From 2007 to 2012, I read 263+ books. Here’s my lessons learned and short review of each.
This post covers books read in 2008. You can also read from,
Non-violence works – more often than you might think, and is a very powerful idea. Good read. Full review.
A splendid read. Open trade is an ideal worth defending – and it has shaped our lives more than you might guess. Full review.
I would not have wanted to live in the 14th century. The book was a bit dense at times. It was never an academic type book, but it was never a pop history book either. Still an intriguing and little written about time period. Review here.
Houses are a seriously unhealthy obsession in America – even after the Housing Bust. This book really adjusted my thinking. It made me drop my dreams of my own custom built house for a much better dream of an in-city compact living situation. I hate the idea of mowing a lawn – full review.
Cormac McCarthy is very skilled – and writes about very evocative settings and characters. But every book will make you think and is not uplifting – full review.
I understand now why it’s so famous – and the real meaning of Kafkaesque. Full review.
There is a huge subculture of American Christianity that is not widely known or understood – but it is very influential and very significant. I knew all about it already, but this book was a fun, fair, and fascinating look at Ameri-Christian Pop Culture – full review.
Shopping is really quite bizarre. And we all shop quite irrationally. It’s best to be aware of the subconscious and conscious game going on. Full review.
Our brains are wired to think in certain, very predictable patterns – even when those patterns don’t make sense. You can’t change them, but you can be aware of them – full review.
There are some people in this world who are nearly self-less superhumans. They don’t get the praise, fame, or fortune. One guy is Paul Farmer – he has saved and improved the lives of millions. This is his inspiring (understatement) story. Full review.
Foreign aid has been done in the worst possible way since…way back when. Excellent explanation of what went wrong and how you can give and vote better. Full review.
Wow the Spanish monks really screwed up The Philippines. This is the novel that exposed it all and led to the Philippine Revolution. Full review.
Best Steinbeck novel ever. Relationships change and grow in unpredictable ways. Oh, and shipping lettuce cross-country with no refrigeration is a bad idea. Full review.
Colonialists were one evil bunch. There is no excuse for what went down in Africa. No excuse. Be aware of bad justifications.
War is bad, just in general. Outsourcing war without safeguards, oversight, and on cost-plus contracts is a bad recipe. Full review.
Love it or hate it book. I loved it. Yann Martel is very creative. Full review.
The Silk Road still exists – kind of. Colin Thubron writes a great armchair travel version of the Silk Road. Lesson? Travel it for real one day – full review.
Lesson: Do not read a sprawling Russian novel without a character flash card. Fabulous novel – lives up to its status, and a great candidate for a huge novel read – which I do every other year. Full review.
Apparently trains still run throughout Asia. And apparently Paul Theroux is still the greatest travel writer ever. Review.
Whoa. I have nothing but the deepest appreciation for women – especially my Mom and wife. Birth prior to the 1970s was especially just horribly awful. I really don’t know how humans are around in such numbers. Full review.
Socialism probably isn’t what you think. As always, a handy VSI. Full review.
Opaque, unheard of, controversial, but really quite brilliant – the WTO. Excellent VSI. Full review.
America is exceptional in so many ways, and none more so than religion. Fascinating little book. Full review.
“All Philosophy is just a footnote to the Greeks” – Said somebody important. But no, really, I forget how important and how brilliant (and backward) the Greeks were. Beautifully written. Full review.
Best paired with King Leopold’s Ghost. Didn’t like the prose, but the portrayal of Kurtz is unforgettable. Full review.
Very touchy and controversial issue handled with objective aplomb. I find it disheartening how dependent former colonies remain on their former masters. Full review.
Argument for a liberal, classical education. Great! Because that’s what I got. Full review.
Sort of the most well-known book on psychotherapy and relationships. Weird at times, but also insightful – but also really just rephrasing the Golden Rule in therapist’s language.
Coming of age novel set in Australia. Entertaining and thoughtful story. Full review.
Must read novel about a fundamentalist Christian missionary family in The Congo. Perfect descriptions, characters, and story. There is no transfer of culture – only assimilation. Full review.
Non-fiction by Camus. People who rebel against the political or cultural system are either crazy or make history. Interesting, but at times rambling pseudo-sociological/philosophical essay. Book review.
The -ism that won – and how. International Affairs geeks will love.
Neat perspective on the Bible. She imagines it as a person through history (and is self-aware/inspired by John 1:1) – how people have interacted with it, translated it, read it, and how it has changed the world. Full review.
I don’t remember a thing about Seven Lies. I think it has to do with a spy or something. Apparently it was unremarkable. Full review.
Wonderful, wonderful story. I took this book on a recommendation from The Economist – though skeptical it quickly won me over. The ending makes you feel good. Full review.
Fun little vignette about the heroine of the Dark Materials. Review.
A great vignette about the aeronaut and polar bear from Dark Materials. Review.
Forget the the allusions, politics, and everything else surrounding this book (most of which is written by people who haven’t read 1 word) – I thought this was fun, beautifully written young adult series. The series includes The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass.
Statistics don’t lie, but liars use statistics pretty much sums up this book. There is so much information and misinformation out there – that no one can possibly keep track or challenge it all. We live in a post-fact society. It’s most relevant in the political sphere. Lesson? Assume everything is a PR plant until verified. Full review.
Literature for laymen. The workings of a story. Good read (meta?). Full review.
This book will freak you out, especially one scene. Stark prose, horrible world. But a profile on the human spirit and the best and worst we can do. Powerful – full review.
Few people can write as descriptively as Amitav Ghosh. Lesson – words can paint a picture worth a thousand words. Unique setting for a story as well – the Opium Wars in India. Full book review.
Loved this book – it lives up to the hype and made me really want to learn cricket. Full review.
Quirky book in the line of Freakonomics. I don’t remember anything in particular from it, though. I love his columns for Slate and FT. Full review.
I remember seeing Christiane Amanpour reporting the Bosnian War on CNN International – and getting shot at by a sniper. That war has intrigued me ever since. This book is a moving story set in Sarajevo in 1992 during the siege. Few books have made me cry while reading. This one did. Full review.
Unique history – and counterweight to the typical 1950s version of American history. America has always been religiously diverse. Full review.
Not as good as Poisonwood Bible. Unique setting (Appalachia). Good story – although some parts border on Chick-Lit for middle age women. I was probably the only 23 year old guy to ever read it. I learned that the American Chestnut tree used to cover Appalachia, but got eaten up by an imported bug. Full review.
Siddhartha Gautama is probably not who you think. Great profile as always. Full review.
We have lots of ideas and heuristics from years past that don’t apply anymore…but still hang on an dictate public policy. My two favorite were “Your company should take care of you” and “Our kids will live better than we did.” Full review.
Great story from my favorite author. Full review.
Very unique setting – the Weimar Republic during hyperinflation. Amazing to learn and imagine how it affects everything in life. Everything. Full review.
David Plotz reads and comments on the entire Old Testament (to Christians)/The Bible (to Jews). Hilarious, though-provoking, and engaging. Reminds me to read the parts of the Bible that no one ever reads (think Numbers)…Full review.
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