September 27, 2006

The Wisdom of Crowds


Haven't even started this one. Shame on me.

System of the World


The final tome in the Baroque Trilogy. It's a brick and a half, and I'm only 200 pages in.

Imperial Grunts


One of Kaplan's better ones, this book examines the different approaches taken by the American military all over the world as they struggle with what could loosely be termed empire.

Assassins' Gate


One of the best books ever written about the war in Iraq, spanning everything from the corridors of power in Washington to the plight of the average Iraqi, and everything in between.

December 25, 2004

American Ground


Based on three articles in the Atlantic, American Ground delves into the monumental effort required to take apart the ruins of the World Trade Centre in New York. It's a quick read, but it's very good.

Ghost Wars


This is supposedly the definitive book on how the United States got into the mess it presently finds itself in vis a vis the Middle East. Haven't started it yet, but I suspect it'll be a good 'un.

War: the new edition


Gwynne Dyer wrote War in conjunction with a television documentary in the early 80's. It was a great series, but things have obviously changed in the last twenty years, and Dyer has completely revised the book. I've only read the first 50 pages so far, but it's pretty damn good.

Update: I've finished the book, and it's excellent. Pretty much every chapter tells me something new about history, which given my penchant for the past is pretty impressive. Dyer sums up most of human existence in about 400 pages, and he does so with style. Excellent.

The Confusion


Stephenson's second brick in the Baroque Cycle. Having fought my way through QuickSilver, I'm quite enjoying the middle book, which has a lot more tomfoolery and a lot less debating between natural philosophers on the nature of existence. (Stupid existence! Thinks it's so big!) But it'll still take a while before I get to "System of the World," the third and final book.

November 23, 2004

An End to Evil


David Frum (Bush speechwriter and boot-lick) and Richard Perle (former bush cabinet mendicant) have written a book that's so frighteningly wrong-headed, you just can't stop reading it. Basically they trot out all the useless data used to justify the war in Iraq, STILL insist there's WMD to be found, and lionize Achmed Chalabi, the Iraqi National Congress exile who has recently fallen on hard times because, well, nobody in Iraq likes him.

I make a point of reading books from the right wing point of view, because I think it's dumb to just expose yourself to one side of the argument, no matter which end of the spectrum you're on. But that doesn't make this neo-con prattle any less scary.

Future Tense


Gwynne Dyer knocks this one out of the park with a really smart analysis of what'll happen if we let the Americans continue to go it alone. It ain't pretty, but you can sum it up as "everyone else gets into competing alliances a la the Victorian era, except with nuclear weapons."

He also points out America can't last as the pre-eminent power in the world, and will have to suck it up as Britain, Russia, China, Brazil and India all get a piece of the pie.

November 19, 2004

Eats Shoots and Leaves


I haven't finished this yet, which is pretty sad as it's a pretty tiny book. It's a lot funnier than any book about punctuation has a right to be, but it does have an air of obsessive rantiness to it. Though to be fair, the author admits that up front.



Holy crap, this thing is a brick. It's almost a thousand pages, and it's only the first of three in a series. So why am I reading it? Because though it's tough to get through, it's also tough to put down, if that makes any sense.

The story revolves around a bunch of characters who are distant ancestors of the characters in Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. Daniel Waterhouse is a fellow of the Royal Society, puttering around the worlds of science and the nobility in the late 1600s. Jack Shaftoe is a vagabond adventurer, who cavorts around Europe with his (much smarter) companion Eliza, who is busy scamming the nascent stock markets of the time. The amount of research that went into these books is staggering, and Stephenson digresses all over the place to prove that.

The best stuff involves Shaftoe and Eliza; the book tends to grind to a halt when you get back to the scientists in London. But apparently the second book is all rollicking swashbuckling and antics, so it'll probably be an easier read.