Monday, December 04, 2006

Top Ten Books of 2006

Okay...so this is pretty self-indulgent, but now that Show Season is over, I'm knee-deep in List Season. Only one of the following ten books was actually released in 2006, but the following is a list of my favorite reads this year.
10. Hip: A History – John Leland
Rock journalist Leland turns pop culture historian in this analysis of “hip,” a concept rooted in enlightenment, rebellion, and West African and black American culture.
9. Water for Elephants – Sarah Gruen
This story about a college dropout veterinarian who joins a Great Depression traveling circus is the only novel I read all year.

8. The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else – Hernando de Soto
De Soto takes one intriguing idea and repeats it one way or the other on every single page. The introduction and conclusion, however, provide an interesting perspective on globalization.

7. Conservatives Without Conscience – John Dean
Richard Nixon’s former chief counsel clearly has an axe to grind with the authoritarians in the executive branch. Nevertheless, Dean’s laments American conservatism’s abandonment of Goldwater pragmatism in favor of imperial consolidation of power. His bias notwithstanding, this book calls all of us to start paying more attention to the scary path down which our government is headed.

6. Emma – Howard Zinn
The rock star historian turns dramatist and writes a play about Emma Goldman, an anarchist agitator during the William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt years.


5. A People’s History of the United States – Howard Zinn
This book will change your life….or at least your perception of Uncle Sam. Drawing from exhaustive primary source research, Zinn tells the story of the USA from the perspective of blacks, natives, women, and the poor. The end result is a dark portrait of continued injustice and imperialism.

4. Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk – Peter Bernstein
Bernstein explains Game Theory, Prospect Theory, and a bunch of other fascinating ideas I still don’t understand as he analyzes the way humans have turned risk management into a science and have enjoyed increased prosperity and innovation as a result.

3. A Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870 to 1914 – David MacCullough
You wanna talk about a crazy story? French venture capitalists got the Panama Canal project started but it imploded. Lobbyists, bankers, and American politicians salvaged it and fomented a revolution in Colombia. The end result? A new country called Panama and a multi-billion dollar US venture called the Canal. Although few people died in the US-led nation-building effort, hundreds of thousands died in the construction of the path between the seas. With typical narrative suspense, MacCullough masterfully spins this yarn about the dawn of globalization.
2. War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning – Chris Hedges
Holy crap – this book is incredible. Career war-correspondent Hedges writes this philosophical tract about why wars start and why they will never end. Although he makes many inspired points, perhaps the most relevant is his view that nationalism and the claim of victimization will justify almost any atrocity.

1. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation – Jeff Chang
I wish that I hadn’t started this book because I want to read it for the first time again. In addition to providing a detailed history of hip hop’s rise to musical and cultural dominance, Chang provides a fresh look at the children of the Civil Rights generation and their influence on contemporary black America.

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