What I’ve been reading and what has arrived in my pile

by on February 7, 2018 at 12:05 am in Books | Permalink

Jeremy Bailenson, Experience on Demand: What Virtual Reality Is, How It Works, and What It Can Do. Usually I am allergic to “general summary about some new topic in tech” books, but this one is quite good.

Michela Wrong, I Didn’t Do It For You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation, is in fact, as a number of you had suggested, probably the best book on Eritrea.

Matthew Engelke, How to Think Like an Anthropologist, is a very good introduction to exactly what the title promises.

Robert Wuthnow tries his hand at The Left Behind: Decline and Rage in Rural America.

Benn Steil, The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War.

Carl Zimmer, She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity.

1 stephan February 7, 2018 at 12:56 am

What about the new Pinker Book “Enlightenment Now”. Was that reviewed earlier? Did I miss it ?

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2 Pedro Cerrano February 7, 2018 at 1:57 am

I read Michela Wrong’s book on Eritrea several years ago. I am a novice on the area and it was an extremely readable book. After finishing, it put me in the mood for a mini-Africa kick at the library.

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3 GHQ February 7, 2018 at 2:02 am

Kindle version is priced higher than the hardcover of Matthew Engelke, How to Think Like an Anthropologist.
Obviously, the hardcover is a bargain, I should buy it (or, how not to think like an economist).
Bonus trivia: paper is made of atoms.

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4 dearieme February 7, 2018 at 2:46 pm

Thinking Like An Anthropologist is surely something to avoid.

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5 Ray Lopez February 7, 2018 at 3:12 am

The Marshall Plan cost about 100 B dollars in today’s money. By contrast, direct farm subsidies cost $20B a year, so every five years the US equals the “Marshall Plan” in cost.

Bonus trivia: I have been told by people who lived in Greece that Marshall Plan money went to the existing rich, who got richer.

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6 Ted Craig February 7, 2018 at 10:59 am

People say lots of things, Ray.

Also, “trivia.” You keep using this word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

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7 spencer February 7, 2018 at 11:21 am

I lived in Germany in the 1950s and the Marshall Plan did great thing there.

It was a key variable in the revival of Western Europe. But in the USA of today that would be viewed as a bad thing.

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8 PD Shaw February 7, 2018 at 11:33 am

You appear to be under the mistaken impression that the Marshall Plan was popular at the time.

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9 So Much For Subtlety February 7, 2018 at 3:45 am

So yet another book that blames the West for everything that has gone wrong in Africa and the Africans for nothing.

Did the West impose a murderous Marxist-Leninist government on Eritrea? Did they insist that Ethiopia, with its own murderous Marxist-Leninist government and then with its post-Marxist kleptocracy, fight with Eritrea? Did they insist that neither side adopts a sensible compromise on the border? Did the West insist that both sides should pay vastly more fighting over some piddling pieces of desert in dispute than they are worth? Did the West arm either side?

The answers to all those questions are No. They did not. The Soviets trained them. The Soviets armed them. The Soviets taught them to be murderers. If the West had its way Eritrea would be vastly better off being a quiet province of Ethiopia under a benign if corrupt King. The West’s advice and help has been rejected at every turn and yet the fashionable hard-core leftist media (yes, that would be the Financial Times) cannot stop itself blaming the West for everything. As if Africans are children who are powerless in the face of the West to make a single decision on their own. Eritrea is what the African friends of Western leftists have made of it. Nothing to do with the rest of the West.

Pathetic.

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10 Dick the Butcher February 7, 2018 at 8:10 am

The indigenous population already knew how to murder each other. The Reds simply provided them with commissars, Kalashnikovs, tanks, and RPG’s. .

You’re correct. Everything the liars write is a salvo in the war on the West.

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11 The Anti-Gnostic February 7, 2018 at 8:36 am

“[T]he border?”

Like they’re ethnically and culturally diverse or something? Can’t we all just get along?

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12 John Coyne February 7, 2018 at 10:00 am

I enjoyed the Michela Wrong as well.

Also, because I was late the the country-specific book thread and it’s now probably stale, I’d like to take this chance to mention my favorite Indonesia book which, suprisingly, didn’t come up in the earlier thread: Indonesian Destinies, by Theodore Friend

It is both a history of post-independence Indonesia and a collection of profiles of regular individual Indonesians the author befriended over the course of his many visits. Friend manages to both capture the sweep of history and convey deep affection for the regular people caught up in the swell.

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13 peri February 7, 2018 at 11:25 am

“… is in fact, as a number of you had suggested, probably the best book on Eritrea.”

Is it perhaps the only book on Eritrea? Because some of the Amazon reviews are less kind, and in rather more convincing detail.

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14 John Coyne February 7, 2018 at 2:01 pm

“Is it perhaps the only book on Eritrea?”

Dan Connell has written extensively about Eritrea as a first-hand witness to some of the more important events of Eritrean history of the last forty-odd years. See Building a New Nation, Against All Odds, and Conversations with Eritrean Political Prisoners

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15 peri February 8, 2018 at 11:48 am

Glad to know about them – thanks.

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16 Wonks Anonymous February 7, 2018 at 11:54 am

Quite modest of Tyler not to mention his own writing on the Marshall Plan:
http://www.gmu.edu/centers/publicchoice/faculty%20pages/Tyler/Marshall_Plan.pdf

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17 dearieme February 7, 2018 at 2:48 pm

Public Choice is all very well but I would prefer Public Chocolate.

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18 Edward Burke February 7, 2018 at 11:58 am

The appeal of Wuthnow’s sociological account of rural America (Princeton Univ. Pr. title–a small point offering its own explanatory power) is not lost on reviewers from NYU and Columbia, the Amazon page reveals, as the testimonies of other academics confirms (presumably, themselves residents of the DC-to-Boston Corridor).

Because so many journalists working today rely on sociological methodologies and narratives (almost exclusively, some cases suggest) to guide their work, I remain suspicious of any claim to “explanatory power” by any working sociologist (granted, I’ve not kept up with sociology as an academic discipline since undergrad days, and I’ve never been a statistician). That Wuthnow’s sociological account holds explanatory power for explanation-hungry urban elites conveys a sociological datum that limits the appeal Wuthnow’s book might otherwise hold. (Have to wonder whether any of Wuthnow’s informants were deeply impressed with the academic demeanor and the sociological sophistication of the roving sociologist.)

Why would the audience for Wuthnow’s book rely on his service as “cultural translator” to the exclusion of listening themselves to what rural Americans say for themselves? More evidence of the “retreat of the effete elites” in the US.

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19 Penis Lunch February 7, 2018 at 12:41 pm

If you have read the Wuthnow book can you give some perspective on his coverage of abortion?

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20 Roger Sweeny February 7, 2018 at 3:12 pm

You have the Carl Zimmer book now and I have to wait almost 4 months? Publishing is a crazy business.

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21 jorod February 7, 2018 at 9:27 pm

What rural America needs are more businesses. Everything else will follow. If the government doesn’t interfere.

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22 peri February 8, 2018 at 11:57 am

An outsider might be forgiven for thinking, from the peculiar* obsession with it, that what rural and small town America needs is more “healthcare.” I’m currently reading a book, that I came to from one of TC’s links, about Anchor Hocking and the domestic glass business, that Wall Street abruptly decreed should cease. One of the characters says (paraphrasing): “We don’t need a coffee shop or a theater, we need a f$#king billionaire to build us a factory.”

*Or not so peculiar, I suppose, it inevitably being so much easier to deal with something that is not actually a problem, versus something that is.

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23 Penis Lunch` February 8, 2018 at 3:00 pm

Have you visited a glass factory recently? The entire factory is automated to require only a handful of engineers to monitor the entire operation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7j1WI10wSA

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24 Penis Lunch February 8, 2018 at 2:36 pm

Have you visited a glass factory recently? The entire factory is automated to require only a handful of engineers to monitor the entire operation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7j1WI10wSA

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25 peri February 8, 2018 at 6:10 pm

Don’t think they’re making bottles and pyrex and tableware there …

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