What I’m Reading

The WSJ recently reviewed the top economics blogs and one I read regularly, Marginal Revolution, by Tyler Cowen, was highlighted. The one critique of MR was that Cowen’s sporadic “What I’m Reading” posts make people feel inferior because he’s always reading about 20 different books stretching across about 10 different fields, many quite esoteric. Cowen is a unique dude, incredibly well read, a prolific writter (he blogs 3-5x a day and writes nonstop essays and books), and a connoisseur of ethnic cuisine among other things. 

I’m always reading email, student work, and lots of print and electronic periodicals. On top of that, I have book reading periods, one of which I’m in right now. So with no Cowen-like pretense, here’s what I’m reading.

Nancy Pearl, on Seattle’s NPR station, KUOW, turned me on to “the best teen novel” she had ever read, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. I purchased it for my soon to be 14 and 17 year olds. I’m reading it before wrapping it and to say I’m wrapped up in it is an understatement. You know how we all have things we wish were different about ourselves, I wish I made more time for fiction. I really believe in the power of fiction, I just don’t make time to drink from the well often enough. Synopsis. . . elite boarding school, 10th grade girl, 12th grade boyfriend, secret all male society, feminist pushback, timely, and smartly written. 

I’m also reading The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner. The subtitle hints at the thesis: Why even our best schools don’t teach the new survival skills our children need-and what we can do about it. Overlaps almost directly with my primary professional interests so I’m enjoying it. Wish I wrote it first.

Last, but not least, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. I heard the author, John Gottman, on NPR one night and thought he was the clearest and most interesting and insightful speaker on marriage I had heard. When I told the wife that she ran out and got a few of his books. Should I take that as a bad sign? I negotiated down to taking turns reading alternate chapters of “Seven Principles”. Funny thing, she hammered out chapter one and then we stalled. Yesterday she told me she has to return it to the library soon, a not so subtle hint, but first I have to wrap up The Disreputable History. How can I concentrate on my marriage before knowing how things turn out for Frankie, Matthew, and the other Loyal Basset Hounds?

2 thoughts on “What I’m Reading

  1. Hey Ron.

    Wish I could be reading more. It’s not that I don’t have the time necessarily but in my usual self-destructive manner I am not realizing/mining whatever gold’s in what time’s at my disposal. Oh well. At least I realize this fact. And for me online reading doesn’t count. I guess I do a lot of that. Here’s my own reading list:

    “Wind” by Jan DeBlieu. The subtitle of this book, over a decade old, says it all: How the Flow of Air has Shaped Life, Myth, and the Land. The author achieves a sort of meditation that’s part poetry almost, part scientific observation, part history. It’s amazing to see how the wind in its various facets has molded the march of mankind. Did you know for instance that sailing the doldrums in times of old sailors would be slowed so much they’d toss their horses overboard because they had to conserve water?

    “Albatrosses” by WLN Tickell. I guess this would be one of those esoteric books. A deep concise masterful work, this academic tome is nevertheless a quite readable study of these magnificent birds, divided depending on how one looks at it into fourteen or possibly twenty-one species. Longest wingspans of all, long-long childhoods (10 months) before fledging; 7-12 years before reproductive maturity. On New Zealand’s South Island, I believe, people can visit the only mainland nesting site of albatrosses. In the Galapagos Islands which are nearer for most people, one might see amongst other amazing fauna and mega-fauna the Waved Albatross. I could go and on.

    “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle” by David Wroblewski. Have yet to actually begin this novel, but in a nutshell it’s about a tight knit family living on a farm in northern Wisconsin. They breed a fictional breed of dog that’s quite intuitive, and telepathic. Their life on this farm is disrupted. Also an Oprah Book Club pick.

    On another topic altogether: Now that it seems the much larger picture has emerged, it’s been disappointing seeing Henry Gates, an upper middle class black man stoop to playing the race card. I hate being disappointed in other people, being no paragon of virtue myself, but there, I’ve said it, I am truly disappointed in him. Perhaps the police officer should have practiced more restraint when the professor got verbally abusive, but I still cling to the hope that this Harvard professor will be wise about the teachable moment he demands to thrust down the public’s throat.

    While acknowledging that racial profiling does exist, I’d like to also see both he and Barack Obama generate some dialogue about how blacks themselves are responsible for their lives. The crime rate in the black community is alarmingly high, than by any other ethnic group. Uproars in the black community it appears only begin when there’s an unfortunate incident between a police officer and a black youth. But where is the collective outrage at black on black crime, at inner city streets rife with drug dealers, illiteracy, young pregnant unwed mothers and apathy? Where’s Al Sharpton on that?

    Also, it was troubling that Barack Obama jumped to such quick conclusion on a story he actually knew very little about, as he admitted. Did his own experience color this rush to judgment, I wonder? Was his hasty defense of his friend an example of the “empathy” he’s glad his current Supreme Court nominee Sotomayor displays?

    Let’s talk about racial profiling, but let’s talk about the other side of the coin too.

  2. Hi Ron. Sorry I meant to add somewhere in the above comment that blacks are more likely to be killed by a fellow black person than by another ethnic group.

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