What I read in 2012

I have noticed that I haven’t been reading much fiction these days. I keep adding novels to my Amazon wish list, and find myself returning to (older) le Carré and Kipling’s Stalky & Co…. But I did re-read John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, sadly as relevant as ever, and I was mesmerised with Wole Soyinka’s You Must Set Forth At Dawn. Michael Sandel’s Justice: What is the right thing to do? and Peter Singer’s The Life You Can Save prompted a lot of thought. I realise that I have been giving less than I used to – I am keeping up with Give Well blogsite. I bought Chade-Meng Tan’s  Look Inside Yourself to try something different. The language and style grate on this Brit – best not to read the cover or forewords … and try to let the assertion that “happiness is the default state of mind” wash over – but there are many useful pointers and guidance that I have found useful. I caught up with Alex Ross’ Listen to This having enjoyed The Rest Is Noise. And I am now enjoying trying out Messiaen, Morton Feldman, Jonathan Harvey, Elliot Carter, and most recently Esa-Pekka Salonen (Sibelius has been a long-time favourite).

Otherwise it’s been economics.  Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman left me a bit cold – the style is ponderous, a good editor would have halved the length. That homo economicus, homo sapiens, homo faber are straw men was not even an issue for Eric Hobsbawm: I was re-reading The Age of Capital when he died in November. That repeated crises are endemic to capitalism is also a theme of Nouriel Roubini’s excellent Crisis Economics. I enjoyed reading Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson’s Why Nations Fail, including their fence-sitting, which Nicholas Shaxson’s Treasure Island could not be accused of. But I have learnt most from The Enigma of Capital and the Crisis of Capitalism by David Harvey, and John Bellamy Foster’s Marx’s Ecology.

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