Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A few recent books

Maass - Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil. Good analysis of the the negative impacts of oil production in the world. How did the US avoid the "oil curse"? Perhaps they just got a very different version of it in the form of suburbia.
Vise - The Google Story. A history of Google, without much content. Some of the anecdotes from "Google users" seem funny. (What next, a history of Xerox, with interviews with xerox users?)
Bernstein - Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World. Great world history book from the viewpoint of trade. It is interesting to see Venice actually take its place as an important player in world history. The Arabs actually get a big chunk of the coverage earlier in the book, for they were the ones that were doing most of the international trading.
Tom McNichol - AC/DC: The Savage Tale of the First Standards War. The author wants to display electricty as a brutal standards war, but seems to build things up more than his facts justify. The experiments down by Brown, however do seem to justify the "savage" title. Now I'm interested in reading more about Edison and Tesla. What would have happened if the car started was not invented? Would we have had battery cars and dense cities instead of suburbia?
Ehrman - Misquoting Jesus. An introduction to "Textual Criticism" for analyzing ancient texts. It seemed a lot like a lecture at Stanford. Hmm.. Same author, same title. I get it now. Anyway, it has some interesting bits on the ancient history of the New Testament and how it has been passed won through the ages. However, the primary focus is on explaining how researches look at texts rather than explaining details.
McCaughrean - The Kite Rider. This is a fairly entertaining novel with a bunch of modern people hanging out with Kublai Khan. Alright, they are all supposed to be leaving a thousand years ago, but they seem more like modern characters with a few tidbits of ancient China thrown in. Luckily, that does not district too much from an entertaining novel.
Nancy Cartwright - My Life as a 10 year old Boy. The voice of Bart Simpson. Light reading.
Fromkim - Europe's Last Summer. So it may have been a little more than the funny that Started World War I. The author shows a bureaucratic Austria-Hungary that was itching for any excuse to attack Serbia, along with a Germany that was looking for any excuse to attack France. And what do they end up with? A war with Russia.
Neal Bascomb - Red Mutiny. A compelling history of the Battleship Potemkin. Brings about a few "What Ifs?" that could have significantly changed Russian History.
Sachs - The End of Poverty Economics. He is gung-ho on using foreign aid to bootstrap 3rd world countries in to the modern age. However, is it a wise move to saddle them with the 1st world's problems as well?
Rowling - Harry Potter. The first few books are fast paced adventures. The middle books bog down and could really use some editing. Then the last two books get back on track again.

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