Sunday, April 08, 2007

What I'm reading, a highly irregular series of posts

(Bleg note: can someone more expert in Blogger than I explain why, when I use bullets or insert a picture, the text gets all squinched up and how to stop/fix it? Thanks.)

Here is what is on my reading list, including my work desk and my night table:

  • The Physics of the Buffyverse, by Jennifer Ouellete. Popular science in pop culture. I got this from the Lindbergs as part of extraordinarily thoughtful birthday package that included very good dark chocolate and cello music by Grieg. I thought it might be suitable as a way of introducing my daughter to basic concepts in things like physics - but reading it, you more or less have to have had basic science already in order to understand it. But I find it an amusing review of things I once studied and have more or less forgotten - entropic states, photons, etc.

  • Belligerent Reprisals, by Frits Kalshoven. The classic work on this specialized topic of the laws of war from the early 1970s. I read it once long ago, have consulted it many times since, but decided that it would be helpful to my work on proportionality in the law of war to reread it whole. It appears from Amazon that it has been rereleased, although at the usual dismaying price. Highly recommended! as the great Larry Solum would say.

  • Jack Reacher novels, by the thriller writer Lee Child. Pure escape. Very late night.

  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Joffe Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond. The classic regulatory treatise on incentives. First came to scholarly attention in the Harrison Ford film Air Force One, the scene in which the President, being held hostage, explains to his daughter why giving into to terrorist demands is a fool's game - "If you give a mouse a cookie," he says, and she knows the rest. I have mentioned this book in a couple of talks on counterterrorism, when the question of being nice to the rest of the world so they won't hate us and will like us and stop trying to kill us inevitably comes up - I suggest that if you tell people in the wide world that you really, really, really want them to like us and won't you please just tell us what we can do so you'll like us, it is pretty near certain the bar will get set higher and higher on the likeability front and what you have to do to get there. American students of a certain age have often heard of the book, non-Americans not. However, one perceptive student at my talk at the NYU law school human rights colloquium last month said, on hearing my description, "Why, that's a near perfect fable for neoconservatism!" Quite.

  • The Economics of Microfinance, by Beatriz Armendariz de Aghuion and Jonathan Morduch. This is quite simply the best book on microfinance I have read in a long time - and I read a lot of them, most recently in preparation for a TLS essay on the subject. Coupled with that I recommend The New Law and Economic Development: A Critical Appraisal, edited by David Trubek and Alvaro Santos - I do not agree with its fundamental policy framework, but I am very sympathetic to the idea that you have to take in sophisticated critiques that come from outside your own - in my case, essentially neoliberal - frame. This is an intellectually extraordinarily well done instance of that. I have repeatedly reread the all the essays - by my old and dear friend Scott Newton (I last saw him, I think, in Almaty in the mid 1990s when he came banging on my door out of the blue while I was returning from Tajikistan, perhaps, and he told me about a solo backpacking expedition across Death Valley in the dead of winter), my old friends and teachers Duncan Kennedy and David Kennedy. I take very seriously Frank Fukuyama's complaint that the center right has not developed a serious position on international economic development, and I don't think you can develop one without really understanding this kind of critique and the history from which it comes.

  • United Nations stuff - lots of it that I am working my way through for purposes of finishing up and revising my UN book manuscripts.

  • Infrastructure: The Book of Everything for the Industrial Landscape, by Brian Hayes. Actually, I just finished this - and what a great book! I learned more about everything, well, infrastructural, than you can imagine. Well written, informative, great photos. Great book. It's kind of a guy-book - not really, but that was certainly my wife and daughter's reaction - and since I don't follow sports and was indifferent to March Madness, this was my Manly Alternative.

  • Strength Training Anatomy and Women's Strength Training Anatomy, by Frederic Delavier. Fifty one year old middle age guy trying to get back in shape ... hmm. These books help a lot to understand exercises and weight machines and all that in the gym. They have the most amazingly detailed drawings of the muscles to show what is worked by what exercise. The women's is helpful even for men because it is essentially a much more detailed book on lower body exercises.

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