Thursday, January 12, 2006

Best Books Read, 2005

This past year I read 20 books (including 2 graphic novels). Most common authors were Philip K. Dick (4, including a short story collection), Ursula K. LeGuin (3), and Neil Gaiman (4, including 2 co-authorships (Good Omens and Sandman: The Doll's House)). I should probably read a greater variety of authors, something I'll try to work on this year; maybe I won't repeat an author this year. Anyway, my favorites this year were (in no order):

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis is a great look at how one baseball team (the Oakland A's) had a different way of valuing players than other teams. Specifically, it shows how the A's take a more intellectual look at a player's stats to determine if he can contribute to making a winning team, rather than the traditional approach which involves mostly "going with your gut" or other nonsense (it's amazing how much appearance influences baseball scouts, someone needs to do a study of the homoerotic overtones of their work). Lewis also discusses the backlash against this newer approach, which brought to mind the idiot coaches in the classic Ball Four by Jim Bouton. You don't have to be a baseball fan to like either of these books, but if you know a bit about baseball I have to recommend them.

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman was funny, magical and might be his best work. The more I think about it, the more I love the idea of the protagonist's being easily embarrassed as his greatest flaw.

A Scanner Darkly and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick were both great. I'd read Androids before, but didn't really remember very much; it's significantly superior to the movie Blade Runner, upon which it's based. The movie is a great bit of eye-candy, but really doesn't have much of a plot (detective hunts down androids, might be an android); the book has a few great twists in the plot and an entire sub-plot where Deckard explores the meaning of life, all excised for the movie. Scanner explores drug use, identity and government surveillance as we watch a man go insane.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You guys keep raving about this Anansi Boys, I'll have to check it out. Oh, and I beat you: 26 books this year, sucker. -rb

7:12 AM  
Blogger Felix Pardalis said...

I woulda read more but I had to buy a house and finish a dissertation. not that you should stop beating me...

12:07 PM  

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