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My Favorite Books of 2015

The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations by Christopher Lasch
This book (originally published in 1979) was a gift from my brother Dan, who is an author. He thought I would enjoy it, and he was correct. “Culture of Narcissism” offers a critical, and I would say accurate, review of American life. “The contemporary climate is therapeutic, not religious,” Lasch writes, later adding, “Therapy has established itself as the successor to both rugged individualism and religion.” The rest of the book explores this shift as cultural regression.

Howley7Thrown by Kerry Howley
One of the best, most complete pieces of fiction I’ve read in years, “Thrown” tells the story of a bookish young woman who befriends (or takes up space, in the book’s parlance) in the lives of two MMA fighters, one an up-and-comer and the other a journeyman. “Thrown” has been lavished with praise, and it’s deserved.

Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids by Bryan Caplan
Caplan’s love letter to parenting can be summed up as he who parents least, parents best and also has the most fun–without ruining your kid’s chances of getting into Stanford.

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Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids

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Bryan Caplan’s Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think is a joyful and welcome antidote to the common, tired and debunked claim that having more children somehow makes the world a worse place. Caplan, an economist at George Mason University and prolific blogger, unpacks decades of research that point to nature playing a more important role than nurture in how happy or successful a child becomes as an adult.

Practically speaking, this means that smart parents should invest less in Tiger Mom-ing their kids to adult success and instead should foster a happy atmosphere at home, because kids are more or less destined to be who they’re going to be, regardless of how many bassoon practices you drag them to against their will. Might as well let parents and kids enjoy childhood instead, says Caplan. Less time and money (and stress) invested in each child means a parent can make room in their lives for more kids. If this sounds like common sense, that’s because it is common sense, but it’s also a radical idea, as over-parenting is very much in fashion.

It’s hard to argue with the research or logic of Selfish Reasons, so if I have one suggestion, it is that it failed to include a trope that is standard in many idea books. Caplan could have laced his reasoning with real-world stories of free-range parents and parents who are glad they had more kids. Although the point of including such anecdotes would have been to say, “See, I told ‘ya!”, one imagines such personal stories would have resonated with readers. It’s a cheap ploy, perhaps. And maybe Caplan thought so, too. Perhaps he wanted his arguments to resonate on their own, without appeal to emotion. Which they do. So maybe this is just my selfish reason to want more book.

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