Books read in 2015 (way late)

This is a bit late, but honestly I didn’t want to write this until I’d remembered one of them that I knew I’d forgotten: all the Nero Wolfe.

Blockbusters by Anita Elberse. This is a very pop-biz book. We think the Internet gives opportunity to those without it, but it’s much bigger role is to make the big bigger, at least in the world of entertainment. I’m glad I read it, even if I’m not so glad that I now know about anything I learned from it.

Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. This book is so important. The first time I read it, I had to put it down every page to calm down. The second time was less invigorating, but just as dazzling and inspiring. I wish we scientists would (or could?) write for each other about science the way she does. I reread this all the way to the second to last chapter when I lost it.

Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, the State, and Utopia. The book is as impressive as its title, and no less because I was reading it as part of my practice of obsessing about libertarianism, in which I slowly hate-read all of its major thinkers. I hope I can think and write as big and as clearly as Nozick, but without all the same perfectly sound logic that still somehow ends up at obviously faulty conclusions.

Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire. He’s no Dillard, but I admire him for what he contributed, and I’m prepared to take the warts along with that. I feel like the big names in the ecstatic individualist male naturalist tradition — Thoreau, Muir, Whitman, and Abbey too — have been getting all kinds of crap piled on them lately, to the point where it’s kind of out of vogue to appreciate them without tacking on a bunch of apologetic quibbles at the end. Maybe they deserve it. My only point here is that Abbey probably deserves it more than the others.

This one mycology textbook. Didn’t finish — just made it a few chapters in so far. It’s a dense book, literally and literarily, but the topic is mystifying enough that I’ll keep at it.

Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. I read this because I felt obliged to know more than I do about decision making, since I’m a decision making researcher. I now know more, and there’s no one I’d have rather learned it from.

Simpler: The Future of Government. A useful tour of the nudge lit, specifically as it’s been actually applied. Admirable goal. I’m wary to get too applied myself, but I appreciate the work. Writing is unremarkable, but that’s easy to tolerate when a writer also has information to convey.

Benoit Mandelbrot’s Misbehavior of Markets: A fractal view of financial turbulence. I love the way Mandelbrot writes, but I still kind of always get this dirty suspicious feeling, as if one should approach his books by spending less time reading him than reading past him. I have some un-blogged comments on one part of his I particularly appreciated.

Bedtime reading: old detective and mystery novels and Wodehouse. In noir, Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man, The Maltese Falcon, and Red Harvest. In mystery, three of Rex Stout’s stories about Nero Wolfe: Fer-de-Lande, The League of Frightened Men, and The Rubber Band.
And to round out my early 20th century genre lit, rereading Wodehouse.