OK, I didn’t read 2,012 books in 2012. That would be nuts. Who has the kind of time to read that many books? Besides Kim Kardashian, that is. And does she use that time to read books? No. Time squanderer! But I did read a bunch of books this year that I enjoyed, and if you’re looking for Christmas gift ideas, you should consider these.
You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself
This book about how dumb I am is the smartest book I read in 2012, and I say that as someone who read Mike Polk’s Damn Right I’m From Cleveland (more on that one later). This book uses psychology to explain why human beings are a bunch of delusional freaks who make things like bad bosses, tall tales, Joe Biden and Fox News possible.
Especially valuable is the chapter on confirmation bias, which explains that people seek out news that comforts them. Yes, this means we live in a world in which Bill O’Reilly comforts people. I told you we were a bunch of freaks.
This fascinating book does not have a subtitle, but if it did, it would be “Steve Jobs: The Life of An Emotionally Abusive Dickhead Who Terrorized People Into Making Neat Things.”
Joe Tait: It’s Been a Real Ball: Stories from a Hall-of-Fame Sports Broadcasting Career
I grew up listening to Joe Tait call Cleveland Cavs games on WWWE during the 1980s. I usually watched the East Coast games on television. The Mountain and Pacific games were on when my parents watched television and — this being back when families only had one television — I was sent off to my room to listen to Tait describe the action on the court in rich detail. Thank God mom and dad never wanted to miss an episode of “L.A. Law.” Otherwise Joe Tait would not have been such a big part of my young life.
“Joe Tait: It’s Been a Real Ball” by Joe Tait and Terry Pluto gives Cleveland sports fans such as myself a glimpse of the man away from the microphone. Tait had a most impressive career. He created opportunities for himself, did his work the right way and touched a lot of lives. It wasn’t all roses. He was divorced. He watched a lot of bad baseball and basketball. He worked for Ted Stepien, insomuch as anyone could work for Ted Stepien. But he always gave the fans his best.
I really enjoyed this book. It’s a must-read for anyone who has ever yelled “Line to the lane” or “Bingo!” or ”Three ball … GOT IT!” while playing hoops.
Oh, and I make a brief appearance in the book, but do not let that fact affect your decision to purchase this book either way.
Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength
There are two schools of thought on willpower. It is either limited or unlimited. Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney write that willpower is finite–you only have so much willpower-giving glucose in your brain–and it can be used up, which is why I am writing this blog post while eating a fairly large sandwich. This book emphasizes the importance of willpower and shares several hacks on how to increase it. I was so inspired by this book I wrote this article about willpower for Livestrong.
I enjoy all of my brother Dan’s work, and not just because I taught him everything he knows about writing, baseball and witty high-society repartee. This book of short stories is my favorite. You can check out a sample chapter of his patented brand of dark comedy here.
The 50 Funniest American Writers
I gave this one a gushing review. An excerpt: “This book is best enjoyed slowly, taken in over the course of many weeks, so that each piece can be fully breathed in, not unlike a fine scotch, or a photograph of Mitt Romney mowing the lawn. That’s why it has taken so long for me to review it. I never do this with books. I usually power right through them. But you don’t just power right through H.L. Mencken. You’ll miss the way he makes fun of everything and everyone, including you.”
The Three Dollar Scholar – Awesome Advice for Acing Life’s Major Decisions and Mindless Debates
Jon Finkel, whom I interviewed, gives some great advice in this book. His bit about why you should always ask a woman the age of her cat before you start dating is inspired–and typical.
What would happen if the Three Wise Men from the birth of Christ were basically ninjas who walked in on a three-sided conflict among the creeping Roman annexation of Judea, the area’s upper class sycophantic Jews and the lower class Jews who’ve had quite enough of both of the other groups? Awesomeness involving swords and the baby Jesus, that’s what. If there is any justice in the world, this graphic novel will be a movie someday.
Faith and the Camp Snob: # 1 (Team Cheer)
I am not a middle school girl who wants to be a cheerleader (anymore), but if I was, I would devour the Team Cheer series. Written by my wife, Jen Jones Donatelli, these books–unlike so much of what is being aimed at young girls–are wholesome, entertaining fun in which no one cuts themselves, has an unwanted pregnancy or is forced to hunt other children for sport.
Ohio University 1804-2004: Spirit Of Singular Place
Finally got around to reading the history of my alma mater, Ohio University, and all I can say is college students today are a bunch of wimps. Back in the day, students had to hike through unforgiving wilderness just to get to Athens where, if they were lucky, only part of the campus would be washed away by floods every year. Do not let the fact that the top of my head can be seen in a photo in this book influence your buying decision either way.
Joe Donatelli is a freelance journalist who publishes The Humor Columnist. Follow him on Twitter.