Monthly book roundup – 2014 November

Books finished in November:
(Warning: reviews are unpolished and quickly written.)

Capital in the Twenty-First Century
(2014) by Thomas Piketty. Deserves its own review. Recommended.


The Circle (2013)
by Dave Eggers. Privacy, surveillance, etc. Takes up important questions, but reads like a caricature most of the time. Not unrecommended.

The Glass Cage: Automation and Us (2014) by Nicholas Carr. It is good that someone is emphasizing the drawbacks and dangers of increasing automation (stop thinking for ourselves, do not learn, do not challenge ourselves, leave power in the hands of others), however Carr’s book is too one-sided to be convincing. That is a pity, since the anecdotes and research that he presents are often thought provoking and potentially important.

The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor (2014) by William Easterly. The book is superficial in that it repeatedly and uncritically lumps together technocrats, experts, authoritarians and dictators as tyrants. Read David Broodman’s review to see what I mean. But it also has good parts. Hayek is a hero of Easterly’s and the beginning is a good intro to Hayek’s ideas about knowledge. Rights before economic development is a pet cause, and something too few talk about. (Well-meaning) racism was a crucial element in the development of authoritarian development ideas – the powerful (colonialists, Chinese leadership, or others) had to lead for the benefit of those who were led. Another interesting history part is about research on the role of social and civic capital in the development of in particular Italian city states. Chapters 8-9 on migration are very sensible. Recommended, and do consider his critical words seriously, but ignore the unsubstantive and unnuanced ones.

Consider the Lobster and Other Essays (2005) by David Foster Wallace. Four intelligent and witty essays. I liked best the review of the sports star autobiography genre and the report from a porn film award festival. The title essay about a lobster festival and how the author experienced 9-11 were ok. The book made me want to read more by Wallace. Recommended.

Ratings and old books are in the library.

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