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.
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.
I must confess to sharing a fair amount of Daum’s Gen-X angst as she surveys the current intellectual landscape.
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.
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.
Thanks to my friend Rob for this recommendation from his great science fiction podcast.
My wife insisted that everyone in our family read this book.
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.
Provides valuable context for the current fashion of anti-racism and implicit bias training.
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.
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.
A gift from my parents. An absolutely beautiful book made by Taschen.
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.
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.
Another rock music oral history, this time the four members of the Beatles talking about what it was like to experience Beatlemania first-hand.