by Steven Leavitt and Stephen Dubner
Read this while sitting around at Primary Children's Medical Center. Much to my pleasure and Abe's chagrin, Freakonomics doesn't have much at all to do with economics as one might traditionally think of them. It's less about finances and more about interpreting data. I realize this sounds very boring, but Leavitt is engaging, describing data that illustrates everything from socioeconomic influences on baby naming to the structure of a crack gang. More, this book reminded me a little of the radio show This American Life: a whimsical collection of semi-related ideas, stories, and statistics woven together into an engaging, accessibly written collection.
Change of Heart
by Jodi Picoult
Jodi Picoult is a writer gifted on multiple levels: she uses language artfully but not ostentatiously, does thorough research, creates believable characters, and masterfully creates a structure for her stories that inevitably draws me in and keeps me interested until the very last page. (An exception to this would be Songs of the Humpback Whale, one of her earlier novels, which did not appeal to me at all). In Change of Heart, she explores a variety of themes--religion, miracles, love, forgiveness, atonement--from a variety of angles, giving me an opportunity to step back and re-think my own perspective. It also addresses the isuse of capital punishment, something I haven't thought much about recently.
Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream
by Adam Shepard
My mother-in-law recommended this. It's an easy read, but a worthwhile one. The writing isn't anything to write home about, but the author doesn't pretend to be a writer; instead, he emphasizes that he's a regular guy with something to say. And he definitely does have something interesting to say. Shepard said he was tired of listening to young people complain about what they didn't have instead of taking advantage of what they did have. He wanted to see if, as some sociologists have proposed, the American Dream was now defunct. So after college he took a train to a randomly selected city with only $25 and a duffel bag. For the purposes of this project, he erased his college degree, past work experience, and all references from his record. His goal was to, within one year, be holding down a decent job, living in a self-furnished apartment, driving some sort of road-worthy vehicle, and sitting on $5000 in savings. He actually achieved all this in six months. Not bad. I found Scratch Beginnings inspirational-- it left me with a desire to work harder toward setting and achieving goals--though I was sometimes irritated by Shepard's overt moralizing.
by Gary Braver
If someone told you there was an experimental surgery that would make your dumb kid really smart, would you have the procedure done? Decent writing with some character inconsistencies.