2002 BOOK REVIEW….Recommended books from my 2002 reading:

  • A Beautiful Mind, by Sylvia Nasar. I read the book after I saw the movie and was genuinely shocked that the movie was essentially completely fabricated: aside from the fact that it’s about a mathematician who goes crazy and then eventually wins a Nobel Prize, there’s barely a single thing in the movie that’s actually taken from John Nash’s life. The movie was good, but it was fiction; the book is also good, but it’s fact. And the final chapter, which is a capsule history of the Nobel Prize in Economics, is genuinely entertaining.

  • To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis. I like Connie Willis’ fiction and I went on a Connie Willis binge around the middle of the year. Of the three or four books I read, this one was the best, a witty time travel story about Victorian England.

  • Founding Brothers, by Joseph Ellis. This is a gem, a short but incisive book about the six most important shapers of America during the 18th century: Washington, Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton. Terrific stuff.

  • Nickel And Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich. A middle class writer works at three minimum wage jobs for a month each just to see what it’s like. As with 1998’s The Corner, with its ground level look at the inner city drug culture, this book is invaluable as a portrait of what life really feels like for the working poor. It may not change your mind on matters of policy, but you should read it anyway just so you have a feel for the reality of the subject, not just the statistics and the talking points.

  • Venus Envy, by Jon Wertheim. An inside look at the dysfunctional women’s tennis tour. Even if you don’t like tennis, you might still like Wertheim’s book purely as an anthropological exercise.

  • The Threatening Storm, by Kenneth Pollack. The most important book to read about the situation in Iraq, whether or not you’re in favor of ousting Saddam Hussein. My detailed review is here.

Honorable mention: The Honors Class, by Benjamin Yandell, a comprehensive review of Hilbert’s 23 problems. If you don’t know who Hilbert is, don’t bother with this, but if you do and you enjoy math, it’s a surprisingly readable summary of a very complex tale.

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