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.