What I’ve been reading

by on October 31, 2009 at 8:12 am in Books | Permalink

1. The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy, by Bill Simmons.  Could this be the best 736 pp. book on the diversity of human talent ever written?  It starts slow but eventually picks up steam.  It's also devastatingly funny.  That said, if you don't know a lot about the NBA, it is incomprehensible.  (I could not, for instance, understand the section of Dolph Schayes because that was not the NBA I know.)  In the historical pantheon, he picks David Thompson, Bernard King, and Allen Iverson as underrated.  The 1986 Boston Celtics are the best team ever, he argues.  And so on.  I found this more riveting than almost anything else I read and yes I think it is very much a work of social science, albeit in hermetic form.

2. Paul Auster, Invisible.  Auster is back in top form.  The French, of course, think of him as a deeper writer than do most of his American critics and readers.  Is he more like Hitchcock (also appreciated early on by the French) or more like Starsky and Hutch?  Read this book and decide.  As usual, the truth lies somewhere in between.

3. Delirious New Orleans: Manifesto for an Extraordinary American City, by Steven Verderber.  An excellent photo-essay on all the marvelous signs and small architectural wonders trashed by Hurricane Katrina.  This book goes micro, not macro, and it catalogs a now-disappearing America from the age which I find most precious in our history.

4. Derrida, an Egyptian, by Peter Sloterdijk.  I'm spending some of next summer in Berlin so I've been trying to catch up on what they're reading over there.  (Any recommendations?)  On every page it feels as if Sloterdijk is intelligent, yet I came away empty-handed and feeling like a frustrated Robin Hanson ("why doesn't he just come right out and say what he means?).  No way should you buy the hardcover for $45.00, in return for 73 pp. of actual text.  Ultimately he's writing about the boxes, not writing about the world.  Yet at least three Germans loved it.

Ralph October 31, 2009 at 9:09 am

I am also partial to that ’86 team, but I think that discounts the unique defensive abilities of Russell. Never has been another player with his kind of impact on the defensive end. No to Iverson as underrated. How did he rate Oscar Robertson? There is the guy who has been forgotten and underrated.

LemmusLemmus October 31, 2009 at 10:26 am

You want to read what they read in Berlin? Don’t read Sloterdijk, read this.

Stephan October 31, 2009 at 10:55 am

For a start I would suggest to read about the holy grail of Germany: “Social Market Economy”. With “Ludwig Erhard: A Biography” by Mierzejewski you will be the most wanted to talk to on every dinner party. Then “Rebuilding Germany: …” by van Hook. For a critical assessment “The German Economy: …” by Horst Siebert.

Nowadays people are looking again to the Freiburg School (Eucken, Roepke, …) and to our gold old friend Karl Marx. With the downturn demand for “Kapital” surged ;-) Marx is definitely important because you’ll encounter with probability 1 lengthy arguments of the sort “Marx was correct. Capitalism is ongoing crisis. The falling rate of profit.” Lot’s of fun.

More modern popular thinkers:
Niklas Luhman (The man who understands everything in Social Sciences.)
Gunnar Heinsohn (Economist who knows for sure that all others are idiots.)
Heiner Muehlmann (Lehmann’s fall was a conspiracy by the US against us.)
Slavoj Zizek (Sloterdijk League)
Axel Honneth (Sloterdijk League)

Unfortunately every German philosopher has the aspiration to beat Hegel by cooking up something even more complicated, at least by writing completely obscure. Welcome to Germany ;-)

Jonathan October 31, 2009 at 11:03 am

You’re coming to Berlin? Great, hope to see
you at the Humboldt-University. We’re in need
of some more heterodox economists here.

To read for Berlin: http://berlin.unlike.net/

Hope to see you in berlin.

burger flipper October 31, 2009 at 12:13 pm

You should like it. It’s the only other place than this blog where I’ve seen Jordan’s jump shot called flat— though he’s talking about a specific playoff run when his legs were shot.

AB October 31, 2009 at 12:42 pm

For Berlin: Brian Ladd’s The Ghosts of Berlin. Maybe not the most earth-shattering book for someone who knows 20th century history well, but it greatly enriched my walks around the city.

hilkit October 31, 2009 at 7:23 pm

The Simmons love makes me lose a lost of respect for you. He is the kind of qualitative emotion driven statements without any statistical/sabermetric backup. I haven’t read the book so maybe he wasn’t that bad in this one but even in cases of statistics he uses them to reinforce his own beliefs.

josh October 31, 2009 at 8:11 pm

Reggie Miller is underrated.

hilkit November 1, 2009 at 4:46 pm

@vot

I’m familiar with Simmons. He frequently and frankly almost continuously writes opinions as arguments he tries to prove true (which is true of columnists in many different fields). You don’t have to look any further than his views on Isaiah Thomas, his half baked ‘Ewing Theory’ or his trade value rankings of nba players to see that he doesn’t simply just put out worthless dribble about reality tv and live blogs, but that he also attempts to make observations/arguments supported by facts/statistics.

He’s certainly largely an entertainment columnist, but he also tries to pen somewhat serious sports analysis. Just because he has a throwaway line about heidi montag that you find funny doesn’t mean that his NBA hall of fame ‘parthenon’ should be the given the same weight as the type of discussions about the say the baseball hall of fame at baseball think factory or by bill james.

Bill Mill November 2, 2009 at 11:10 am

I’d love to hear why you call Simmons a “scientist”. I get social critic, social thinker, but why is he a social “scientist”?

fishbane November 3, 2009 at 10:06 am

Auster is not a “deep” author. He is a wonderful wordsmith, and I enjoy him greatly as such, much in the same way that I greatly enjoy Pynchon, but am not looking for new insights into the lives of Mason & Dixon.

This also gives me an excuse to say that I see him at our local grocery store, which leads to a funny sort of recurring non-interaction interaction – he’s noticed that I notice him, and I have to guess that he knows I’ve recognized him. At the same time, I don’t have any useful reason to approach him; I’m not going to do the “like your books, sign my shirt?” game. So we both have ended in a pattern of silent acknowledgment, and carry on with produce shopping.

At least, I think that’s what’s happening. Maybe he thinks I’m disturbed.

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