Results for “best non-fiction” 139 found
I loved this book, the author is Andrew Scott Cooper, and the subtitle is The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran. It is the best book I know for understanding the Iranian revolution, and it is compulsively readable throughout. Did you know for instance that the Ayatollahs were deeply disturbed by the presence of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and also Rhoda on Iranian TV?
Here is one excerpt:
Iran’s political and economic malaise gave a renewed sense of urgency to the Shah’s top priority, which was to settle the question of the Imperial succession once and for all. His initial preference was for a European princess who could provide the House of Pahlavi with the luster of dynastic legitimacy. He soon ran into trouble. The Windsors rebuffed his interest in Queen Elizabeth II’s cousin Princess Alexandra of Kent, while his favorite, Princess Maria Gabriella, the Catholic daughter of the deposed King Umberto of Italy, was ruled out owing to opposition from the Vatican and Iran’s ulama.
And this, from the Shah himself:
“When everybody in Iran is like everybody in Sweden, then I will rule like the King of Sweden,” he declared.
I would describe this book as relatively sympathetic to the Shah, and also arguing that the oppressions and tortures of Savak are sometimes overstated.
This one makes my best non-fiction of the year list, and it will be in the top tier of that list.
1. Samuel Fleischacker, The Good and the Good Book: Revelation as a Guide to Life. A nice, articulate, and well-reasoned account of how a reasonable person might turn to faith and believe that faith and reason are compatible. The author is a well-known Adam Smith scholar.
2. Abraham Hoffman, Unwanted Mexican Americans in the Great Depression. The best and most readable book I have found on the deportation of Mexicans during the Great Depression, most of all during the 1931-1935 period. Reading up on this era puts today’s America in useful perspective.
3. The Curse of Cash, by Kenneth Rogoff. The quality of argumentation and presentation is high, as one would expect from a Ken Rogoff book. Still, I don’t think it has so much to convince those who might be worried about a currency-less surveillance Panopticon, or those who think negative interest rates are mostly a contractionary and not-so-useful tax on financial intermediation.
4. Mats Lundahl, The Political Economy of Disaster: Destitution, plunder and earthquake in Haiti. More of a potpourri of Haitian economic history than what the titles indicates, the best 20 percent of this book has insights you won’t find in other places. For me that is a high hit rate, I liked it.
5. John Hardman, The Life of Louis XVI. I’m only about fifty pages into this one, but so far it is a first-rate biography, both detailed and conceptual in nature, likely to make the list of the year’s best non-fiction books.
…Dante’s fame as a necromancer is also in a certain sense documented.
Such notoriety shouldn’t be surprising. For one thing, he had a reputation as an expert in astrology, and we know that this discipline could easily spill over into magical and necromantic practices. And then, above all, he was famous after the publication of Inferno for having descended live into the realms of the afterlife and for having encountered devils there, the souls of the damned, and having spoken to them. It must have been a rumor widely spread and also disturbing. It seems, according to Boccaccio, that the women who used to pass him in the street would say to each other: Look, “he who goes into Hell, and returns whenever he likes, and brings back news of those who are down there…”
That is from the new Dante biography by Marco Santagata, Belknap Press at Harvard, definitely recommended, it will make my best non-fiction of the year list for sure.
Here are the top ten MR posts from 2015, mostly as measured by page views. The number one viewed post was:
- Apple Should Buy a University. People really like to talk about Apple and this post was picked up all over the web, most notably at Reddit where it received over 2500 comments.
Next most highly viewed were my post(s) on the California water shortage.
3. Our guest blogger Ramez Naam earned the number 3 spot with his excellent post on Crispr, Genetically Engineering Humans Isn’t So Scary.
5. My post explaining why Martin Shkreli was able to jack up the price of Daraprim and how this argued in favor of drug reciprocity was timely and got attention: Daraprim Generic Drug Regulation and Pharmaceutical Price-Jacking
6. What was Gary Becker’s Biggest Mistake? generated lots of views and discussion.
7. Tyler’s post Bully for Ben Carson provided plenty of fodder for argument.
8. The Effect of Police Body Cameras–they work and should be mandatory.
9. Do workers benefit when laws require that employers provide them with benefits? I discussed the economics in The Happy Meal Fallacy.
10. Finally, Tyler discussed What Economic Theories are Especially Misunderstood.
Posts on immigration tend to get the most comments. The Case for Getting Rid of Borders generated over 700 comments here and over 1700 comments and 57 thousand likes at The Atlantic where the longer article appeared.
The Ferguson Kleptocracy and Tyler’s posts, Greece and Syriza lost the public relations battle and a Simple Primer for Understanding China’s downturn (see also Tyler’s excellent video on this topic) were also highly viewed.
I would also point to Tyler’s best of lists as worthy of review including Best Fiction of 2015, Best Non-Fiction of 2015 and Best Movies of 2015. You can also see Tyler’s book recommendations from previous years here.
The subtitle is The Man Who Conquered the World, and this is one of the very best non-fiction books of the year, quite possibly the best. Virtually every page is fascinating and should be read carefully. It makes intelligible a period of history which is so often a blur to the unfamiliar Western reader,and rather than just throwing a bunch of dates and facts at you it tries to make them intelligible in terms of underlying mechanisms. Here is one summary bit:
The harshness of the Mongolian habitat and the complexities of nomadic pastoralism help to explain the many potentialities of Mongol society eventually actualised by Genghis Khan. Care of massive and variegated herds and flocks produced a number of consequences: adaptability and ingenuity of response and initiative; mobility and the capacity for rapid mobilisation; low levels of wealth and of economic inequality; almost total absence of a division of labour; political instability. Migration meant constant alertness and readiness to fight, since wealth in livestock is almost by definition highly vulnerable to raiding, reiving and rustling. Managing large animals was inherently more strenuous and dangerous than tending crops, so the very nature of pastoral life produced a hardier breed than would be generated by the peasantry. Migration in peacetime also produced martial qualities via the surplus energy available for fighting, since in a pacific context warriors could leave the minutae of herding and droving to women and children. when the fighting came, it was less destructive than for sedentary societies that had to defend fields of crops, cities, temples and other fixed points.
There were other military ‘spin-offs’ from pastoralism. Moving huge herds of animals generated logistical skills and the capacity to navigate through uncertain terrain, coordinating with far-flung comrades while doing so.
Strongly recommended, you can buy the book here.
1. David Graeber, The Utopia of Rules: on Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy. Don’t judge Graeber by his mistakes or by how he responds (doesn’t respond) to criticism. This one is still more interesting to read than most books. In fact, most of us quite like bureaucracy.
2. John Gray, The Soul of the Marionette: A Short Inquiry into Human Freedom. The usual dose of pessimism, with a choppier argument and a slightly larger typeface than usual. It induced me to order Mr. Weston’s Good Wine. In any case, I’ll still buy the next one, engaging with John Gray if nothing else has become a ritual. I once predicted to Jim Buchanan that John would end up converting to Catholicism, but I still am waiting.
3. Juan Goytisolo. I’ve tried to read a bunch of his books, so far they all bore me, in both Spanish and English, the fault is probably mine. Various sophisticates suggest he is great, should I keep on trying?
4. Oliver Burkeman, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking. He is one of the best non-fiction essay writers, and he remains oddly underrated in the United States. It is no mistake to simply buy his books sight unseen. I think of this book as “happiness for grumps.”
5. Harry G. Gelber, The Dragon and the Foreign Devils: China and the World, 1100 B.C. to the Present. No, this isn’t the best Chinese history book. But it is the one most written in a way that you will remember its contents, and in this context that is worth a lot.
A few weeks ago I listed the best non-fiction books of 2014, here are a few which I either forgot or were late coming to my attention or were published or shipped after the first list. These are all very, very good:
1. Adam Tooze, The Deluge: The Great War and the Remaking of World Order, 1916-1931. This one also starts slow but after about 13% becomes fascinating, especially about the internal politics in Germany and Russia, circa 1917-1918.
2. Michael Hofmann, Where Have You Been?: Selected Essays. Excellent and informationally dense literary essays, I especially like the ones on the German-language poets and writers, such as Benn and Walser and Bernhard and Grass.
3. Henry Marsh, Do No Harm, a neurosurgeon does behavioral economics as applied to his craft.
4. Philippe de Montebello and Martin Gayford, Rendez-Vous, a discursive chat while looking at some classics of art
5. Clive James, Poetry Notebook 2006-2014. A superb book, one of the very best appreciations of poetry and introductions to poetry of the 20th century. This book has received raves in the UK, it is not yet out in the U.S.
In fiction, to supplement my earlier list, I recommend:
6. Hassan Blasim, The Corpse Exhibition and Other Stories of Iraq. Short stories about the conflict in Iraq, by an Iraqi. I expected to find these widely heralded stories to be disappointing, as the premise is a little too easy for the Western critic to embrace. But they are excellent and this book is one of the year’s best fiction releases.
7. Andy Weir, The Martian. Ostensibly science fiction, but more a 21st century Robinson Crusoe story — set on Mars of course — with huge amounts of (ingenious) engineering driving the story. Lots of fun, many other people have liked it too.
8. Geoffrey Hill, Broken Hierarchies, Poems 1952-2012.
The author is Christopher Hale and the subtitle is the rather misleading Exposing Britain’s My Lai.
The first fifth of this book is in fact the best short early economic history of Malaysia and Singapore I know, even though the focus of the book as a whole is on one colonial event, namely the 1948 Batang Kali massacre during the post-war Malayan Emergency. The next section is a superb treatment of the Japanese occupation and the political issues leading up to that occupation. This book reflects a common principle, namely that often, to learn a topic, you should read a book on an adjacent but related topic, rather than pursue your preferred topic directly. The book on the adjacent topic often will take less background knowledge for granted and explain the context more clearly for what you actually wish to learn, while getting you interested in other topics along the way.
Just about every page of this book has useful and interesting information, here is one new word I learned:
The history of the ‘Malay World’ in the centuries before the momentous fall of Malacca to the Portuguese in 1511 is predominantly a convoluted narrative of maritime statelets, technically thalassocracies.
This one will make my best non-fiction of the year list.
The two Bobs, Gottlieb and Caro, have an odd editorial relationship, almost as contentious as it is mutually admiring. They still debate, for example, or pretend to, how many words Gottlieb cut from “The Power Broker.” It was 350,000 — or the equivalent of two or three full-size books — and Caro still regrets nearly every one. “There were things cut out of ‘The Power Broker’ that should not have been cut out,” he said to me sadly one day, showing me his personal copy of the book, dog-eared and broken-backed, filled with underlining and corrections written in between the lines. Caro is a little like Balzac, who kept fussing over his books even after they were published.
Can they not publish a “Director’s Cut” eBook? The Power Broker, by the way, is in my view one of the best non-fiction books ever, so read it if you don’t already know it.
The article, from the NYT Sunday Magazine, is interesting throughout. Note I have provided the “Single Page” link, I believe this helps you get through your quota of ten clicks at less expense.
The author is David Hackett Fischer and the subtitle is A History of Two Open Societies: New Zealand and the United States. Excerpt:
They do not all climb mountains, play rugby, raise sheep, and consume large platters of Pavlova for dessert.
So far it is the best non-fiction book of the year, by a clear mark, I will read more of it soon.
That is the new book by Jennifer Homans and it is one of the very best non-fiction works of the year, impeccably written and researched. Here is the excerpt of greatest interest to most economists:
None of the Russian ballet's many admirers, however, would be more central to the future of British ballet than John Maynard Keynes. Keynes is usually remembered as the preeminent economist of the twentieth century, but he was also deeply involved with classical dance and a key player in creating a thriving British ballet…
For Keynes…classical ballet became an increasingly important symbol of the lost civilization of his youth…With Lydia at his side, Keynes plowed his talent and considerable material resources into theater, painting, and dance, even as he was also playing an ever more prominent role in political and economic affairs on the world stage.
The couple's Bloomsbury home became a meeting place for ballet luminaries (Lydia's friends) and a growing coterie of artists and intellectuals who saw ballet as a vital art…When Diaghilev died in 1929, many of them joined Keynes in establishing the Camargo Society, an influential if short-lived organization devoted to carrying Diaghilev's legacy forward — and to developing a native English ballet. Lydia was a founding member and performed in many of the society's productions…Keynes was its honorary treasurer.
In the mid-1930s, Keynes also built the Arts Theatre in Cambridge, funding it largely from his own pocket…As Britain sank into the Depression, Keynes's interest in the arts also took on an increasingly political edge: "With what we have spent on the dole in England since the war," he wrote in 1933, "we could have made our cities the greatest works of man in the world."
I did, by the way, very much enjoy Black Swan (the movie), despite its highly synthetic nature, a few disgusting scenes, and its occasional over-the-top mistakes. So far it's my movie of the year along with Winter's Bone, the Israeli movie Lebanon, and the gory but excellent Danish film, Valhalla Rising.
My favorite recording of Swan Lake (and my favorite classical CD of 2010) is conducted by Mikhail Pletnev (controversial but there is a good review here), who was recently cleared of child abuse charges in Thailand.
1. Supermac: The Life of Harold Macmillan, by D.R. Thorpe. I'm not one of these people who enjoys reading a lot of long tracts about British politicians, but this is one of the best non-fiction books of the year. It's full of good information, offers useful context for British economic and political debates, has plenty of original research, and is as suspenseful as a very good novel. Most of all, it brings its world and character to life. Highly recommended.
2. J.P. Singh, Globalized Arts: The Entertainment Economy and Cultural Identity. The definitive book for updating coverage on its topic, including the best and most comprehensive history of the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity.
3. James K. Glassman, Safety Net: The Strategy for De-Risking Your Investments in a Time of Turbulence. p.11: "Reduce the proportion of stocks in your portfolio."
4. Alan Taylor, The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Loyalists, and Indian Allies. "The civil war had four overlapping dimensions. In the first, Loyalists and Americans battled for control of Upper Canada. Second, the bitter partisanship within the United States threatened to become a civil war, as many Federalists served the British as spies and smugglers, while their leaders in New England flirted with secession. Third, Irish republicans waged a civil war within the British empire, renewing in Canada their rebellion, which the British had suppressed in Ireland in 1798. Invading Canada, Irish-American soldiers faced British regiments primarily recruited in Ireland, for thousands of Irishmen had fled from poverty by enlisting in the royal forces. Fourth, the war embroiled and divided native peoples…In the North American civil war of 1812, Americans fought Americans, Irish battled Irish, and Indians attacked one another. They struggled to extend, or to contain, the republicanism spawned by the American Revolution." Some of this book has too much detail for my interests, but overall it is good.
5. Thomas Bartlett, Ireland: A History. I liked the cover so much that I also enjoyed the book more. I also liked the weight of this book a great deal; it was just right. In any case a fine one-volume introduction.