But then I realized, “wait, I’ve done that.”
Since January of 2007, I’ve read about 263 books. I say “about” because I was only half keeping track until September 2008 – when I converted to a spreadsheet and really started tracking.
I’ve decided to start reviewing (nearly) every book I read here. And that means getting caught up.
Unlike Julien (who put everything in 1 ridiculously long post), I’m going to split mine up into 6 ridiculously long blog posts (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012). I’ll also keep going after this initial push to 2013 and beyond.
I’m just going to write a couple sentences for each – and only what I remember about the book, and a short bit of review.
Here we go…
Paul Theroux is one of my top 2 travel writers – and I think this was his best work. I love that he went where it is super-difficult to go (ie, Somalia, The Sudan, etc). Learned a lot about the diversity of East Africa, and the day to day life there.
Douglas Farah’s Merchant of Death was all about the infamous Viktor Bout, and the arms trade in general. I picked it up after watching Lord of War – the dramatized version of the book starring Nick Cage. It was fascinating. A world that I knew existed, but barely knew anything about. It still goes on.
First off – this has nothing to do with the movie (that’s on the cover no less). It’s actually a really interesting take on identity and conformity, rather than survivalist tactics.
I was a huge fan of DK books as a kid – and this was in that tradition. Not so much a book of literature, but a well-done coffee table book on basic, but world-changing ideas that we take for granted.
I had heard that Umberto Eco was into semiotics – but I had no idea. I felt like I was in a room with a bunch of Romance language speakers where I could pick up a word here and there, but never get the full picture. Yeah. Interesting novel, but the type that takes 2 readings.
One of my favorite historians (if only because he wrote the best history of The Philippines!) wrote an equally fascinating history of the Vietnam War. Vietnam is one of those topics I felt like I should know about because it happened when, like, my Dad was a kid. But also I didn’t know about it because high school history never quite made it to 1954. Good read – forgot 95% of it. But at least I feel like I understand Vietnam.
I’d heard it was the defining work of Existentialism. I don’t know if it’s that – but it is an interesting character study on a guy who just can’t get it together (to put it quite mildly). Makes for a good basic philosophical discussion piece.
Ditto to The Stranger. Except it studies a more diverse set of characters and their response to a horrific situation.
Our subconscious is really powerful, really fast, and we don’t really understand how it affects us. Lives up to the hype and reputation of Gladwell. Great anecdotes.
We are wired culturally and genetically to respond a certain way to different gestures and behaviors. The key is to be aware of your dispositions – this book excellent lays out the various ways and means we persuade and are persuaded.
Thank you Audible for making audiobooks – otherwise I would have never learned who John Galt was. It was an interesting read – a bit long, but sort of absurd plot end. I know it’s a libertarian shibboleth – and I have a libertarian bent, but the ending was a bit absurd. Anyway, glad I read it though.
Wow I love these books. 120 pages, good editing, expert authors. Ever wondered how Anthropologists come up with those dioramas at National Parks? This book will tell you…without boring you to death with a 500 page classroom edition (the only other source of Prehistory).
Again – great format, great editing. I did not know that Postmodernism is primarily a literary phenomenon that sort of meandered over into philosophy, then into all sorts of other stuff where its meaning got totally mangled (major irony). This book explained it in a way to sort of understand it.
This is the book equivalent of eating Brussel Sprouts. It’s good for the brain – but quite unpleasant – and you can get the same nourishment from an assortment of much better vegetables. This is also one of those books where you feel like you got it after reading it…when you really don’t. I really don’t get it.
Really good primer on a very misunderstood subject. Free will exists – but not in the way you think. Definitions matter.
I remember laughing out loud – mainly because this book feels like it knows what you’re thinking about thinking. Consciousness is really, really bizarre – and totally taken for granted. Science has only just begun studying it effectively. This book gives a good framework about how to think about thinking.
US Foreign Policy messes with people and stuff it doesn’t fully understand…and it comes back to bite the US. It’s especially critical of the CIA. I remember that it had a bit too much polemic. A better read would be Legacy of Ashes.
Sort of an intro to Philosophy book. I like the author, but the content on this one was solid, but boring. Reasoning and argument is harder than you think.
Really fascinating economic history of the West since World War II. Provided a big picture of International Political Economy in excellent style. I’ll probably re-read this one again.
Not many travel book stay interesting outside of the time of their writing – Great Railway Bazaar does. Paul Theroux follows the Hippie Trail in 1975 by rail. Beautiful descriptions and real insight into the world at that time. It makes the contemporary followup (Ghost Train To The Eastern Star) even better.
A book in the tradition of Malcolm Gladwell. Well-written, lots of fun anecdotes, applicable science. Day to day happiness comes from not trying to be happy – instead it’s based on relationships, being part of something bigger, and several other things I can’t remember. Worth a second read.
Classic colonial fiction of the search for Shangri-La. The book is not nearly as epic as the legend, though.
Want to learn about the complexity and diversity of Africa? Read this book. Big picture is that Africa has a bright future…if it can get governance right. I feel like I understand the big picture post-colonial problems now.
As always – an excellent treatment of a very complicated topic. The Golden Rule meets International Law. Essential to understanding International Affairs, and modern foreign policy.
Typical Dummies book. Well put together, solid info. Main lesson – look at more art. Lots. Think about it more – even if you don’t know what to think about.
Reminded me of Jesus pointing out that the Pharisees treat their children well. An engaging, clearly written, and friendly explanation of the meaning and purpose of life from a purely naturalistic perspective.
The Crusades were a super-complicated and gruesome series of events. Not Armstrong’s best book – well a good intro to the Crusades and their meaning now.
I had no idea. The Holocaust overshadows everything – even events that would overshadow everything else in history.
Tea is really quite amazing – so amazing that it drove colonialism to absurd extremes.
Defend your right to read any book in the world. As Voltaire said “I may disagree or detest what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Our geography, our cities, and our lives are defined by us trading stuff with other people. A bit dense, but wonderful if you are an International Affairs nerd.
One of those books that makes you think – about nothing in particular – just in general. I’m curious about Prague now.
Nothing tells the truth as much as lies and satire. And few do it as well as the Onion.
There is a cycle that every idea and product must go through – the difference between fame and forgot is the Tipping Point. Must read as always from Malcolm Gladwell (the maven in me for those who have read it).
Southeast Asian economies are controlled and managed by a very few plutocrats. Amazing stories of very powerful, questionable men – and the countries where they rule. Must read for anyone interested in Southeast Asia or International Affairs.
Those that control the money control the politics – and this is no more true than in The Philippines.
Wow. Textbook study on power, manipulation, brilliance, and pure unadulterated evil. Innumerable lessons (good and bad) from a man who ruled over more people than anyone else – ever.
America – for various reasons – has become more exceptional in our bad traits in the past 20 years. She make excellent arguments as to why.
Satire tells truth – and this may be applicable sooner than later. A demographic bulge forces the US to come up with unsettling (and comical) ways to deal with unaffordable old people. Like I said – uncomfortably contemporary.