What I read on my summer vacation
Enormous thanks to Dylan Matthews, Suzy Khimm, Justin Fox, and John Sides, all of whom made it possible for me to take some much-appreciated vacation. And what did I do on my vacation? Read books, mostly. In particular, these books:
Diary of a Very Bad Year: Confessions of an Anonymous Hedge Fund Manager, by N+1. Quite unexpectedly, my favorite book written about the financial crisis. It's not a thrilling narrative, and it's not studded with juicy scenes. It's just a chronicle of a very smart guy trying to figure out what's going on and explain it clearly. Highly recommended. If the anonymous hedge fund manager is out there somewhere and wants to shoot me an e-mail, he should.
Super Sad True Love Story, by Gary Shteyngart. Felt like an Infinite Jest rip-off -- or maybe homage? Imagine if David Foster Wallace had been an absurdist comic writing a romance rather than a tragic supercomputer creating a Sierpinski Gasket in the form of a novel.
Common as Air, by Lewis Hyde. I didn't finish this one. It's about how the Founding Fathers thought about intellectual property, and since I don't like books that are about how such-and-such historical figures thought about so-and-so, I should've known I wouldn't take to it.
Chaos: Making a New Science, by James Gleick. Convinced me that chaos theory is a lot less interesting than Jurassic Park led me to believe. Had a lot in common some of the financial crisis books (notably Michael Lewis's 'The Big Short') in its efforts to profile the type of person whose willing to upend dominant assumptions and embrace radical new ideas. Oh, and speaking of Michael Lewis...
Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood, by Michael Lewis. No, I'm not expecting. I'd read Michael Lewis talking about his favorite t-shirts. But this book is pretty thin. Even the title is lazy: The book isn't a guide to fatherhood, and there's nothing accidental about any of it. Didn't feel like I got my money's worth.
Filibustering: A Political History of Obstruction in the House and the Senate, by Gregory Koger. Reread this in anticipation of a panel I'm on later this week. The writing is very academic, but the two main points are good: First, filibustering (or obstruction, if you prefer) used to be more common in the House than the Senate, and that changed when the House eventually became too dysfunctional and changed its rules. People who say the Senate was "meant" to be more obstructive don't often address that. Second, filibusters has become more effective in the Senate because the majority is less willing to take the time to break them. That implies that filibusters are less of a problem for marquee issues like health-care reform, where the majority will take the time, and more of a problem for small actions like nominations, where the majority won't take the time.
Eating the Dinosaur, by Chuck Klosterman. The worst of his books, but still one of his books, and so still fun to read. The second half is better than the first half. I liked his point that the introduction of New Coke and subsequent wave of nostalgia for Classic Coke was, purposefully or not, one of the greatest advertising coups of all time.
Lost in the City, by Edward P. Jones. Very beautiful and very sad. Particularly recommended for people who live in DC.
August 30, 2010; 8:55 AM ET
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