My Library

Essentials, Foundational

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas S. Kuhn, 1962.  A conceptual framework for understanding how paradigm shifts in understanding take place.  Particularly useful on financial markets, political topics, any idea in the public eye.

Thinking, Fast and Slow, 2011, Daniel Kahneman.  The psychological basis for all of the systematic errors in judgement we make.  A now pretty commonplace summary of the path-breaking contributions of Kahneman and Amos Tversky.

The March of Folly, Barbara W. Tuchman, 1984.  Why do we pursue activities contrary to our own interests, despite the availability of feasible alternatives?

Full House:  the spread of excellence from Plato to Darwin, Stephen Jay Gould, 1996. “Treasure variety for its own sake.”

Antifragile:  Things that Gain from Disorder, Nassim Nicolas Taleb.  A powerful prism useful for understanding how an entity will respond to crisis.  A concept much better than the book itself.

In Progress

Asia’s Cauldron:  The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific, Robert D. Kaplan, 2014. China’s military rise in the area where the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean intersect.

The Discovery of Chance, The Life and Thought of Alexander Herzen, A. M. Kelly, 2016.

Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Daniel C. Dennett, 1989.

In the Queue

The Great Leveler, Walter Scheidel, 2017.  The antidote to Piketty.  A sensible and detailed examination of 16 periods in which inequality of wealth and income were compressed – with no systematic cause.  Review here.

Hirohito and the making of Modern Japan, H. P. Bix

Words Like Loaded Pistols, Sam Leith

Kissinger, 1923-1968: The Idealist, Niall Ferguson, 2015.

Fatal Discord:  Erasmus, Luther and the fight for the Western Mind, Michael Massing, 2018.  NYT Review.  “Among the threats to human flourishing, we should not underestimate the dangers of misplaced certitude.”


A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles.  A brilliantly conceived and written historical novel.

The Camp of the Saints, Jean Raspail, 1973.  Very, very prescient.  Refugees on the move.  On the vision that inspired the novel:  “They were there!  A million poor wretches, armed only with their weakness and their numbers, overwhelmed by misery, encumbered with starving black and brown children, ready to disembark on our soil, the vanguard of the multitudes pressing hard against every part of the tired and overfed West.  I literally saw them, saw the major problem they presented, a problem absolutely insoluble by our present moral standards.  To let them in would destroy us.  To reject them would destroy them.

White Teeth, Zadie Smith.  Screamingly funny!  A chaotic rush through the immigrant experience.  Probably too long.

The Coming Anarchy, Robert D. Kaplan, 2000.  One of the great geopolitical realists, looks ever more realistic in 2018.  Pay attention to everything he writes.


Dark Money, Jane Mayer, 2017.  The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.  In the late 1970s, the Koch brothers launched their surreptitious plan for a libertarian takeover of progressive institutions of democracy.   Two generations later, the success of their long game, financed through a network of “philanthropic” foundations, is evident.  Sickening control over political actors!

The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Tolstoy, 1886.   Interesting look into the psychology of death, but too preachy.  Tolstoy’s complaint about a life badly lived.


Dickens, Bleak House.  Wonderful descriptions of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, a legal case set in the fog of London that has persisted so long that no one remembers it’s subject.  Much too long winded for my impatient taste.

Capital in the 21st Century, Thomas Piketty.  An important topic sooo badly treated.  A 700 page brick that could have been a 15 page essay.  Huge disservice to Balzac.  Review here.



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