Reading List

For August/September of 2010:

Ya, I know it’s been a while.  I did read a number of books between postings, but I just didn’t get around to actually writing that here (as though it’s soooo hard!).

OK, so here’s a new batch of books I’m reading as of December 17th, 2008.

  • “Decisions, Uncertainty, and the Brain: The Science of Neuroeconomics.” by Paul W. Glimcher.
  • “Human Natures: Genes, Cultures, and the Human Prospect.”by Paul R. Ehrlich.
  • “On Human Nature” by Edward O. Wilson.
  • “Microeconomics: Behavior, Institutions, and Evolution.” by Samuel Bowles. Samuel Bowles is affiliated with the Santa Fe Institute and this book is a part of the Roundtable Series in Behavioral Economics.
  • “The Russia House” a Novel by John le Carre.
  • June 6, 2008. Well, it’s been too long since I updated this page.  So, I’ll splatter down some of the books I’ve been reading.  As usual, too many at a time.  But, that’s the way i like it.

    • “Beyond Good and Evil,” by Friedrich Nietzsche.  It’s been a long time since I’ve read Nietzsche.  I’d forgotten how ‘alive’ his writing is, how fresh, fun.  It’s hard to put this down.  [He also, like me, loved commas].
    • “The Case of Wagner,” by Friedrich Nietzsche.  I’m a Wagner fanatic.  The music is among the best there is (along with Miles Davis and Prince, of course).   What is funny about the relationship between Wagner and Nietzsche is that when the latter was young, he adored Wagner, thought he was heaven sent, and his book The Birth of Tragedy makes that more than clear.  However later in life, he flipped 180 degrees and went all rabid-dog on Wagner’s ass!  The Case of Wagner discusses that.  It makes clear that, to Nietzsche, Wagner is both the best and the worst composer who ever lived.  A quote: “Everything Wagner can not do, is reprehensible … Everything Wagner can do, nobody will be able to do after him, nobody has done before him, nobody shall do after him.  Wagner is Divine.”
    • “Commentary on the Torah,” by Richard Friedman.  I actually borrowed this from the library about 5 years ago.  I loved it so much that I kept renewing it for a year!  Apparently no one else wanted it.  Since then, I kept telling myself that I should just buy it.  So, I did.  And now I remember why I loved it so much.
    • “The Ancestors Tale,” by Richard Dawkins.  Like all of Dawkins’ books on Evolution, this is a killer read.  He may be controversial because of his anti-religious views.  But, never forget that nearly all of his writing is solely about evolution, not religion.
    • A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin.  This is a very fun fantasy novel.  It seems to avoid all the obnoxious Tolkien-wannabe pitfalls, and instead gives us a truly human, character based, drama.
    • Diplomacy, by Henry Kissinger.  Say what you want about him (much of which may very well be true), but he’s a great writer, perceptive, broad in scope.  Julius Caesar comes to mind.  A states responsible for a lot shit, but a damned good writer.

    As of Dec, 2007:

    • A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.” I am particularly fond of reading speeches and sermons (previously I was reading “The Words of Gardner Taylor: NBC Radio Sermons, 1959-1970,” highly recommended) . My Grandfathers were both Preachers of the Southern Baptist persuasion. They were also fanatic supporters of King. So, Kings words resonate on many levels for me, some of them nostalgic (though I know that a 30 year old using the word Nostalgic to describe his feelings toward a man who died 10 years before he was born may sound strange). King is universally regarded as one of Americas finest children. These are a testament as to why. Sometimes we get desensitized to the “I have a dream” quote, and lose sight of how inspiring he was.
    • The Future of Freedom“, by Fareed Zakaria. Gotta love Zakaria. Pragmatic, and clear, the book expounds on the nature of freedom, how we got it, and where it’s going.
    • Evolution and the Theory of Games“, by John Maynard Smith. Well, I am a math guy.
    • Fear and Loathing in America“, by Hunter S. Thompson. This is the second collection of correspondence letters of Thompson’s. I really enjoyed the first one, and this one is proving to be just as interesting. He’s such a wild dude, that you forget that he was a real human being. These letters don’t skimp on the wildness, but they add a humanity that one may have missed in his other books.

    Below is a collection of a few of my favorite books.

    The Tragic Sense of Life, in Men and Nations” by Miguel de Unamuno

    This is my favorite book of all time. It has everything Metaphysics, Political Philosophy, ethics, existentialism, catholic apology, atheism, even an essay on Don Quixote! I first fell in love with Unamuno a decade ago. I’ve been reading him, and this particular book, ever since. It is never far from reach.

    Anarchy, State, and Utopia.” By Robert Nozick

    I was raised a Democrat. But, I have strong libertarian leanings, and this book is part of the reason why. Not only is it inspirational, but where else can you read a serious work of Philosophy, written by a Harvard Professor, that references Wilt Chamberlain and weed? It is more than readable. His approach to philosophy is honest. He doesn’t claim to have all the answers, nor does he try to present an “impenetrable” fortress of a book. His is a large question that struggles to answer. What do freedom, liberty, and equal rights mean? How do we take them seriously?

    The Last Temptation of Christ.” By Nikos Kazantzakis.

    The movie was good for a number of reasons, but clearly one of them was that it was based on one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. I’m an agnostic, raised with Souther Baptist Preachers for Grandparents. The Struggle is something I understand fundamentally. The Jesus of the Temptation is someone I know well.

    The Cantos” by Ezra Pound

    A tour de force, a monster, and just damned good poetry. Sure, the guy was crazy. But, how else would a book like this get written?

    The Conservative Soul” by Andrew Sullivan.

    More than a pop politics book, it is in fact the passion of Andrew on the state of politics within the Nation, the World, and in his own Soul.

    The End of History, and the Last Man.” by Francis Fukuyama

    Absolutely remarkable. Many have felt that it espoused Ideas now made irrelevant by the current politics of the moment, but those claims are naive at best. This book is at it’s best when discussing the underlying nature, structure, and direction of society. It is hinting at evolutionary psychology. We are simply another creature, and we are no less bound by our psychology than any other creature. Politics is but the collective expression of who we are and who we hope to be. It is as dirty as we are, and it follows from us. There is something about the human psyche that led us toward these systems of government. What is it? This book takes a historical approach. I’d like to see a biological/psychological one.

    Othello” by William Shakespeare.

    I’m a bit of a Shakespeare nerd, and Othello is one of my favorites. Betrayal, murder, love, lust, envy, greed … you know, all the normal Shakespeare fare.

    3 responses to “Reading List

    1. I’m surprised not to see Binmore in your very interesting list. Maybe you’d be interested in “Game Theory and the Social Contract” (esp. vol. II)?

    2. You aren’t wrong, Binmore is great. But, the list above is simply a random list of the stuff I happened to be reading at the time.

      For other readers who don’t know who Binmore is, here’s the amazon link:

      He took a look at ethics and the foundations of political philosophy through the lens of Game Theory. Something that has still yet to be taken as seriously as it should.

      In fact, I’d say that Binmore’s account is one of the best defenses of Rawl’s theory of justice that I’ve read – high praise, considering that I’m a Libertarian!

      Good call, Vangelis!

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