What I’ve been reading

I've been trying not to read too much during my stay in Berlin, as an experiment in information processing and to see how it changes my thoughts.  Still, I've been reading a bit and here are a few of the books:

1. Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy, by Eric D. Weitz.  A bit stolid, but a good general overview of an era I very much would like to be able to visit.  That said, deflation and fascist political movements make for an obviously nasty combination.

2. My Name is Charles Saatchi and I am an Artoholic, an interview with Charles Saatchi.  Entertaining throughout, plus you can read it in a few minutes time.  This is the sort of book Felix Salmon would blog.  Saatchi claims that Pollock, Warhol, Judd, and Hirst are the four artists from recent times who will pass into history as the immortals.  The others will be swept away.

3. The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry, and Invention, by William Rosen.  This is a popular treatment of some of the themes in Jack Goldstone's excellent work on engineering culture in England.  I don't think this book has anything fundamentally new, but about half of it I found to be worthwhile reading.  The other half is OK summaries of various economic theories.

4. William Voegeli, Never Enough: America's Limitless Welfare State.  Voegeli has a good basic point, namely that a) the welfare state is here to stay, and b) we need to set limits to it.  At some point the book runs into diminishing returns.  Arnold Kling wrote a good review of the book, plus he had lunch with the author.

5. Herta Müller, assorted.  When she won the Nobel Prize last year, I was skeptical.  In Berlin I've been reading her work, much of which is set in Berlin, and I like it.  It helps if you have a connection to those who have left formerly communist countries.  In English, I suggest The Land of Green Plums as a starting point.

6. Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses.  This one is a re-read, as I will teach it next spring in Law and Literature and I am studying it well in advance.  This is Rushdie's most significant achievement and one of the truly excellent novels of the last thirty years.  It's not an easy read, but worth the commitment if you haven't already done so.  Sadly, this book seems to have fallen into a commercial black hole; you can't even get it on Kindle.


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