Reloaded with non-fiction

2007-11-09

in Bombs and rockets, Books and literature, Geek stuff, Politics, Writing

I have officially abandoned my earlier initiative to finish all my pending books before purchasing more. Mostly, that is because I finished all the non-fiction on my list and all of the fiction I have read recently has been depressing. While much of the non-fiction can also be dispiriting, it feels less like emotional self-flagellation to read it.

My new crop of non-fiction:

  • Bodanis, David. Passionate Minds. 2006
  • Collier, Paul. The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It. 2007
  • Easterly, William. The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good. 2006.
  • Overy, Richard. Why the Allies Won. 1995.

The Easterly book was endorsed by Emily Paddon during one of our pre-seminar conversations in Oxford. It is also one of those books that I have heard mentioned in conversation often enough to feel concerned about not having read. The Collier book is clearly on a related theme. I saw Paul Collier speak many times at Oxford and always found him candid and informative. Richard Overy’s book was one of the best I read in the course of two history seminars at Oxford; I look forward to having the chance to take my time in reading it, rather than having it as one of several urgent items in an essay’s source list. Finally, I got the Bodanis book because I have heard it well recommended and know little about Voltaire and even less about Emilie du Chatelet.

I will certainly finish the fiction eventually, but I will do so interspersed with meatier stuff.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan November 9, 2007 at 10:20 am
Anonymous November 12, 2007 at 10:03 pm

SO BARACK OBAMA has finally rediscovered the rhetorical fire that made him famous, with a rightly well-regarded speech given to a big Democratic meet-up in Iowa. His fans have been waiting for months, as he has delivered mild-mannered, if well-phrased and thoughtful, speeches that remind the world he was a law-school professor. Why did he wait until last night to let the preacher and prophet re-emerge?

Mr Obama’s campaign people have said that he was trying not to peak in polls too early. This probably was spin; who, after all, would seriously gamble on being well behind in the polls for a long time, hoping to sprint ahead in the final month against a famous front-runner some had begun to describe as inevitable?

Perhaps a more simple, visceral explanation is possible. Mr Obama was physically expending himself in Iowa; sweating visibly, quivering with what almost resembled anger, raising his voice to the point of nearly breaking; gesturing again and again with those long hands. By all accounts, campaigning nationally is exhausting. Maybe Mr Obama knew, if not even consciously, that he could not do this every day, several times a day, across the country back and forth. It is only conjecture, but perhaps he knew that if he had to come out throwing everything he had, he had to choose his moment; shortly before the caucus, at a widely-watched event where his rivals would also be, and would pale in comparison.

It would be to the good of all the campaigns, and not only his own, if he can make the race interesting. In particular, it might be interesting to see how John Edwards, also looking to campaign on righteous exasperation with politics-as-usual, responds. Such a surge by the numbers two and three in the race could also bring some heretofore unseen passion from the front-runner, Hillary Clinton.

. February 5, 2008 at 2:10 pm

The Pequod, a good whaling craft
Had a captain decidedly daft.
The whale caused the boat
To cease being afloat
And Ishmael survived on a raft.

Two experts, to explicate Meaning,
Penned a text called “The Meaning of Meaning”,
But the world was perplexed,
So three experts penned next
“The Meaning of Meaning of Meaning”.

There was a young lass from Kilbride
Ate apples ’til the day she died.
The apples fermented
Inside the lamented
Making cider inside ‘er inside.

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