Recent Reads

In The Bubble. This is a strange book. I’ve read a lot of design and art books and this is certainly one of the better of that kind. But still. Just a whole bunch of speculation. It feels like the author read a bunch of books, opened up Word, and started typing his reactions. Not real interesting.

The Design of Everyday Things. Norman is so awesome. This book is a little out of date (who uses a VCR anymore?) but still wonderful. When it comes to design gurus, Norman is the ne plus ultra.

Practical Intelligence. This book is actually pretty good, a fact belied by it’s Amazon rank and lame blurbs. I guess the author just wasn’t hooked up to an effective PR machine. Nothing new here, but a nice overview of some relatively recent psychology work.

The Economic Naturalist. This is the best of the pop econ books I’ve read so far. (I’ve not read Tyler Cowen’s book yet.)

The Soulful Science. Diane Coyle loves neoclassical economics and thinks extensions to it are minor. OK. But couldn’t she have made the book a little more entertaining?

The Stuff of Thought. I’m shocked this book is selling because it’s hardly an easy read—conceptually, I mean. I like it, though Pinker tends to set up a lot of straw men to describe his points (e.g., radical pragmatics versus radical nativism when discussing the language of thought.) No big deal, though, because people actually believe these radical views.

The Prince. When I was a teenager, this book really shocked me. It’s hardly shocking if you’ve lived a few years. Great? Possibly. Useful? Definitely.

Mathematics and its History. I’ve read a lot of pop math books, especially on the history of mathematics. This is the best one I’ve come across thus far. It has an amazing feature: you can actually read it at different levels. If you want a superficial overview that revolves around people (Pythagorus, Diophantus, Euclid, Euler and so on) you can read it that way. If you want to go deeper, you can. This is an amazing feat for a writer to pull off. A feature often advertised but seldom executed well.

Lawlessness and Economics. Lots of equations but Dixit is a wonderful writer. He tells you the intuitions behind the results as well as their significance. Pretty much a model of good economic writing, in my view, though not a popular book.

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