1. William Wordsworth, The Prelude, 1805 edition. Many people who read “the Great Books” never touch this one, because it is a poem, and a long one at that (about 200 pp. in my Oxford edition). Nonetheless a) it is one of the best poems, and b) the experience of reading it is more like reading “a great book” than like reading a poem. I am very happy to be rereading it. Highly recommended, and it is also important for understanding John Stuart Mill, the decline and transformation of classical economics, and how German romanticism shaped British intellectual history.
2. Julian Hoppit, The Dreadful Monster and its Poor Relations: Taxation, Spending and the United Kingdom, 1707-2021. A highly useful fiscal history, the book also has plenty on Ireland and those are often the most interesting sections. There had been a formal union in 1801, but during the Great Famine there was no fiscal risk-sharing with Ireland. At the time, the national government in London also much preferred spending in England to spending to Scotland. At 223 pp. of text it feels short, but is still a nice illustration of how fiscal policy really does show a government’s priorities and throughout history always has.
3. Seamus Deane, Small World: Ireland 1798-2018. Deane passed away only last month, might he have been Ireland’s greatest modern critic? Covering Burke, Swift, Joyce, Elizabeth Bowen, Heaney, Anna Burns and much more, these essays are especially good at tying together “old Ireland” with “current Ireland.”
4. Robert B. Brandom, A Spirit of Trust: A Reading of Hegel’s Phenomenology. I’ve only read the first forty or so pages in this one, and I will read them again. I am not sure it makes sense for me to study this book further, given my priorities. Yet it seems worth the $50 I spent on it. If you wish to imbibe a truly impressive, line-for-line smart and insightful take from a contemporary philosopher, this 2019 book is exhibit A, noting that it serves up 757 pp. of text. I’ll let you know how far I get.
Gene Slater’s Freedom to Discriminate: How Realtors Conspired to Segregate Housing and Divide America is a very good and useful book about the role of realtors and covenants in shaping residential discrimination.
Michael Albertus, Property Without Rights: Origins and Consequences of the Property Rights Gap. I have only pawed through this one, but it appears to be a highly useful extension of de Soto themes with better data and a more systematic approach.
Edward Slingerland, Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization is an argument that our capacity for getting drunk, and indeed the act of getting drunk, enhances creativity, trust building, and stress alleviation. I mostly agree, but…