Notes From Babel

2009 Reading List

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Tim Sandefur gave me the idea to log my books read for 2009.  He logged 40 to my 30, but excluding his 11 audio books and accounting for the fact he skipped number 39, I beat him by 2.

1. The Metaphysical Club by Louis Menand.  This was one of my favorite reads this year.  Great short biographies on John Dewey, William James, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and others, and the Progressivist ideology they founded.  Great insight into the birth and intellectual origins of an evil, evil idea.

2. Bertie Wooster Sees It Through, P. G. Wodehouse.  I am a latecomer to Wodehouse, but I was thoroughly taken by it.  My wife even bought me the Jeeves and Wooster DVD set for Christmas.

3. The Kreutzer Sonata, Leo Tolstoy.  Picked up in one of my favorite used book stores before it went out of business.  Fun little book.  Would that those Russian classicists have written more shorter works like this and one of my all time favorites Notes From Underground (to which this blog is a namesake).

4. The Forgotten Man, Amity Shlaes. Good not great.  I never find analysis and diagnoses of economic policies terribly persuasive.  I accept Shlaes underlying premise, but beyond that, I’ve got no real way to know whether she got all the analysis correct any more than I would if I were to read a Progressive economist’s interpretation.

5. Power, Faith and Fantasy, Michael Oren. A nice, brisk primer on U.S. involvement in the Middle East since our founding.

6. The Great Crash, John Kenneth Galbraith.

7. Blinded by the Right, David Brock.  Another one I picked up at my old used book store.  An autobiography of a formerly conservative journalist, who later went on to found the liberal  The guy who lambasted Anita Hill because, as he would now have us all believe, he was just trying to please his evil Republican overlords.  I found it laughable that he wrote this book believing any intelligent conservatives would take him seriously.

8. The Protestant Ethic and the Virtue of Capitalism, Max Weber.

9. America Alone, Mark Steyn.

10. Black Rednecks and White Liberals, Thomas Sowell.

11. What’s So Great About Christianity, Dinesh D’Souza.  I love D’Souza.  I watched some of his debates with the likes of Hitchens and Dennett after reading this book.  He not only ably debates (and, I contend, bests) them, he is immeasurably more charming.

12. The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom.

13. The Mind of the Market, Michael Shermer.  I heard Shermer interviewed on the John & Ken Show, and was intrigued at his discussions on how our economic decision making plays out in real life.  I found the book to be too anecdotal, though.

14. Freakonomics, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner.  Same criticisms as with Shermer’s book.  Though this is the much more famous original pop-economic anecdote compilation.

15. Give War a Chance, P.J. O’Rourke.  Quite old (1993), but worth reading just for comedic value.

16. Parliament of Whores, P.J. O’Rourke.  Same as above, though even more comedic value, in my opinion.

17. Democracy, Henry Adams.

18. When Gay People Get Married, M.V. Lee Badgett.  See my book review here.

19. Enter Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse.  Never too much Wodehouse.

20. Orientalism, Edward Said. This work is so hyped I had to give it a try.  It almost got the better of me, so filled with references to early century mid east scholars I’ve never heard of let alone read.

21. The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Ilan Pappe.  I’m almost afraid to comment, this whole topic being such a powder keg.  I’ll say I’m sympathetic to Pappe’s view, that a horrible atrocity was committed at the birth of Israel that accounts for some part of the complex morass of bad mojo that’s harshing everyone’s mellow in the middle east.

22. The Israel Lobby, Walt & Mearsheimer.  Ditto.  Lots of support for the idea that Israel’s not the doting client state that conservatives famously take it for.

23. Democracy in America, Tocqueville.  Not sure why it took me so long to finally read this.  It had been sitting on my book shelf since my second year of law school.  Prompted a lot of blog posts: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and my favorite one here.

24. The Authentic Adam Smith, James Buchan.  Ok.  I preferred Arthur Herman’s work, below.

25. For Us, The Living, Robert Heinlein.  WildJust wild.

26. How the Scots Invented the Modern World, Herman.  A nice history of how we inherited the Scots’ sense of individualism and common sense philosophy.

27. We Are Doomed, John Derbyshire.  This disappointingly lacked the clever wordplay I was expecting from Derbyshire.

28. Root Shock, Mindy Fullilove.  Pass.

29. Abuse of Power, Steven Greenhut.  A nice, accessible, entertaining (if not sickening) tour through the myriad ways your government robs you of house and home—literally.

30. How Progressives Rewrote the Constitution, Richard Epstein.  Title says it all.


Written by Tim Kowal

December 31, 2009 at 7:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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  1. […] Aristotle in history’s dustbin. Past book reports can be found here:  2012; 2011; 2010; and 2009. You’ll forgive the lack of hyperlinks — they’re all on Amazon […]

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