Monday, January 26, 2009

While I was away, I saw some silly article from the NYT about how illiterate/dumb/inferior to the new president our former president is based on comparisons of what he's (actually) read vs whatever it is that the current president's myspace page says that he read. Whatever. What really intrigued me was that our former president engaged in a reading contest with the vice president for several years running. For reasons that should be apparent to anyone who hasn't been hit by the "GWB is an idiot, nyah" stick, though he didn't ever beat the vice president, he still got a lot of good reading in. Anyway, here's a list of some current favorites. Lots of really interesting biographies, histories, mysteries.

Well, that got me to thinking. If the president could read a book a week (in spite of what most of my neighbors may think, a very intelligent president. Trust me, history will bear this out) with all of his responsibilities, exigences, etc, surely I with my 1/2 time school schedule and 1/2 time work schedule could do the same at least. Anyway - have made it my goal now that I'm feeling better to do a lot more reading. A book a week, in addition to what I'm studying, if possible.

Here's what I've read so far:

Freakonomics - Picked this up for an Euro at Paris's version of the Salvation Army. I'd heard so much about it, couldn't resist at that price. It turned out to be one of those books that kept me up at nights thinking. Economics to me had before been nothing but dry histories, arguments over the merits of central planning vs market systems, etc. etc. This view as one of incentives was refreshing and interesting, albeit somewhat depressing/upsetting at times. In all, a wonderful 'opening up' of the mind. I found the essays on abortion and crime, on the economics of a crack gang in Chicago, and on how one of the authors proved allegations of cheating on standardized tests by CPS teachers particularly engaging.

How to Cook a Wolf - Pavel got this for me for Christmas. More a treatise on how to keep strong during a time of great privation than an actual cookbook (though there are some recipes within that are both deliciously simple and, well, curious, to put it kindly), MFK Fisher's guide on how to survive on wartime rations both physically and spiritually really tugged at my heart strings. (Gosh, if ever I could be able to write like anyone, it'd be like her.)

Consider the Oyster - another half-cookbook half-memoir on a very dear to my heart subject (with more chowder and stew recipes than I ever thought possible).

Why We Suck - All I can really say is, Move Over, Allan Bloom. (Have a serious soft spot for Denis Leary - Doctor - Denis Leary. Picked this up in Newark before Christmas, as, well, I really liked the cover picture. Figured that it'd make a nice foil for the copy of the New Criterion and Foreign Affairs I'd also picked up. Read it on the way back home. Okay: I don't agree with Herr Doktor Leary's politics; 'course I wouldn't. However, I found the anecdotes about his family charming and the cynical guy's proclamations of love for his family genuine. Very refreshing.)

La Revanche - The Frenchie told me that Grisham had come out with some very good non-lawyer stories. He really enjoyed the version originale, so, while waiting for my delayed flight at Roissy, picked the translation up for the heck of it. I think I might like the original better (about American Football in Italy), as the translation's a poor one.

What am I reading now? This. Will talk about it later. It's another one that's causing me to lose sleep at night, it's so riveting. Want to read more this guy.

What's next on the list?

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

The Federalist Papers

Carnets d'Enquetes

No real theme going on here, except maybe that I don't tend to read much fiction.

What are your reading plans for the near future / the year?


Unknown said...

What bugged me the most about George W was his "play dumb" act. Honest to God... I knew better. My mother couldn't bear to listen to him speak; she knew he was dumbing himself down. As if George Sr. had such an idiot for a son... Hard to picture the two of them in conversation but I bet George W. drops the "good ole boy" crap. Of course he is a prolific reader and smart; I disagree with most everything he did in office but I will give him credit: no terrorist attacks and he did what he believed was right, no apologies. It is never black and white is it? People have got to stop being so information illiterate that they listen to the media spin and believe it - right and left. Where's your common sense? I hope the dear man is reading some fun stuff now - drop the history and read something with no redeeming value. Good for the brain now and then!! (I'm in a ranty sort of mood.)

Be said...

I thought he just was touched by the malaprop problem that his dad had/has. I often wondered if he wasn't a bit uncomfortable speaking to large groups - a tough thing if you're a president, but not without precedent.

(Interesting // with the whole FDR thing people are trying to push nowadays. Hoover apparently a lot smarter than FDR. Heck, FDR admitted it himself. However, FDR, despite his pedigree, was able to play the 'common man' much better. As problematic as a fair # of Hoover's policies were, in the end, I don't know how much FDR's programs actually did much of anything to help, either. Kind of looks like it was the war that ended up ending the depression of the 30s.)

I do hope that GWB gets some time off to do some good reading. He really deserves it. Also, I do hope that the current guy doesn't screw things up too badly. I'm really worried about that.

Le Renard said...

The more I read, the more I enjoy! Bravo for the book a week gig, I definitely don't have time for leisure reading in college.

Enjoy Freakanomics (Econ nerd here), and get some Ayn Rand in there lady!