What I Read in 2020
I read far fewer books in 2020 than in past years. Pandemic stress and the lack of commute as I moved to 100% remote work really cut down on my reading time.
Looking back it also influenced my selection: a greater percentage of fiction and books about sports than in usual needs.
Favorites in bold.
- Why We’re Polarized - An examination of the structural issues that explain the outcome of our two party system. Good to read, did not provide a confidence about a way to improve things.
- How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built - About buildings but really about evolutionary design.
- An Absolutely Remarkable Thing - Really enjoyed this. Royela recommended it to me, I couldn’t put it down, and it blew my mind when I got to the end, read the “About the Author” and realized it was the nerdy guy from the SciShow youtube channel I’ve been watching with the kids for years.
- Football Hackers: The Science and Art of a Data Revolution - Soccer is an extremely difficult to quantify but there has been a lot of progress. Soccer analytics feel 5 years behind basketball analytics.
- A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor - The sequel to “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing.” I also enjoyed this.
- The Once and Future King - This was my father’s favorite book when he was growing up. In the lamest act of teenage rebellion I refused to read it. Finally, made that right this year. The Arthur as child book was repetitive, but I really enjoyed the Lancelot focused book.
- The Inner Game of Tennis - Heard about this in the second season of Michael Lewis’ Against The Rules podcast which I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend. The book was fine.
- Pakistan: A Hard Country - One of the reasons I read so few books this year is that I started reading this in about March. It took a while. I didn’t realize how little I knew about Pakistan. In particular the very loose central control of large parts of the country. The book ends in 2010. I wish there was an updated version covering the last 10 years.
- The MVP Machine - Baseball is far from my favorite sport but its highly discrete nature means it is generally at the lead of analytics. Where the first part of the analytics revolution chronicled in Moneyball was about roster building, this book examines how new tools are influeing dramatically changing player development. For instance, high speed cameras and specialized radar allows pitchers to develop new pitches faster than ever before. This book made me thing about the competitive advantage of creating better performance feedback loops.
- Inverting The Pyramid - Definitive history of soccer tactics starting before the standardization of rules in the 1800s and continuing through geigenpressing. The older stuff was mildly interesting but found the more recent stuff much more interesting. There is a very good chapter on Marcelo Bielsa who is a fascinating person.1