I read Freakonomics early in the year (it was published a few years ago) and loved it. Full of fascinating details about human behaviour. The book sold a lot of copies and many similar books followed on its heels. Levitt’s and Dubner’s follow-up book, Superfreakonomics came out this year and caused a bit of controversary due to a lot of accusations that their research on climate change wasn’t the most accurate. Superfreakonomics wasn’t as good as Freakonomics, but the first two-thirds of the book still has a lot of fun details.
My favorite non-fiction books of 2009:
Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan
Not the best written book ever, but the subject material is fascinating. An American reporter got a job as a crime reporter in Japan and ended up breaking a story about the yakuza paying for liver transplants in the US.
Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
One of the books that followed in the wake of the success of Freakonomics. Fascinating stuff.
Outliers: The Story of Success
Why some people succeed and others don’t. Lots of interesting stuff in here.
The Logic of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World
Another freaky behavioural book.
Stuff White People Like: A Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions
The funniest book I read this year. Lots of telling observations in here.
Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
The book that opened up a new publishing niche. Examines why do people do what they do.
The Last Lecture
Randy Pausch & Jeffrey Zaslow
Randy Pausch shot to fame when he gave a lecture about how to live a good life. He was a professor of computer science and had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He died last year
Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded
The collected amusing and insightful blog rantings of science fiction writer John Scalzi.
Born on a Blue Day
Tammet is an autistic savant who experiences numbers in a different way from most people. Details some of his accomplishments such as reciting pi to more than 22,000 decimal places and learning to speak Icelandic in less than a week.
I’ve read lots of books on writing and this is one of the best. There are plenty of writing books that give advice about how to write, but this book focuses on how to be a writer.
I also enjoyed Alex Kerr’s Lost Japan, where he talks about some of Japan’s disappearing traditions and Paul Theroux’s Riding the Iron Rooster, his travel book about riding the trains in China.