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Posted at 6:05 PM ET, 03/ 4/2011


By Ezra Klein

Recap: The best jobs report in three years; Washington isn’t nearly so scheme-happy as people think; and the GOP’s Mitch Daniels problem, or maybe Mitch Daniels’s GOP problem.


1) Pork: Be inspired.

2) Will any of the Verizon LTE phones ever come out, or even get a release date? I’m four months past my contract and getting antsy ...

3) Bad infrastructure costs us $200 billion annually.

4) I’ll be on Real Time with Bill Maher tonight.

Weekend question: Usually these are political (usually meaning for the last two weeks, which is how long I’ve been doing them). But let’s stray a bit: What’s the best non-political, nonfiction book you’ve read in the last six months?

By Ezra Klein  | March 4, 2011; 6:05 PM ET
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Next: Wonkbook: Are we nearing the endgame in Wisconsin?


I liked "How I killed Pluto and why it had it coming", which is the story of how Pluto got demoted from being a planet. Fun read!

Posted by: mcfiddish | March 4, 2011 6:20 PM | Report abuse

The Memory Chalet by Tony Judt is a great memoir, though I suspect that wasn't the type of nonfiction you were referring to.

Posted by: bspahn | March 4, 2011 6:49 PM | Report abuse

In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin was the best nonfic I read last year, although it falls just outside the last-six-months mark. The best of the past six months was The Lost Dogs, about Michael Vick's pit bulls.

Posted by: csdiego | March 4, 2011 6:56 PM | Report abuse

It was published in 2000, but I read it within the last 6 months:

In the Heart if the Sea, by Nathaniel Philbrick. Great non-fiction reading about Nantucket whaling in the early 19th century.

Posted by: Patrick_M | March 4, 2011 7:03 PM | Report abuse

I should probably add mine: 'The Master Switch,' by Tim Wu. Reviewed it here.

Posted by: Ezra Klein | March 4, 2011 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Life, by Keith Richards. After reading Michael Hirsh's Capital Offense, Life provided a fun, breezy ride through the evolution of the Rolling Stones as seen through the exploits of Keith Richards.

Posted by: eauhomme | March 4, 2011 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Sigh, here:

And yes, I too would like my comment section to admit that html might be useful.

Posted by: Ezra Klein | March 4, 2011 7:09 PM | Report abuse

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It got universal raves from the critics, and it deserved them.

Posted by: KWeberLit | March 4, 2011 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Purge by Sofi Oksanen:

I highly recommend it.

Posted by: Castorp1 | March 4, 2011 7:31 PM | Report abuse

"33 Men" about the Chilean miners and the wisdom of the approach to saving them.

Posted by: t_seltzer | March 4, 2011 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Errr, Purge is non-political, but obviously fiction. For non-fiction I'd say either Michael Sandel's Justice or Diarmaid MacCulloch's Christianity.

Posted by: Castorp1 | March 4, 2011 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Joel Fuhrman's new 2011 edition of "Eat to Live", the definitive book on nutrition today (although nonetheless not flawless), a must read.

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | March 4, 2011 7:43 PM | Report abuse

"The Emperor of all Maladies," by Siddhartha Mukherjee, a "biography" of cancer. Just outstanding.

Posted by: Policywonky | March 4, 2011 8:54 PM | Report abuse

"The Emperor of all Maladies," by Siddhartha Mukherjee, a "biography" of cancer. Just outstanding.

Posted by: Policywonky | March 4, 2011 8:55 PM | Report abuse

"The Emperor of all Maladies," by Siddhartha Mukherjee, a "biography" of cancer. Just outstanding.

Posted by: Policywonky | March 4, 2011 8:56 PM | Report abuse

'Life' was fun for the first 2/3's, but he seems to loose interest in telling the story after about 1990. My GF says 'Kids' by Patti Smith is awesome and much better 'Life.'

Posted by: chasm3 | March 4, 2011 9:27 PM | Report abuse

"On the Origin of Stories" by Brian Boyd. The basic prongs of the argument: All mammals engage in play, usually at what they're best at. For humans, that's cognition and socializing, and story telling (especially fiction) is cognitive play. Also, it's too dangerous to learn socializing by mistake, so we learn it through stories.

Posted by: akyser | March 4, 2011 9:42 PM | Report abuse

I'm not done with it yet, bu so far, Sex at Dawn is proving to be pretty awesome. It's an accessibly-written book about the origins of human sexuality, and humans natural polyamory, rather than monogamy.

Posted by: AprilLS | March 4, 2011 10:56 PM | Report abuse

I read almost all of Alain De Botton's books in the last few weeks; they're excellent. I recommend them all.

Posted by: daniellippman | March 4, 2011 10:56 PM | Report abuse

When Men Win Glory: The story of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer

Posted by: avocado17 | March 4, 2011 11:09 PM | Report abuse

"The Tiger -- A True Story of Vengeance and Survival," by John Vaillant. An incredible story, in the true sense of that word, brilliantly told, with scholarly insights into a off-the-radar place. The climax nearly defies belief. You'll be surprised by who's seeking revenge.

Posted by: fredbrack | March 5, 2011 5:10 AM | Report abuse

"Unbroken: A WWII story of survival, resilience and redemption" by Laura Hillenbrand. Louie Zamperini's incredible story about his journey from the 1936 Olympics to his horrific experience at POW camps of WWII Japan to his struggles to re-acclimate to post-war life. A vivid tale of the unbelievable horrors that can happen to "non-combatant" detainees.

Posted by: MainStreetMuse | March 5, 2011 7:59 AM | Report abuse

Wole Soyinka's memoirs of his life as a Nobel Laureate for Literature and a prominent political figure in Nigeria, including his time in exile leading the opposition to Sani Abacha.

Posted by: abovethebeltway | March 5, 2011 8:08 AM | Report abuse

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is an unbelievably true tale of perseverance and redemption. The author's own story is the same. See a profile of her in WaPo.

Posted by: msterenb | March 5, 2011 8:36 AM | Report abuse

"Fool" by Christopher Moore ... a very funny and bawdy take on King Lear from the perspective of Lear's fool. An easy and quick read.

Posted by: langnerj | March 5, 2011 10:12 AM | Report abuse

"The Fourth Part of the World" by Toby Lester. The story of the map that named America, with fascinating looks at the history and uses of maps, and the European age of discovery.

Posted by: jimmatthews | March 5, 2011 11:13 AM | Report abuse

"Jesus, Interrupted" by Bart D. Ehrman. Eye opening.

Posted by: jpmillertx | March 5, 2011 3:31 PM | Report abuse

I'll 3rd Unbroken. Very well done.

Also, "The Last Thousand Day of the British Empire," while sort of dry at times, spends about 1/3 of the book on Keynes and Lend/Lease.

Posted by: ThomasEN | March 5, 2011 4:37 PM | Report abuse

The Emperor of Maladies, Siddhartha Mukherjee. Strong on stories of how cancer research really matters. Missing a few key issues - cost and the role of medical errors in making oncology care better. But very compelling reading.

Posted by: JeffLevin-Scherz | March 5, 2011 6:20 PM | Report abuse

The Check list manifesto, it really got me to go and re-work some of my work procedures, and it's helped so far.

I've also been reading the "Physcis of Superheros" which would is great if you haven't taken a lot of physic , but I already love physics (My now wife, then girlfriend, talked me down from taking quantum physics as an elective spring term senior year. My GPA thanks her for that one), and I find the superhero stuff, while well written, isn't enough to carry it it's rehashing college level physics. Though, if you haven't taken physics past highschool, I'd highly reccomend it, as I think he presents challenging concepts, like angular momentum, and Newtons laws of thermodynamics in really interesting ways.

I've got the authors second book, on how quantum physics has influenced our world, I think I'm going to jump into that one, as I haven't done much quantum physics past the basic stuff, and I find that subject infinitely interesting.

Also, I swear this post wasn't meant as an "I'm so smart" stealth brag, but man does it sound like it.

Posted by: chargeorge | March 6, 2011 1:24 AM | Report abuse

Companies do give out samples. They are looking to put their products in potential consumers' hands. They wouldn't do it if it didn't work one of the place that always worked is "123 Get Samples" search online

Posted by: ethelcalton123 | March 6, 2011 2:13 AM | Report abuse

Companies do give out samples. They are looking to put their products in potential consumers' hands. They wouldn't do it if it didn't work one of the place that always worked is "123 Get Samples" search online

Posted by: ethelcalton123 | March 6, 2011 2:13 AM | Report abuse

I just finished "The Disappearing Spoon", which is an interesting macro-level look at atoms, and how the different types influence our world.

It delves into, among other things, the precious metal (at the time, most expensive major metal in the world) which caps the Washington Monument.

Posted by: SonOfAnselm | March 6, 2011 11:43 AM | Report abuse

"the anatomy of the sea," by dr david ponsonby and professor georges dussart
a compendium "of over 600 amazing sea creatures lovingly described by two renowned,v contemporary scientists, and illustrated with exquisite, intricately detailed drawings from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries."

Posted by: jkaren | March 6, 2011 12:06 PM | Report abuse

From Saturday's NYT

Mortgage Modification Overhaul Sought by States

Hopefully, this is just a bad dream. The Obama administration exhibits some suicidal tendencies on occasion but if this actually passed it would be full on seppuku!

Combine this bad idea with the diminishment of Fannie and Freddie bad idea (at this time), AND the end of QE2 in June (which will raise the 30 year mortgage at least 100 basis points, probably more by the end of 2011), and the sound will be akin to hiring a one armed dishwasher in a fancy restaurant . . . a huge crash! (in housing)

If you think it's difficult to get a mortgage now, just wait.

For an investor, it means if this proposal has a good chance to pass in it's current form, you would HAVE to get out of any financial that has a strong connection to the housing industry. Conversely, it might be a good time to buy Home Depot or Lowes, on the dips because no one will be moving anywhere. I would also expect to see the surviving new homebuilders take yet another hit.

Follow this one very closely!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | March 6, 2011 12:37 PM | Report abuse

oh, in less imprtatn matters, just finished the Russian Revolution trilogy;

Trotsky by Robert Service

The Court of the Res Tsar by Simon Montefiore

Lenin by Rober Service

The Stalin bio is the best, but combined they show that the ethnically Russian people are among the least talented, most brutal people on earth, whose major talent is the ability to endure the unendureable. I did not grasp the magnitude of what low regard all the leaders of the Revolution held for the Russian people, Trotsky being the most critical.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | March 6, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Lakoff and Nunez, Where Mathematics Comes From

Posted by: pj_camp | March 6, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse

just food

Posted by: megankeenan | March 6, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

"Pictures of the Mind" by Miriam Boleyn-Fitzgerald

Posted by: rollyb | March 6, 2011 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Tony Judt's Postwar, all 900 pages of it, is a great read and makes you feel like you understand Europe and the world much better. Even better than his essays.

Posted by: jacobh | March 6, 2011 8:12 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for linking to Mitch Daniel story. Very interesting how he reformed Medicaid, that's the first example of an HSA that wasn't based on the placebo effect (that is, where the HSA policyholder felt better because he had "insurance", but it didn't actually cover anything).

You could reform Medicare (while opening it to everyone) along these lines in a way that would appeal to liberals and conservatives... well, some conservatives. There's also those who despise "Kenyan" economics (brought to America by the President's father perhaps) and any kind of govt healthcare program. :o)

Posted by: beowulf_ | March 7, 2011 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Nudge by Thaler and Sunstein.

Posted by: madjoy | March 7, 2011 12:28 PM | Report abuse

"The Warmth of Other Suns" by Isabel Wilkerson, about the great migration of blacks from the south to the north and west. A must read for all Americans.

Posted by: loveridehorses | March 7, 2011 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Another vote for "The Disappearing Spoon." Great commentary on the people and the intellectual fights between them that shaped the Periodic Table, which I find fascinating.

Posted by: msr2009 | March 7, 2011 1:57 PM | Report abuse

"Your inner fish" and yes "In the heart of the sea" is great. Not only about whaling in Nantucket, but about incredible irony, and a true story of a massive whale turning on the whaling ship and actually sinking it, the actual inspiration for Moby Dick. The survivors were so concerned about not being eaten by cannibals on the nearby Marquesas Islands, that they took a longer round about way toward South America and ended up being cannibals themselves=incredible irony.

Posted by: rjewett | March 7, 2011 5:29 PM | Report abuse

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