My Favorite Books of 2015

This is a list, in no particular order, of the books I read in 2015 which I consider my favorites. This does not mean these books came out in 2015; it only means I read them this calendar year. For a list of recommended football books/resources, see here.


  • Creativity, Inc., by Ed Catmull. Half management how-to and half corporate history (with a healthy dose of Steve Jobs anecdotes), this remarkable little book about the origins and rise of Pixar films surprised me with not only how engaging the writing was but also how enjoyable it was to read. And the appendix on “Thoughts for managing a creative culture” is alone worth the purchase price. If you loathe anything that smells like a management book then I suppose you should avoid this one too, but I generally don’t like management books and this one is unlike any that I’ve previously read.
  • The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789, by Joseph J. Ellis. One of the surprisingly poorly understood facts about our national history is that while the Revolutionary War ended in 1783, the United States Constitution did not come into force until 1789 (and was not ratified by all thirteen states until 1790), and prior to 1789 the United States operated under the Articles of Confederation, which merely established “a firm league” among the several states; the Articles were more like a treaty than a constitution. In the view of many — particularly John Jay, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and George Washington — the Articles created an unworkable and untenable framework for the young country, and the solution was one that consolidated federal power in the system we have now, featuring executive, legislative and judicial branches. Ellis’s book does an excellent job placing these historical figures and their debates in the context of the times, providing insights on the tactics and compromises that ultimately resulted in the Constitution we currently (subject to several amendments) have today.
  • Collected Essays, by James Baldwin. For myriad reasons Baldwin’s work is as relevant as ever, and this is an excellent introduction into his writing and a reminder of what a beautiful stylist Baldwin can be, as his prose often vibrates with life. But of course it’s also the substance; essays like “Faulkner and Desegregation” are just devastating.
  • Herzog, by Saul Bellow. It’s written beautifully, of course, and as the the manic narrative congeals there are portions of the book that are truly moving, even if most of the book operates more on the brain than the heart. This wasn’t my favorite book by Bellow — and I spoiled some of the effect by reading too much about the biographical elements online — but it’s clearly a classic.
  • Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, Nassim Taleb. What a strange book. The core idea behind it is simple and potentially powerful: There are things that are fragile, which appear safe or steady but which crumble or collapse in the face of any sort of negative shock; there are other things which are robust or resilient which, when faced with such shocks, barely budge; but there’s also a third category, so far poorly understood, that actually “gets better” when such events occur. Thus the basic framework of the book is to take that idea and work through all manner of real world examples, but the result is it becomes a peculiar kind of self-help book with Nassim Taleb’s often eccentric advice on living, from diet to weight lifting to personal and professional advice. But the book is full of ideas — and the core theory remains an interesting one — and that’s as much as I can ask of any book.
  • Notwithstanding the above, if I’m being honest, the author I probably read more of than any other was Dr. Seuss. I read almost his entire oeuvre this year and I must admit he really was a genius, though I suppose any author’s flaws are revealed when you are requested to read one of their books four times in a row.
  • Lastly, I didn’t think this was a particularly great year for football books though I also didn’t actively seek them out. My favorite that I read was a very old one, “Winning Football with the Forward Pass,” by former BYU coach LaVell Edwards and his then-assistant Norm Chow. The book holds up as an introduction to many of the mechanics of coaching the passing game and has many great ideas that remain relevant today, though Edwards and Chow continued evolving the BYU offense and there have been many great developments in teaching the passing game in recent years and as a result much of my interest in the book was historical rather than practical. But the book contained many gems, including many photos of then-BYU quarterback Steve Young showing off fundamentals as well as the, uh, fashions of the day.


Some evolutions are good ones.