Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Books of Summer

My last final exam was yesterday. The school year is over, and summer beckons like an endless realm of bright, golden possibilities.

Which means it's time to put together the summer reading list.

It's actually going to be a pretty short list. That's partly due to the voice of experience, and partly because I'm still waiting to see what's on other people's summer reading lists. Tyler Cowen has done a nice one before, and in general lists should be popping up like mushrooms on the Internet pretty quick now. So for the time being, I am limiting myself to the following:

1) Thinking Strategically, by Dixit and Nalebuff.
Game theory. This one actually came from Tyler Cowen's list a year or so ago. I've read just enough to know that I want to finish it.

2) The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama.
I know just enough about Obama to be convinced that he is easily our best choice out of the current crop, and I want to know more so I picked this up. On my first foray, I was initially put off by his tone in the book; there seems to be a pompous quality to his writing. But then in a moment of insight I realized that Obama hears himself speaking when he writes. He writes prose like he writes a speech, and sentence structures that work well in public speaking are often clunkers in print. I understand the error; it's very common and I've done it myself. No harm done now that I understand what's going on.

3) By the Sweat of Thy Brow, by Kranzberg and Gies.
This is a history of "how mankind has conceived of and organized work." It's a traditional, literary-style, history book. There is no economic theory in here that has ever had acquaintance of algebra, let alone calculus, or set theory, or general equilibrium models, or whatever godforsaken, formalist horrors may now lurk in the pages of the The Journal of Economic History. This one is just for fun, and at first glance it reads like it will be just fun. It's also dear to my heart because it's the only one of my three summer books that came from the Santa Cruz Library annual book sale, where used books are offered for $1.50 a pound. Which means that this little volume cost me 98 cents. I can't begin to describe the happiness I'm experiencing from my consumer surplus here.

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