1. Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams - 229pp [ebook]
2. I Am Legend by Richard Matherson - 180pp [ebook]
3. The Drowned World by JG Ballard - 158pp [ebook]
4. Lord of the Flies by William Golding - 248pp [ebook]
5. Bad Science by Ben Goldacre - 338pp [ebook]
6. Galactic Human Handbook: Entering The New Time: Creating Planetary Groups by Sheldon Nidle and Jose Arguelles - 157pp
7. The Future Eaters by Tim Flannery - 407pp
8. Tasmania; A Natural History by William E. Davies Jr. - 236pp
9. Complexity: A guided tour by Melanie Mitchell - 368pg [ebook]
10. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams - 306pp [ebook]
11. A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle - 108pp [ebook]
12. Free Will by Sam Harris - 66pp
13. Australian Freshwater Ecology: Processes and management by Andrew Boulton and Margaret Brock - 244pp
14. Arguably by Christopher Hitchens - 800pp [ebook]
15. The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature by Matt Ridley - 405pp [ebook]
16. The Godfather by Mario Puzo - 447pp
17. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami - 624pp [ebook]
18. Paranormality: Why we see what isn't there by Richard Wiseman - 341pp [ebbok]
19. Freakonomics: A rouge economist explores the hidden side of everything - revised edition by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
I know that this book is somewhat maligned, and that the sequel is especially criticised (which I may read later). However I found most of it convincing and enjoyable, and I especially like the theme, if there is one, about the importance of data analysis for understanding how the world works, rather than merely using common sense and conventional wisdom. The most controversial part of the book - the link between abortion and crime - was an argument I found convincing, despite being a sceptic before I'd read the book. I guess I have to accept their word that their analysis does say what they suggest, but there's no reason to doubt them. I think they raise another good point, which is the difference between stating a fact and passing judgement. Saying something like "black people are more likely to commit crime than white people" shouldn't be viewed as racist or wrong. Of course their analysis shows that the reason for this is that black people are more likely to have lower incomes, and that white and black people in the same socio-economic position are just as likely to commit crime as each other. Avoiding facts because they "politically incorrect" or otherwise taboo is problem, and they do a good job addressing it.
There's that terrible expression "lies, damn lies, and statistics" and I think it's rubbish. While it's true that you can use statistics to mislead people, that merely demonstrates why it's important to understand statistics, so you can't be manipulated. If you don't have good evidence for a position, it's even easier to be manipulated. As they say "numbers don't lie", and given all the biases we have, it's only through detailed and transparent statical analysis that we can arrive at an objective truth despite our bias.
The big issue I had with this book though, and they do acknowledge it to a degree, is what an annoying wank fest it is. It's full of statements about how awesome Steven Levitt is, what a genius he is etc. While I understand that these are mainly or entirely written by Stephen Dubner, I think it's poor form to co-write a book that's theme is really how awesome you are. In the revised edition they've apparently moved a lot of this self-serving to the end of the book, but since I read entire books, I read it anyway. The revised edition also has some selected newspaper columns and blog posts, some of which continue to demonstrate how amazing and influential they think they are, or repeat what is already written in the book.
Despite this, I did thoroughly enjoy the book, and I can see why it is so popular.