1. Richard Zenith, Pessoa: A Biography. 942 pp. of text, yet interesting throughout. Brings you into Pessoa’s mind and learning to a remarkable degree. (Have I mentioned that the world is slowly realizing that Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet is one of the great works of the century?) His favorite book was Dickens’s Pickwick Papers, and he very much liked Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus. This biography is also interesting about non-Pessoa topics, such as Durban, South Africa in 1900 (Pessoa did live there for a while). I am pleased to see Pessoa finally receiving the attention he deserves — definitely one of the books of this year. Here is a good review of the book. For a man who never had sex, this book covers his sex life a great deal! And what a short and lovely title, no long subtitle thank goodness.
2. Nicholas Wapshott, Samuelson Friedman: The Battle over the Free Market. Quite a good book, though it is interior to my current knowledge set and thus better for others reader than myself. Contrary to what I have read elsewhere, Wapshott points out that Samuelson did not support Nixon’s wage and price controls, but this LA Times link seems to suggest Samuelson thought they were a good idea?
3. Jamie Mackay, The Invention of Sicily: A Mediterranean History. While it was less conceptual than I might have preferred, this is perhaps the single best general history of Sicily I know of. Short and to the point in a good way.
4. N.J. Higham, The Death of Anglo-Saxon England. In 1066, five different individuals were recognized as de facto King of England — how did that come to pass? Why was Aethelred the Unready not ready? (He was only 12 when he assumed the throne, though much of the actual criticism concerned the later part of his reign.) I find this one of the most intelligible and conceptual treatments of Anglo-Saxon England out there. I don’t care what the Heritage Foundation says, beware Danish involvement in your politics!
Peter Kinzler, Highway Robbery: The Two-Decade Battle to Reform America’s Automobile Insurance System is a useful look at where that debate stands and how it ended up there. Here is a good summary of the book.
It does not make sense for me to read Emily Oster’s The Family Firm: A Data-Driven Guide to Better Decision-Making in the Early School Years, but it is very likely more reliable information than you are likely to get from other sources.