Holiday Book Shopping III

This is our third in a series of gift ideas for the holidays (parts one and two are here)

As previously mentioned, I am a terrible book junkie, with many more books than I
could ever possibly read in a given lifetime, and/or leave lying
casually strewn about upon coffee tables and other horizontal surfaces. Hence, the fascination with books that intrigue the mind and imagination.

These are interesting if wholly unrelated titles that
most book lovers you know would be delighted to receive as a gift . . .


Florilegium Imperiale: Botanical Illustrations for Francis I of Austria

This is one of those books you lust after, but its so absurdly expensive, you don’t dare buy one for yourself.

But whoever you do get this for will be forever grateful: The prints are utterly gorgeous, the overall look and feel of the book is a beautifully crafted delight.

Perfect for that special art student or gardener  . . .


Spy_wars Spy Wars: Moles, Mysteries, and Deadly Games

Author Tennant Bagley oversaw the CIA’s operations against the KGB in the 1960s and is uniquely qualified to
take readers deep inside the cold war spy game.

Bagley doesn’t pull any punches
here, and readers expecting the usual KGB-as-villain, CIA-as-hero story
are in for a whole lot of surprises: Bagley reveals that the good guys
were just as duplicitous, traitorous, and nasty as the villains. The
spy game has never seemed quite so dirty nor the CIA so villainous.

Frederick Kempe: "Pete Bagley”s Spy Wars
is a gripping narrative capturing one of the most controversial
espionage sagas of the Cold War. His lively, first-hand account as
CIA”s former chief of Soviet counter-intelligence provides sobering
insights into our dangerous tendency of self-deception."—Frederick
Kempe, former Wall Street Journal editor and correspondent


Number Sense: How the Mind Creates Mathematics

According to mathematician and psychologist Stanislas Dehaene (research
affiliate, Institut de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale, Paris),
mathematics is an inborn skill. The Number  Sense
makes a case for the human mind’s innate grasp of
mathematics. Value systems (such
as the Arabic numeral system we use) arose independently in four
separate civilizations–evidence of a universal sense of number. The
relationship between language and numbers is also well covered.

Also explored: How the brain understands and
manipulates numbers and other forms of mathematical information.

Also worth exploring: The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature


Imperfect Knowledge Economics: Exchange Rates and Risk

John Kay of the Financial Times wrote: "A new book coins the phrase "imperfect knowledge economics" to describe this world of fundamental uncertainty."

Edmund S. Phelps (2006 economics Nobel Prize winner): "This marvelous book by Frydman and Goldberg documents invaluable insights of the ‘early modern’ theory of capitalism that were lost when the profession endorsed rational expectations equilibrium. . . . Happily for me and, I believe, for the profession of economics, this deeply original and important book gives signs of bringing us back on track–on a road toward an economics possessing a genuine microfoundation and at the same time a capacity to illuminate some of the many aspects of the modern economy that the rational expectations approach cannot by its nature explain."

Sounds good to me . . .


Allen_woodyConversations with Woody Allen: His Films, the Movies, and Moviemaking

I am a huge Woodman fan, so this was an automatic. If you love film and/or Woody, you probably are similarly inclined.

"Compiled over thirty-six years of interviews, conversations, and
experiences one could only glean from gaining Allen’s confidence and
respect, Conversations is
essential reading for aspiring filmmakers and those who wish to
eventually put finger to keyboard in hopes of telling a story, but it
is no less intriguing for simple cinephiles.” –Los Angeles Times

“Remarkable . . . fresh with an immediacy often missing in a retrospective.”  –The News & Observer


THE HOUSE THAT GEORGE BUILT: With a Little Help From Irving, Cole, and a Crew of About Fifty.

The composers of one of America’s most popular popular
eras in music — 1920 to 1950 — is not so much as a formal treatise but rather a fan’s
exuberant high- spirited riff.

born novelist, essayist Sheed shows great love for , and tremendous
knowledge of American popular song. He writes with worshipful insight
of the two greatest of the founding fathers of this particular American
genre, George Gershwin and Irving Berlin. Sheed
cares for the Music above all and gives preeminence to those who create
it – the lyrics are significant but secondary. Sheed writes not only
about the major figures, Kern, Berlin, Gershwin, Cole Porter but also
about fifty others.

The reader reviews of this book are what makes me want to read it. They obviously had great
pleasure in reading it . . .


30,000 Years of Art

30000_2Another spectacular coffee table book:    The book is enormous, with an extraordinary collection of over 1000
high-quality color illustrations, showcasing the evolution of creative
arts over diverse cultures from prehistoric to modern times.

chronologically, each piece is given its own page and a condensed
summary of its provenance, key features and cultural context.
Book-ended by a ritual ”lion man” figurine from 28,000 B.C. found in
a cave in southern Germany, and an as-yet-unfinished environmental
sculpture by American artist James Turrell. The book has two time-lines, one covering
major movements in the 13 cultures represented and another comprised of a 28 page horizontal index that
sets each piece against major world events.

Another book junkies’ delight . . .

Elephant The Elephant and the Dragon: The Rise of India and China and What It Means for All of Us   

I have to admit to never having heard of this book until a reader pointed it out to me.

The author covers India and China for Forbes, and describes the global power shift
occurring in India and in China as computers continue to change the way
business is conducted. The book tries to "upend
conventional wisdom" arguing that the U.S.
shouldn’t fear either of these countries. (The book does not much address the massive counterfeiting and patent / copyright violations in both nations.

Is China doing
better than India — and why?  The author gives the nod to China, because they moved toward a market economy in 1978,
while India began to liberalize in 1991. I find this perplexing, given that China remains a totalitarian communist nation, while  India is a democracy.

Regardless, this looks like an intriguing topic for further exploration. . .


The Curiously Sinister Art of Jim Flora

This book goes beyond the first Flora book, The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora. It’s wilder, and has a lot of bizarre fine art works by Flora that have not been shown in public. His album covers (featured in the first book) were fun but mild-mannered compared to the reckless abandon on display in The Curiously Sinister Art. It’s hard to believe that Flora is the same guy who created so many cuddly children’s books in the 1960s and 1970s. The Curiously Sinister book is definitely for ADULTS, or perhaps for overgrown children with a wicked sense of humor.

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. khars commented on Dec 12

    Thanks! a super selection, I went straight to Amazon and bought a few….really.

  2. curmudgeonly troll commented on Dec 12

    With regard to differences in the speed and form of development in India v. China…I would look to the interaction between culture and economics. Indians would point to the effects of colonialism. Those who believe the Brits did not rape and impoverish the country might point to the Hindu culture, ie once an untouchable, always an untouchable does not motivate wealth building.

    Not sure if people still read Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

  3. Abbi Vakil commented on Dec 12

    Barry, here’s an interesting article from the BBC comparing India to China: . A lot of people point out that almost all of the most developed and successful nations are democracies but I would argue that this is going to work against India in the long run. They’re going to choke on their success because tough decisions are harder to make when you have to satisfy all your constituents. India has only been a democracy for 60 years, and the last time it was not occupied was almost 1000 years ago. The other problem they face: a service based economy can only produce so many knowledge workers every year whereas any villager in China can be taught how to put together shoes for Nike or a DVD player for Walmart. So only a small portion of the population can participate in the global economy and therefore I think the outsourcing success story is going to have its limits.

  4. Norman commented on Dec 13

    BR: Fret not about unread books. In the non-fiction realm they are 10x longer than the need to be because usually there is just one idea that gets milked to death. So, we get bored with them after only a few pages. Fiction, though, is an art and so it is as long as the writer thinks it should be.

  5. ZeroBeta commented on Dec 13


    One pretty interesting book I picked up a few months back and am currently reading is “Competition: The Birth of a New Science” by James Case.

    Although for someone already familiar with game theory much it may be too elementary, but Case brings up some very interesting ideas that aren’t as mainstream. Those who are not familiar with Game Theory would probably like it as well.


  6. CrocodileChuck commented on Dec 13


    Its about time I signed in to say how much I like your site-not just the econ data/links, but your taste in music and ideas to boot. Oh, and ‘Effluvia’! Thanks from an antipodean reader,


  7. DavidB commented on Dec 13

    I think you need to have an open thread on China vs. India. I’ve read that China has a better securities market but India has the better bond market structure and that is where the lifeblood of business capitalization really flows from.

    I’m sure there is plenty of knowledge in your reader base to hash out which economy will do better going forward. It may be a moot point though since two growing business economies will probably create a synergy anyway

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