Boy, Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl wrote so many great books, but this one might be his best. It’s the first volume of his autobiography covering his parents moving to the
Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty
A surprisingly accessible, very clearly written, and remarkably well thought out book about economics and increasing inequality. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book – especially the clarity of Piketty’s thesis. There were a few times where I stumbled with the math, but on balance one of the most interesting things I’ve read in a long time.
Down and Dirty Pictures, Peter Buskind
I love movies and I’m a big fan of Biskind’s other movie books – this one does not disappoint. An extremely thorough and critical look at the Weinstein brothers and their Miramax empire. Nicely gossipy and biting, the book magnifies the ugly side to the entertainment business and illustrates how powerful people can operate when they go unchecked. A very entertaining read.
Flawless, Scott Andrew Selby
I’m a sucker for heists – be it books, movies, magazine articles - you name it. This is the story of an incredible real-life diamond heist that took place in Antwerp. Two years in the planning, the robbers were somewhat undone by the most trivial of items – a deli receipt. It’s a great story, very well told.
Red or Dead, David Peace
Peace has a unique style; it’s extremely repetitious yet lyrical. In the hands of a lesser writer this would be awful putrid stuff - the sort of thing that gets a book closed by page three, if not thrown across the room. But in Peace’s hands it’s mesmerizing. This novel is Peace’s interpretation of the
Romany and Tom, Ben Watt
The best book I read this year. Consumed it in two sittings, staying up way too late to finish it. Ben Watt, of British pop duo Everything But the Girl, tells the story of his parents – two people whose career trajectories went in opposite directions but who remained together. (Watt’s father was a famous jazz pianist who’s career came undone by the emergence of the Beatles and pop music; his mum, a classically trained actor, reinvented herself in the 70s as a magazine columnist and travelled the world interviewing Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and other big celebs). It’s an amazing re-telling of their lives, their shifting fortunes, their declining health and, ultimately, of the spark that launched their complicated relationship. It’s beautifully written. Watt is staggeringly good at conjuring up images of childhood memories and weaving them into his parents’ lives.
A Rumour of War, Philip Caputo
I read Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried at least once a year. It’s been one of my favourite books since it was published 20+ years ago. A Rumour of War is a complementary text in the best sense. It’s Caputo’s take on being among the first Marines into
The Snapper, Roddy Doyle Out for beers with Pat McLean one night and mentioned that Doyle had written one of my all-time favourite pieces on sports. He asked if I’d read the Snapper, I hadn’t. Came home, found it on our bookshelf and read it over that very weekend. What a terrific book it is. Lyrical, funny, insightful – all the hallmarks of Doyle’s work. Glad I went for that beer with Pat.
Glad I read them
Beauty and Atrocity, Joshua Levine
My family is primarily Irish (with some folks from Lithgow and others from Woolwich), but we’ve never self-identified as such (
Contempt, Alberto Moravia
One of the six novels I read this year. Not sure what to make of this one – so much subtext and implicit content – I always feel like I’m missing significant bits of the story. There’s a nice paradox to the writing here – very calm, clear writing about an increasingly tense, unsettling domestic situation as a marriage unravels.
CopyFight, Blayne Haggart
My pal Blayne wrote this. Pick it up for the smart overview of how copyright laws and policies came into being, stick around for the clever pop culture asides.
Flash Boys, Michael Lewis
Another great read from Lewis – follow a Canadian investment executive in
A History of the World in Six Glasses, Tom Standage
Each chapter looks in-depth at an alcoholic beverage, how it came about and what it meant for society. Some fun stuff.
The Irish Game: A true story of art and Crime, Matthew Hart
Once again into the heists (and Irish History – this is like a Venn Diagram of reading interests). Tells about numerous art thefts in
Let’s Start a Riot, Bruce McCulloch
I love the Kids in the Hall. This isn’t a biography so much as it’s a 290 page quirky monologue from Bruce McCulloch riffing on what it is to be pushing 50, married and the father of two. Like all of his monologues, this book has plenty of sharp observations, brutal honesty, strange bits, and solid laughs. Not a typical bio by any means, but worth it for the running Alzehimer’s insurance joke he has with his daughter.
Making Movies, Sidney Lumet
Could’ve been called a day in the life – a very factual, by the numbers take on Lumet’s process for starting, making and finishing a film.
The Manager, Mike Carson
Not sure what to make of this one. It’s part business book, part sports book, part management mumbo-jumbo.
My Lunches with Orson, Henry Jaglom
One of the strangest “books” I’ve read. For a few years, Jaglom ate a weekly lunch with Orson Welles and recorded their conversations. Each chapter of this book is a transcript of one of their lunches, two men bullshitting, trash talking, and opining on everything from philosophy to film making to the latest
Nikolai Gogol, Vladimir Nabokov
Nabokov weighs in on the works of Gogol, being a big fan of both I dug this a whole lot.
The Numbers Game: Why Everything you know aboutsoccer is wrong, David Sally and Chris Anderson
Advanced stats for the footy crowd. Some of this writing was insightful and terrific, other bits were questionable (as to when to sub-on players, I’m very skeptical one can be so precise about timing).
Unruly Places, Alastair Bonnet
This book looks at places that aren’t captured by maps – islands in the Bay of Bengal that have been swallowed by the sea, Russian ammunition centres that were left off old maps and have decided to remain off new ones. The chapters that tell the stories of these places are wonderful – the stuff of childhood daydreams – the bits between the chapters made me want to pelt the author with atlases. So over written, such purple prose, such a shame (the subtitle of the book was a dead giveaway that I was getting into Wonderdick territory, "Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies")
Oh the glory of it all, Sean Wilsey
A sprawling mess of a book that tries to capture the author’s boyhood, as he split his time between his divorcing filthy rich parents in upper crust San Francisco. You could likely cull 250 pages out of this and not change the book one bit. I suspect each reader would want to remove a different 250 pages.
On Writing, Jorge Luis Borges
The transcripts of a lecture series Borges did at
Pep Guardiola: Another Way of Winning, Guillem Balague
A decent biography of the former
Periodic Tales, Hugh Aldersey-Williams
I’ve got a bit of a thing for taxonomy and the periodic table of the elements. In this book, Aldersey-Williams spends each chapter examining a single element – how and when it was discovered and by whom, as well as the uses for each element and its place in popular culture (the chapter on lead is some of the best writing I encountered this year). Enjoyed this one immensely.
Psychopath test, Jon Ronson
I’m a Jon Ronson fan-boy and this book doesn’t disappoint. Ronson takes a course to learn how to identify psychopaths and then sets out to identify/ profile psychopaths in our everyday lives. These range from some disturbing/ hard to believe examinations of the Canadian psychiatric system and some very odd treatment ideals to a hilariously awful interview with a corporate raider and CEO who has some disturbing psychopathic tendencies. The insights into the reality tv industry come as a bit of a shock, though they shouldn't.
Quiet, Susan Cain
This is one of those books that you find yourself referring to and thinking of long after you’ve read it. A very thorough examination of introversion and what it’s like to be an introvert in a world largely designed for and run by extroverts. As someone who tends toward introversion, I found the insights in this book very intriguing, helped me get a better understanding of how I’ve acted/ felt in many situations over the years (and why open concept offices drive me absolutely batty).
The Quitter, Harvey Pekar
A graphic (novel?) autobiography of Pekar, with an emphasis on all the things he quit/ failed at. No warts, failures left uncovered.
Reading for Survival, John D MacDonald
I was a HUGE John D. MacDonald fan back in university. I read each and every Travis McGee novel with gusto. This very slim novella is a Socratic dialogue between McGee and his best pal Meyer as they discuss the role of the novel and the importance of reading in modern society. A great little read.
La Roja, Jimmy Burns
Burns visits each soccer team in
Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 and a half, Sue Townsend
I had largely forgotten about this book, which was essential reading when I was about 12 years old. When Townsend died in 2014, I immediately grabbed a copy and was stunned at how much of the story and characters I could remember before I had cracked the spine. I must have read this book a dozen times as a tween/teen. Was hoping it might be a fun read for Kid1, but I fear the content is still slightly too adult for her. A fun read and a nice trip back to my childhood.
Soccer Men, Simon Kuper
A series of bios on the bigger soccer stars of the past few decades. Read it on a plane, it was perfect for that setting.
Soccernomics, Simon Kuper More soccer + stats / analytics (sorry, bit of a thing for me).
A Time to Keep Silence, Patrick Leigh Fermor
Read this on trains in
Why Homer Matters, Adam Nicolson
I’m a big fan of the two other O’Neill books I’ve read (Netherland; Blood Dark Track) but this book irked me to no end. A sprawling narrative, an idiot of a narrator, pointless digressions – if it wasn’t by O’Neill I would have abandoned it early on. I wish I had. The Dog is a dog of a book.
A true story about students who stole priceless moon rocks from NASA, sadly overwritten by an author clearly in search of a screenplay deal. There might be a great story in here but it was smothered by too many adjectives and too much authorial hype.