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Friday, December 30, 2022

Books of 2022

This is my annual post listing books I read in the most recent year. It seems kind of remarkable now, but I have produced such a list since 
2005. This ia link to the 2021 list if blog readers want to work backwards.

Also, I posted short reviews of most of these books at Goodreads


Ben Yagoda, Will Rogers: A Biography

Christopher Coyne and Abigail Hall, Manufacturing Militarism

Christopher Bader et al, Fear Itself: The Causes & Consequences of Fear in America

I read a couple of Grawemeyer-nominated books that were better than any of these, but didn't list them because it's a confidential review process. The Will Rogers bio really captured my attention. I learned of this book some years ago when going through the Rogers Museum in Claremore, Oklahoma. He was a remarkable entertainer and social critic. 

The other two books I read because they are related to my research and teaching interests. Coyne and Hall are basically libertarian economists, but I generally agree with their argument about US manufacturing of militarism. Incidentally, Abigail Hall teaches at Bellarmine University here in Louisville, though I do not think we have ever met. The Bader et al book was written by the group who produce the Chapman University Survey on American Fears. The book discusses and contextualizes the findings over a period of years.

Ben Lindbergh and Travis Sawchik, The MVP Machine: How Baseball's New Nonconformists Are Using Data to Build Better Players

Arnold Hano, A Day in the Bleachers

Lois Browne, Girls of Summer: In Their Own League

Bill James and Rob Neyer, The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers

The MVP Machine is the best baseball book I've read in some years and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand how baseball analytics have changed in the last decade or so. The "Moneyball" days of finding players with undervalued skills are mostly gone. Now, teams (and private coaches/clinics) are developing athletes into better pitchers and hitters using advanced data based on the physical properties of pitching motion and grips or batter swing characteristics. 

The Hano book is humorous at times, but felt quite dated. Browne's work focuses on an interesting story -- the All American Girls Professional Baseball League -- but I felt like it could have been both more informative about player performance and more entertaining. It's the kind of baseball book that focuses on game-by-game results and year-to-year transactions and standings rather than big picture analysis.

The James/Neyer encyclopedic book might have rated higher if I'd read it 15 or more years ago. As it stands, the information about pitcher arsenals they painstakingly acquired is now readily available for current players on Fangraphs or other baseball websites. And the entries are much more complete. That does not undermine their accomplishment altogether, but it created frustration at the lack of depth in many pitcher entries. 

Literature and Genre Fiction

Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front

Colson Whitehead, Harlem Shuffle

John Updike, Bech: A Book

Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing

Evelyn Waugh, Men At Arms

These works count as literature and all are worth worth reading. Remarque's book is rightfully a classic and I thought it was the best work of fiction I read all year. Yes, I should have read it long ago and my education likely suffered for not having done so. On the other hand, I managed to read it before viewing the newest film version.

I really liked Whitehead's recent venture into the crime genre and Updike's classic (?) semi-autobiographical (?) novel about an author. 

These works by McCarthy and Waugh were fine, but I've read better books by both men. 

Charles Cumming, Trinity Six

Eric Ambler, Judgment at Deltchev

Philip Kerr, A German Requiem

Jason Matthews, The Red Sparrow

Donald Westlake, The Sour Lemon Score (as Richard Stark)
Donald Westlake, Deadly Edge (as Richard Stark)

Lawrence Block, When the Sacred Ginmill Closes

John Le Carré, The Looking Glass War

Sue Grafton, L is for Lawless

Ross Macdonald, The Goodbye Look

Brendan Boyd, Blue Ruin: A Novel of the 1919 World Series

Donald Westlake, Somebody Owes Me Money

Joel Goldman, Motion to Kill

Each of the works of genre fiction above this note was good and I'm glad I read it. You probably notice that this was a particularly good year for reading spy fiction and Donald Westlake crime works. 

Many, actually most, of the authors are familiar from past iterations of this summary report. You'll find books here from the Bernie Gunther, Matt Scudder, Kinsey Milhone, and Lew Archer detective series, which I'm generally reading in order. 

Disclosure: Joel Goldman was a Kansas debater in the 1970s and I've met him a number of times at reunions or other events. 

Gregory Benford, Timescape

John MacDonald, The Empty Trap

Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None

Lawrence Block, Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes

PD James, Original Sin

Helen MacInnes, The Salzburg Connection

Stephen King, End of Watch

Ian Fleming, Thunderball

George V. Higgins, The Rat on Fire

Cornell Woolrich, The Black Curtain

Michael Crichton, Scratch One (as John Lange)

Dan Brown, Origin

Gregory McDonald, Fletch Reflected

Many of these books were OK, but most were so-so and had some serious flaws. I'm not going to be detailing all of those here, but you can probably find out on my Goodreads account. 

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