Gainesville Ramblings

This is a blog, and thus it barely qualifies as writing, let alone formal writing, so I'd not let it bother you.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Books This Year

The year is only 19 days old, and already I've devoured quite a few books. I thought it would probably be a good idea to write down the books I'm reading and a few thoughts about them.

1. The Blind Side by Michael Lewis*
If you like football, especially of the college variety, read this book. It is simply stunning. The book is basically about the evolution of football and how the left tackle became the second highest paid position in football, while also requiring a physical freak to play it correctly. But really, it's the story of Michael Oher, a poor uneducated boy from inner city Memphis, who came out of nowhere to become the most highly recruited player in the country. Along the way, Lewis touches on the horrible conditions of living in the inner city, White Flight, the kindness and bizarreness of white Evangelicals, Coach Ogereon, the double standard of college education when it comes to athletes, and the West Coast Offense. All of it is well written, engrossing, and fun.

2. Moneyball by Michael Lewis

I loved The Blind Side so much that I went out and immediately bought this. Its about the Oakland A's, one of the poorest teams in professional baseball, and how even though they are constantly outspent, they manage to win consistently. This is because, and this is the part I love, they're run by a bunch of nerds. Nerds who love statistics. Baseball is a game of traditions, and according to scouts, players should look a certain way. If they don't meet the profile, they'll never make it to the pros. For the A's, how they look is not important at all. Rather, its about what they actually do. And it works. I know very little about baseball, but while I learned about the sport in this book, what I really learned is that someone with a bit of extra knowledge and the courage to exploit it can make a killing. Also: Statistics are cool.

3. The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

Obama may be the current political it-boy right now, but don't let that dissuade you from reading his new book. It is, quite simply, amazing. In a country divided by religion and partisanship, he preaches a middle road, one that has the potential to bring a lot of the country together. He makes no apologies for being a Democrat and fairly liberal, but he is willing to understand and compromise with the other side. Will he make a good president? I don't know, I need to hear some specifics about his policies. His book lays out some, and they sound good, but I'd probably need to know more. And he could probably use more experience, having been in Washington for only two years. But having spent years of his childhood in Indonesia, having a multicultural and multiethnic background, being obviously very intelligent and well spoken, and being able to listen to the demands of others, he may be just what this country needs.

4. Ringworld by Larry Niven

This was one of those impulse buys, made while looking through the Science Fiction rack at Books-A-Million. I had heard of the book, but had never really heard anything about it. But I love reading about world creation, and basically, that's what this book is all about. Niven created a world that is literally a ring, encircling a star (think of the place Halo takes place on). Its approximately 600 million times the area of Earth, making it absolutely massive, and would be nearly impossible to ever overcrowd. The story itself was OK, and it definitely shows its age (having been published in 1970), thought not nearly as much as say, Asimov's Foundation Series, where everything is based on nuclear technology. An enjoyable book, and I'll probably read its sequel, which goes more into how the Ring was built, but it doesn't really crack my consciousness in the way the last three books did.

Currently I'm reading State of Denial by Bob Woodward. It's good, though slightly dry. But after only getting a third of the way through it, it's stunning how completely inept the Bush administration, and especially Donald Rumsfield, was at planning this war. I'll have more to say once I'm through.

*I did not actually read this after the start of the New Year, but I loved it so much that I wanted to include it.

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