What I’ve been reading

1. Andrew Mango, Ataturk: The Biography of the Founder of Modern Turkey.  A pleasurable read and full of information.  For me it was most useful as a foreign policy history of Turkey, more than a biography of Ataturk himself.  One implication is that Turkey won’t be making too many more concessions on the global stage, or for that matter with the Kurds.

2. Virginia Woolf, On Being Ill.  This is insanely good, and I can’t believe I had never read it before.  It’s super short, but a thrilling reading experience at every word.  It’s in the “jaw hits floor” category.

3. Thomas P. Hughes, Networks of Power: Electrification in Western Society, 1880-1930.  The best history of electrical infrastructure which I have found.  It is very good on explaining the difficulties in organizing an entire economy around electricity and why it took so long.  It is also fascinating on why the English lagged behind the Germans and Americans in the transition to electricity, in large part because of local interest group politics.  It sheds light on the “mystery” of British decline.  A long, nerdy book, with unintelligible Cooper Union-like diagrams, I loved it.  It’s one of mankind’s most stirring stories.

4. Owen Hatherley, A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain.  I didn’t enjoy this book, so I didn’t read much of it, but I thought it was splendid in conception.  It requires some working knowledge of British urban landscapes and I, for one, have never been to Sheffield.  It’s a smartly written conceptual survey of the empty buildings that have come to populate British cities and I am sorry that I wasn’t up to it.


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