Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Current Intake

Self-help books and advisors often suggest that you make your resolutions public in order to use the pressure of public scrutiny to accomplish your goals. Well, forget it, if you're looking for something interesting. However, I do hope this year to complete many works that I started, but for one reason or another, didn't complete. Also, I want to attempt to leave fewer uncompleted works lying around. Thus, an occasional update on what's been going into my head. The notes and comments will be short with the thought that fuller reviews will follow:

  1. Atul Gawande: The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. Very well written and informative. Amazing the difference something so simple as a checklist can make.
  2. Pierre Hadot, The Present Alone is Our Happiness: Conversations with Jean Carlier and Arnold Davidson. The great French scholar and philosopher tell of his life and shares his insights from a life time of considering issues arising primarily from his reading of ancient philosophy. I'm embarrassed to say that I read it last year, but forgot to put it on my "best of the year" list. I've decided to re-read it, so it will appear on this list for this year—and yes, it's worth the re-read—definitely!
  3. John Cassidy, How Markets Fail: The Logic of Economic Catastrophes. Listening to this one. A very careful yet accessible history of economic thought.
  4. A lot of mags to catch-up on.

The World of Late Antiquity by Peter Brown

I finished Peter Brown's The World of Late Antiquity: AD 150-750 (1971)(203 p.). Brown writes wonderfully. The only drawback for me was the immensity of his knowledge & his topic. So much was happening! The rise of Christianity, the continuation and deterioration of Roman culture and political rule, the invasions of barbarians, the rise of Byzantium as a separate political entity and culture, and last, but not least, the rise of the Moslem rule and culture. Brown passes through these topics like a knowledgeable museum curator giving you the basic guided tour. Indeed, the book includes a number of illustrations of contemporary art works (love those mosaics!). In all, this work provides a very formidable and wide-ranging survey of this diverse and changing era. No longer will it simply be thought of as the era of the Decline and Fall, or as simply the Dark Ages (although I'm not convinced that this doesn't apply in Northern Europe from about 750-1000 CE). In any event, I'm eager to read more of Brown's work.