On Books

Phil Miller is an economist at Minnesota State. He is also a fellow contributor at The Sports Economist as well as man behind Market Power (an economics blog currently ranked 61st by Brian Gongol).

Last week Phil issued a “Book Challenge”. Basically he answered a few questions regarding books and asked that I and a few others do the same.

Before I get to the basic questions, let me just offer a quick comment on books. Each Saturday my family and I go to the library. My wife reads about three books a week. My two daughters (ages seven and nine) also spend a great deal of time reading. In contrast, I read about one or two books a month (at the most). There are far more books I would love to read if I had more time.

That being said, it appears I read more books than the average person. According to ParaPublishing.com there are currently 1.5 million titles in print. Since 1776, 22 million titles have been published and each year more than 100,000 titles are added to the pile. So it doesn’t look like we are going to run out of books to read anytime soon.

Okay, so there are a huge number of books written each year. Sadly, many of these are not read by many people. Again from ParaPublishing.com:

– 58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school.

– 42% of college graduates never read another book.

– 80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.

– 70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.

I have no idea how these stats were compiled. So the validity of these numbers is unknown. Still, they suggest that many people don’t read books.

All that being said, let me get to the questions.

1. Book that changed my life

This is a hard question. Can I say The Wages of Wins? Probably not, since this question refers to books you read (although I did read WoW many, many times in the process of proof-reading).

Freakonomics had a huge impact on the writing of WoW. Had Levitt and Dubner not written their book, our book would have been quite a bit different (much more math, far less accessible). And I think had we gone in the direction we initially intended, our book would have been far less successful. So although I had never heard of Levitt or Dubner before I read Freakonomics, their book had a huge impact on how our book was put together.

2. Books that I’ve read more than once

Most of what I read today is non-fiction. But my collection of books is dominated by Science Fiction and Fantasy, which I started reading when I was a kid. All the books I have read more than once are in this category. Two of my favorites would be

Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

and

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein

3. Book that I’d want on a deserted island

Phil claimed that he would want The Wages of Wins on a deserted island. Having read this book many times (again, in the process of proof-reading), I told Phil that he better hope he gets rescued in a hurry.

If I had to pick a book to read over and over again, I would probably stick with The Lord of the Rings. Somehow that never gets old. The Silmarillion might be good to have around also. Of course, The Sporting News Official NBA Guide could take up quite a bit of your time.

4. Book that made me laugh

Over the past few years I have been buying books written by stand-up comedians. Books I have read in this genre include

Seinlanguage (Jerry Seinfeld)

Everything and a Kite (Ray Romano)

Couplehood and Babyhood (both by Paul Reiser)

I also have read several books written by Woody Allen as well as Dave Barry.

5. Book that made me cry

Being basically a shallow and superficial person, I avoid books and movies that make me cry. My wife points out the problem with this approach to life, yet I persist.

6. Book you wish you had written

The Baseball Economist by JC Bradbury is not exactly a book I wish I had written, but is similar to what I hope to write in the future. Basically I hope to write a book like Bradbury’s on basketball sometime in the next few years (although this won’t be the next book I write).

7. Book you wish had not been written

Not sure I wish any book hadn’t been written. If a book makes me unhappy, I just stop reading. The fact that I don’t like it, though, doesn’t mean that everyone else would feel the same way. Basically I think you should read stuff you like. If you don’t like it, don’t tell the author to stop writing or tell other people not to read it. Just read other stuff.

8. One book I am currently reading

Although I only finish about one or two books a month, I tend to start quite a few more (which says I don’t finish everything I start). Here is what I recently finished reading (at least, I must have recently finished since these are in a pile in my office that needs to be shelved):

Cities of God (Rodney Stark)

Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life (Terry Brooks)

The Secret Man (Bob Woodward)

Conservatives without Conscience (John W. Dean)

A Good Life (Ben Bradlee)

The One Percent Doctrine (Ron Suskind)

The Blind Side (Michael Lewis)

Here is part of the list of what I am currently reading.

The Churching of America – 1776 to 2005 (Roger Finke and Rodney Stark)

The Victory of Reason (Rodney Stark)

High Druid of Shannara: Tanequil (Terry Brooks)

There appears to be only one book on sports on my list. I would also add that the books by Stark and Finke are part of a class I am teaching in the fall on The Economics of Religion.

9. One book I have been meaning to read

I have a whole collection of books that I have started and not finished. Rather than list all these, it might be better to just finish this post.

– DJ

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