Randall Parker proposed (to me and also to Razib Khan) recommending books that might do for Christmas gifts. Here are my suggestions –
The Princeton Companion to Mathematics
The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody:
Coup D’Etat: A Practical Handbook :
The Penguin Atlas of Ancient History
In Search of the Indo-Europeans :
And Mlclm Gldwll’s last book if you need help propping up a crooked table, lining a bird cage, et cetera.
For those who appreciate ‘classical’ music, I recommend “Johannes Brahms: A Biography” by Jan Swafford. Another recommendation: I just finished “The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization”, by Arthur Herman.
Tchaikovsky thought Brahms a “talentless bastard”.
thus a good subject for a biography
Interesting. Brahms is top on my list of classical/romantic composers, and Tchaikovsky is high on my ‘Romantic’ list, especially his 6th symphony and Romeo & Juliet.
The Prokofiev R & J is excellent.
There isn’t near enough promotion of the best of the best of non fiction books.
Why is it so important?
How better can we visualize the actual complexity that surrounds us than to look through the eyes of our brightest minds whom have focused their fine minds on one area which to that writer summons the most wonder.
We live in a world wrung dry of wonder and overflowing with with disappointment. The N.E.W.S. now stands for Nonsense Everybody Wants Sickness. The politicians are more disappointing than Sea Monkeys. If you want to teach your kids about politics order them Sea Monkeys. The add promises a bowlful of happiness with a happy family of happy humanoid sea animals. What to you get. Brine shrimp that you can barely see. After you build your kids hopes up with this great pet they are going to soon own and crush them with the actual result you can say “There! Now you know everything there is to know about politics.” Those rat bastards come into our lives with attack adds and leave with scandals.
Back to books.
Why are non fiction books a very small sub category of fiction books? Because we are a bunch of delusional idiots whom choose to very rarely read and when we do it’s complete bullshit. The dumbshits have overrun us. Sound the retreat, hide in great books written by our best minds.
The masses aren’t asses
they just need mind glasses
so the bullshit just passes
and no one harasses
We enjoyed our Sea Monkeys. Just don’t expect too much.
I’ve got six of those. Anyway, I recommend the second edition of James Le Fanu’s The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine. I’ve noticed a couple of flaws, but it’s top class stuff.
Along the same lines,I strongly recommend http://www.amazon.com/How-Doctors-Think-Jerome-Groopman-ebook/dp/B003JTHWGE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418509697&sr=8-1&keywords=how+doctor%27s+think
You can read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.
FYI: The link for Coup D’Etat: A Practical Handbook does not work.
It does if you click on the picture rather than the text
Fixed now, thanks.
I have From Alexander to Actium and have not read much of it. I will have to rectify that.
There seemed to be little on biological selection among the list.
Some time ago someone suggested to me that while certain groups have smaller cranial sizes than other groups, they actually achieve the same intelligence. That is, their brains are more efficient.
However, it seems to me that that argument is untenable because if one group had such an advantage, say, a 5% more efficient brain, their genes would spread rapidly to the other groups.
Perhaps I am wrong, but it seems that there has been 300 years or more of opportunities for such introgression in the Americas. Have we seen the genes of those with smaller cranial volumes introgressing strongly into those with larger cranial volumes or the other way around?
His list was what stirred him to think greater. To each his own. I want to hear Greg’s choices and order some of them to read during my hopefully lazy winter months. Merry Christmas everyone. Hole up with good books and bless your lucky stars that you have the time and the intelligence to read them.
I read 2/3rds of The Sleepwalkers (It was enough to get the atmosphere and the point) before returning it to the library. I reread Kim last year (had read it as a child), and found it surprisingly, amazingly, wonderful. Kipling really had the gift: he was from some strange space, so English, and yet so capable of getting inside the heads of people from India to Newfoundland. Kim is his masterwork, I’m convinced.
Riding the Red Horse has just been released.
It contains one previously published short story by Pournelle and one work on simulating strategy by him, also previously published. It contains a few other interesting works of fiction as well as non-fiction articles.
However, it also contains a provocative article called “Make the Tigers Fight” that deals with Soviet strategy since 1925 and contains a section on US strategy vis-a-vis Japan in the lead up to and during the War in the pacific.
I just ordered the book mentioned above that deals with the war in the Pacific as well to get different view.
Thank you for a very interesting list. I have several of these.
Some of them put me in mind of related good books I have enjoyed recently.
“Alexander to Actium” is a wonderful book. I would recommend another that talks about how it all got started, “Philip II of Macedon: Greater than Alexander” by Richard Gabriel. He tells how Philip II built the societal infrastructure and military machine that Alexander the Great later used to conquer his empire. Philip opened up his society to be more of a meritocracy so the lower and middle sections saw advantages in supporting him and his policies as methods of advancing themselves. Philip was a genius military innovator who invented the phalanx and made huge advances in cavalry tactics. Not to mention revolutionizing military logistics. He was also far more proficient than Alexander was in advancing his interests diplomatically without warfare.
George MacDonald Fraser was a wonderful writer. Everyone should enjoy his “Flashman” novels, at least the early ones. Another great non-fiction work of his is “Quartered Safe Out Here” a memoir of his service as a private soldier in the British XIV Army, that drove the Japanese from the borders of India and reconquered Burma in 1944-1945. He wrote this late in his life, and he has many trenchant and salty things to say about our current plague of political correctness.
In addition to “Eagle Against the Sun” I would also recommend a more recent book, “Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-1945” by Max Hastings. A very detailed account of the time when, as Germany was starting to collapse, the Allies (esp. US) began finally turning its full strength on Japan. As the title reveals, based on the Pearl Harbor attack, the US viewed this as a “personal” war fought with relentless ferocity.
I’ll get Alexander to Actium. I got a large hint about what you/the book says about Phillip in reading other biographies of Alexander. Rings true. Thanks.
Aside from Pearl Harbor, the Imperial Japanese Army left a trail of atrocities across Asia that still resonates in the memories of anyone occupied by them. The Bataan Death March was only a small taste of what countries like China, the Philippines, and Korea got. Even the Nazis were horrified by the Rape of Nanking, and they didn’t horrify easily. In many ways, compared to our Chinese, Australian, and Pilipino allies, the Americans were moderate. I’m told that many Chinese were outraged that the Emperor wasn’t hanged, and that Japan was allowed to retain any industry at all. An older Chinese friend of mine, who lived through the Japanese invasion, told me that it was like “An invasion from outer space. They just came out of the cities and started killing”.
The Anubis Gates is a great book. Anything by Tim Powers is near the top of my fiction reading list.
The Anubis Gates may well be his best, though. I’ve read most of them and it stands out.
He deserves credit for making a coherent time-travel narrative. It’s much harder than people think, and quite rare.
… I judged the book by the cover and the title and had to check: what, a book of fringe Egyptology?
I have a book called “Fenno-Ägyptischer Kulturursprung Der Alten Welt” (1936) in my collection and in it the author Sigurd Wettenhovi-Aspa claims that the word “Anubis”, the jackal, ethymologically derives from the Finnish word “anoppi”, mother-in-law …
That’s non-serious scholarship, but it reminds me how sometimes the the dividing line between genius and and madness is not so clear. Take Sigmund Freud for instance. In his book “totem and taboo” he describes an African tribe that believes that if man sees his mother in law he will drop dead or sick; Freud acknowledges that there is a lot of wisdom in that belief. Also in the same book, the story of “primal horde” – is it science or what? it’s a myth that describes how to be human requires that women are to be exchanged or circulated according to rules, not based on brute strenght of the alpha male.
BUt what about Freud’s description how people acquired the fire? (in the book Civilization and it’s Discontents) – Freud tells us, than when there was an naturally occurring fire, men gathered around the fire and peed on it, to inspect each other genitals out of homoerotic curiosity … and it took one individual who suppressed his homoerotic instincts and took care of the fire, instead of inviting his comrades to piss on it …
this appears to me more of something written against the pagan myths telling how the fire was stolen from the gods than a serious proposition.
but about Egypt – did they know the precession of the equinox? it seems they had to, taking in account of the priests following the stars for thousands of years, but is it all vanished not written down …
I enjoy Osprey Publishing’s books on military history, particularly those that cover ancient and medieval Europe. Probably because I have ADHD and they’re short with lots of pretty pictures.
Triumph Forsaken by Moyar is a great revisionist take on Vietnam (first 10 years). He perhaps pushes his view a little too far, but a welcome correction to the usual prog manure of it being “unwinnable” and the caricatures of the Diem regime. He certainly convinced me that Lodge’s approval of the coup against Diem was by far the worst US mistake of the war.
it’s hard to prove unwinnnability, except in cases where one side has an overwhelming advantage.
I am delighted to see Ernle Bradford´s “The Great Siege” in this list. It is not the best History book ever, but it is the most entrancing historical story-telling I have ever read. I was lucky enough to be in Malta before and after reading the book and could thus reenact all the battles and action in my mind while reading “The Great Siege” and later, again, in situ. Do the same if you have the occasion to -Malta is worth visiting anyways-, and by all means, read the book with a good map of Malta and Valetta at hand.
Agreed re Great Siege – read it as a teenager and forty years on it’s still gripping.
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One of your picks from 2014 seems particularly prescient given recent events (still developing)
Coup d’Etat: A Practical Handbook- A Brilliant Guide to Taking Over a Nation