What I'm Reading

One good thing about international flights is that they do allow you to churn through a few more books than usual.

  • Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink is about the value and limitations of snap decisions. Gladwell’s a rolicking writer, though like many journalists he does occasionally mistake correlation for causation. If you liked The Tipping Point, buy it.
  • Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy isn’t a new release (it was published in 1987), but I loved The Music of Chance a few years back, so couldn’t resist it when I found it on special. Mystical, confusing, compelling, and probably not a good book to read when you’re travelling on your own.
  • Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s Freakonomics makes the rest of us mere popularisers of economics research feel like, well, mere popularisers of economic research.
  • Robert Cowley’s edited collection of seventeen counterfactual history essays, What If? America is the third volume in the series. Worth buying for just three clever essays: what if the Cuban missile crisis hadn’t been averted? (total destruction of DC & the USSR), what if the American revolution hadn’t happened? (no French Revolution, Civil War, WWI, or WWII), and what if the Watergate break-in hadn’t been discovered? (the author reckons Americans would today have universal healthcare)

I’ve just bought Jeffrey Sachs’ The End of Poverty, since I think everyone should read at least one book about international development per year. Will report back when I’ve finished it.

Does anyone have any fiction or non-fiction recommendations? I’m partly asking for my own benefit, since I have another overseas trip coming up, but am happy to turn this posting into a "what’s worth reading" discussion if people would like.

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6 Responses to What I'm Reading

  1. Brenton Caffin says:


    Three books I polished off over the weekend (so good for flights) are:

    Richard Layard, Happiness: lessons from a new science, is a good walk through the latest thinking on happiness and well-being and how it could be applied to economics and public policy.

    On a related topic, Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced chick-SENT-me-high) is an interesting summary of his ground-breaking thinking on ‘flow’ activities (i.e. those that demand high skill and high challenge rather than those which produce anxiety on one hand or boredom on the other) and their importance in achieving fulfilment.

    Given that both books conclude that switching off the TV more often as a key to happiness and fulfilment, it can’t be all bad.

    The third is everyday democracy by Tom Bentley at Demos and it has a lot of useful thoughts for improving the strength of public involvement in decision-making. You can download it at: http://www.demos.co.uk/catalogue/everydaydemocracy

    By the way, I have finished Imagining Australia and am impressed with the breadth of ideas (I will build on some of your ideas in future posts). I am waiting for my copy of Clive Hamilton’s Affluenza to arrive in the post.


  2. Steve Edney says:

    I’m 2/3 of the way through Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle. (Quicksilver is the first of three), which I think is excellent. Historical fiction with lots of description of the early development of natural science and banking while running a bit of a swashbuckling epic. Although I admit as a physicist turned banker and history buff it does represent a fairly unique intersection of my interests.

    For some reason (probably because of his other work) they put these books in the science fiction section of most bookshops.

  3. Sinclair Davidson says:

    Douglass North has a new book out – I’ve just read the preface.

    If you like sci-fi ahve a look at Alistair Reynolds, Richard Morgan and China Mieville – all good. Also the latest Honor Harrington is due out in Novenmber. The author is David Weber (published is Baen – look at their attittude to IP). It’s Horatio Hornblower in space – great reading with some libertarian flavours.

  4. David Raftery says:

    Anything by Paul Auster is worth reading (by the way, I’ll think that you’ll find the NY Trilogy to be published in the early 1980s), especially MOON PALACE (1989) and THE BOOK OF ILLUSIONS (2002 I think). Some of his stuff gets a bit same-same. And anything by Richard Ford.

    E.Annie Proulx’s short stories, particularly HEART SONGS. I didn’t think much of THE SHIPPING NEWS.


  5. David Raftery says:

    apologies to Ramachandra Guha – he’s definitely a non-fiction writer.

  6. Andrew Leigh says:

    These are great suggestions, please keep them coming. (Though I should admit that I’m not much of a scifi buff – I think I overdosed in my youth….)

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