What I’ve been reading

  1. The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara: The “classic novel of the civil war”, or so they say (it’s actually now the subtitle). Three days of battle at Gettysburg. Deeply engaging. A nice complement to my US 19th century history binge.
  2. States of Credit, by David Stasavage: Why oligarchic European city-states dominated the commercial revolution, and why big territorial states eventually dominated them in turn. The short answer: technologies of borrowing. Excellent book.
  3. The Expats, by Chris Pavone: Reputedly the spy novel of the year. Imagine a John Lecarre novel about a spy turned soccer mom. That does not sound like an endorsement, but it is highly readable. I satyed up past midnight more than one evening this week.
  4. The Pseudo-Democrat’s Dilemma, by Susan Hyde: Why would thuggish regimes allow election monitors, even though it’s costly to their power? The answer: they do it precisely because it’s costly—to signal they are ready for all the international goodies.
  5. The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler. The original hard-boiled detective novel. I am catching up on my literary pulp, now that so much is available on Kindle. Recommended.

7 thoughts on “What I’ve been reading

  1. “The original hardboiled detective novel”? I think Dashiell Hammett would have something to say about that. I recommend Red Harvest, The Maltese Falcon (made famous by Bogie, but the book is just as good) or The Thin Man. If you think Donald Draper starts drinking early in the day, just wait until you meet Nick and Nora Charles.

  2. To add to the US 19th century binge, let me recommend Crazy Horse and Custer, by Stephen Ambrose. A Greek tragedy, played out on on the Great Plains, and a great account of the mutual misunderstandings between two cultures–a problem that is relevant to, well, everything.

  3. Just picked up ‘1493’ — Charles Mann’s recent updating of the Crosby classic ‘the Columbian Exchange’… great read so far, although he’s a notch below Crosby.

  4. I’d second the comment about Dashiell Hammett a) antedating Chandler b) being equally awesome. Library of America conveniently has his complete novels in one volume (I feel like your academic side might enjoy Red Harvest the best; it touches on labor relations, extractive institutions, and the problems of autocratic rule). For sweet contemporary pulpy-yet-nourishing fiction, check out Jonathan Lethem (Gun, with Occasional Music; Motherless Brooklyn) and Michael Chabon (Yiddish Policemen’s Union). Also, Chandler’s essay about detective fiction (the Simple Art of Murder) explains why hardboiled writers like Hammett are so much better than older ones like Conan Doyle and Christie. http://www.en.utexas.edu/amlit/amlitprivate/scans/chandlerart.html