As for last year, this year’s top book list comprises the best books I have read this year. I haven’t read enough books published in 2011 to be able to apply a decent filter, plus there are many books out there that we should not forget. In no particular order:
Flatland: a romance of many dimensions by Edwin Abbott - Clever, fun satire
Sex, Genes & Rock ‘N’ Roll: How Evolution has Shaped the Modern World by Rob Brooks - While the book is generally a fun read, it makes this list for two specific parts: the discussions of sexual conflict in the context of population and on obesity (my discussion of the obesity chapter).
Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley - One of the classics that lives up to its reputation.
Spent: Sex, Evolution and Behavior by Geoffrey Miller - Miller’s analysis of consumer culture under the lens of evolution is the sharpest I have read - and the most fun.
The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good by Robert Frank - While the main point in this book could have been presented as an essay and I disagree with many of the applications, the central concept that competition is not always for the common good, as we can see in evolution, is important.
The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama - Fukuyama’s use of kin selection as the foundation to his analysis gives this book a solid foundation lacking from most grand histories (some earlier comments).
Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen - This book was hard to read and at times inconsistent, but it is clear why it is one of those important books for economists to read.
The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Philip Zimbardo - Although these books are in no particular order, I am going to suggest that this is probably the best. It had me thinking like few others (my review and a later musing).
There are a few books not on this list that were released this year and I have have high hopes for - Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow and Triver’s The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life.