What I’ve been reading

by on December 27, 2013 at 7:24 am in Books, Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Margaret MacMillan, The War that Ended Peace: The Road to 1914.  Good even if you think, as I do, that you are sick of WWI books.

2. Hermione Lee, Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life.  This book made many UK “best of” lists.  It is subtle, like the author herself, and will prompt you to further reading or rereads, for instance I enjoyed The Gate of Angels right after this biography and soon will try Offshore.

3. Drew Daniel, 20 Jazz Funk Greats, in the 33 1/3 series.  On the Throbbing Gristle album of the same name, this superb book is one of the best and most instructive pieces of popular music criticism I have read, ever.  I recommend reading it while listening to the album, song by song.  Drew Daniel by the way is part of the group Matmos (interesting in their own right) and an English professor at Johns Hopkins.  He deserves something better than tenure.

4. Samuel Scheffler, Death & the Afterlife, with commentaries from other famous philosophers at the back.  The bottom line: through the careful use of thought experiments, we can infer that we care about the impersonal future more than we might think.  Scheffler is still getting better and deeper as a philosopher.  This Thomas Nagel review of the book is gated, but even the first few (ungated) paragraphs are worth reading.

5. Michael Avery and Danielle McLaughlin, The Federalist Society: How Conservatives Took the Law Back from Liberals.  Self-explanatory.

prior_approval December 27, 2013 at 8:09 am


One junket for judges at a time? ‘ABC News has learned that Scalia had instead was on the tennis court at one of the country’s top resorts, the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Bachelor Gulch, Colo., during a trip to a legal seminar sponsored by the Federalist Society.

Not only did Scalia’s absence appear to be a snub of the new chief justice, but according to some legal ethics experts, it also raised questions about the propriety of what critics call judicial junkets. “It’s unfortunate of course that what kept him from the swearing in was an activity that is itself of dubious ethical propriety,” said Stephen Gillers, a New York University law professor, who is a recognized scholar on legal ethics.

Justice Scalia spent two nights at the luxury resort lecturing at the legal seminar where ABC News also found him on the tennis court, heading out for a fly-fishing expedition, and socializing with members of the Federalist Society, the conservative activist group that paid for the expenses of his trip.’ http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/Investigation/story?id=1534260

Though maybe junket isn’t the right word in the case of apparent headliner Scalia – ‘According to the event’s invitation, obtained by ABC News, the Federalist Society promised members who attended the seminar an exclusive and “rare opportunity to spend time, both socially and intellectually” with Scalia.

Or is that one fundraiser at a time? ‘On Wednesday, New York Rep. Louise Slaughter wrote to Chief Justice John Roberts asking that he formally reprimand his colleague Justice Clarence Thomas for participating in the conservative Federalist Society’s annual fundraiser. Thomas’ appearance at the event, writes Slaughter, is a “clear violation of the ethical standards embodied in the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges.”


Canon 4(c) of the Code of Conduct forbids judges from personally participating in fundraising events. Although it is not legally binding upon Supreme Court justices, Roberts has previously written that it provides “a current and uniform source of guidance” for the members of the Court.

“Justice Thomas is among several members of the high court who’ve made a habit of flouting judicial ethics by headlining Federalist Society fundraisers,” said Pearson in a statement. “He gets away with it because the Court has exempted itself from the Code, but that doesn’t make it right.”’ http://www.msnbc.com/all/slap-the-wrist-clarence-thomas

Todd December 27, 2013 at 8:55 am

Isabel Coixet is developing a film of “The Bookshop”. It’s surprising that none of her other fictions have yet been adapted for film.

Donald Pretari December 27, 2013 at 12:34 pm

I couldn’t agree with you more about Samuel Scheffler, and I’m especially pleased that you read this book. Prof. Scheffler was a teacher of mine in college, and the Independent Study I did with Him on Rawls and Nozick was one of the better courses I had in college. In fact, most of My Favorite Courses were Independent Study.

If I’m not mistaken, I successfully synthesized Rawls & Nozick in My Paper for that course, and I threw in Gewirth on a whim.

Urstoff December 27, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Three major books on the outbreak of WWI came out this year (MacMillan, Clark, and Hastings); what gives, publishers? Is this an Armageddon/Deep Impact (or White House Down / Olympus Has Fallen) kind of thing?

Todd December 27, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Centennial of the war.

Urstoff December 27, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Ha, didn’t even think about that.

dirk December 27, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Any opinions on which is the best of the three?

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