1. Leonard Mlodinow, Stephen Hawking: A Memoir of Friendship and Physics. One man’s version of “the real Stephen Hawking story,” including the marital arrangements and rearrangements, told by a former good friend. I am not sure that books such as this should be written (or read), but…this one is pretty good. It also gives Hawking’s account of why he did not win a Nobel prize (“radiation must be observed”), among other tidbits.
2. Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender, and Identity — and Why This Harms Everybody. The authors serve up many on-target criticisms of current academic nonsense, but somehow it is not how I would proceed. Given the ridiculousness of so much of what is going on, I say there are new intellectual profit opportunities to mine the best insights from critical theory, postmodernism, intersectionality and the like. I would rather read a book that did that. Start with Foucault, and steelman everything as you go along.
3. Ed Douglas, Himalaya: A Human History. Truly an excellent book covering the history, politics, and culture of…the Himalayan region. Full of substance, lovely cover too. The USA link here has a worse cover, no surprise. But you’ll get the British version quicker, with the preferred cover, and at a lower price. Arbitrage!
4. The Early Political Writings of the German Romantics, edited by Frederick C. Beiser, but basically Novalis, Schlegel, and a bit of Schleiermacher. In particular I was surprised how well the Novalis has held up: insightful, to the point, and laying out the aesthetic approach to politics (and more) with a stark and memorable clarity. If you are looking for something to read that is non-liberal, but not the tiresome version of non-liberal being beat to death these days, maybe try this book.
5. George Prochnik, Heinrich Heine: Writing the Revolution. Heine has aged very well, circa 2020, and he is an appropriate liberal but also satiric counterpart to the writers mentioned immediately above, plus he was more historically prescient, and for all the talk about culture from the Romantics, it was Heine who was the perceptive observer of other people’s cultures. This is a good book for additional historical background once you already know Heine, though not at all an introduction to his charm and import, available only from the man himself.
And I have just received my copy of Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman, Lives of the Stoics: The Art of Living from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius.