What I’ve been reading

by on April 17, 2013 at 7:22 am in Books | Permalink

1. Gianni Toniolo (editor), The Oxford Handbook of The Italian Economy Since Unification.  If you want a 742-page, $142.50 volume on the Italian economy, written by highly intelligent and well-informed experts, but with some repetition, this is indeed the place to go.  And that was exactly what I wanted.

2. Michael Suk-Young Chwe, Jane Austen, Game Theorist.  I remain a Chwe fan, even though I appreciate Jane Austen less than do most other readers of intelligent fiction.

3. Toni Strubell, editor, What Catalans Want: Could Catalonia be Europe’s Next State?  I loved this book.  First, it is full of information about what Catalans want.  Second, no one person is allowed to go on for too long.  The book offers fascinating data — in the Hansonian manner — about “the logic of complaint,” namely what many people consider to be legitimate grievances and also about how people frame some of the emotional deficits in their public lives.  The photos of the contributors reflect something common, though I can’t quite put my finger on it.  I’m going to keep this one and reread many parts of it.

4. Willy Hendriks, Move First, Think Later: Sense and Nonsense in Improving Your Chess.  To me, more interesting as behavioral economics and as epistemology than as a chess book.  The author claims that most chess advice is bad, and that we figure out positional strategies only by trying concrete moves, not by applying general principles.  You do need chess knowledge to profit from the book, but if you can manage it, it is one of the best books on how to think that I know.

5. Rebecca Miller, Jacob’s Folly.  Finally a fiction book this year I am truly excited about, lots of fun but deep too.  Here is a Bookslut interview with the author.

In the last week, the quality of my reading has been above average.  I’ve also been enjoying the Feenstra and Taylor international trade text.  This book is very well-written, as are the contributions of Krugman, but overall that field has some of the worst writing in all of economics and also many of the most pointless (yet still well-cited) theory pieces.

Michael G Heller April 17, 2013 at 7:39 am

#3 I see what you mean about the photos. Aside from sharing the same photographer I think they have culture in common (you know how dogs begin to look like their owners, similarly people adopt a certain look & posture).

Bill Benzon April 17, 2013 at 10:52 am

#2 I thought Rational Ritual was a brilliant piece of work. But I’m not sure what game theory has to tell us about fiction. Why the doubts? Because the characters in fiction are not autonomous individuals, though they may appear to be so. They are creatures of the author. The issue, it seems to me, would be whether or not, and if so how, readers use their “game theory modules” in reading fiction.

Ray Lopez April 17, 2013 at 12:08 pm

@#4 – positional moves in chess are usually done by masters and experts. For class A-E players like me, it’s rare to make a positional move aside from the usual stuff like prophylactic moves and the routine exchange sac or piece for two pawns sac. Thus this book, I suspect, is not for anybody but master players like TC. One author however that kind of reminds me of what Hendriks is doing (who BTW I intend to buy and read–since he appears to be worthy of me doing so) is Australian master CJ Purdy, who always counseled looking at a position with a fresh pair of eyes, since often there is a defensive resource in a seemingly ‘lost’ position (since often chess positions change radically move to move, especially if a wrong move is made).

Nigel April 17, 2013 at 12:55 pm

“…that was exactly what I wanted.”

What, 742-pages and a cost of exactly $142.50 ?

You have very specific wants.

freethinker April 17, 2013 at 11:02 pm

“…that was exactly what I wanted.” So Tyler would have been miserable if the book was priced $42.50 rather than $142.50

FC April 18, 2013 at 12:19 am

“…that was exactly what I wanted.”

So Sunstein and Thaler nudged him to read it.

Tom April 17, 2013 at 9:54 pm

I expected to see The World’s Best Street Food: where to find it and how to make it by Tom Parker Bowles(and others) on this list.

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