What I’ve been reading

Michael Strachan, The Life and Adventures of Thomas CoryateCoryate was an intrepid traveler from 17th century England.  He walked along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, through Persia and Afghanistan, and into the heart of the Moghul empire.  He was the first Englishman to visit India “for the heck of it,” and he walked.  Quite possibly he introduced the table fork to England, and the word “umbrella” to the English language.  Non-complacent from top to bottom, he died at age forty, of dystentery, while underway in Surat.

Johan Fourie, Our Long Walk to Economic Freedom: Lessons from 100,000 Years of Human History.  An unusual narrative take on the broad sweep of economic history, Africa-centered, original, unusual, broken up into different stories.  The author is professor of economics and history at Stellenbosch, here is his home page.

Ronald H. Spector, A Continent Erupts: Decolonization, Civil War, and Massacre in Postwar Asia, 1945-1955.  This book is an excellent way to pick up knowledge on a critical period that most Westerners do not know enough about.  Most interesting to me were the sections on how many people thought the Indonesians would gladly return to Dutch colonial rule.  Narrator: They didn’t.

S Encel, Equality and Authority: a Study of Class, Status and Power in Australia.  Might this be the best explanatory book on Australia ever?  Explains the odd mix of egalitarianism, individualism, plus bureaucratic authoritarianism that characterizes the Aussies.  There should of course be many more books like this, books attempting to explain countries to us.  From 1970 but still highly relevant.

W. David Marx, Status and Culture: How Our Desire for Social Rank Creates Taste, Identity, Art, Fashion, and Constant Change.  A very good book outlining status and signaling arguments for explaining how culture works and changes.  My main gripe is that it doesn’t seem at all aware of Simler and Hanson, and Robin Hanson more generally and for that matter my own What Price Fame? (among other writings).  So while I like the content, on the grounds of both scholarships and originality I have to give it a pretty big ding.

Arrived in my pile are:

Kevin Erdmann, Building from the Ground Up: Reclaiming the American Housing Boom, and

Daniel B. Klein and Jason Briggeman, Hume, Smith, Burke, Geijer, Menger, d’Argenson.

Annie Duke, Quit.  A defense of quitting, which is often necessary to reallocate resources properly.


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