My year end list: The Reads

Unlike my movie list, I won’t go into detail about why I picked these. It already took me too long to write a few sentences about the movies I liked. Although I kept up with my novel reading, sometimes reading two or three a week, I limited myself to fantasy. I always plan to branch out, and sometimes do, but my genre is fantasy, and I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon. When I do dip into another genre, it’s usually historical fiction, or I might attempt to read one of the “classics” of literature I’ve missed. Outside of novels, I didn’t read much nonfiction that didn’t directly relate to my work. So, as far as reading for pleasure goes, this was a year of articles for me.

Novels and non-fiction books

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Tower Lord: Raven’s Shadow by Anthony Ryan

Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Stephen Pinker

Waking Up by Sam Harris


Why Innocent People Plead Guilty by Jed S. Rakoff

Every criminal defense lawyer (and I was both a federal prosecutor and a criminal defense lawyer before going on the bench) has had the experience of a client who first tells his lawyer he is innocent and then, when confronted with a preview of the government’s proof, says he is guilty. Usually, he is in fact guilty and was previously lying to his lawyer (despite the protections of the attorney–client privilege, which many defendants, suspicious even of their court-appointed lawyers, do not appreciate). But sometimes the situation is reversed, and the client now lies to his lawyer by saying he is guilty when in fact he is not, because he has decided to “take the fall.”

Learning About Humanity on Public Transportation by @ChrisGethard

Look, this kid is going to be dead if we call the cops now, or if we wait until Ditmars and call then. Doesn’t matter. Nobody do something stupid and hold this train up for an hour. We’ll call at Ditmars so we can all get the fuck off the crowded ass train. Dead is dead, now or later.

Arcadia, A Love Story by Emily Dreyfuss

This went on for six months. His fiancée’s initial support began to wane. “There’s a fine line between a hobby and an obsession, and I think what happened is I just got so consumed by it all,” Kooluris says. “There probably should be therapists for hobbyists. It can take over.”

Why the Smart Reading Device of the Future May Be … Paper by Brandon Keim

From this perspective, the feel of pages under one’s fingertips isn’t simply old-fashioned charm. It’s a rich source of information, subconsciously informing readers of their position in a text. Reading experts say that sense of position is important: It provides a sort of conceptual scaffold on which information and memory is automatically arranged, and the scaffold is strongest when built from both visual and tactile cues.

The Myth of Learning Styles by Ani Aharonian

Learning styles theory, despite its continued popularity, has failed to produce sufficient evidence of being a valuable educational tool. By focusing on teaching to students’ strengths this approach misses an important opportunity to encourage students to work on developing their weaknesses as well.

Empathy Divided against Itself by William Voegeli

The quality that makes compassion politically forceful, however, also makes it politically unreliable. Left to its own devices, the spontaneous emotion of compassion is likely to leave us moved by any and all sufferers: outraged rioters and the owners of looted stores; blacks who fear the police and policemen who live in hiding for fear of vigilantes. But because politics is about taking sides, wayward, random empathizing turns out to be ill-suited to the activity Henry Adams described as “the systematic organization of hatreds.”

Does a More Equal Marriage Mean Less Sex? by Lori Gottlieb

Men and women, she said, are continuously sending out cues that signal attractiveness to a potential partner, and often these cues involve “an ongoing reminder of difference and the sense of mystery and excitement that comes with the knowledge that the other person isn’t you.” When I asked Esther Perel, a couples therapist whose book, “Mating in Captivity,” addresses the issue of desire in marriage, about the role sexual scripts play in egalitarian partnerships, she explained it like this: “Egalitarian marriage takes the values of a good social system — consensus-building and consent — and assumes you can bring these rules into the bedroom. But the values that make for good social relationships are not necessarily the same ones that drive lust.” In fact, she continued, “most of us get turned on at night by the very things that we’ll demonstrate against during the day.”

How to be polite by Paul Ford

On our first date, we went to a nice bar with blue tables and, in the regular course of conversation, she told me at length about the removal of a dermoid teratoma from her ovaries. This is a cyst with teeth (not a metaphor). I had gone in expecting to flirt but instead I learned about the surgical removal of a fist-sized mutant mass of hair and teeth from her sexual parts. This killed the chemistry. I walked her home, told her I had a great time, and went home and looked up cysts on the Internet, always a nice end to an evening.

George Clooney understands the new age of censorship better than giggling journalists by Nick Cohen

The Washington Post’s memory of the Rushdie affair is only half the story, however, and from the vantage point of the 21st century, the least relevant half. True the publishing industry united to defend The Satanic Verses. But once the struggle was over, the liberal world decided never to put itself through such a trauma again. There was no discussion. No announcement. It just decided that it could not face the bombs and assassination attempts a second time around.

The Islamic State and the left’s secret love affair with misogyny by Julie Burchill

As Assange and Russell Brand (weirdly linked by the Muslim convert Jemima Goldsmith Khan, who was the bailswoman of one and the lover of the other) prove, many men believe that once you’ve ticked the Brotherhood of Man box on your spiritual census, this gives you the right to be as big a bastard as you like towards women. Yes, some of their collective cultural cringe is stupid guilt about being white and western — the sort of poltroon who, if they happened across their dear grey-haired old mother being ‘roasted’ by al-Qa’eda at one end and Isis at the other, would ask ‘What did she do to make these innocent young lads act in such an uncharacteristic fashion?’ — but a lot of it, I believe, is sheer sexual wish fulfilment.