Paul Scharre, Four Battlegrounds: Power in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. This book bored me, but here I mean that as a positive statement. It bored me because I knew a lot of the content already, and that is because this is such important content that I have put a lot of time into trying to know it. Both the author and I thought it was very important to know this material. AI and the military is right now is a critical issue, and this is the book to read in the area. Whether or not you are bored.
Perry Mehrling’s Money and Empire: Charles P. Kindleberger and the Dollar System is a definitive biography, and also a good look at the “rooted in academia but mostly in the policy world” branch of macro and finance that was so prominent in the postwar era.
I read only a small amount of Philip Short’s Putin, at more than 800 pages. It seemed entirely fine, and useful, and surely the topic is of importance. Yet I didn’t find myself learning conceptual points from it, or even new details of significance. In any case it is now the biography of Putin, and some of you will want to read it.
Katherine Rundell, The Golden Mole, and Other Living Treasures is a series of short, fun takes on strange animals including the wombat (runs faster than Usain Bolt) and the pangolin, among others. Good for both adults and children.
When I first saw the title of Clara E. Mattei, The Capital Order: How Economists Invented Austerity and Paved the Way to Fascism, I thought it was some kind of satire, or perhaps GPT-3 run amok. Nonetheless some of the book is a serious economic history of the 1920s and its fiscal and credit policies, and you should not dismiss it out of hand. That said, mechanisms such as the supposed “logic of capital accumulation” are assigned too much explanatory power. The book also will convince you that “austerity” is almost always poorly defined.
There is Julian Gewirtz, Never Turn Back: China and the Forbidden History of the 1980s. Somehow this book felt naive to me. Yes, many Chinese paths were discussed in the 1980s, but the system nonetheless had an underlying logic which reasserted itself rather brutally…
Peter H. Wilson, Iron and Blood: A Military History of the German-Speaking Peoples Since 1500. I thought I would love this lengthy tome (913 pp.), and it is quite a catalog, and impressively objective to boot. Yet something is missing, and I skipped around and ended up putting it down with few regrets.
Michael Pritchard, FRPS, A History of Photography in 50 Cameras is very useful and very good, exactly what it promises, good photos too (better be good!) I think of photography as one of those innovations that started 20-30 years earlier than I might otherwise have expected, had I not known the historical record. 1839 for basic daguerreotype, that is impressive.
Roger D. Congleton, Solving Social Dilemmas: Ethics, Politics, and Prosperity is a good book on classical liberalism and how it is embedded in stories of the historical evolution of cooperation.