Sunday, June 28, 2009

books

Africa's Turn, by Edward Miguel and William Easterly. This was a very interesting discussion of possible influences that may or may not lead to an economic boom (and the accompanying rise in standards of living) in this century. While it is overall inconclusive, it points out a whole host of things to keep an eye on, (everything from drought insurance to trade with China) and great historical context and comparisons from Africa, Central America, and Asia. It's very short, in the format of main essay + responses from other authorities, and I highly recommend spending an hour to read it if you're interested in third-world development at all.

Terrorizing the Neighborhood: American Foreign Policy in the Post-Cold War Era, by Noam Chomsky. This was a lecture Chomsky gave shortly after the invasion of Panama. It's similar to a lot of his commentary on foreign policy, but I haven't read much of it, so I enjoyed it. The fact that it's a little outdated actually made it more interesting, because the shift in the rhetoric of foreign policy that went on when the Soviet Union was no longer the scapegoat for everything has been completely forgotten in the last decade, and we now take national unprovoked aggression almost for granted. Especially for those of my generation who don't remember Vietnam and the cold war, this is interesting to read for historical perspective.

The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design, by Richard Dawkins. This was the best popular science book I've read in years. Richard Dawkins is my new favorite writer. He's extremely precise in every point he makes, and every time (of many) I had the thought "but wait a minute, what about..." within a few pages he was addressing that exact concern. Even though 80% of the book was not new to me, it was so well written I devoured it. And the last few chapters, especially the discussions of taxonomy, species evolution, sexual selection, and historically 'alternate' theories, which were mostly new to me, were extremely fascinating. I'll definitely be reading The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion soon.