Best of 2004: Books
Best Book of 2004: The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki. Along with Moneyball by Michael Lewis, and The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, The Wisdom of Crowds is the latest to attack conventional wisdom in an accessible way. Surowiecki argued very compellingly that groups of relatively independent and diverse individuals with well-aggregated information can make better decisions and are more accurate about matters of fact than the "experts". In fact, Surowiecki almost advocates distrusting experts entirely, a remarkably unconvential piece of advice.
Honorable Mentions: Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig. The book was read by people I admire for a collaborative audiobook project. Lessig writes with passion and humility about copyright law and digital rights management and other threats to our culture from government and business. He's a believer in copyright and the protections it affords, but he argues that the music and motion picture industries fundamentally misunderstand the nature of creativity and are acting extremely inconsistently with the tradition of using the past to create the future. Also: Gay Marriage by Jonathan Rauch, which had an interesting effect on my views of heterosexual marriage; The Corporation by Joel Bakan. I covered the book for One Book One Vancouver 2004 and interviewed the author.
I didn't read a lot of books published in 2004, but the ones I read were excellent.