Re: Christmas Reading
| Peter Klein |
I don’t like to compete with Nicolai in the “what-I’ve-been-reading” department — he consumes a dozen books for every one I manage to read (or color) — but he broke the ice so I might as well follow suit.
1. Jack Weatherford, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (Crown, 2004). Genghis is rehabilitated as not a barbarian at all, but a great military commander, skilled administrator, and “progressive” leader, at least by the standards of his age. The author much admires the Great Khan for practicing religious toleration, funding universal public education, establishing a post office, and the like (what else would you expect from an American college professor?). Plenty of plunder and pillage too, of course. Anyway, an interesting and well-written piece of revisionist history.
2. Orhan Pamuk, The White Castle (George Braziller, 1991). A thoughtful and engaging meditation on the nature of identity, wrapped inside a historical novel about a 17th-century Venetian captured by Turks and sent to Constantinople as a slave and tutor to a young Turkish scholar. Good reading for the identity theory crowd.
3. Michael Ruhlman, The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection (Viking, 2000). You’ve heard of chick lit? Now there’s food lit, a new genre for foodies. A group of chefs spends a grueling week at the CIA (no, not that one, the Culinary Institute of America) seeking the title Certified Master Chef. The exams make comprensive PhD examinations look easy by comparison. Perhaps you have to be a foodie to enjoy the book fully, but there’s interesting information on the economic organization of the food and restaurant industry.
4. Neal Stephenson, Quicksilver (William Morrow, 2003). A prequel, of sorts, to Stephenson’s highly successful Cryptonomicon, which I enjoyed tremendously. Interesting historical fiction about the birth of modern science. At nearly a thousand pages — and just volume 1 of the three-volume Baroque Cycle — it makes Human Action and Foundations of Social Theory look like novellas.