Shelf Life

Kai’s best books of 2010

Daryl Paranada Dec 16, 2010

By Kai Ryssdal

I tend to think of my book-of-the-year lists a little bit differently; in terms of the author interviews I’ve done over the past 12 months. Unlike last year, when we were swamped with (lots of good) books about the financial crisis, this year’s list goes a bit further afield. There’s more about the intersection of economics and the real world that we live in instead of business nuts and bolts. Enjoy. And check out what some of our most frequent contributors recommend for reading this year.

The Routes of Man – Ted Conover. Ted takes to the roads, literally, in an exploration of the different ways highways and byways affect society and economies. His stories are absorbing and instructive at the same time. A good read.

Life Would be Perfect if I Lived in That House – Megan Daum. House envy. Most of us have had it at one time or another. Megan Daum wrote about it. Part memoir, part observational journalism, Daum explores the emotional and financial side of the American housing craze; on the way up and on the way down.

Freedom — Jonathan Franzen. It’s on a lot of bestseller lists and best fiction lists of the year, but my take on Jonathan Franzen’s most recent novel is a little different. This is a story of sustainability, the limits of economic growth, and the upper-middle-class angst of money really not being any guarantee of happiness.

Terror and Wonder: Architecture in a Tumultuous Age – Blair Kamin. Blair Kamin is the architecture critic at the Chicago Tribune. He begins on the morning of September 11th 2001 and ends with the economic stimulus bill of the first days of the Obama administration. In between he reminds us of the role buildings have in our economic and physical environment and how the past decade has changed how we interact with the structures around us.

Create Dangerously — Edwidge Danticat. Danticat, Haitian by birth, American by citizenship and residence, writes about being an immigrant, and emigrant, artist in the Haitian diaspora. Her observations of life under the brutal rule of the Duvaliers and her first trip back to Port-au-Prince after last January’s earthquake are incisive.

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