1. The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy, by Bill Simmons. Could this be the best 736 pp. book on the diversity of human talent ever written? It starts slow but eventually picks up steam. It's also devastatingly funny. That said, if you don't know a lot about the NBA, it is incomprehensible. (I could not, for instance, understand the section of Dolph Schayes because that was not the NBA I know.) In the historical pantheon, he picks David Thompson, Bernard King, and Allen Iverson as underrated. The 1986 Boston Celtics are the best team ever, he argues. And so on. I found this more riveting than almost anything else I read and yes I think it is very much a work of social science, albeit in hermetic form.
2. Paul Auster, Invisible. Auster is back in top form. The French, of course, think of him as a deeper writer than do most of his American critics and readers. Is he more like Hitchcock (also appreciated early on by the French) or more like Starsky and Hutch? Read this book and decide. As usual, the truth lies somewhere in between.
3. Delirious New Orleans: Manifesto for an Extraordinary American City, by Steven Verderber. An excellent photo-essay on all the marvelous signs and small architectural wonders trashed by Hurricane Katrina. This book goes micro, not macro, and it catalogs a now-disappearing America from the age which I find most precious in our history.
4. Derrida, an Egyptian, by Peter Sloterdijk. I'm spending some of next summer in Berlin so I've been trying to catch up on what they're reading over there. (Any recommendations?) On every page it feels as if Sloterdijk is intelligent, yet I came away empty-handed and feeling like a frustrated Robin Hanson ("why doesn't he just come right out and say what he means?). No way should you buy the hardcover for $45.00, in return for 73 pp. of actual text. Ultimately he's writing about the boxes, not writing about the world. Yet at least three Germans loved it.