The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki (22 July 2006 - 7 August 2006) This book, along with Freakonomics and Blink, are the three books that took the blogging world by storm in 2005. The latter and the former are clearly applicable in social-network and website design. Somehow, I missed this one last year.
The Minority Report and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick (10 August 2006 - 23 August 2006) I’d never actually read a single Philip K. Dick story. I came across this while I was wandering through the library, so I grabbed it. Reading Science Fiction from the 1960’s is unlike reading anything else. The state of instability in real-life scientific progress during the Cold War makes everything seem so out-of-place. Dick’s drug use, schizophrenia, and escalating psychosis definitely show through, but it never affected his ability to write a great story.
Sundiver by David Brin (29 August 2006 - 11 September 2006) Science Fiction, at it’s best, is not about science. It’s about society. I had read something about David Brin’s “Uplift Saga” at some point, and it sounded interesting. The social dynamics in a universe where entire species are voluntarily subservient to others for millennia are fascinating and complicated. This is a great detective story. (I started to read the second book, Startide Rising, but my heart wasn’t in the story.)
Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs by Ken Jennings (14 October 2006 - 21 October 2006) I follow Ken’s blog and subscribe to his weekly trivia mailing list. I knew he was funny, intelligent, and a great writer, so reading this book was a no-brainer. It alternates between a memoir of his Jeopardy rise-to-fame and an investigation into the history and spread of the trivia phenomenon. He even goes to a Boston-area trivia night!
Einstein: A Life in Science by Michael White and John Gribbin (24 October 2006 - 27 October 2006) I finished Brainiac on the plane on the way to Spain, so I had to keep an eye out for English-language bookstores. When I finally found one, it was in Gibraltar. Einstein’s an interesting figure. It’s somewhat jarring to realize how young he was when he made his primary contributions (he was only 26 in his “Annus Mirabilis”) and how quickly physics ran, yes, beyond his comprehension.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma : A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan (15 November 2006 - 12 December 2006) This is the second of the two books I would pick to recommend strongly. The Omnivore’s Dilemma is an in-depth look at how the food we buy at the grocery store gets there, and the role that historical happenstance has played in the development of the current American’s diet. Supermarket “Organic” isn’t as different from non-organic as you think.