Friday, October 12, 2007

Books I Am Reading

I mentioned earlier that I enjoy reading when I get time...since I have been traveling a lot, spending a lot of time in airports, and I have been on a bit of a good book streak. Here is what I have been reading lately (not that anyone necessarily cares) =)

Over The Edge of The World - Laurence Bergreen - This is a pretty fascinating account of Ferdinand Magellan's circumnavigation of the globe, detailing the navigational challenges faced by the Molucca Armada in its search for fame, fortune, and legend as it sailed around S. American to get to the Spice Islands. It's a great account of a somewhat-maligned and ill-represented piece of exploration history. Based on a chronicle kept by Antonio Pigafetta, the ship chronicler, it tells us about the crew's relationship with the people living in present-day Argentina, and the Indonesian and Filipino islands; their ups and downs, the ever-present theme of religious mission, and the ever-present threat of mutiny that came with an untrusted Portuguese captain in a Castillian fleet. Good reading, and I have learned a lot about something that high school and college history books gloss over.

1491 - Charles Mann - Not only does the author share a name with one of the most fantastic pass rushing defensive ends for the Washington Redskins, he can also write a pretty decent account of the changing views that cultural anthropologists and archaeologists have about the "American" continent in the pre-Columbian era. As something of an Inca and Aztec history buff, it was fascinating to see some talk about the societies and daily life of those societies before Europeans arrived, not just through the eyes of Castillian historians, but from oral history and archaeological evidence. Definitely worth a read, and he has a great list of citations and further reading if he's piqued your interest.

The End Of Poverty - Jeffrey Sachs - This one starts off as a rather annoying list of the places Jeffrey Sachs has been and how he did awesome work there, then it turns to what he has learned and how he can use this knowledge to bring the rather ambitious "End of Povery" about. Economics readers may be a bit disappointed, as this book is more driven by anecdotal evidence than hard core supply/demand graphs and numbers, but for once, someone complains about something and then tells us how we should do something about it. Kudos for that - this book is definitely worth a look.


Kejda said...

Jeffrey Sachs sucks. "Hard core" economics is not about tedious and dry demand & supply graphs, but solid qualitative analysis aided by comparisons of empirical evidence. And that is completely lacking in his book, and for that matter, in his mode of economic thinking in general.

That book is very self-serving for Sachs. Check out "the elusive quest for growth" for an actually great exploration of the topic of development, with no supply/demand curves but solid thinking, and you can check out my blog, in the meantime, for a impromptu bitch-slapping of Sachs (i.e what I mean when I say his thinking isn't right).

Kirk Gray said...

Thanks for the well thought out post on the subject. Wow, so you don't like Jeffrey Sachs =) I don't think that your "bitch-slapping" was particularly impromptu. Looks like you took a while coming up with all that. What do you suggest for Africa? Should we just let it die? Everything has to start somewhere. I would argue that China and many parts of southeast Asia have similar issues with tyranny, dictatorship, corruption, and a basic lack of respect for human rights, but somehow the ball got rolling there too. As I said, the author was obviously tooting his own horn a bit, but in the end it's the spirit I agree with rather than the message.