What I’ve been reading

1. Daniel Halliday and John Thrasher, The Ethics of Capitalism: An Introduction.  This book is reasonable, empirical, non-dogmatic, readable, and largely but not uncritically pro-capitalist.  It is indeed “an introduction,” and not designed for say yours truly, but we need many more works like this.

2. Ken McNab, And in the End: The Last Days of the Beatlesxxx.  I regularly opine that sports and entertainment books — provided you already have familiarity with the topic area — provide better management lessons than do management books.  This volume, as I read it, presents the Beatles story as a tale of two sequential founders — first John (who had most of the early excellent songs), and then Paul, the turning point in my view being when Paul commandeered the engineering of “Tomorrow Never Knows,” otherwise very much a John song but in fact Paul did most of the actual work on it.  Eventually the first founder rebelled against the ever-more-domineering second founder, and then the Beatles went poof.

3. Martyn Rady, The Habsburgs.  Most books about the Habsburgs confuse me, this one confuses me less than those other ones, consider that a recommendation.  I learned the most from the section about all of the early ties to what is now part of northern Switzerland.

4. Jeff Selingo, Who Gets In and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions. Most books about college admissions do not confuse me (the reality already is so absurd), but this one informs me, consider that a recommendation.  Selingo has done actual extensive research, including a direct pipeline into the processes of several major institutions, and he puts informativeness above moralizing or exaggeration.

5. Richard E. Spear, Caravaggio’s Cardsharps on Trial: Thwaytes v. Sotheby’s.  A surprisingly taut and suspenseful treatment of a dispute and then lawsuit over whether a supposed Caravaggio was in fact “real” or not.  NB: if they have to ask whether or not it is real, most of the time it ain’t.

6. William C. Summers, Félix dHérelle and the Origins of Molecular Biology.  I wanted to read up on bacteriophages, in part as a broader proxy for abandoned lines of scientific inquiry (superseded by antibiotics, and did you recall they play a big role in Sinclair Lewis’s Arrowsmith?), and it seemed this was the right book for that.  Short enough and to the point, clear enough for the non-specialist, and it has plenty on the history of science more broadly.  It also covers d’Hérelle being invited to Georgia, USSR, to pursue his research, a fascinating episode in his life.  For a brief introduction, here is his Wikipedia page.

7. Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, The Discomfort of Evening.  A few months ago I started reading this one, figuring it would win a Booker, and indeed it just did.  I read up through p.102, and quite liked it, but also figured that a Dutch farm tale of mucky perversion, flapping meats, and a mordant, vibrant nature did not in fact fit into my broader life plan.  Indeed it did not. But if you are considering this one, while likely I will not finish it, I still would nudge you slightly in the positive direction.  Cumin cheese makes an appearance (ugh).

I have not had a chance to read Adrian Goldworthy’s Philip and Alexander: Kings and Conqueror, but it appears promising.

Steven Ozment, The Age of Reform, 1250-1550: An Intellectual and Religious History of Late Medieval and Reformation Europe is a reprint of a 1980 classic, with an emphasis on the roots of liberalism in European religious thought.


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