What I’ve been reading

by on August 30, 2009 at 7:36 am in Books | Permalink

1. The Idea of Justice, by Amartya Sen.  This book is 415 pages of intelligent Sen-isms.  Key themes are the importance of public reasoning, the plurality of reasons, and the possibility of an impartial approach to major ethical questions.  We also learn that in 1938 Wittgenstein was determined to go to Vienna and give Hitler a stern lecture; he had to be talked out of it.  At the end of it all I was more rather than less confused about what impartiality means.  I don't blame that on Sen, but that says more about the book than any particular comment which I might make.  It's a very good introduction to Sen's ethical thought but it's ultimately the Wittgenstein anecdote which sticks with me.

2. Await Your Reply, by Dan Chaon.  This tripartite mystery about reinventing yourself has received rave reviews and Amazon readers are strongly positive.  I read about one hundred pages and thought it was ably done but of no real substance.

3. How to Make Love to Adrian Colesberry, by Adrian Colesberry.  My god this book is sick and I feel bad even telling you about it.  It's exactly what the title promises and it has no business being discussed on a family-oriented economics blog.  The language is explicit and the content is disgusting.  It's also brilliant, funny, and unique.  How often do I see a new approach to what a book can be?  Once you get past the language and topic, it's actually about narcissism, why empathy is scarce, how we form self-images, how men classify and remember their pasts, and why management fad books are absurd.

4. A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster, by Rebecca Solnit.  For many people
this may be a good book but I could not read far into it.  The main
thesis is quite interesting, namely that people forms immediate islands
of community and cooperation during very trying times.  The examples
include the San Francisco and Mexico City earthquakes, 9/11, and
Hurricane Katrina.  But I found the ratio of information to page was
too low for my admittedly extreme tastes.

Here is an interesting bit on how emergencies inspire crowd cooperation, not panic.

5. Das Museum der Unschuld, by Orhan Pamuk.  That's The Museum of Innocence in English, out in late October, but I found the German-language version in Stockholm.  It's in his "Istanbul nostalgic" mode rather than his "I'm trying to be like Italo Calvino" style and it promises to be one of his very best books.

Matt August 30, 2009 at 11:50 am

How does Sen source the Wittgenstein story? I ask because I’ve never heard it. It’s not in the highly praised biography by Monk, for example, or any of the others I’ve seen (or in the letters I’ve seen.) You can sort of imagine it happening, but I wonder if it’s not more imagined than real.

anon August 30, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Did you like Sen’s The Argumentative Indian?

And how many languages do you read/speak Tyler?

Jacqueline August 30, 2009 at 9:12 pm

“…has no business being discussed on a family-oriented economics blog”

That reminds me, did you ever get around to starting that secret steamy erotic detailed macroeconomic forecasts blog? ;)

רפידות גובה September 1, 2009 at 8:38 am

I read markets as “you accept what I offer, and I accept what you offer”. What we have to offer is a separate issue. If one of us bargains from a position of much greater strength, that’s not the market. It’s forcible propriety, for better or for worse.

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