One of the silver linings of the Covid pandemic for me has been a significant increase in the time I have been able to devote to reading.  In 2020, I basically doubled the number of books that I typically read in a year.  (The photo above offers a preview of what I plan to read in 2021.) 

As you will see below, my taste runs toward non-fiction.  This list offers a pretty accurate gauge of my interests at the moment – soccer, pop music, and race figure prominently.  I also have devoted a fair amount of my reading hours to trying to make sense of recent political and intellectual trends.  

1. Nomadland: Surviving America in the 21st Century — Jessica Bruder 


2. The Fifth Risk — Michael Lewis

This book looks at the damage done to federal agencies by inattention, bordering on contempt, during the early years of the Trump administration.  I found Lewis’ depiction of decent, hard-working, and basically non-partisan government officials surprisingly moving. 


3. The Problem with Everything: My Journey Through the New Culture Wars — Meghan Daum 

I must confess to sharing a fair amount of Daum’s Gen-X angst as she surveys the current intellectual landscape.


4. Leap: Leaving a Job With No Plan B — Tess Vigeland


5. The City Game: Triumph, Scandal, and a Legendary Basketball Team — Matthew Goodman

A fascinating exploration of corruption in New York City that reads like the best fiction.  If I could write only one book on this list, I would probably choose this one. I was inspired to write about The City Game for a forthcoming collection of essays about the role of kindness in the criminal justice system


6. State of the Union — Nick Hornby 


7. Professor Berman: The Last Lecture of Minnesota's Greatest Public Historian — Hy Berman and Jay Weiner

I’m not related to Hy Berman, but I married into a Minnesota family, so I enjoyed this memoir by one of state’s leading public intellectuals. 


8. The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics — Mark Lilla


9. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis — J.D. Vance 


10. Thierry Henry: Lonely at the Top — Phillipe Auclair


11. Famous Men Who Never Lived — K Chess

Thanks to my friend Rob for this recommendation from his great science fiction podcast


12. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World — David Epstein


13. Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt — Kirstin Hersh


14. Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics — Jonathan Wilson


15. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind — Yuval Noah Harari 


16. Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now — Jaron Lanier

My wife insisted that everyone in our family read this book. 


17. The Mixer: The Story of Premier League Tactics, From Route One to False Nines — Michael Cox

A history of the British Premier League through the prism of tactics.  I particularly enjoyed the passages describing a time (so unlike the present) when Arsenal were good at football.


18. The Omni-Americans: Some Alternatives to the Folklore of White Supremacy — Albert Murray


19. Race Experts: How Racial Etiquette, Sensitivity Training, and New Age Therapy Hijacked the Civil Rights Revolution — Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn

Provides valuable context for the current fashion of anti-racism and implicit bias training.


20. The Riddle of the Sands — Erskine Childers

One of the first ever spy novels.  I didn’t understand most of this book’s references to European geography and nautical terminology, but I still found it pretty compelling.


21. Long Walk Home: Reflections on Bruce Springsteen — Eds. Jonathan Cohen and June Skinner Sawyers


22. All About the Beat: Why Hip-Hop Can’t Save Black America — John McWhorter


23. Intimations — Zadie Smith 


24. Walls Come Tumbling Down: Rock Against Racism, 2 Tone, Red Wedge — Daniel Rachel

An oral history of British musical protest movements from the 1970s and 80s.  This book sparked a summer of listening to The Specials non-stop, much to the chagrin of the rest of my family. 


25. Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought — Jonathan Rauch 


26. 75 Years of Marvel: From the Golden Age to the Silver Screen — Roy Thomas

A gift from my parents.  An absolutely beautiful book made by Taschen.


27. Heads You Lose — Lisa Lutz and David Hayward


28. East West Street: On the Origins of "Genocide" and "Crimes Against Humanity"— Phillipe Sands

Part of my family traces its origins to the city of Lviv, where much of this book takes place.  Somehow Sands manages to make a book about legal scholarship into a gripping page-turner -- no small feat.


29. We Need to Talk: A Memoir About Wealth — Jennifer Risher


30. The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed and Happiness — Morgan Housel

I haven’t read a ton of books about personal finance, but this is the best of the bunch.  Recommended for those without a particular aptitude for numbers or money.


31. The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in An Age of Diminishing Expectations — Christopher Lasch

This book was written in the 1970s, well before the emergence of social media and the collapse of many American civic institutions, but much of it feels like it could have been written yesterday.


32. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents — Isabel Wilkerson 


33. What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era — Carlos Lozada


34. The Beatles Anthology – The Beatles

Another rock music oral history, this time the four members of the Beatles talking about what it was like to experience Beatlemania first-hand.  


35. Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country – Shelby Steele

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