Friday, January 11, 2013

My Non-Fiction 2012

When I mentioned yesterday that I'd only read 13 books from the list in 2012 and offered up a couple of reasons I'd read so few, I neglected to mention that I read 26 non-fiction books. I've always been drawn to non-fiction more than fiction, and really, that's one of the main reasons I started reading this list; to expand my horizons into some great fiction.

My interests in non-fiction tend to be quite varied, although there are a couple of topics I do gravitate toward (World War II, Sarah Palin). Looking back at the 26 non-fiction reads of 2012, I see there actually aren't very many that really jump out at me as being top rate books. There were some that were interesting and unique, but actually 2012 was a bit of a disappointing year in terms of reading some great non-fiction. But I did have some favorites, in no particular order.

Argo/Our Man in Tehran.  After watching the movie, which I enjoyed despite a slight re-writing of history, I developed a bit of an interest in the Iranian hostage situation. I read the book Argo, which is the story as the movie and written by Ben Affleck's character, as well as Our Man in Tehran by Robert Wright, which tells the story of Ken Taylor, the Canadian ambassador to Iran during the hostage crisis. The two books combined paint a fairly accurate and detailed picture of the hostage crisis, and make for an interesting history lesson.

Final Jeopardy. This was a book that chronicled IBM making a computer to compete against two humans on Jeopardy. It was interesting to learn about a lot of the complexities of competing against humans that beforehand I wouldn't have thought would be difficult for a computer to overcome.

The Toaster Project.  This book follows a man's quest to build a simply home toaster from scratch. He isn't just putting the pieces together, he's trying to make everything from scratch, including mining metal ore, making plastic, etc. Although the book itself didn't go into as much detail as I would have like, it is good for a discussion on how difficult it would be to actually make some of the household good we use everyday (very difficult!).

Letter to a Christian Nation. Sam Harris' response to angry letters from Christians. While it doesn't offer any new insights or arguments, it does offer his points with amazing simplicity and directness.

Follow the Money. This is a book probably only of interest to Albertans, written by former leader of the opposition Kevin Taft. I had thought it would be much more partisan, but actually just asks one question, where is Alberta's incredible wealth going? I found Taft's findings quite surprising and interesting.

As I said, these were enjoyable books, but didn't particularly knock my socks off. 2013 has already started off well however, having just finished a very enjoyable and interesting read, The Big Year by Mark Obmascik.

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