24 November, 2008

Two book reviews and a top ten list

I was feeling very intellectual when I decided to spend the portion of my birthday money that people had insisted be spent on books (damn) on Amazon the other day (see here) and bought:

Atwood, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth

Ferguson, The Ascent of Money

Scharma, The American Future

I haven't yet started the last one, but thought I might review the first two.

I thought Payback was good, until the end where it became a bit preachy. Atwood's study of debt through history and in literature (as well as modern psychology) was one of those nice random read where the author has obviously done a lot of background reading and presents you with the more interesting things she found out as well sa what she thinks are the links between them. It's a nice, neat, little book and if you have any of the Myths series it will sit nicely alongside. Where I ended up not liking it so much was when Atwood used what had been an interesting ramble through debt to plug her environmental views which, whilst worthy, certainly felt over laboured and actually out of place in the book - which is ironic as at the end, I suspected that she had been wanting to spring the surpirse all along. It just felt disjointed That said, it is only the last 5% of the book and the rest is well worth a read.

I very much enjoyed Ascent. I have read a couple of Ferguson's books (notably, Empire and War of the World) but through no fault of the author, hadn't really finished either. Ascent pulls you through the book much faster. He did an excellent job - on thw hole- of explinaing financial terms which I had no idea baout before I read the book and was good at boiling reasonably complex ideas down into managable pieces. I regret that many of the footnotes were simply references to other texts without a one-linre explinaing why the text was relevant. In terms of examples where you think "must use that in a debate" the book was fantastic and I would certainly put it on a 'helpful to read' debating reading list - thought probably not in the top ten.

Hmmmm, what would be the top ten debating must reads in my view?

The Economist and West Wing defy any list making (and technically aren't books) so the other top ten are:

1. Mill, On Liberty
2. Swift, Political Philosophy
3. Levitt and Dubner, Freakonomics
4. Harford, The Undercover Economist
5. Ferguson, Empire
6. Friedman, Capitalism and Friedman
7. Dawkins, The God Delusion
8. Locke, Two Treatises on Government
9. Hobbes, Leviathon
10. Bryson, a Short History of Nearly Everything

Admittedly, with 6, 8 and 9 it would be enough to have a really good idea of what they said (and why they said it) without reading the original texts. Equally, I can argue 7 without having read it either.


The 50-Year-Old Pupil said...

Another 10:

Hayek Road to Serfdom
Popper The Open Society and its Enemies
Feyerabend Against Method and Science in a Free Society
Simon The Ultimate Resource
Illich Deschooling Society and Tools for Conviviality
Ridley The Origins of Virtue
Lenin Left-Wing Communism - An Infantile Disorder
Goldman Living My Life (origin of "no such thing as society" quote)
Nozick Anarchy, State and Utopia

BTW - had conversation with QC from Mr X's chambers about Mr X last week ... snigger ...

Law Minx said...

You know, you two are too clever by HALF for me. I think I shall stick to my ladybird readers!!!

Miss Middle of Manchester said...

50YOP - far more intellectual than my list :)

Oh, do tell more about the conversation - dying to hear!

LM - Ladybird readers are third best books in the whole wide world after the Gruffalo and the Mog series. I'm still amazed that I know many classic stories despite the fact I haven't read them - and then remember that I had a ladybird copy of the same story!

The 50-Year-Old Pupil said...

Miss Middle, Drop me an email at fd80atdialdotpipexdotcom and I will cough it.