The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – but Some Don’tNate SilverHe’s quite remarkable – seems to be an autodidact on political science and has great ideas. Not many people can come so late to the party and make contributions like him.
Electing FDR: The New Deal Campaign of 1932Donald RitchieFantastic book. The country was in complete economic meltdown and yet how did this play out in the campaign? Certainly economics mattered, but there was a lot else going on. Prohibition was the obvious big political issue - it was hard for politicians given drys still around and many politicians had been friendly to them in past, but clearly the mood was for repeal. As for economics, Hoover and his folks were not unintelligent people, but they really truly believed in what they were doing and would have continued doing it for some time had they somehow (weird split in Dem party, for example) been returned to power. Ritchie does good job - he knows his history and writes clearly. A bit much at the end on long-term implications but overall a great read. A must read for all who care about democracy in economic crisis and I don't say must read often.
In the Fullness of TimePaul DouglasMemoirs. Amazing figure in many respects. Starts as economist -- he's the Douglas in the Cobb-Douglas production function. Goes off to WW2 as an older person and is seriously wounded. President of American Economic Association while at University of Chicago. Then Senator for 3 terms. His life holds up pretty well. Liberal on civil rights from the start; no rationalizations, no equivocation. Liberal on social spending, but very aware of and concerned about waste. Anti-communist, anti-fascist. Early internationalist. Free trader. Most important of all, perhaps, is that he hated the root of all evil, LeCorbusier.
Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of WorkMatthew CrawfordAcademics need to realize that making things actually work is a skill worth having, both for practical but also for philosophical reasons. Being able to argue that a motorcycle should work doesn’t mean crap if it doesn’t actually work.
The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Means of AscentRobert CaroFantastic political biography. Caro doesn't like LBJ and loves Coke Stevenson, the man LBJ "beat" in the 1948 Senate race. Stevenson was a real cowboy who built his own ranch and stubbornly refused to campaign any other way than driving small town to small town and -- unannounced -- talking to the folks he would find there. LBJ was a bit of a sociopath, able to turn on intense charm, but very brutal and conniving. Also, was out of control; best line: "and [Johnson's] nudity was inappropriate" with regard to his behavior in small town motels where he would go about his personal business even with visitors. My favorite character: W. Lee O’Daniel (“Pass-the-Biscuits-Pappy”) ran for Governor in 1938. Had sung “Beautiful, Beautiful Texas.” Ran w/o any previous political experience – toured state in red circus wagon with his famous Hillbilly Boys and his beautiful daughter Molly and his fiddler son Patty Boy.
Under the Banner of Heaven Jon KrakauerReally interesting account of two things - religious extremism and Mormonism. As a modern American religion, Mormonism is fascinating mix of familiar and unfamiliar to me.
The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination with StatisticsAlan SchwartzCatnip for stats-geek baseball fans.
How Judges ThinkRichard PosnerA pragmatic look at what judges do. A practitioner who reads (and writes!) the academic literature.
America's Constitution: A BiographyAkhil Reed AmarThe constitution clause by clause – much more in each line than meets the eye. Often result of slavery politics.
What Hath God Wrought Daniel Walker HoweIt started a little pedantic and I thought 'how many pages is this?' but by the end I was truly disappointed it wasn't longer (I would have loved it if it went to the election of Lincoln). It's about 1815-1848 which is an extremely interesting time in U.S. history - the roots of so much cultural, political and economic factors (when Lowell, MA was the manufacturing hub; deepening of religion).
American DreamJason DeParleFantastic book. Both readable and incisive about personal and policy aspects of welfare. Great for class.
You Gotta Have WaRobert WhitingIf you want to know about Japan, this is probably one of the best (and funniest) books you could read.
A Random Walk Down Wall StreetBurton MalkielThe only finance book I'll ever need.
Poor SupportDavid EllwoodA policy classic.
The Selfish GeneRichard DawkinsNow it all makes sense.
Godel, Escher and BachDouglas HofstadterMath geek catnip.
WitnessWhittaker Chambers(Read together with Blinded by the Right for an interesting comparison)
Life of Thomas MorePeter AkroydWonderful book. More is a complicated, but significant figure. Definitely lived life. Was responsible for burning some Protestants at the stake. Did stick to his guns with King Henry VIII.
Guns, Germs and SteelJared DiamondThis man is really, really smart.
Ends of the EarthRobert KaplanThere are lots of messed up places in the world and he goes there so you don't have to.
Metamagical ThemasDouglas Hofstadter

More math geek catnip.
The Chrysanthemum and the Sword

Ruth BenedictAnother great book on Japan - it's amazing how much punch this old book packs.
The Examined LifeRobert NozickI went to Florida with 20 guys for spring break in my senior year in college. This is what I read. I suspect I may have missed the point of spring break. But it's a nice journey through all aspects of life.
The Gathering StormWinston Churchill

Read the unfolding of World War II in a blow-by-blow fashion. It's fascinating to get a sense of how things looked like to the people making the decisions - what the tough calls were, what occupied their time and so forth. And, as a bonus, a dose of Churchill does everyone some good (and is entertaining - in vol. 2, he is informed of Pearl Harbor by his butler, Graves.)