Nike Coach of the Year Clinic – 2011 and the 2011 Offensive Line Coaches C.O.O.L. Clinic Handbook, each edited by Earl Browning. These simply must be purchased every year. I’m just now getting into the C.O.O.L. clinic handbook, but the C.O.O.L. clinic is the best offensive line coaches clinic out there. And the Nike Coach of the Year Manual, as always, has some great stuff, including great information from Chris Ault of Nevada on the Pistol and Gary Patterson of TCU. With these you always know what you get: an accessible, digestible breakdown of discrete topics by great coaches in the “hot” areas among coaches.
- Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?, by Michael Sandel. This is one of those books I passed by at least ten times before I finally bought it at one of those Borders going-out-of-business sales. I didn’t buy it because I knew it would cover a lot of territory I was already familiar with, including the 1,000th spin on the infamous trolley problem. But of course that is also the reason I eventually bought it, and I haven’t been disappointed. The book is based on Sandel’s famous philosophy course at Harvard (which was filmed and reproduced by PBS), and has the accessible, even-handed tone of a good instructor. The book doesn’t break any new ground (it isn’t designed to) and if you’ve read all the source material — Kant, Mill, Rawls, Nozick, and of course Plato and so on — then maybe this book isn’t so necessary, but I enjoyed it a great deal and do recommend it.
- Women, by Charles Bukowski. And now for something completely different. This is a filthy book by a filthy old man (this seems like a common genre these days) but, though tedious in parts, is highly entertaining and Bukowski does both have a simple, elegant way with words and an eye for good set pieces. But parents, don’t buy this one for your kids.
- The American, by Henry James. If you enjoyed the Bukowski book but feel like you need an intellectual shower to clean off, then the old don himself, Henry James, is typically a good, safe and sterile choice. I downloaded this on my Kindle about a week ago when flying and devoured the whole book. The American has a rather preposterous plot but James somehow makes almost everyone in the book thoroughly likable.
- The Rational Optimist, by Matt Ridley. This book looks, sounds, and reads like it was written by an economist, except that it is more entertaining (and probably more informative too). This actually makes some sense given that the author is Matt Ridley, a trained biologist who happened to be an editor for The Economist for close to ten years. The upshot of the book is that we often underestimate humanity’s ability for upward progress, naming a few different causes, most notable among them being job and task specialization throughout history. The book itself is excellent and while I generally agree with his premise that our trajectory is upward, it’s not clear that all of the credit (or blame) can rest on the causes he names. But these are quibbles; if not exactly spectacular, it’s a solid book.