I'm not the sort of person who produces particularly good "best books of the year" lists. I simply don't read enough new stuff. Also, my new job has caused me to read more about biology and computers, and to do more of my book-consumption in the subway or via audiobook as I commute. That, in turn, has shifted some of my reading from fiction to nonfiction, which feels less distorted by the audiobook format. The best stuff I read this year was King Lear, Pride and Prejudice, and The Great Gatsby. But that doesn't make for much of an end-of-the-year list. (If you want a new discovery, I quite like Pierce Gleeson, who posts a bunch of his stories here.)
Predictably, much of my 2013 nonfiction consumption was not of books I read front to back. There were lots of blog posts, textbook chapters, and MOOC lectures--I generally use MOOCs like libraries and not like courses.
Even so, however, here are ten nonfiction books that were new to me and that I found valuable this year, in no order:
- Average is Over. The most thoughtful work of economics and the most exciting "futurist" thing I read this year.
- It turns out that Web design is less exciting to me than most other kinds of coding, but I still think Jennifer Robbins' book on the subject is good.
- I am currently devouring The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, available for free here.
- Another old, great computer book that was new to me: The C Programming Language.
- Among poker books, PLO Quick Pro was probably the best one I read (no link in case you don't want the video that plays automatically on the book's Web site). Among strategy books that do not cost $400, I thought Playing the Player was the best I read (though I didn't read as many new poker books as in years past).
- I learned lots from the information-dense and usefully opinionated Engineering Long-Lasting Software.
- David Allen's Getting Things Done has made me significantly more productive. I reviewed the book here.
- How To Cook Everything Vegetarian made my food life better.
- So did Classic Indian Cooking.
- In my dissertation work I read a lot of excellent work on Plato's Theaetetus. I gained new respect for David Sedley's book on the dialogue, which I already liked.