1. David Graeber, The Utopia of Rules: on Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy. Don’t judge Graeber by his mistakes or by how he responds (doesn’t respond) to criticism. This one is still more interesting to read than most books. In fact, most of us quite like bureaucracy.
2. John Gray, The Soul of the Marionette: A Short Inquiry into Human Freedom. The usual dose of pessimism, with a choppier argument and a slightly larger typeface than usual. It induced me to order Mr. Weston’s Good Wine. In any case, I’ll still buy the next one, engaging with John Gray if nothing else has become a ritual. I once predicted to Jim Buchanan that John would end up converting to Catholicism, but I still am waiting.
3. Juan Goytisolo. I’ve tried to read a bunch of his books, so far they all bore me, in both Spanish and English, the fault is probably mine. Various sophisticates suggest he is great, should I keep on trying?
4. Oliver Burkeman, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking. He is one of the best non-fiction essay writers, and he remains oddly underrated in the United States. It is no mistake to simply buy his books sight unseen. I think of this book as “happiness for grumps.”
5. Harry G. Gelber, The Dragon and the Foreign Devils: China and the World, 1100 B.C. to the Present. No, this isn’t the best Chinese history book. But it is the one most written in a way that you will remember its contents, and in this context that is worth a lot.