Monday, June 13, 2005

Non-Fiction Bias

I’m terrible at making lists, which puts me a bit at odds with my blog-mates. But owing to a tag from MacDuff, here’s my book list. (Will get to films soon, Mr. Marston).

Number of Books That You Own:
In London? Maybe twenty. In scattered boxes in Canada, the US, Mexico, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia? Probably closer to five hundred. Pretty eclectic bunch. Lots of fine textbooks included. (I've got an extra copy of John Lewis Gaddis's 'We Now Know' somewhere, if anybody's interested.)

Last Book Bought:
Kind of a trick answer: I bought two simultaneously in one of those WHSmith half-price deals. They were ‘The Wisdom of Crowds’ and ‘Oliver Twist’. Real-time update: just bought a hardcover ‘Great Expectations’ for 99p.

Last Book I Read:
‘The Wisdom of Crowds.’ Thought-provoking, but Surowiecki all too often sets up straw men. Previously: ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,’ by Ken Kesey. Sublime, and better than the film. Truly. (Currently reading Great Expectations.)

Five books that mean a lot to me:

There really are too many. ‘Moneyball’ would be up here, I suppose, if I were on track to become a sabermetric baseball GM. (One can always dream.) But my quick five, with a bias on the recent stuff:

The Right Stuff.’ I’m a nut for non-fiction, and this is probably the best non-fiction book yet written. The perfect intersection of investigative journalism, zany observational writing, and swashbuckling adventure. Tom Wolfe is masterful.

A Night To Remember.’ Walter Lord’s classic reconstruction of the Titanic sinking. As a kid, I was a huge Titanic buff, which I think stemmed from the discovery of the wreck off the coast of Newfoundland when I was five or six. I had scrapbooks with everything from newspaper clippings to a Weekly World News front page on the ‘curse’ of the ‘Titanic mummy.’ I’ve read better history books, but few as compelling as Lord’s. To wit, Amazon’s take: ‘Lord’s logic is as cold as the Atlantic, and his bitter wit is quite dry.’ (Speaking of which, does anybody else out there think that this whole 'book tag' thing is a setup by Amazon to increase traffic to their site? Just wondering.) This was really the one that instilled a lifelong love of history in me.

The New Canada.’ The Preston Manning manifesto, and my awakening to Canadian politics. I’d just returned to Canada from Saudi, and my Reform-minded uncle gave me this before I headed off to Lakefield. I think I scared my Grade 10 English teacher when I chose it as the subject for my first ‘book report.’ Not to mention everybody else.

'The Pity of War.' Kind of a cop-out choice, as it's not the greatest book, but Niall Ferguson inspired me to go into economic history after I saw his talk at Yale on the lack of correlation between bond prices in Europe and the coming Great War, which provides some evidence that nobody saw the conflict as imminent or inevitable. I'm an economist now, with an MSc in Economic History, so obviously some of the Ferguson touch rubbed off on me.

Hmm, as a fifth...‘A Prayer for Owen Meany.’ For the first and only time in my life, I cried at the end of a novel. Stop snickering. It’s that good.

All tagged out.


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