What I’ve been reading

1. Alan Bollard, Economists at War: How a Handful of Economists Helped Win and Lose the World Wars.  A useful book on a much underrated topic.  Keynes, Kantorovich, and Leontief receive the most attention, though the book also covers of Takahashi Korekiyo of Japan.  My main complaint is the absence of Thomas Schelling.

2. Elizabeth Wilson, Playing with Fire: The Story of Maria Yudina, Pianist in Stalin’s Russia.  She converted from Judaism to Orthodox Christianity, and her career spanned from the 1920s through 1970.  She was at times out of favor, other times Stalin’s favorite pianist.  Called a “holy fool” by many, this is an excellent biography that brings its subject to life.  And her playing was full of depth, albeit with often creaky sound..

3. Ian Barnes, Restless Empire: A Historical Atlas of Russia.  One of the very most useful books for understanding Russian history — about half of this one is maps!  Changing maps over the ages.  These are the maps that Putin looks at, you should too.  A high quality book in all regards.

4. Sarah Weinman, Scoundrel: How a Convicted Murderer Persuaded the Women Who Loved Him, the Conservative Establishment, and the Courts to Set Him Free.  The murderer is Edgar Smith and the conservative is William F. Buckley — how could anyone have been fooled by these remorseless criminals?  A good look at what had been becoming a forgotten episode.  A tale of self-deception to the nth degree.

5. Caroline Elkins, Legacy of Violence: A History of the British Empire.  Yes, the empire truly was based in unacceptable levels of violence, and at its very core.  This excellent book is the very best demonstration of those propositions.  Historically thorough, and covers more than just a few cases.

There is a new reissue, with a new and good introduction, of Orlando Patterson, The Sociology of Slavery: Black Society in Jamaica, 1655-1838.

Ben Westhoff, Little Brother: Love, Tragedy, and my Search for the Truth is a very good narrative by a very good author.

Jeevan Vasagar, Lion City: Singapore and the Invention of Modern Asia is a decent first book to read on Singapore, although mostly it was interior to my current knowledge set.


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