What I’ve been reading
1. The New Testament, translated by David Bentley Hart, Yale University Press. I’ve spent a good bit of time with this book, and if you own and read a few New Testaments, this should be one of them. It is the most accurate translation conceptually and philosophically, taking care to render the Greek of that period as faithfully as possible. It doesn’t try to make the text “read nice,” nor does it make all of the books sound the same. Of course, with any Bible translation you care both about a) what the authors really meant, and b) what other readers of the Bible thought they were imbibing. By the very nature of its virtues, this volume is weak on b) precisely because it is strong on a), and thus it probably should not be your first translation. Still, if you are tempted, this is more and better than “just another New Testament.”
2. Richard McGregor, Asia’s Reckoning: China, Japan, and the Fate of U.S. Power in the Pacific Century. I am sick of books on these topics, because they tend to repeat the same old same old. This one has fresh content on almost every page, and it is especially strong on explaining how the revisionist history debates in China and Japan fit into domestic politics and also foreign policy.
3. Barry Hatton, The Portuguese: A Modern History. “Portugal largely missed the Enlightenment.” This is the best introduction I know to that charming country. In 1986, Portugal had only 123 miles of highway. It had not occurred to me, by the way, that the 1974 coup was the first Western European revolution since 1848, unless you count the Nazis. Here is a picture showing Portugal as an Atlantic rather than Mediterranean economy. Explanation here.
4. Nils Karlson, Statecraft and Liberal Reform in Advanced Democracies. How did liberal reforms happen in Australia and Sweden? This book tells you about the world, rather than the theory or the taxonomy. There should be many more books of this sort, a study in actual public choice.
Arrived in my pile is:
Barry Eichengreen, Arnaud Mehl, and Livia Chitu, How Global Currencies Work: Past, Present, and Future.
For economic historians I can recommend Bruce M.S. Campbell, The Great Transition: Climate, Disease and Society in the Late-Medieval World.