The Best Books I Read in 2006

I read 83 books in 2006. Below are the gold stars from the past year. As always, it’s an eclectic mix.

Here are all the books I’ve read since June ’04. Here were my top picks from 2005.

Ron Suskind: A Hope in the Unseen : An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League

Ron   Suskind: A Hope in the Unseen : An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the   Ivy League
  A moving, inspiring (and depressing) story of a young man going from the ghetto   to Brown University. See my post.


Jonathan Franzen: How to Be Alone: Essays

Jonathan   Franzen: How to Be Alone: Essays
  Good writing; a collection of non-fiction essays. See my post.


Katharine Graham: Personal  History

   

Katharine   Graham: Personal History
  An excellent, fun tour through the life of this journalistic giant. See my post.


Steve  Coll: Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001

   

Steve   Coll: Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden,   from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001
  A detailed, rewarding read for anyone interested in what the CIA was up to pre   9/11. See my lengthy   formal book review.


Rick Bragg: All over but the Shoutin'

   

Rick   Bragg: All over but the Shoutin’
  Great stories in a memoir style with an authentic Southern quality. My brief   review.


James  Joyce: Dubliners : Text and Criticism

   

James   Joyce: Dubliners : Text and Criticism
  A classic. So many great short stories.


Benjamin M. Friedman: The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth

   

Benjamin   M. Friedman: The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth
  A powerful thesis: economic growth has good moral consequences. See my quick   post here.


Paul Bilton: The Xenophobe's Guide to the Swiss

   

Paul   Bilton: The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Swiss
  A fun, tongue-in-cheek, accurate look at the Swiss. (I consider myself half-Swiss.)   See my post.


Andrew S. Grove: Swimming Across: A Memoir

   

Andrew   S. Grove: Swimming Across: A Memoir
  An awesome memoir by the Intel founder….and it doesn’t mention Intel once.   See my post.


David Foster Wallace: Consider the Lobster : And Other Essays

   

David Foster Wallace: Consider the Lobster : And Other Essays
  As always, very excellent essays. See my formal   book review.


 

Tobias Wolff: This Boy's Life: A Memoir   

Tobias   Wolff: This Boy’s Life: A Memoir
  A beautiful, classic memoir about childhood. See my brief post.


Rough Guides: The Rough Guide to First-Time Around the World   

Rough   Guides: The Rough Guide to First-Time Around the World
  Loaded with helpful travel tips and regional profiles. Good for world-wide travelers.


Charles D. Ellis: Winning the Loser's Game

   

Charles   D. Ellis: Winning the Loser’s Game
  An excellent introduction to investing and finance. See post.


David Sedaris: Me Talk Pretty One Day

   

David   Sedaris: Me Talk Pretty One Day
  Always hilarious…though I think "Dress Your Family" was better than this one.


Fred Reichheld: The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth

   

Fred       Reichheld: The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth
      A great book that got me thinking about customer satisfaction in a whole       new light. See Chris Yeh’s notes.


     
Cliff Atkinson: Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft  PowerPoint  to Create Presentations That Inform, Motivate, and Inspire

   

Cliff   Atkinson: Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft PowerPoint to Create Presentations   That Inform, Motivate, and Inspire
  An excellent intro to make compelling PPT’s — all presenters should read this   or Cliff’s blog.


Nassim Nicholas Taleb: Fooled by Randomness : The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets

   

Nassim   Nicholas Taleb: Fooled by Randomness : The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and   in the Markets
  One of the most important and best books I’ve read in years. See my post.


Philip Roth: The Plot Against America

   

Philip   Roth: The Plot Against America
  Perhaps the best living American novelist. See my brief review.


Stephen King: On Writing

   

Stephen   King: On Writing
  Excellent book for aspiring writers. See my notes.


Bill Clinton: My Life

   

Bill   Clinton: My Life
  This is great as an audiobook…especially when Clinton deals with the Monica   scandal. See my post.


Tyler Cowen: Creative Destruction : How Globalization Is Changing the World's Cultures

   

Tyler   Cowen: Creative Destruction : How Globalization Is Changing the World’s Cultures
  Excellent thesis on how globalization is providing more and better cultural   choice. See my somewhat lengthy review.


Lawrence Harrison and Sam Huntington: Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress

   

Lawrence   Harrison and Sam Huntington: Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress
  A good collection of essays on the role of culture in shaping societies. Conclusion:   culture matters.


P. J. O'Rourke: Holidays in Hell

   

P.   J. O’Rourke: Holidays in Hell
  Hilarious; He travels to the world’s worst places and asks, "What’s funny about   this?"


Francis Fukuyama: America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy

   

Francis   Fukuyama: America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative   Legacy
  Awesome summary and analysis of neoconservatism as we used to know it and why   it’s not compatible with the future.


Barbara Pease: The Definitive Book of Body Language

   

Barbara   Pease: The Definitive Book of Body Language
  Some very useful tips for thinking about how our non-verbal cues influence people.


The Group of 33 / Seth Godin: The Big Moo: Stop Trying to Be Perfect and Start Being Remarkable

   

The   Group of 33 / Seth Godin: The Big Moo: Stop Trying to Be Perfect and Start Being   Remarkable
  Inspiring words of wisdom, tips, and stories. Good read for anyone in business.


Robert E. Rubin: In an Uncertain World: Tough Choices from Wall Street to Washington

   

Robert   E. Rubin: In an Uncertain World: Tough Choices from Wall Street to Washington
  Excellent memoir and insight into the worldview of the former treasury secretary.   See my brief review.


Daniel Gilbert: Stumbling on Happiness

   

Daniel   Gilbert: Stumbling on Happiness
  Chock full of nuggets. Required reading for people who pursue happiness with   vigor!


Jack Goldsmith: Who Controls the Internet?: Illusions of a Borderless World

   

Jack   Goldsmith: Who Controls the Internet?: Illusions of a Borderless World
  A quick and provocative read about how national borders and laws are rejecting   internet-utopians’ prediction of borderless world.


Tom Wolfe: I Am Charlotte Simmons: A Novel

   

Tom   Wolfe: I Am Charlotte Simmons: A Novel
  An excellent, gripping novel about modern college life. See my formal   book review.


Patrick M. Lencioni: Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable...About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business

   

Patrick   M. Lencioni: Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable…About Solving the Most Painful   Problem in Business
  Another good Lencioni book. His big point is to infuse meetings with conflict   and drama, and to run different kinds of meetings (the standing-only, the strategy   monthly, etc).


Ariel Levy: Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture

   

Ariel   Levy: Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture
  Solid read on feminism and porn, but predictable. See my review.


Benjamin Kunkel: Indecision: A Novel

   

Benjamin   Kunkel: Indecision: A Novel
  Excellent novel for 20-40 year-olds by a new literary sensation. See my brief   review.


Peter Hessler: River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze

   

Peter   Hessler: River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze
  An outstanding recollection of two years in the Peace Corps in China. Awesome   writing and great portrait of China.


Viktor E. Frankl: Man's Search for Meaning

   

Viktor   E. Frankl: Man’s Search for Meaning
  Inspiring. Read it. Here are some   quotes.


Susan Orlean (Editor): The Best American Essays 2005

   

Susan   Orlean (Editor): The Best American Essays 2005
  Awesome writing and essays. Good for any non fiction lover.


Howard Schultz: Pour Your Heart into It : How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time

   

Howard   Schultz: Pour Your Heart into It : How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at   a Time
  A nice read from the Starbucks founder on how he cultivated a luxury brand.   See my review.


Joan Didion: The Year of Magical Thinking

   

Joan   Didion: The Year of Magical Thinking
  A simply moving and inspiring account of Didion dealing with grief and the loss   of her husband. A must-read.


Tim Sanders: Love Is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends

   

Tim   Sanders: Love Is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends
  Awesome book on how to bring compassion into the business world. See my notes.


Tom Wolfe: The Bon fire of the Vanities

   

Tom   Wolfe: The Bonfire of the Vanities
  A masterpiece. A novel about New York in the 80’s. Well worth it. My quick review.


Joseph J. Ellis: Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation

   

Joseph       J. Ellis: Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation
      An awesome book. Highly recommended for a look at the men behind the Revolutionary       Generation.

   

4 Responses to The Best Books I Read in 2006

  1. Greg Nelson says:

    Ben,

    I was interested to know how you got across so many books over the past year?

    Doing some rough math in my head. Assuming the average book you read had a length of around 300 pages, you’d be reading over 60 pages a day.

    Is it that you put a high premium on your reading material, or are you a persistant insomniac?

    Cheers,
    Greg Nelson

  2. Alex says:

    try reading some novels for once in your life, expand your mind

  3. 1. Happy New Year!
    2. Congratulations!
    3. Ben, are you the new Harriet Klausner?
    The Constant Critic
    link to time.com

  4. maresia says:

    have you ever read Ronan, Frank?

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