Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Review: The Rise of Athens: The Story of the World's Greatest Civilization

The Rise of Athens: The Story of the World's Greatest CivilizationThe Rise of Athens: The Story of the World's Greatest Civilization by Anthony Everitt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A sweeping history of Athens. I enjoyed it, though it was not as good as I was expecting. Everitt's book on Cicero was amazing, so I was expecting something on par. In part this may be the nature of the subject: it is too epic and sweeping, and Everitt was trying to cover too much in too little space. Another weakness was that the focus of the narrative was too often on battles and military campaigns. No doubt these are essential to understanding the rise of Athens: you cannot (and should not) separate the history of Athens from its battles with Sparta and Persia. But it seemed to take up too much of the space, pushing other elements to the side.

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Sunday, June 28, 2020

Review: F. A. Hayek and the Epistemology of Politics: The Curious Task of Economics

F. A. Hayek and the Epistemology of Politics: The Curious Task of EconomicsF. A. Hayek and the Epistemology of Politics: The Curious Task of Economics by Scott Scheall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An important work of scholarship on Hayek and his ideas. The depth of research into Hayek's ideas on psychology, epistemology, and economics, as well as the history of Austrian economics more broadly, is evident through out this readable and approachable work. Scheall pulls these ideas together to formulate a novel approach to understanding and developing political thought, one that focuses on political epistemology and the limits of what any one, especially policymakers, can know. This is not just a book for Hayek scholars though, I highly recommend for anyone interested in economics, political philosophy, or policy.

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Saturday, June 20, 2020

Review: Thrawn: Treason

Thrawn: Treason Thrawn: Treason by Timothy Zahn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this third book in the new Thrawn trilogy was much better than the second entry in this series. The story is tighter and better plotted. I enjoyed it; it was a fun read.

Where the book was weakest was in character development. There is little we learn about Thrawn and some of the other returning characters. They are who they are and do not develop beyond that. There are several new characters -- but not a lot is done with them. We do, though, learn more about the Chiss and the Chiss navigators. There is still a lot of untapped potential here that I hope Zahn explores in future books.

Thrawn is a great character -- one of the best in the Star Wars universe. Though he orchestrates a lot of it, he was not as directly involved as one would expect in a lot of the action of the story.

Even with these criticisms, it was fun and engaging read. One most fans of Thrawn and Star Wars will enjoy.

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Saturday, June 13, 2020

Review: The Concrete Blonde

The Concrete Blonde (Harry Bosch, #3; Harry Bosch Universe, #3)The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fantastic balance of courtroom drama and detective thriller. Connelly's plotting is masterful.

It was a bit strange to read this after not having read a Bosch novel in a while but recently watching season 1 on Amazon. Titus Welliver just is Bosch now. Interestingly, there are a lot of elements and characters from this book that worked their way into the first season of Bosch -- though their roles in the plot and their outcomes are quite different.

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Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Review: The Age of Pericles

The Age of PericlesThe Age of Pericles by Jeremy McInerney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A wonderful sweep through the history of ancient Athens. McInerney is a great lecturer, a pleasure to listen to. He covers the political and economic history of Athens, and also its cultural innovations and importance from drama to philosophy. The title might throw some people: it's much less about Pericles than it is about the Athens into which Pericles lived. (Hence The Age of ...)

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Review: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and ReligionThe Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Haidt is a wonderfully clear and effective writer. He is able to condense scientific and technical ideas and evidence and make them accessible and understandable. Part of his appeal is, I think, that he comes across as intellectually honest and diligent.

This book put Haidt on the public intellectual map—or at least it seemed that way to me. I recall the book creating quite a stir when it came out in 2012. Reading it now in 2020, many of the ideas already strike me as quite familiar. This is a huge complement to Haidt: what seemed at first novel is now commonplace. After almost a decade of this kind of social psychological thinking (not just Haidt, but others such as Daniel Kahneman) working its way into the discourse, it doesn’t quite come across as ground-breaking any more.

That said, it is still an important book. It examines important questions about how our moral ideas and foundations are formed and how that affects how we think about all kinds of things in our world: but most importantly religion and politics. As contentious as these issues might have been back in 2012, they only seem to have gotten worse. And even though there is in his arguments much I am not ultimately persuaded by, the perspective he offers can still help each of us better understand each other.

If there is a core theme to take away from the book: it is that most people are not evil or out to destroy everything you hold sacred; so try to understand where they are coming from and why. You might find that although you still disagree with them, you can understand why they think the way they do (as well as better understand why you think the way you do). This opens the door to the possibility of communication and less divisiveness.

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Saturday, June 06, 2020

Review: Storm of Locusts

Storm of Locusts (The Sixth World, #2)Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love what Roanhorse does with the characters: the five-fingers and gods. But especially the gods! The world she has created is fascinating--I wouldn't want to live there, but I enjoy reading about it. She creates great tension, a little horror, and well-placed humor. I like the first book a little better--it was a bit more focused. We get several new characters here and since we go outside of the Dinetah this time, we see more and learn more about what else is going on. So that spreads the story out a bit. (I would still love a map.) But these additions are still on the whole improvements; there is just more to track. Looking forward to the next book in the series!

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