Lots of good reading going on now that I no longer have an six-day jury trial looking at me. Thus, a quick update with ideas:
1. Jon Elster, Alexis De Toqueville: The First Social Scientist (2009). If De Toqueville is the first, Elster is one of the best. De Toqueville, unlike Marx or Durkheim, looks primarily to mechanisms to explain social behavior. Elster, at his analytical best, shows Toqueville's insights and failures. Things like envy and hatred, equality and privilege, are seen through a jeweler's eye--or I should say eyes, as Elster adds his perspective to Toqueville's. I have also dipped into Political Psychology by Elster (1993), an earlier Elster consideration of Toqueville, along with French historian Paul Veyne and Russian Alexander Zinoviev. Again, mechanisms, individual decisions with great social consequences, are the topic of consideration and Elster's primary methodological concern.
2. Jean Edward Smith's FDR (2008). Listening to this in the car, I started with FDR's inaguration. It's all so familiar. President Obama should read it (perhaps any good FDR biography would do). The attacks from right and left; the ability to steer the middle ground. Certainly no president, however great in hindsight, goes without every Dick, Jane, and Sally second-guessing and criticizing him (or her, when the time comes). A familiar story, but still fascinating.
3. Steig Larson's The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo (2008). I'd heard or seen a lot about this mystery, so I popped for it last weekend. 270 pages into it, I'm just getting going. Larson doesn't rush things, and he sets up things very carefully. Without knowing the ending, I know that it's engrossing and well thought out.
Happy reading for now.