READING WITH XIPHOS #6
I have not done one of these since the end of June so I figured it’s time. It’s an odd collection of books I’ll be reviewing. I think that is due to the fact that I was marooned in Hawaii for a few months like I was a passenger on Oceanic Flight 815 and I’m now being held as an enemy combatant at Quantico. So without further preamble, let’s dig in.
Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds (Charles Mackay 1841) If you think economic bubbles are a modern phenomenon caused by Wall Street, London Bankers and Droid, you would be very wrong. In 1841, Scottish newspaperman Charles Mackay wrote a two-volume set of books debunking the economic bubbles of the time. Mackay also destroyed Alchemy, The Crusades, Witch hunts, Fortune telling and a bunch of other delusions that are still popular today. The work that Mackay put in, especially on economic matters, is considered so good that this book is held by many to be one of the classic and great books on economics. That puts Mackay in the company as Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, Thorstein Veblen and that worthless piece of shit, John Maynard Keynes who I devoutly hope is slowly roasting in hell and marinating in his own juices that incredibly evil fucktard.
Even though the book was written in 1841, Mackay has a breezy writing style (for the time) that is fairly easy to follow and often times quite droll and amusing. Mackey tackles some interesting ideas and goes after sacred cows. This book is proof yet again that nothing is new under the sun, only the technology changes.
If you like to read about economics like I do this is a fascinating book. If you wonder why people are dumb this book gives you answers and lastly if you weep at the thought of humanity, this book won’t change your mind.
SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance (Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner 2009)
This is the follow up book to the highly successful Freakanomics published in 2005, The Freakanomics idea is a culmination of a profound shift in the study of economics. Once upon a time economics was the province of stuffy, egg headed, academics that reveled in the comparison of wheat production of the upper the Volga region to wheat production in Kansas in 1932. Oh joy. What fun the university academics once had and none of it meant a damn thing. Around the mid to late 70’s, the study of economics started to shift its focus from pure number relationships to the study of the effect choice has on an economy. This is a paradigm shift in thinking since it puts the human element into the study of economics and how to think about how an economy works. This change in the cognizant thought processes has revolutionized the study of how people make decisions not only about money and markets but the relationship of both economies and people. This revolution in thinking of relationships can be applied to anything, which is the underlying premise of “Freakanomics.”
Stephen Levitt, who is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, has made himself into the point of the spear for the new study of economics with his books. The writing style is brash and irreverent and often times in your face and contentious but it is always well thought out and meticulously researched. Do I agree with all his ideas? No, of course not. But Levitt did get me to think about them and challenge my ideas and look into his alternatives on my own. An added bonus is that this book got the environmental jackal’s hemp thongs in a twist. It’s always good when those ass hats whine like the rat bastard, lying cocksuckers they are. Fucking hippies.
The Road To Serfdom (Friedrich Hayek 1944): Is another seminal work in the field of economics that is continually attacked by the statist lovers on the basis that his predictions didn’t pan out 100%. It seems 80% is abject failure to those vultures. Hayek’s work is a study in classic liberalism (Liberalism is not a bad word in the classical meaning. It is the current incarnation that is profoundly disgusting and evil.) and Libertarian thought. The central tenant of the book is that central economic planning, by the government, leads to the loss of individualism, freedom and the collective tendencies of those ideas are the road to serfdom and fascism. The title of the book is a clever play on the title of another classic liberal thinkers book, Alexis de Tocqueville’s The Road to Servitude.
The writing in this book can be spare, precise and dry and a lot of the ideas go over my simple, feeble-minded head unless I do a lot of research and pondering but the book is a profound work of genius in my opinion.
The Temeraire Series (Naomi Novik 2006-2010): I absolutely LOVE these books and in preparation for reading the new entry in the series, Tongues of Serpents, I re-read all five books. I’m not going to spend time here on this because I’m going to give them their own review. If you are unfamiliar with Temerair I’ll leave you with this tease, think Master & Commander but with dragons!
Pirate Latitudes (Michael Crichton 2009) This is a cracking good read that was published posthumously after being found on Michael Crichton’s computer when he shipped over (there is another book scheduled for 2011). Pirate Latitudes is a fun action story that could be considered the anti-pirates of the Caribbean. The story takes place on/in the waters of Jamaica circa 1665. The dashing privateer Captain Charles Hunter has been tasked, on the down low, by the British Royal Governor of Jamaica, to seize a Spanish treasure galleon that is under the protection of the psychotic religious nut Captain Cazella of Spain. Hunter gathers his crew and sets out, against all odds, to secure the vast treasure and we readers get treated to a well researched, well written and fun read. I really enjoyed the hell out of this book and I’m not alone. The Beard optioned it to make into a movie. Hopefully he’ll leave his schmaltzy tendencies at the door and make a great hard-core, R rated, adult adventure movie.
Fields Of Battle: The Wars For North America (Sir John Keegan OBE FRSL 1995)
In the world of military historians one of the paramount names is Sir John Keegan OBE FRSL.
For 26 years Keegan was senior lecturer for military history at Sandhurst, the Military Academy of the UK. During his time at Sandhurst, he began to publish some of the best books written on military history. Also, and thank the Gurus, Keegan began to beat the drums against Carl von Clausewitz’s nonsense of “war is a continuation of policy by other means.” The fucking Krauts are weird.
In Fields of Battle, Keegan turns his historians eye towards battlefields in North America. (Keegan left Sandhurst to teach at Princeton and Vassar.) Keegan masterfully covers Wolfe’s Siege of Quebec, the British defeat at Yorktown at the hands of General Washington, the Union Army collapse during the Seven Day Campaign and lastly Custer’s criminal stupidity at the Little Big Horn.
Keegan writes in a witty, (“I” think so. Others complain that he is rather haughty and off-putting. I think he’s just English.) dry, straight forward style that anybody can follow. Even if you aren’t into military history it won’t matter. Keegan’s straightforward prose is easy to understand and he fills any gaps in your knowledge about the subject at hand during his dissection of events. Keegan also wrote two very personal essays about his relationship with America that wraps the book and are quite moving. I highly recommend this or any book by John Keegan. Although if you aren’t really into Military history but want to take a crack at Keegan’s work, ask me which book to get. One or two could be a slog if you aren’t familiar with the subjects.
If anybody has any suggestions for books please feel free to offer them below.