The Five Best Books I Read In 2016

American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin

I was casually acquainted with the details surrounding the trial of Patty Hearst, and the counter-culture of the 60s and 70s, but this book opened my mind to just how impactful this story was. Since it’s a historical account, there isn’t much if an opportunity for spoilers, but the masterful storytelling to Toobin makes me feel like I need to leave out details. The book is well researched and gives the reader a great deal of context to digest all the legal case as well as the personal lives and feelings of all involved with Patty Hearst. I can’t say enough about this book and it was easily my favorite read of the year.

Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck by Adam Cohen

Based on my public school history exposure, I don’t recall ever being formally educated on the scope of Eugenics in the United States. In some respects, I thought that Eugenics was a Nazi phenomenon and was maybe practiced in the shadows in the U.S. My ignorance aside, this book covered, in great detail, the American Eugenics movement and provides thoroughly researched and first-hand accounts of the movement. Due somewhat to the subject matter and also to the details it’s a hard book to read and enjoy. The scope and motivation for American Eugenics in the 20th century left me feeling terrible and questioning a lot of what I see in the world today. That said, I connected a good deal of dots missing from my historical understanding of America and I was able to geek out on Supreme Court minutia. It’s a hard book to recommend, but I couldn’t exclude it from this list.

The Run of His Life: The People versus O.J. Simpson by Jeffrey Toobin

Between the ESPN documentary and the FX Show, OJ Simpson was back in the public eye in full force this year. Fortunately, both programs were very good and I enjoyed them, inspiring me to read this book which both programs draw on. Jeffrey Toobin is masterful in telling this story, and it is an exciting read many years after the details have been out in the open. Toobin is able to draw on his experience as an Attorney to provide a great deal of context to the case and events during and after the case (not too dissimilar from the documentary) that challenges the reader to think and to be fair. This book is one of the most compelling I can remember reading in the last several years.

Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby

I could never appreciate the complexity of Michael Jordan until finishing this book and having time to stew on it. Lazenby digs deep into the history of the Jordan family to make connections (some spurious) between his upbringing in The South and his struggle for greatness. The book goes into great detail about his successes and failures on his way to becoming The Greatest without falling victim to the cliches most accounts like this are fraught with. The book steers clear of most gossip and rumors and keeps it to substantiated facts, which I appreciated. It’s quite a polished account and I had a great time reading it.  

The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron by Bethany McLean, Peter Elkind

This book provides the insane and necessary context needed to fully appreciate all the steps it took for Enron to get to where it is today; a case study in accounting ethics. The book goes into great depth to provide a full understanding of the figures behind the shady accounting practices and the straight up malpractice allowed to take place at the firm. While the book is quite long, I feel like not a page was wasted. The story sent me on a bit of an emotional journey as I cheered for the companies success and then found myself hoping for its eventual fall. It’s a wholly approachable book for a dense and potentially boring topic.

Bonus

Here are all the books I read in 2016 if you’re interested