The five best books I read this year
’Tis the season for lists, it seems, so here are the five best books I read this year:
1) “The Master Switch,” by Tim Wu: The book is about the way information mediums begin as democratic lands populated by enthusiastic amateurs but eventually come to be dominated by monopolists or cartels. Good on both corporate ruthlessness and the way the government often allies itself with incumbent corporations. It wasn't about health care, but it convinced me that the Swiss and Dutch health-care systems, with their many semi-independent payers, are preferable to straightforward single-payer systems, where there’s just one payer. Longer review here.
2) “The Warmth of Other Suns,” by Isabell Wilkerson: The story of the migration of African Americans from the South to the North. A much bigger and more important story than I realized before I read this book. Wilkerson weaves her history around the lives of three migrants, and yet she manages to keep one eye on the larger tale, which gets filled out both through vignettes and -- thankfully -- empirical data. More than 1,200 interviews went into this book, and it shows: Speaking as a professional journalist, the work Wilkerson put into this makes me feel very small.
3) “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay,” by Michael Chabon: I didn't say it had to be written this year, just that I had to have read it this year. And after letting this one languish on my shelf for a while, I took it to China. Loved it.
4) “Diary of a Very Bad Year: Confessions of an Anonymous Hedge Fund Manager,” by N+1: My favorite book on the financial crisis, and perhaps on finance more generally. Worth reading even if you already know the basics, because you probably don't know how the basics looked to the people involved when they were happening. Convinced me that the interview format is underutilized in books.
5) “Scar Tissue,” by Anthony Kiedis: What? It's my list.
What were yours?
| December 27, 2010; 4:34 PM ET
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