My 2016 Reading List

by on December 25, 2016
in Resources

In the tradition of lists from 2014 and 2015, here is my reading list for 2016.

The year started with the publication of my latest book, 21st Century Guide to Individual Skill Development. I tired of writing basketball/coaching books and decided to take a stab at fiction. I have written most of a pilot for a TV show, a reality TV show proposal, a documentary proposal, and have worked as a writer and researcher on another documentary. I also started an additional screenplay and a novel, in addition to beginning  another instructional book. Consequently, I read more fiction and books on writing than I did basketball, strength & conditioning, or training books.

I have started several books on which I will not comment because I have not finished. Among those are Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise; Comprehensive Strength and Conditioning: Physical Preparation for Sports Performance; Thinking in Systems; A Primer; and Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension.

Regardless, this is my list for the year, more or less in order of recommendation.

Dexterity and Its Development

Bernstein is a big name in the motor learning and coaching literature lately, and this book is where the phrase “repetitions without repetition” originates. It is an academic book, and not a quick read, but it describes many of the ideas that have been re-emphasized in the last five years. It is a very good book and an important read for those with a deep, academic interest in motor learning, and probably less interesting for others.

The Thinking Body: A Study of The Balancing Forces of Dynamic Man

Mable Todd’s book is a classic, and I have taken notes on virtually every page. Maybe someone with a background in exercise physiology would be less impressed, but for me, with my interests and academic background, this is my type of book. For those interested in a scientific understanding of the development of movement, but who do not want to sift through a textbook, this book is recommended.

The Only Rule is it has to Work: Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Team

The book chronicled a season in an independent baseball league in Northern California from the viewpoint of two baseball writers who were hired to run the team. It is an interesting look, even at this level, at the way that players and “baseball people” view analytics compared to the analysts, and also how the analysts view the baseball people. It is well-written and a good story. It is a very easy read and there are some other nuggets on talent evaluation, team management, and other issues related to running an organization.

Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All In Your Head

I liked this book, and its most applicable for parents, coaches, and teachers of young children. I expected a more practical book, for whatever reason, but it is a science-based explanation of the importance of movement, emotion, and sensory experiences in learning. There is some good information, especially in the early chapters that cover the different ways of knowing.

That’s it for the books that I would recommend. The other books that I read vary, but none would receive a strong recommendation from me.

The Natural Method: Functional Exercises

This is a series of three books. These would be most appropriate for a physical education teacher looking to design classes based more on physical capacities than games. The book is old, but includes a number of pictures. The collection combines a number of good exercises, and some good ideas to support the exercises, and P.E. teachers especially will find use in the book, especially those concerned most with developing physical competence, which should be the use of physical education classes.

How to Support a Champion: The Art of Applying Science to the Elite Athlete

For whatever reason, I rarely like sports psychology books. This one was okay, and I would recommend it more than some others. As with any book, there are some nuggets of information that are worthwhile, but based on the number of recommendations, I guess that I was just underwhelmed.

Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning

I saw this book recommended over and over and finally read. It is okay, but I did not feel as though there was nothing new. For someone looking at an overview on recent research (last 10 years) into learning and teaching, it has value. For those invested in the topic, it may have value as a resource that has collected relevant information, but it does not present much new information that has not been written about elsewhere previously.

The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults

Again, a good collection of information, and some of the early chapters have some interesting neuroscience, but primarily a collection of information that is not new or surprising. For someone not well-read on the topic, or for someone looking for one resource that collects a lot of good information, it is a good book; for someone looking for more in-depth information or more solutions, I found it lacking.

The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction

I enjoyed Matthew B. Crawford’s other book, Shop Class for Soul Craft, more and recommend reading that one instead. This is a deep look at the philosophy of work and being. It is very dense. He is an interesting writer with an interesting viewpoint, but I found his first book easier to read and more actionable. For those looking for a bit more depth or for those interested in modern philosophy, I recommend this one.

The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports

Jeff Passan wrote a good book about the problem with elbow and shoulder injuries. For those who follow baseball, and especially youth baseball closely, none of the information is a surprise, although it remains disheartening. A fairly quick read, and a warning of sorts for parents of young baseball players, but not a ton of transfer for those outside baseball, and most inside baseball likely are aware of most of the content.

Chasing Perfection: A Behind the Scenes Look at the High Stakes Game of Creating an NBA Contender

I imagine this is written for a casual fan of basketball, which I am not. There was very little in the book that was new. For anyone more than a casual fan, or anyone who reads someone like Zach Lowe on a regular basis, I don’t know that there is too much to learn.

Beyond these, I read, and enjoyed, more fiction. I read two books by Jonas Jonasson (The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden, Hitman Anders and the Meaning of it All), which were very clever and I enjoyed the writing style. I also read The Sellout and Slumberland by Paul Beatty who is a great writer. Shine, Shine, Shine (Lydia Netzer) and Snow (Orphan Pamuk) were great as well.

By Brian McCormick, PhD
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League
Author, The 21st Century Basketball Practice and Fake Fundamentals

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