What I’ve been reading
1. Identity Economics: How Our Identities Shape our Work, Wages, and Well-Being, by George Akerlof and Rachel Kranton. There's a general question of how satisfying largely non-empirical treatments of this topic can be, but still the original papers behind this popular book are seminal.
2. Paul Collier, The Plundered Planet: Why We Must — and How We Can — Manage Nature for Global Prosperity. The book is not due out until May, yet I have a review copy. I admired Collier's essay on the ethical dimension of global warming, and I loved his The Bottom Billion, but I struggled to find a meaty part of this book.
3. Joan Schenkar, The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith. I can't recall having read a more sprawling, messy, obsessive, and personal biography than this one. Here's a typical bit: "Still, this fan, who knew all about cats, was allowed to select a seal-point Siamese kitten for Pat, and he and his aunt sometimes looked after Pat's cats on her trips away. One night — the circumstances were complicated and involved a fight with current lover, Jacqui — Pat ended up sleeping in the aunt's bed, where, for once, Pat herself was on the receiving end of an unwelcome sexual advance."
I don't think I can read it through to the end, but still I wish to issue a yelp of approval. By the way, she kept 300 snails as pets. Read the first Amazon review. This biography did cause me to order more of her work, namely the first novel, with the lesbian love story. Here is an NYT review of the book, which is in any case unique and revelatory.
I've been reading, and putting down, lots of other books. I've also been reading the complete letters of van Gogh, for a longer review. They are splendid.