Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy. I am a big fan of what Acemoglu is trying to do, namely integrating history with an economic account of the rise of the West. But this doesn’t work as a book. There is too much thicket and they should have been forced to cut the equations.
George Lodge and Craig Wilson, A Corporate Solution to Global Poverty: How Multinationals can Help the Poor and Invigorate Their Own Legitimacy. The title is wonderful, but this boils down to a call for a World Development Corporation, a’ la Felix Rohatyn but on a global scale. Underargued.
Leonard Susskind, The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design. He makes bold claims: for instance Everett’s Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics might be identical to the multiverse of some versions of inflation theory. He seems to be making all this up, but I applaud the boldness. I wouldn’t have understood the truth anyway.
Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomena. What is left to be said? Our beliefs are endogenous, so how can we trust our beliefs? We can’t.
Kyle Gann, Music Downtown, Writings from the Village Voice. I loved this book, but you won’t. For people who think Philip Glass and Robert Ashley are geniuses.
Tom Wolfe, I am Charlotte Simmons. His first mega-novel to fail. None of the dialogue rings true and the author comes across as a dirty old man.
Jose Saramago, Blindness. The Death of Ricardo Reis may be his deepest book, but this is the one most guaranteed to impress. To appreciate him, you have to get over the fact that most of his novels are boring stinkers.
Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None. Does anyone find this suspenseful? I didn’t. But I loved the film when I was ten.
John Banville, The Sea. No way did this dirge deserve the Booker Prize. That pick was strictly a lifetime achievement award.
Stephen King, Song of Susannah. I adore I-IV of The Dark Tower series, but by this point the plot has fallen apart.
Robert Wuthnow, American Mythos: Why Our Best Efforts to Be a Better Nation Fall Short. He is a remarkably powerful mind, but in this book he is spinning his wheels.
Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point. I reread this one, just to remind myself how beautifully constructed it is.
Toni Morrison, Beloved. I used to hate this book, but now I see the appeal. Read Part Three first and work backwards.
Isaac Asimov, The Naked Sun. Excellent. I had never read this one, and don’t forget that his robot stories are commentary on Judaic theology and law.