What I’ve been reading

1. Yiyun Li, Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life.  One of the few books that have a perfect title.  These are a cross between short stories, ruminations, and essays.  Yiyun Li is from China, yet she refuses to write in Chinese or to have her work published in Chinese.  At times you wonder what is really in here, but her voice and vision stick with you.

2. Yaroslav Trofimov, The Siege of Mecca: The 1979 Uprising at Islam’s Holy Shrine.  Compulsively readable, and also excellent background on both the Gulf region and the Saudi-Iran conflict.

3. William R. Cline, The Right Balance for Banks: Theory and Evidence on Optimal Capital Requirements.  Not for the unconverted, but a good guide for anyone with a prior interest.  Capital requirements should be higher, but it is wrong to think the American economy currently has “too much finance.”

4. Regulating Wall Street: Choice Act vs. Dodd-Frank, published by NYU, with many notable contributors including multiple essays by Lawrence J. White.  Balanced, judicious, the best look so far at pending reforms to banking and finance.

5. Slavoj Žižek, The Fragile Absolute: Or Why is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting For?  A lot of this book is only so-so, but the Preface — “A Glance into the Archives of Islam” — counts as one of the better works I’ve read this year, even though it comes in at only 27 pp.  It covers Hagar and Sarah, how Muslim and Christian understandings of the Abraham story differ, and the intellectual sources of institutional problems with Islam and political order.  That’s the secret to reading SZ, not to let yourself get distracted by the bad stuff or empty pages.  Amongst those who do not revere him, he remains underrated.

Arrived in my pile is the exhaustive and comprehensive Edward N. Wolff, A Century of Wealth in America.  This is likely to prove an important work for many researchers.

What also appears valuable, but I cannot read right now, is Kevin R. Brine and Mary Poovey, Finance in America: An Unfinished Story.


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