Saturday, December 31, 2016


Books are alive and well.  In fact there are far more than we have time to read.  The following are some books I enjoyed.  The impulse came from many different sources including just browsing around library shelves and carts, listening to or watching suggestions on tv, radio or newspapers.  A few were pointed out to me on social media.  My opinion is limited because my scope is limited, but I hope that maybe a spark of interest might direct you to something worthy of your time.  I did read others, but these are the ones I would suggest for your consideration.

I am not picking a best choice for non-fiction as the ones listed all had something valuable to offer.

"The Meaning of Human Existence" and "Half Earth" by E. O. Wilson.  You cannot get much more profound than this.  The author sees religion as trying to provide supernatural explanations for life as we experience it while science is uncovering natural explanations.  Diminising bio diversity should concern us all.  More at

"The Right Way to Lose a War" by Domenic Tierney took a different view of winning a war--it is not necessarily all victory or all defeat.

Diet books seem to endlessly offer new options which are really variations on old themes. "The Joy of Half a Cookie" is really dealing with the psychology of eating.  One reads a book with good advice then forgets about it.  I am finding some books with good points and am sometimes able to adopt some of the good points at least some or the time.

"Riding Home," pre titled "The Power of Horses to Heal" was first heard about at a trade show I attended.  Most urbanized people dismiss horses as historical or as pets for the rich.  Tim Hayes who did not ride a horse until he reached age 47 found that horses offered people a lot more.  Some examples of the impact of horses were with hardened prisoners and PTSD victims.

"Decisivie" by Chip Heath and Dan Heath contend that with decisions, process is more critical than analysis.  Whenever I was faced with a conscious decision I would try to analyze it often using the Ben Franklin method.  The authors develop a more effective strategy.   We all have made millions of decisions to arrive at our current status and if you would like to make decisions that improve your situation this book is a very good place to start.

"Focus" by Daniel Goleman who brought us the concept of Emotional Intelligence.  In this book he writes about how the brain is always focused on something, but we can with some effort choose what to focus on.  A bigger point he makes is that it is very easy to focus on some small thing, but we would do better to see the bigger picture and how the one small thing fits in.  More at:

A Rage for Order"  recommended by Fareed Zakaria dealt with the Arab Spring which has had different results in different countries.  There was a lot agreement that conditions were very poor for most of the people, but little agreement on how best to handle.   Religious differences are key with fundamentalism.  Tunisia represents a fragile hope.

"The Ottoman End Game" reminds us that there were other empires in the world and they have influenced today's politics.  More details at:

"Lights Out" delivered another danger to be afraid of:  The acknowledgments is interesting in itself.

"The Reason You Walk" by Wab Kinew native concerns, but universal in dealing with his father's death.

"Dark Money"  there have always been suspicions  If you are concrrned about the recent American election this book suggests the power of money, especially when it can be kept secret.  There are many wealthy people who want to change the rules.  The Koch brothers figure prominently in this book and although they did not take a liking to Mr Trump they apparently now feel they can use him to achieve their ends.  Money is not just used for putting out your message it is used for analyzing how to deal with different targets.

"The Half has Never Been Told" by Edward E. Baptist--slavery is history and we have moved on, but the truth is slavery has impact today.  Even on the recent American election.

"Misbehaving"  by Richard H Thaler- disproves the contention that economics is the most rational of the social sciences.  Economic decisions are very much influenced by psychological and social factors.  If you get a chance to watch "The Big Short" you can see a clip of Richard Thaler explaining the 2008 financial crisis to Selena Gomez.

"Makers and Takers"  by Rana Foroohar shows how finances developed historically up to the Great Recession of 2008.  Read more at:

"The Wisest One in the Room" hits one of my aspirations.  The wisest man is not quick with answers.  Modern society seems to put a premium on quick answers, but the authors point out that it is not that right answers are so difficult, but that wrong answers are often too easy.

"Pandemic"  by Sonia Shah more interesting and easy to read than anticipated.  Modern life gives pandemics more opportunities, however co-operation can make a difference.  a lot of political interference.  An interesting link between sex and immunity.  The blog post on this one is the most read of all my book blogs:

Despite the relative dearth of fiction books on my list, the truth is well written ones are too engrossing for me.  I am so distracted that the rest of my life including business and household chores are neglected.  E O Wilson pointed out that telling lies is often the best way to express the truth.

"The Illegal" by Lawrence Hill was the author's second winner at Canada Reads.  I also read "Bone and Bread  another selection, but preferred"A Hero's Walk"  by Anita Rau Badami, but they were all enjoyable.  I watched parts of the selection process which is exciting as you see advocates supporting their selection and often analyzing the competition.

I chose to read two library selections; "The Day the Falls Stood Still" and "The Illegal" Both books were selected to focus a whole city's reading, one from Burlington and the other from Hamilton.  Both were enjoyable with opportunities to understand them better.

"Fifteen Dogs" by André Alexis won the Scotiabank Giller prize.  I actually bought this for my daughter who is a discerning reader who shares ownership of a four legged visitor to my home.  If you are a dog lover you will notice some keen observations.  If you are not you can delve into philosophical questions.  If you are like me you might even know some of the geography.

"Quantum Night" by Robert J Sawyer is as usual full of science, but also philosophy and more than ever politics.  Set mostly in western Canada.

One habit is to read a book by Jane Urquhart and this year, the selection was "Sanctuary Line" which was set in a part of Ontario I have some limited experience in.  Driving through Kingsville and Leamington I was struck by a number of Mexican retailers and eateries and this book helped put that in context.  As usual human relations are her strong point with a few unexpected twists that show we don't always understand how everyone ticks.

"Big Little Lies," by Liane Moriarty first brought to my attention by Vijayakumar MK Nair, a Facebook friend.   Inner dialogue helps to understand the characters better.  Well constructed.  The first chapter lets you know there is a problem and then the book goes back several months to explain how a group of people were intertwined, then the problem is explained and then a very short followup.  The reader is taken inside the mind of several characters and keeps you guessing as more details fall into place.  This was the most enjoyable fictional read for me of the year .

I felt that many of the non fiction books gave me a useful insight, but do not want to select a best.  For fiction I would have to say the most enjoyable book has been 'Big Little Lies."

Each of us who enjoy reading are confronted by an enormous mountain of books.  I welcome suggestions to help narrow down the choices.   There always has to be a book close at hand.  Right now have started "Homegoing" and also a book on mindfulness and sleep.  "The Vegetarian" is also on list.

To check out the books I enjoyed in 2015 go here:

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