Like most people, I consume a lot of media throughout the year. It can vary from year to year, though, how many books, movies, music, shows and more I will consume. Instead of doing a separate list for each category of media, I like to combine them all into one list. The cream of the crop, so to speak. Plus, will anyone care my opinion of what the 11th best film of 2011 was?
A lot of the picks reflect the change happening in my life and work. That wasn’t intentional on my part when I consumed them, but it makes sense as the year ends.
I had listened to Jonah Keri talk about his interactions with the Tampa Bay Rays, when writing this book, and as a Boston Red Sox fan it left me wanting. The recent management of the Rays is spectacular, and then you contrast that with the end of the Red Sox 2011 season. The Rays’ organization hustles to find any advantage, no matter how minuscule, and then leverage it for their overall organizational benefit. They don’t roll over and give up because of their situation. They find a way to flip it on its head. Working the margins, taking nothing for granted, maximizing anything and everything. The Rays must do everything 2% better than the competition if they are to succeed against the long odds of playing baseball in the AL East against the Red Sox and New York Yankees. And, they have done it.
Partially inspired by Moneyball, Simon Kuper and Stefan Syzmanski use data to explain a number of trends in the world’s most popular game…soccer. They didn’t rely on the simple narratives that media and fans use over and over again to explain why something is within the game. They probed issues thoroughly to explain the truth behind soccer past, soccer present, and make prognostications about soccer future. If you are a sports fan, but not soccer, you’ll still enjoy this book.
Disclaimer, my friend Rainbow Rowell wrote this so I may be a bit biased. I listened to most of this novel while driving west on I-80, heading home to Omaha. The story is a love story. Not just between characters, but a love of Omaha and the scene there in the 80’s and 90’s. This was the time I grew up in Omaha. Memories flooded over me while I was immersed in this story. An enjoyable read.
Click here to read my post about Attachments.
Another book that takes conventional sports thinking and flips it on its head. It shows how there are advantages there for the taking, for teams and organizations, but they refuse to because of established culture and acceptance. They don’t want to risk change because of the criticism they’ll receive from people, even if the change would improve their chances of winning. From loss aversion to established narratives, see how sports are influenced for better or worse.
Here’s video of one example from the book. A high school team, Pulaski Academy, always goes for it on fourth down and never kicks off. This video shows how they successfully recover onside kick after onside kick in one game. They built a 29-0 lead…before the other team ran a play from scrimmage.
7. King’s Cross
An insightful take, by Timothy Keller, on the story of Jesus found in the Gospel of Mark. Going through the Gospel of Mark again, but with Keller as a guide, was refreshing. No matter what your background is, Keller writes in a way that is respectful to your position, but also clearly communicates the story of Jesus so you can understand it.
6. Moneyball (film)
Yes, there are discrepancies from the book, but the spirit of the book is still there in this adaptation. That this film was even made still boggles the mind. More on Moneyball later.
5. (500) Days of Summer
I had the joy of seeing both of these films back-to-back with a theater full of fellow Harry Potter fans. 9 PM we watched Part 1, and then at midnight we saw the premier of Part 2. I think this was the best way to watch Part 2, because you have the setup of Part 1. Not only that, Part 2 is all action and the climax of seven previous films. On its own, it wouldn’t be as good, but with Part 1, at the midnight premiere, surrounded by psyched up fans? It was great. What a way to end Harry Potter.
3. Moneyball (book)
So, when these same individuals started espousing the merits of Moneyball, I didn’t pay it much attention because I thought I knew it already. Most people simplified it down to advanced stats. As I followed the game more online, and immersed myself more in the world of advanced stats, I didn’t see the need to read Moneyball.
I finally read it this year, and it was a wonderful story chronicling the rise of the statistical analysis in baseball. (And really sports in general.) Michael Lewis weaves the story’s narrative, with the statistical analysis data, seamlessly. He shows the battle, within baseball, of statistical thinking with established thinking. It was fascinating to read and see the responses of people with this debate.
Perhaps it was providential to read it this year, as I launched the Online Campus. I’ve heard whispered critiques about what I’m doing isn’t valid. How this isn’t church. I’ve read online that online church is just a passing fad. My work is challenging established thinking and culture, and that is a threat to some. I’m not the threat, it’s the changing methodologies that are a threat. People get comfortable in their culture and methods, but they forget that those things were once threats to the dominant culture and thinking of their time.
Advanced stats, statistical analysis, advanced baseball metrics…whatever you want to call it there are a lot of people that are extremists on both sides of the debate with it. I’ll add this. Statistical analysis was a factor in leading the Boston Red Sox to the World Series title in 2004 and 2007. I’ll take that.
As is the case now, unfortunately, people will someday wonder why The Social Network didn’t win the Academy Award for Best Picture, and they’ll struggle to remember the film that did win.* Mixing fact and fiction, the film tells the story of the rise of Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg.
*In case you’ve already forgotten, it was The King’s Speech. Saw the film and liked it. I doubt I will see it again, but I will watch The Social Network repeatedly. I did three times this year.
1. Generous Justice
I’m not sure what else I can add about this book. It was life-changing for me. It had been a long time since I read a book, outside of the Bible, that had impacted me in such a way. If you’re interested, here are links where I go into more detail about the journey this book took me on in 2011.
Returning to the Scene of the Crime…and Receiving Hope (Part 1)
Returning to the Scene of the Crime…and Receiving Hope (Part 2)