Results for “What I've Been Reading”
384 found

What I’ve been reading and not reading

Sara Zaske, Achtung Baby: The German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children.  Es erinnert mich an meinen Freund Bryan Caplan aber auf deutsch.  Behind the link you will see how they changed the title for the American edition, I am giving you the better British title.

Pascal Boyer, Minds Make Societies: How Cognition Explains the World Humans Create. Boyer is one of my favorite writers in the “social science tries to explain the previously underexplained anthropological practice” genre, but this one I thought lacked focus and doesn’t have an obvious enough pay-off.  I will try it again, however.

Avidit Acharya, Matthew Blackwell, and Maya Sen, Deep Roots: How Slavery Still Shapes Southern Politics is an important documentation of their core results.

Primavera De Filippi and Aaron Wright, Blockchain and the Law: The Rule of Code, is a good treatment of how the principles of blockchain and principles of the law may clash, overlap, or coexist.  It’s a good place to start on the notion that blockchains are fundamentally innovations in governance.

I have yet to crack open The Structural Foundations of Monetary Policy, edited by Michael D. Bordo, John H. Cochrane, and Amit Seru.

There is Christopher Payne and Rob Barnett, The Economist’s Diet, by two economists and based on economic reasoning, noting that I wish never to offer opinions on diet books; this one is “micro habits and meta rules.”

W. Kip Viscusi, Pricing Lives: Guideposts for a Safer Society, is as you would expect full of good common economic sense.

What I’ve been reading and not reading

Linda Yueh, What Would the Great Economists Do?: How Twelve Brilliant Minds Would Solve Today’s Biggest Problems.  Think of this as the updated Heilbroner.

John Blair’s Building Anglo-Saxon England is a remarkable look at the archaeological and historical evidence on what went on before 9th century A.D.  This is not a book of irresponsible generalizations.

Sebastian Edwards has a new, forthcoming book American Default: The Untold Story of FDR, the Supreme Court, and the Battle Over Gold.

Adam Winkler, We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights, is a useful and readable treatment of the history of how businesses acquired various kinds of “personhood.”

Michael J. Piore and Andrew Schrank, Root-Cause Regulation: Protecting Work and Workers in the Twenty-First Century is an interesting book, written under the premise that the Continental model of labor safety and labor market regulation is a good thing, including for Latin America.

David C. Engerman, The Price of Aid: The Economic Cold War in India.

I have only browsed Fawaz A. Gerges, Making the Arab World: Nasser, Qutb, and the Clash that Shaped the Middle East, but it looks quite good.

Ge Zhaoguang, What is China?: Territory Ethnicity Culture & History is the result of a China scholar considering all the questions suggested in the subtitle.  I was not ever astonished, but it is about time we all read more books by the Chinese about China.

Self-recommending is Richard Sylla and David J. Cowen, Alexander Hamilton on Finance, Credit, and Debt.

I spotted several intellectual and emotional fallacies in Zadie Smith’s Feel Free: Essays.

What I’ve been reading

1. Jörn Leonhard, Pandora’s Box: A History of the First World War.  This is probably the meatiest and most comprehensive WWI book yet published.  It covers the origins of the war, preparation for fighting, public reactions, war aims, the course of battle, war economies, internal politics, the battlefields, how it ended, and more, all at 1,060 Belknap Press pages.  Translated from the German, it doesn’t exactly spring to life in your lap, but it is consistently intelligent and thoughtful.  Amazingly the author is only fifty years old.

2. Martin Goodman, A History of Judaism.  Imagine a scholarly history of Judaism, told from the points of view of the time, rather than treating so many events as lead-ups to later anti-Semitism: “My attempt to provide an objective version of Judaism may strike some readers as naive.”  I found the book to be a useful mood affiliation jiu jitsu, plus it has plenty of information that competing sources don’t, most of all about the immediate post-Temple period.  Recommended.

William Deringer, Calculated Values: Finance, Politics, and the Quantitative Age, covers the rise of numerical reasoning in 17th century Britain.

Domenico Starnone’s self-contained short novel Trick is now out, translation and introduction by Jhumpa Lahiri.

What I’ve been reading

1. Kathryn Lomas, The Rise of Rome: From the Iron Age to the Punic Wars.  A very thorough, reasonable, and well-researched account and synthesis of what we know about the origins of the Roman empire.  By my standards it is insufficiently concerned with generalizations, but I do understand how many might consider that an advantage.

2. Michael E. Hobart, The Great Rift: Literacy, Numeracy, and the Religion-Science Divide.  I wanted to love this book, and I still think it is quite important and worthy, but I don’t love reading this book.  Yet here is the first and marvelous sentence of the preface: “This book uses the history of information technology — in particular, the shift from alphabetic literacy to modern numeracy — to narrate and explain the origins of the contemporary rift between science and religion.”  After that it is dense.

3. Robert Irwin, Ibn Khaldun: An Intellectual Biography.  The most interesting material concerns Khaldun’s history as a Sufi.  Which brings me to Alexander Knysh’s Sufism: A New History of Islamic Mysticism, which I enjoyed.  Overall I find this a fruitful area to study, and I benefited from some parts of Alexander Bevilacqua’s The Republic of Arabic Letters: Islam and the European Enlightenment.

4. David Hockney and Martin Gayford, A History of Pictures.  How artists have thought about space and light over the centuries, consistently interesting and insightful, wonderful color plates too.  I am not persuaded by all of Hockney’s claims about art history, but overall he is much underrated as a writer and thinker, including on the nature and import of photography.

5. Ran Abramitzky, The Mystery of the Kibbutz: Egalitarian Principles in a Capitalist World, covers the economics of the Kibbutz.

6. Jeffrey C. Stewart, The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke.  I don’t have the time to make my way through the details of this 900+pp. book, but upon browsing it appears to be a work of incredible quality, scope, and original research.

7. Matthew Restall, When Montezuma Met Cortés: The True Story of the Meeting that Changed History.  A radical revision of the usual story, based on a careful reexamination of Spanish and Nahuatl stories.  Restall seems to be mostly correct, but I will add two points: a) I never took the older account very seriously anyway, and b) I am more interested in the new macro-story than the micro-revisions of the march and the encounter and surrender and so on.  One big difference seems to be there was more early resistance to Cortés than the common accounts would have you believe.  And outright slaughter and starvation were more important for the war in the short run than we used to think, relative to smallpox and other maladies.  In any case, this is an important book for anyone who follows this area.

What I’ve been reading and what has arrived in my pile

Jeremy Bailenson, Experience on Demand: What Virtual Reality Is, How It Works, and What It Can Do. Usually I am allergic to “general summary about some new topic in tech” books, but this one is quite good.

Michela Wrong, I Didn’t Do It For You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation, is in fact, as a number of you had suggested, probably the best book on Eritrea.

Matthew Engelke, How to Think Like an Anthropologist, is a very good introduction to exactly what the title promises.

Robert Wuthnow tries his hand at The Left Behind: Decline and Rage in Rural America.

Benn Steil, The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War.

Carl Zimmer, She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity.

What I’ve been reading

I do not have time to read it now, but this appears to be an amazing and very high quality volume: David Biale,, Hasidism: A New History, over 800 pp. but it does all appear to be well-written and also interesting, often gripping.

Shaun Walker, The Long Hangover: Putin’s New Russia and the Ghosts of the Past.  Most of all useful for the Russia-Ukraine recent history.

John C. Hulsman, To Dare More Boldly: The Audacious Story of Political Risk.  A consistently interesting history of political risk analysis, I most liked this sentence: “The chapters themselves are baroque in structure, a fond homage to the genius of the pioneering musician and peerless producer Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, particularly his work on his masterpiece Pet Sounds.”

Peter J. Dougherty, Confessions of a Scholarly Publisher (not yet on Amazon).  Peter was the director of Princeton University Press for many years, and these are his thoughts on the (much underrated) importance of university presses.  I would stress that Michael Aronson (of Harvard University Press) and Peter were two of the most important figures in my entire career.

Tim Rogan, The Moral Economists: R.H. Tawney, Karl Polanyi, E.P. Thompson, and the Critique of Capitalism.  The subtitle says it all.  People talk less about Tawney these days, but his book is well worth reading if you don’t already know it.

I perused them only briefly, but these seemed attractive:

Joshua B. Freeman, Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World.

Timothy Tackett, The Coming of Terror in the French Revolution.

Arrived in my pile and not yet scrutinized is:

Anne Fleming, City of Debtors: A Century of Fringe Finance.

What I’ve been reading

1. Pierre LeMaitre, Three Days and a Life.  French crime fiction, conceptual, very good for those who like to read in this direction.  I am glad I finished it.  The first half is pretty good, the second half excellent.

2. Fred Hoyle, The Black Cloud.  The legacy of Wells and Stapledon surfaces yet again, if you are looking for an early but compelling science fiction novel you haven’t read, try this.  The ecological features of the story are striking too.

3. John Wyndham, Chocky.  How would/should parents react if one of their children appeared to be possessed?  What weights should you assign to “possession by spirits,” as opposed to “possession by aliens”?  Both conceptually intriguing and well-written.  Also read his The Midwich Cuckoos on similar themes.

4. Margaret Atwood, Hag-Seed: A Retelling of the Tempest.  Given the author is so famous, it’s strange this book hasn’t received more attention.  Perhaps that is because it requires a reasonable degree of familiarity with Shakespeare’s The Tempest, worth the reread if you must or are so inclined.  This is one of Atwood’s best novels, and it focuses on an over the hill director’s attempt to stage Shakespeare at the local prison.

5. William Shakespeare, The Tempest.  Given that I basically never regret a Shakespeare reread, I suppose I should do them more often.  Folger edition of course.

What I’ve been reading

1. John Wyndham, The Day of the Triffids.  A remarkably readable and indeed prescient British work from 1951, you’ll find so much of the science and speculative fiction of the last few twenty years in here, a bit of Saramago too.  What if most (but not all) of the world goes blind but then has to fight-off plant-like invaders which turn out to be more intelligent than we had thought?  Underrated.

2.  The Acts of the Lateran Synod of 649, translated with notes by Richard Price.  I hadn’t realized how many of these early Church debates were kept and passed down to the current day.  The participants really do seem to know they are debating the intellectual framework for everything else to follow, and yet people hardly talk about these books.  They are among the most significant remaining traces of the ancient world, Rome and Constantinople in particular.  How can you beat this?: “If anyone says that God the Word who worked miracles was someone other than the Christ who suffered, or says that God the Word was with the Christ born from Woman, or was in him as in someone other than himself…let him be anathema.”  Down with monoenergism!

3. Helen Dale, Kingdom of the Wicked.  Here is Helen on her book:

Kingdom of the Wicked asks what would have happened had Jesus emerged in a Roman Empire that has gone through an industrial revolution. How, I wondered, would we react to him if he turned up in a society more (or less) like the present? The answer was not one I liked much. I thought we’d mistake him for a terrorist. The novel is informed – even overshadowed – by the destruction of civil liberties and gross expansion of executive power occasioned by the War on Terror, a war now in the process of becoming war without end.

I find it works both as fiction and as thought experiment; see the related essay by Mark Koyama.

4. Alexander Thurston, Boko Haram: The History of an African Jihadist Movement.  Makes a murky history relatively easy to follow, by the way: “Put all these ideas together, and “Boko Haram” means something like “Western culture is forbidden by Islam” or “the Westernized elites and their ways of doing things contradict Islam” — not just in schools but also in politics and society.”

Beyond Austerity: Reforming the Greek Economy, edited by Costas Meghir, Christopher A. Pissarides, Dimitri Vayanos, and Nikolaus Vettas, is an intelligent and useful look at where Greece goes next.

What I’ve been reading

1. Andrea Dworkin, Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant.  Published in 2002, this sure sounds like 2017.  Your mileage may vary, but it has a strong, unique voice and it looks more relevant than ever.  It reminds me of the in-your-face directness of Amiri Baraka, another underrated figure who ought to be rediscovered just about now.  If you are going to read only one Dworkin book, this is the one.

2. Gordon S. Wood, Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  This is a high quality work, as you might expect.  Still, I am numb from the oversupply of material on the Founding Fathers, and so I could read no more than a third of this one.  If only it had come out twenty years ago.

3. George William Van Cleve, We Have Not a Government: The Articles of Confederation and the Road to the Constitution.  The best book I’ve read on the Articles period, most of all a revision of Merrill Jensen.  Van Cleve details clearly and analytically why the Articles did a poor job on fiscal, trade, foreign policy, and Western settlement issues.

4. Augustine, Confessions, new translation by Sarah Ruden.  This is the most readable translation I have encountered.  While I cannot vouch for the accuracy, Ruden has very strong qualifications as a classical translator.

5. c n lester, Trans Like Me: a journey for all us.  A memoir of sorts, might this be the best introductory book on its topic?  It is already out in the UK, not until June in the US.

Jason Brennan, Bas van der Vossen, and David Schmidtz, editors, The Routledge Handbook of Libertarianism, my blurb reads: “This is the best contemporary anthology introducing the reader to the basics of libertarianism.”

Joshua Clark Davis, From Head Shops to Whole Foods: The Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs.  Covers African American bookstores, head shops, businesses in the women’s movement, and natural foods stores, a good revision of Milton Friedman on the social responsibility of business.

What I’ve been reading

1. Building the Intentional University: Minerva and the Future of Higher Education, edited by Stephen M. Kosslyn and Ben Nelson.  The new university Minerva explains its educational philosophy, imagining redesigning higher ed from scratch.  I would do something very similar to what they did, and this book explains the curricular philosophy and practice in great detail.

2. Olivier Roy, In Search of the Lost Orient: An Interview.  There should be a book like this for every substantive thinker, namely a very long, book-length interview with frank rather than perfunctory answers.  The dialog covers Afghanistan, Yemen, 1968 Paris and radicalism, China, “political Islam,” and women (ahem), among other topics.  Recommended.

3. Aaron Carroll, The Bad Food Bible: How and Why to Eat Sinfully.  Yes, that is the Aaron Carroll, the one who writes about health care policy.  What does the evidence actually say about which foods are good and bad for you?  I’ll just say my diet is healthier than I had thought, and beware added sugar.

I have only browsed Abbas Amanat’s Iran: A Modern History, but it appears to be a very readable and highly useful 908 pp. overview of Persian/Iranian history, though less theoretical and conceptual than what an economist might be looking for.

Harvey Sachs, Toscanini: A Musician of Conscience, is a very high quality book, I would have read more of it except I can’t stand listening to Toscanini.

Eric A. Posner has the forthcoming Last Resort: The Financial Crisis and the Future of Bailouts.  He argues that much of what was done was not fully legal.

Dani Rodrik’s Straight Talk on Trade: Ideas for a Sane World Economy is a very good introduction to Rodrik’s basic ideas on trade.

What I’ve been reading

1. J.M. Coetzee, Late Essays 2006-2017.  The pieces on Robert Walser, Ford Madox Ford, Patrick White, Gerald Murnane, Samuel Beckett, and Juan Ramón Jiménez make this worth buying, the rest are mixed in quality.  Coetzee remains minimalistically grumpy in the right way.

2. Grant N. Havers, Leo Strauss and Anglo-American Democracy: A Conservative Critique.  Havers argues against Strauss from “the Right,” but sympathetically.  He suggests Strauss underrated Christianity and had too high an opinion of antiquity, and was a true liberal democrat, while the American founders consciously rejected ancient political thought.

3. Neil Monnery, Architect of Prosperity: Sir John Cowperthwaite and the Making of Hong Kong.  I didn’t find this inspiring to read, but still it is a useful account of the under-covered early days of how Hong Kong evolved into a freedom-oriented economy after World War II.  Here is a review from The Economist.

4. Anne Applebaum, Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine.  “As Dolot remembered it, the presence of the Soviet state in his village in the 1920s had been minimal.”  And “Initially, collectivization was supposed to be voluntary.”  And “When their potatoes were gone…people began to go to the Russian villages and to exchange their clothing for food.”

I have only browsed my library copy of Masha Gessen’s The Future of History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, but it looked very good and so I ordered it from Amazon.

William Blake and the Age of Aquarius is a beautiful exhibition catalog, with text, edited by Stephen F. Eisenman, for a show currently on at Northwestern University.

David Kynaston, Till Time’s Last Sand: A History of the Bank of England, 1694-2013, seems to be a fine work of history, but it is not organized analytically in the way I might wish.  Still, some of you should be interested, as this is 796 pp. of well-written, carefully researched material on the BOE.

What I’ve been reading

1. The New Testament, translated by David Bentley Hart, Yale University Press.  I’ve spent a good bit of time with this book, and if you own and read a few New Testaments, this should be one of them.  It is the most accurate translation conceptually and philosophically, taking care to render the Greek of that period as faithfully as possible.  It doesn’t try to make the text “read nice,” nor does it make all of the books sound the same.  Of course, with any Bible translation you care both about a) what the authors really meant, and b) what other readers of the Bible thought they were imbibing.  By the very nature of its virtues, this volume is weak on b) precisely because it is strong on a), and thus it probably should not be your first translation.  Still, if you are tempted, this is more and better than “just another New Testament.”

2. Richard McGregor, Asia’s Reckoning: China, Japan, and the Fate of U.S. Power in the Pacific Century.  I am sick of books on these topics, because they tend to repeat the same old same old.  This one has fresh content on almost every page, and it is especially strong on explaining how the revisionist history debates in China and Japan fit into domestic politics and also foreign policy.

3. Barry Hatton, The Portuguese: A Modern History.  “Portugal largely missed the Enlightenment.”  This is the best introduction I know to that charming country.  In 1986, Portugal had only 123 miles of highway.  It had not occurred to me, by the way, that the 1974 coup was the first Western European revolution since 1848, unless you count the Nazis.  Here is a picture showing Portugal as an Atlantic rather than Mediterranean economy.  Explanation here.

4. Nils Karlson, Statecraft and Liberal Reform in Advanced Democracies.  How did liberal reforms happen in Australia and Sweden?  This book tells you about the world, rather than the theory or the taxonomy.  There should be many more books of this sort, a study in actual public choice.

Arrived in my pile is:

Barry Eichengreen, Arnaud Mehl, and Livia Chitu, How Global Currencies Work: Past, Present, and Future.

For economic historians I can recommend Bruce M.S. Campbell, The Great Transition: Climate, Disease and Society in the Late-Medieval World.

What I’ve been reading

1. Peter Sloterdijk, Selected Exaggerations: Conversations and Interviews, 1993-2012.  No, he’s not a fraud, and this volume is probably the best introduction to his thought.  Is there an extended argument here?  I am not sure, but I did enjoy this bit:

The existential philosophers have greatly overstated homelessness.  In fact, people sit in their apartments with their delusions and cushion themselves as best they can.

But why does he have to follow up with?:

Living means continuously updating the immune system — and that is precisely what foam theory can help us show more clearly than before.

In the German-speaking world he passes for one of the most important world thinkers.

2. Declan Kiberd, After Ireland: Writing the Nation from Beckett to the Present.  A very high quality and original look at how Irish literature reflects the nation’s development, though it assumes a fair knowledge of the works being discussed.

3. Fred Hersch, Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life in and Out of Jazz.  How someone from a previous generation a) became a star jazz pianist, b) discovered gay liberation, and c) woke from a coma to resume a miraculous career.

4. Stephen Greenblatt, The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve.  In general I am a Greenblatt fan, and not persuaded by the critics of his popularizations, but this book is not doing it for me.  For the Hebrew Bible I prefer to read densely argued Straussians.

5. William Ian Miller, The Anatomy of DisgustMiller’s books from the 1990s remain an underrated source of “stuff for smart people.”  His book on disgust could be the best in that series, for me this is a reread and yes it did hold up.

What I’ve been reading

1. George W. Bush, Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors.  Not only are the paintings good, but this book is the perfect antidote to too much time spent on Twitter, especially if you read the text about all the injuries sustained.

2. Dennis C. Rasmussen, The Infidel and the Professor: David Hume, Adam Smith, and the Friendship That Shaped Modern Thought.  A beautifully written book, with wonderful balance, about a beautiful friendship.  Recommended.

3. Richard White, The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896.  This will make the year’s “best of” list for sure.  I’m not usually a fan of reading a 900 pp. plus survey book to cover a period of more than three decades.  Usually too much stays superficial, and the author does not apply consistent quality standards to the whole work, if any of it.  But this book is interesting and informative on virtually every page, and it is unfortunately all too relevant for the current day.  Here is a good Kyle Sammin review.

Two books I have only browsed, but both look good:

Lizzie Collingham, The Hungry Empire: How Britain’s Quest for Food Shaped the Modern World, with a slightly different title for the U.S. edition, and

Brian Fagan, Fishing: How the Sea Fed Civilization.

There is also:

Thomas S. Mullaney, The Chinese Typewriter: A History, is a thorough and informative treatment of what its title suggests.  Here is a WSJ review.

John L. Campbell and John A. Hall, The Paradox of Vulnerability: States, Nationalism & the Financial Crisis, considers the state capacities of Denmark, Ireland, and Switzerland in responding to the financial crisis.  I liked what was there, though wanted more.

Barry Riley, The Political History of American Food Aid: An Uneasy Benevolence, I have only perused bits, but it seems to be the book to read or own on this topic.

What I’ve been reading

1. Karl Ove Knausgaard, Autumn.  While this volume of very short essays does reflect a literary sensibility, I didn’t find it fun or insightful to read.  By the way, “Vomit is usually yellowish and can range from pale yellow to yellowish-brown, with certain areas of quite different colours, like red or green.”  So I suppose the Knausgaard canon really is just the first two volumes of My Struggle.

2. Alex Millmow, A History of Australasian Economic Thought.  A very good introduction, New Zealand too.  There is no problem filling a book with substance on this topic, in fact it left me wanting more.

3. Robert B. Ekelund, Jr., John D. Jackson, and Robert D. Tollison, The Economics of American Art: Issues, Artists, and Market Institutions.  A useful overview and survey of the role of economics in the development of art markets in American history.

4. Cynthia Estlund, A New Deal for China’s Workers? The best book I know on labor unions and labor policy in China: “It surprises many Westerners to learn that the labor standards established by Chinese law on the books, apart from actual wage levels, track modern Western (especially European) labor standards rather closely in many respects…Professor Gallagher has described China’s labor standards regime as one of “high standards-low enforcement.””

5. Beowulf, translated by Stephen Mitchell.  I cannot judge veracity, but to read this is in the top tier of Beowulf renderings to date.  The Old English is presented on the opposing page, this book I will keep.

6. Orhan Pamuk, The Red-Haired Woman.  Eh. Contrived.

Arrived in my pile are:

Robert Wuthnow, American Misfits and the Making of Middle Class Respectability.

Jean Tirole, Economics for the Common Good, with nary an equation in sight.