I don’t read books anymore

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 06, 2009

That’s not precisely true, but my book reading is down to a trickle of what it used to be. Most of my reading happens online for kottke.org and when I’m through with all that, the last thing I want to do is tuck into a book, no matter how good it is. But what I really haven’t been doing is talking about the books I’ve read or am interested in reading if I had the time. Oh, there have been a few mentioned on the site recently, but there are many more1 stacked on the bedside table, on the shelf next to where I put my keys, and in the “to shelve” pile near the bookshelves that have gone unmentioned.

I know there are a few of you who are interested in what I’ve been reading, if only to avoid the same titles, so I’m going to do a series of collective mini-reviews of every single book that has crossed my desk recently (where recently is loosely defined as the past four years or so). Here’s the first batch.

Create Your Own Economy by Tyler Cowen. I wanted to give this a full and proper review and perhaps still will, but right around the time I finished reading it was the shipping date for the second version of a project my wife and I were working on, Create Your Own Dependent Child. So this capsule will have to do. CYOE is an odd book consisting of two intertwining defenses: 1) of the internet in general and blogs/Twitter/Facebook in particular (one of the best defenses of the internet I’ve read, in fact), and 2) of autism, the main point being that a person on the autistic spectrum is not disabled or even differently abled but in many cases is better equipped to handle increasingly common situations in contemporary culture. I found Cowen’s interrelation of these two topics fascinating. This book is from out of left field in the best possible sense. Recommended.

Master of Shadows by Mark Lamster. Before Mark told me he was writing this book, I had no idea that Peter Paul Rubens was diplomat as well as a painter. I might give this one a whirl after I finish my tour of the Dark Ages.

Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins. Google sent me this book as a promotion of their Sidewiki thing. The book arrived with a bookmark in it that basically said “what if you could do this to any web page in the world?” I used Sidewiki for about 3 minutes and never went back. Mr. Collins book will likely remain unread and eventually find its way to Housing Works to find a better home than I can provide.

Extreme Fear by Jeff Wise. This book is due out in December; Wise sent me a copy after reading this post, one of many on the site about relaxed concentration and deliberate practice. If you enjoy when I write about these things, you may want to check out this book.

Lost and Found edited by Thomas Beller. This is a collection of essays and stories about specific places in New York City drawn from Beller’s web site, Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood.

Lost and Found, Volume II of the series, is a mosaic of voices, drawing on the diverse experiences of such New Yorkers as a frequent patron of Manhattan sex clubs, a diamond dealer on 47th Street, and a doorman on the Upper East Side. The book features many exciting new voices (Said Sayrafiezadeh, Rachel Sherman, Bryan Charles) alongside work by well-known writers, including Phillip Lopate, Jonathan Ames, Alicia Erian, Madison Smartt Bell, and Edmund White.

Bailout Nation by Barry Ritholtz. The subtitle of the book is “How Greed and Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy” and it came out in May. It’s well-reviewed; the NY Times, WSJ, and the Freakonomics guys gave it favorable ratings. My son calls it his “pig book” for the porcine version of the Wall Street Bull on the dust jacket. Ritholtz blogs about economic and financial matters at The Big Picture.

SuperFreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. The sequel to the blockbuster economics book has only been out a couple of weeks but is already generating a lot of controversy. I’m keen to read this one and do a proper review; it looks like a fast read and, with all apologies to Mr. Rubens, might be next on the list.

Ok, that’s enough for now. More soon.

[1] This is probably a good spot to mention that some of the books above (spacially speaking…or below, temporally speaking) have been purchased by me and some have been sent to me by the author or author’s publishing company or author’s publicist. In most cases, especially with books I’ve had for more than a few weeks, I honestly can’t remember where I got them from, so I can’t imagine it matters much w/r/t to my “review”. How about this: if it seems relevent in a particular case, I’ll mention it.