What I’ve been reading

1. Sevket Pamuk, Uneven Centuries: Economic Development of Turkey since 1820.  The best economic history of Turkey I know, it comes with strong recommendations from Daron Acemoglu and Dani Rodrik.  Not an engaging read, but a useful survey.

2. Nell Dunn, Talking to Women.  Interviews with British (and Irish) women, circa 1964, remarkably frank and open, “witty, anarchic, and sexually frank.”  Strongly recommended, is it possible that the quality of discourse on these matters has not much advanced or even declined?

3. Charles Allen, Coromandel: A Personal History of South India.  “I have called this book Coromandel chiefly for sentimental reasons.  I first became aware of that sonorous word as a fifteen-year-old schoolboy exiled in England.  Coromandel! was the title of the third in a series of Boy’s Own-style adventure stories set in India written by John Masters, an ex-Indian Army officer turned popular novelist.  It was all about a West Country lad who sails to India with a map to find the legendary Coromandel and make his fortune.  I reread it recently and found it not half as good as I thought it was — but the magic of that word Coromandel has always stayed with me, as the very essence of South India in all its elusiveness and allure.  I’m not alone in thinking this.”

4. Sally Rooney, Normal People.  A novel, they’re not, Irish, recommended.

Louise I. Shelley, Dark Commerce: How a New Illicit Economy is Threatening Our Future, is a useful survey of varying kinds of black and dark markets.

M. Todd Henderson, Mental State, “When conservative law professor Alex Johnson is found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at his house in Chicago, everyone thinks it is suicide.  Everyone except his brother, Royce, an FBI agent.”

Kimberly Clausing, Open: The Progressive Case for Free Trade, Immigration, and Global Capital delivers exactly what its subtitle promises.

Jeffrey Lane, The Digital Street, is an interesting and original urban ethnography of how digitalized media, and the recording of street interactions, affect gang norms and patterns of violence.


I like Kimberly Clausing's work because she can take complicated topics on economics and politics and make them in to something easy to read, and easier to understand.

Free trade is quite simple, you can prove it using a simple inputs/outputs table as is done in Econ 101 textbooks; it's no more complicated than algebra is. Politics is subjective, and making politics simpler is somewhat dishonest.

Bonus trivia: Duterte admits to smoking pot, supposedly said 'in jest' but I doubt it; oh the irony! The irony reminds me years ago of Robert Bauman, a Republican congressman from Maryland from 1973 to 1981 who was consistently 'anti-gay' in politics until he was ousted for being a closet homosexual; ironically Robert Bauman sired issue in the form of a son named Ted. Is that irony or hypocrisy or just advocacy? All of the above?

Mental State: the novel as a platform for political and social commentary isn't new, but Henderson seems to have carved a path for a whole new genre of novels that will capitalize on right-wing stubborn attachments. By the way, the author is a law professor at the Univ. of Chicago, known for racially-charged posts on Twitter relating to immigrants and who referred to Justice Sotomayor as a second-rate intellect who got on the Court because of her "Latinaness". It seems that Henderson has an ax to grind, and an audience yearning for affirmation of their views.

Hey Rayward, it seems like you have an ax to grind. "Racially charged" is just your way of saying he mentioned things about race that you don't like or agree with. I've seen Sotomayor's comments, she is a second rate intellect. And you don't think Obama was above appointing someone based at least in part on race? Give me a break.

Also, I've read Mental State, it's excellent book.

With respect to recommendations like #1, where you tell us that some type of relatively uncommon work is the best version of that type of uncommon work you know, it would be helpful if you explain why your meta-analysis of that uncommon work is a reliable recommendation. Take this specific example - Turkish economic history. Have you given your readers any reason to think that you have a good grasp on the relevant historiography? How many other works of Turkish economic history have you read? Have you ever taught Turkish economic history? My view, and maybe others disagree, is that implying mastery of esoteric subjects without showing some minimal evidence of that mastery telegraphs bullshit and unreliability. Its a boy-who-cried-wolf phenomenon and it negatively colors my view of the trustworthiness of all of your opinions.

#3. Thanks for listing this. I hadn't heard of it, and histories of South India are oddly rare. (This reminds me: "A Children's History of India" by Subhadra Sen Gupta, though obviously for kids, is quite good.)

I love the idea of "Royce" as a first name. He'd go through life being told "That's the way it rolls, Royce".

'referred to Justice Sotomayor as a second-rate intellect who got on the Court because of her "Latinaness"': but is it true?

How many pages is the Irish novel? The amazon listing does not say.

288 or 266 pages depending where you look.

I would rather you listed government failures, especially how they aid and abet gang recruitment with their welfare state.

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