Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

What are you reading? July 17, 2013

For those who are new … we discuss books.  I list what I’m reading, and people comment with what they’re reading.  Sometimes, on Sundays, I post a special edition on a particular genre or topic.

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I’ve written some book reviews on Yahoo Voices:

Book reviews on Yahoo

Just finished

Spell it Out by David Crystal.  The history of English spelling and why it’s so weird and why “rules” don’t work. Very interesting, but it all sort of blends together.

(started and finished) Arguably by Christopher Hitchens. A collection of essays from the first 10 years of this century. Hitchens was very knowledgable and he wrote very well. The interest of these essays for me varied, but most are well done (even when infuriating).

Now reading

Thinking, fast and slow  by Daniel Kahneman.  Kahneman, most famous for his work with the late Amos Tversky, is one of the leading psychologists of the times. Here, he posits that our brains have two systems: A fast one and a slow one. Neither is better, but they are good at different things. This is a brilliant book: Full of insight and very well written, as well.

On politics: A history of political thought from Herodotus to the present by Alan Ryan. What the subtitle says – a history of political thought.  But he should add the adjective “Western” or something as he doesn’t discuss other traditions or writings.

Algorithms Unlocked  by Thomas Corman  A gentle introduction to computer algorithms

Robert Oppenheimer: A life in the center by Ray Monk  Oppenheimer was one of the most interesting people of the 20th century. In this biography Monk (a wonderful writer) attempts to cover both his physics and his many other interests.

Eminence: Cardinal Richelieu and the Rise of France by Jean-Vincent Blanchard.  Richelieu, best known to many from The Three Musketeers was a master of the dark arts of politics. And 16th and 17th century politics was no place for wusses.

Just started

nothing this week (but see above)


  1. Abandoned:

    The Bed of Procrustes, by Nassim Nicholas Talib. This is a pointless collection of aphorisms (sayings) that the author seemingly made up himself. The first several dozen I read didn’t ring true, didn’t topple my view of the world. I’m glad I borrowed it. It would have been a waste of money to buy it.

    Plainsong, by Kent Haruf. Nothing against this. I just never got past the first page. It might be delightful but I had other things to do.

    The Story of English in 100 Words, by David Crystal. This is a pretty interesting survey of some key words in the English language, and their origins. But I am done after about 40% of them. Like Spell it Out by same author, “Very interesting, but it all sort of blends together.”


    Spark, by Julie Burstein. From the description on Amazon: “In Spark, Julie Burstein traces the roots of some of the twenty-first century’s most influential and creative thinkers, including Joyce Carol Oates, Yo-Yo Ma, David Milch, Isabel Allende, and Joshua Redman. Burstein pulls back the curtain to reveal the sources of these artists’ inspiration and the processes that bring their work into being.”

    I’d say that yes, the artists do generally describe their inspiration and often the evolution of their art. Rarely do they discuss their creative process. (In fact I’d say it’s a very difficult thing to put into words, so that doesn’t surprise me.)

    This was pretty interesing, though, and provides profiles of some people you know and others you may not. I didn’t read every single section in full, but I was glad to read it.

    And it was an easy read for a vacation, since the sections/chapters could be taken one at a time and didn’t depend on each other.  

  2. slksfca

    The History of England, from the Accession of James II by Macaulay, free for Kindle. I’m liking it very much but it’s not a quick read.

    Next up, another Agatha Christie, Sad Cypress. I love Poirot!

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