack Swap, I continue to read books by a diverse group of (mostly) hard-boiled crime story writers. These authors typically develop a single main character across a long series of books: Parker's Spencer, Stark's Parker, John MacDonald's Travis McGee, Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone, Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch, and Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer. Fleming’s James Bond (007) is not quite in this genre, but you knew that.

Most of these books are worth reading, though it was not a very good Travis McGee story and I was disappointed in less-than-their-best stories by Crumley and Dick.

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