Good Non-Fiction I've Read Over the Past Year

(May 2018 - May 2019)

A break from our usual content. Usually people do this at the end of the year. Pun Salad marches to the beat of a different xylophone. In no particular order. Clicking on a book's image will take you to Amazon. Clicking on a title will take you to my book report.

[Amazon Img] The Wizard and the ProphetTwo Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow's World by Charles C. Mann. A fascinating look at Norman Borlaug and William Vogt. The author is scrupulously fair and agnostic on environmental issues that spark bitter division in lesser writers.
[Amazon Img] Suicide of the WestHow the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy by Jonah Goldberg. Jonah's latest magnum opus discusses "The Miracle": the mere fact that you and I live in an era of unprecedented wealth and liberty. Which we are in danger of pissing away.
[Amazon Img] Who We Are and How We Got HereAncient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past by David Reich. Reich is a Harvard researcher, and he's got a pretty interesting story to tell about what the molecules in old skeletal remains tell us about human migration and races.
[Amazon Img] The Practicing StoicA Philosophical User's Manual by Ward Farnsworth. Ward sets out to present, and advocate, Stoic philosophy, quoting a pile of philosophers (mostly ancient, some just old). Their writings turn out to be lively and not at all dated. One book I kind of wish I'd bought, instead of getting at the library.
[Amazon Img] The Big PictureOn the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself by Sean Carroll. Carroll is a research physicist at Caltech — yes, a non-fictional version of those guys on The Big Bang Theory. (So you can more or less assume he's got his science right.) And he's got very entertaining, and insightful, observations on the questions that philosophers have been arguing about for years. His discussion of free will is worth the price of admission by itself.
[Amazon Img] Stubborn AttachmentsA Vision for a Society of Free, Prosperous, and Responsible Individuals by Tyler Cowen. Short and readable defense of traditional "common sense" morality, libertarian principles, and economic growth from a polymathic economist.
[Amazon Img] OverchargedWhy Americans Pay Too Much for Health Care by Charles Silver and David A. Hyman. A Cato publication. It's very long, but by the end you'll (probably) be incensed at the American "system" of health care. And you'll be pessimistic about the prospects for fixing things, or even moving in the right direction of fixing things, anytime soon.

And you won't hear the "Medicare for All" campaign slogan without shaking your head in wonder and (defying Arthur C. Brooks' advice below) contempt.

[Amazon Img] ThemWhy We Hate Each Other--and How to Heal by Ben Sasse. Like Arthur C. Brooks (below), Ben Sasse is concerned with the increasing spittle-flecked vituperation political junkies fling at each other in America today. Sasse blames loneliness, as individuals become socially more isolated, alienated, disengaged. And start treating politics analogously to a first-person-shooter video game. (And, if you're of a certain bent, taking the shooting thing too literally.)
[Amazon Img] Governing LeastA New England Libertarianism by Dan Moller. Like Tyler Cowen's book above, a defense of "common-sense" morality and libertarian policies. Unlike Cowan, Moller is a philosopher, so the arguments and their style differ. And Moller goes to some unexpected places, like affirmative action, political correctness, and reparations. Heavy going for those who may have forgotten what "deontic" means.
[Amazon Img] Love Your EnemiesHow Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt by Arthur C. Brooks. He's also concerned about the worsening sewer of American political discussion, which he attributes to an increase in contempt. It's a positive feedback loop, never a good thing: your loudly-expressed contempt makes you contemptible yourself. Just ask Hillary.

If you'd like to view my yearly book lists, 2003-present: (1) Why in the world would you want to do that? (2) If you come up with a good reason, here.


Last Modified 2019-06-03 7:11 AM EDT