What I’ve been reading

So much has happened in the world lately that I've neglected to keep you posted on which books have crossed the threshold.  Here are a few of the more memorable ones:

1. R.W. Johnson, South Africa's Brave New World.  In the U.S. there is only the Kindle edition, but I ordered a British edition through the library.  This is a comprehensive political history of the country since the fall of apartheid; I thought I wouldn't finish it but I did.

2. Juan Goytisolo, Juan the Landless.  It's odd that such a splendid author is read so little in this country.  Beware, though — this one lies in the territory somewhere between Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. It is very powerful for those inclined in this direction and now I can see why his name in mentioned in connection with a Nobel Prize.

3. Steven C.A. Pincus, 1688: The First Modern Revolution.  A clearly written, well-argued book, which on top of everything else is better than most books on the Industrial Revolution, hardly its main area of focus.  The main point is that the Glorious Revolution was more radical than is commonly portrayed and it represented the culmination of a struggle between two very different kinds of modernizing forces in England.  Chapter 12 — "Revolution in Political Economy" — is a gem.  This is a very impressive book.

4. Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.

5. Zachary Mason, The Lost Books of the Odyssey: A Novel.  The premise — an alternative literary version of Homer's story — sounds contrived but I was surprised at how good and how moving this was.  Here is one good review of the book.

6. Kent Annan, Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle: Living Fully, Loving Dangerously.  What is it like to be a Christian missionary in Haiti?  This is a surprisingly insightful and moving book, one of the best Haiti books but of general interest as well.  Most of all, it's about the author's struggle with himself.  Chris Blattman likes it too, here is his review.


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