Monday, July 07, 2008

Summer Reading Recommendations from Readers



Books remain indispensible to anyone seeking more than a superficial understanding of a subject. Skimming a few websites or Wikipedia entries can not provide the equivalent understanding communicated by a 300-page book. The context, framework and logic of a complex subject can only be developed in a book-length form. Hence the large number of books recommended on the above link "Books/Films," and the constant refreshing of the list with reader recommendations.

With numbing regularity, you find me recommending books to explain the subprime mortgage crisis, (Greed, Fraud & Ignorance: A Subprime Insider's Look at the Mortgage Collapse ), derivatives (Fiasco: The Inside Story of a Wall Street Trader )and long-wave price inflation (The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History ) to name but a few topics covered here. (Note that the last two books were recommended to me by reader Cheryl A., who actually mailed me a copy of "The Great Wave." Another reader made sure I received a copy of Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism .)

In other words, readers have greatly enriched my own reading, and I strive to share the wealth.

Knowledgeable reader/contributor Marc M. recently recommended these five important volumes and offered brief descriptions for each:

World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability "An excellent and thorough rejoinder to mindless free-market cheerleading, with examples drawn from both the macro and micro."

(My companion-reading suggestion: Firing Back: Against the Tyranny of the Market by Pierre Bourdieu.)

While America Aged: How Pension Debts Ruined General Motors, Stopped the NYC Subways, Bankrupted San Diego, and Loom as the Next Financial Crisis "Just out, and exactly what the title suggests, with the bonus that Lowenstein is a gifted writer."

The Works: Anatomy of a City "A fun tour-de-force which takes a multimodal approach to explaining New York's infrastructure."

Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South "A no-illusions look at why the (white) American South is a lost cause for Democrats at the national level, and what can be done about it."

The Consumer Society Reader "An impressive survey of critical thought on the consumer society and its discontents, voiced by the usual (and some unusual) suspects."

Thank you, Marc, for the suggestions on such a wide array of important topics.

Other recent recommendations:

Unix Ronin recently recommended The Nine Nations of North America by Joel Garreau;

Nellie N. recommended Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free by Ellen Hodgson Brown;

William S. recommended Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets by Nassim Nicholas Taleb;

(my companion suggestion: The Misbehavior of Markets)
Mike D. suggested: The Blue Death: Disease, Disaster, and the Water We Drink by Robert D. Morris
and The Slave Ship: A Human History by Marcus Rediker

Chuck D. wrote highly of Between Past and Future by Hannah Arendt, one of the 20th century's most influential thinkers.

If you're seeking a classic, inimitable novel for summer reading, I can suggest L'Assommoir by Emile Zola, set in the 1870s slums of Paris; Burning Daylight by Jack London, a rousing adventure/romance set in the fin de siecle Klondike gold rush and S.F. Bay Area, recommended to me by reader David V.; and The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad, a darkly comic exploration of terrorism back in the heyday of the Anarchist/terrorist era of the early 20th century. Sadly, a very topical novel once again.

For graphic novels, if you haven't already done so, read the two-volume set The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.

I would hazard that there's something for everyone in this list. (21 titles--count 'em!) As always, check for titles at your local library if you don't want to own a copy. (But as the Lowenstein book listed above explains, the budget for your local library has probably been gutted to fund your city's retirement/pension black hole.)

And for your viewing pleasure, here are four film classics recommended by film maven/contributor Don E:

Nowhere in Africa
The Sword of Doom
Story of a Prostitute
The Browning Version

More book/film suggestions

Thank you, Ioan V. ($50), for your outrageously generous donation to this site. I am greatly honored by your on-going support and readership.

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