What I’ve been reading

1. Brian Boyd, On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction.  If you've read Geoffrey Miller, Karen Dissanayake, Denis Dutton, and Comeuppance, this is the next book in line.  It's well-written and intelligent, but also a little underwhelming.  The main point is that the arts are an extension of the play instinct.  Blog audiences, who expect rapid delivery of the main points, may be especially frustrated.

2. Richard Goldthwaite, The Economy of Renaissance Florence.  Dull for some, definitive for others.  If the thesis about commerce sounds a little late to the party, it is only because of Goldthwaite's own previous work.

3. John Reader, The Potato: A History of the Propitious Esculent.  Not as good as his excellent book on  Africa, but I liked the sections on potatoes in the Incan empire.  This book could have been great, it isn't, but it is still above average.

4. Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2 a Day, by Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford, and Orlanda Ruthven.  A good overview of how the world's poor intersect with financial institutions at the micro level.

5. Twenty Thousand Roads: The Ballad of Gram Parsons and His Cosmic American Music, by David N. Meyer.  A serious and excellent book, noting that every now and then the reader is hit by a strange sentence like: "Of course the temptation to get all bourgeois on Gram's a** is irresistible."  Meyer underrates the album Burrito Deluxe, however.


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