1. Jordan Mechner, The Making of Prince of Persia: Journals 1985-1993. A memoir and game development journal from a game developer. The content is foreign to me, but this is one of the most beautiful and artistic books I ever have seen and I suspect some of you will find the narrative gripping. A product of Stripe Press — “Ideas for Progress.”
2. Jeffrey D. Sachs, The Ages of Globalization: Geography, Technology, and Institutions. This book is a series of lectures, based on Sachs’s earlier work on economic geography and development, yet somehow with a vaguely Yuval Harari sort of glow. Some parts are a good introduction to the earlier work of Sachs, other parts are pitched a bit too low or too generally. It is strange to see chapter subheadings such as “Thalassocracy and Tellurocracy.” As an economist, I still maintain that Sachs is considerably underrated.
3. Susanna Clarke, Piranesi. Yes this is a work of fiction. Clarke of course wrote Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, a very long novel that I have read twice, an odd mix of fantasy, science, magic, and Enlightenment esotericism, the only novel I know with fascinating footnotes. I was thrilled to receive this one, and on p.51 I am still excited.
4. Mieko Kawakami, Breasts and Eggs. The hot new novel from Japan, it comes with a Murakami rave endorsement. To me it seems like “ordinary feminism” (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and so far it is a bore. If it doesn’t get better soon, I’ll write it off as a “mood affiliation text,” not that there’s anything wrong with that. It probably makes most sense read in a very specific cultural context.
5. Douglas Boin, Alaric the Goth: An Outsider’s History of the Fall of Rome is a fun look at one part of ancient history through alternative eyes. I always wonder what to trust about this era other than primary sources, and if you can’t understand them or grasp them intelligibly maybe that is itself the correct inference, namely that we have no idea what the **** went on back then. Still, as imaginary reconstructions go, this is one that ought to be done and now it is.
6. Ryan Patrick Hanley, Our Great Purpose: Adam Smith on Living a Better Life. Smith as a practical moral philosopher, this short volume pulls out the side of Smith closest to Montaigne and the Stoics. You can ponder Smithian sentences such as “The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life, seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another.”
7. Sonia Jaffe, Robert Minton, Casey B. Mulligan, Kevin M. Murphy, Chicago Price Theory. A very good intermediate micro text, patterned after how Econ 301 is taught at Chicago. Apparently in the current Coasean equilibrum, this book ends up published by Princeton University Press. Get the picture?
From a legal perspective there is Ron Harris, Going the Distance: Eurasian Trade and the Rise of the Business Corporation, 1400-1700.