1. Sarah Binder and Mark Spindel, The Myth of Independence: How Congress Governs the Federal Reserve. I’ve only been reading the title of this one, as it came in the door just before I left for China. But I like it already, and even if this book were nothing more than its title it still would be better than much of what is written on monetary policy.
2. Frédéric Dard, The Executioner Weeps. French noir, full of cheap tricks, suspenseful, fun.
3. Robert Bickers, Out of China: How the Chinese Ended the Era of Western Domination. A very good book, substantive, readable, and full of information not readily available elsewhere. Yet the title is misleading, as most of the book, including the best parts, covers the first half of the twentieth century and in particular the Western presence and control in China (not quite domination). Later on, the author says plenty about the Cultural Revolution, but doesn’t seem to want to actually condemn it.
4. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment, Oliver Ready translation. I hadn’t read this one since high school, so thought it was worth another try. I can’t say I find Raskolnikov to be a convincing criminal, or a convincing character at all. Maybe this story is better read as man’s struggle for freedom, and his inability to obtain it, due to the social processing of all his actions, rather than as a novel of crime per se. I liked it, I didn’t love it. If it were published today, it would not receive rave reviews.
5. Slavoy Žižek, The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology. While he is overrated by his trendy partisans, he is underrated by almost everyone else. Might this be his best book? Early Žižek is the best Žižek. We have not escaped from the spectre of the Cartesian self, and what might a truly emancipatory political project have to look like? 2017 is not the worst time to be reading this book. Here is one probably not very helpful review. Usually the best five pages in a Žižek book are very very good, but in this case it is thirty or more.
And I very much enjoyed this sentence and the few pages of exposition that followed: “The notion that best illustrates the necessity of a ‘false’ (‘unilateral’, ‘abstract’) choice in the course of a dialectical process is that of ‘stubborn attachment’: this thoroughly ambiguous notion is operative throughout Hegel’s Phenomenology.”