Holiday Book Shopping IV

This is our fourth (and final) in a series of gift ideas for the holidays (parts one and two and three 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, or
strew casually about upon coffee tables and other horizontal surfaces.

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



Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker and Poorer   

This book was NYT business reporter David Leonhardt’s choice for the economics book of the year.

Americans spend between one-fifth and one-third of health-care
dollars on unnecessary treatments, medications, devices, and tests.
What’s worse, there are an estimated 30,000 deaths per annum caused by
this unnecessary care.

The reason for what amounts to a national delusion that more care is
better care is rooted, she says, in a build-it-and-they-will-come
paradigm that rewards doctors and hospitals for how much care they
deliver rather than how effective it is.


Big_history_2Big History: From the Big Bang to the Present:

I find the conceit of this book intriguing: Beginning with the origin of the universe, the author attempts to show that history is more than the written records of the gadfly species Homo sapiens. Covering Earth’s history from the big bang through the development of life and the growth of civilization.

I also love the odd little details: The gold in the ring on your finger has to be more than 4.5 billion years old.

The interweaving of historical knowledge and science — a synthesis of physics, biology, anthropology, and narrative history — looks to make a very intriguing read.


Muscle Car Confidential:      

A tell-all from the man who tested the best of the muscle cars — Joe
Oldham was "up to his eyeballs" in the muscle of the era. The cars he
vetted for some of the top car magazines range from the 1964 GTO to the
1976 Trans Am 455 HO — twenty-four in all. 

A behind-the-scenes look
at how these cars earned their performance numbers, this book gives a
firsthand sense of what it was like to live in the muscle car era, and
to help create the myth that lives on today.

Ahhh, ahhh AArrgghh uhhh!  . . . More power!~


Contours of the World Economy 1-2030 AD: Essays in Macro-Economic History    

Contours_of_the_world_economy_12030This is our wonk selection of the evening:  The book seeks to "identify the forces which explain how and why some parts of the world have grown rich and others have lagged behind."

Encompassing 2000 years of history, part 1 begins with the Roman Empire and explores the key factors that have influenced economic development in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe. Part 2 covers the development of macroeconomic tools of analysis from the 17th century to the present. Part 3 looks to the future and considers what the shape of the world economy might be in 2030.

Combining both the close quantitative analysis with a more qualitative approach that takes into account the complexity of the forces at work, this book looks to be a fascinating overview of world economic history. 


Sinatra_2Sinatra: Frank and Friendly, A Unique Photographic Memoir of a Legend   

If you are a Sinatra fan (like me), this one looks to be a no brainer:  A massive collection of Frank in his hey day by famed photographer Terry O’Neill.

He was photographing ‘The Beatles and the Rolling Stones’ while they were still boys; O’Neill has a gift for earning the trust and the friendship of the famous and the infamous. His photography made him an intimate of many icons, and they invited him "inside", behind the limelight of their celebrity."

O’Neill’s discerning eye and unlimited access captures a relationship that spanned three decades, and takes us behind the scenes of Sinatra’s career — on the road, at home and backstage,In the age of paparazzi, doorstep photography, and on big-budget publicity shoots.


Atlas_of_wineThe World Atlas of Wine:

(Completely Revised and Updated 2007)

Hailed by critics worldwide as “extraordinary” and “irreplaceable,”
there are few volumes that have had as monumental an impact in their
field as Hugh Johnson’s The World Atlas of Wine: sales have exceeded four million copies, and it is now published in thirteen languages.

The atlas is described as "gorgeous" – with lots of color illustrations,
photos, and maps.

The perfect gift for that Oenophile whom you are always afraid to buy wine for — now, you know what to get them.


Absolute_dark_knightAbsolute Dark Knight

On its publication in 1986, Frank Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS
changed the landscape of the graphic novel irrevocably.

With its dark
vision of Batman’s future and its stunning artwork, THE DARK KNIGHT
RETURNS set the comic world on fire. 15 years later, Miller’s sequel, THE DARK
KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN, further redefined the boundaries of the superhero

Now, both of these are collected in one single edition. At $99, its the sort of thing that you might not get for yourself, but
any graphic novel who is the lucky recipient of this weil be thrilled
and delighted . . .


Diaries_19691979_the_python_yearsMichael Palin Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years   

This looked interesting by author alone, until I saw the Washington Post’s Book review:

tells us up front that "I have kept a diary, more or less continuously,
since April 1969," when he was 25 years old, married with a
six-month-old son, and "had been writing comedy with Terry Jones since
leaving university in 1965." He has continued the diary for "nothing
more complicated" than "to keep a record of how I fill the days." A
diary, he says, "is an antidote to hindsight," and continues:

seals the present moment and preserves it from the tidying process of
context, perspective, analysis and balance. It becomes history, but
quite unselfconsciously. What proves to be important over a long period
is not always what a diarist will identify at the time…

Though the
emergence of the Python show and the subsequent phenomenon is traced
here in fits and starts, there is more than enough in these 600-plus
pages about the show, its cast members, its ups and downs to satisfy
all but the most ravenous Python addicts…"



Japan’s answer to Andy Warhol: Takashi Murakami is one of contemporary art’s most innovative and
important figures.

Drawing from a combination of street culture, high art, and
traditional Japanese painting, Murakami takes the contemporary art
trend of mixing high and low to an unprecedented level, producing original paintings and sculptures as
well as mass-produced consumer objects such as toys, books, and most
famously, a line of handbags for Louis Vuitton.

Whimsical, odd, fascinating, and fun.


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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. marcello commented on Dec 20


    want a better tidbit – that gold, and every other element heavier than iron, was created in a supernova, which exploded 4.5 Gy or more ago, whose remnants gave rise to our solar system.

    as Sagan said “We are made of stardust”

  2. marcello commented on Dec 20


    want a better tidbit – that gold, and every other element heavier than iron, was created in a supernova, which exploded 4.5 Gy or more ago, whose remnants gave rise to our solar system.

    as Sagan said “We are made of stardust”

  3. d_rumsfeld commented on Dec 20

    Technically, that’s not true. Elements heavier than iron can be byproducts of nuclear fission of radioactive elements such as uranium. It is highly unlikely that the gold on your finger was originally created by a fission product on this planet, but many other heavy elements, such as radon, lead, and cesium are regularly created by the nuclear decay of uranium.

  4. wunsacon commented on Dec 20

    >> as Sagan said “We are made of stardust”

    We are billion-year-old carbon…

  5. Juan commented on Dec 20

    Well as someone else who was ‘up to his eyballs’ in the muscle car era and racing a Z11 Chevy then a ’65 Hemi car while driving street types from a ’61 tri-power Pontiac Catalina through a ’69 Camaro SS 396/375hp…and has raced same types as well as the always forgotten ’71 Buick GS Stage I vs modern ‘hot cars’, there was not much ‘myth’ involved though towards the end, GM did tend to overstate.

  6. Karl K commented on Dec 20

    Shannon Brownlee’s book is a must read, largely because it does a nice summary job of addressing the issues in our health care system.

    Yet you get the sense that she simply doesn’t understand how incentives work in the health care system — as it does in any economic

    For example,her prescription that capitation compensation for doctors is the way to go, rather than a procedure based system, soft-pedals the perverse incentive that inevitably arise.

    The bad news is that the US health care system is broken — but that’s good news too. Because we have the opportunity here to do things right — somehow create a system where consumers have cost incentives, providers have quality incentives, and we nonetheless get the best technology and the best drug advances yet still provide quality health care without the scarcity horrors (Canada) and budget busting bills (France) that we see with statist or single payer systems.

  7. Eric commented on Dec 22

    Re: Overtreated, the estimate of 30,000 deaths per year is pretty low based on this “Landmark” article:

    JAMA. 2000 Jul 26;284(4):483-5

    There the high estimate is 300k, with the headline best guess at 225k—the biggest contributor being side effects of pharmaceuticals (106k annually–think twice before you pop that pill). This would give us the following top three leading causes of death, in order: cancer, heart disease, modern medicine.

    It is hard to see a future in big pharma given numbers like these, but they do have a strangle hold on advertising. And many people find it easier to die than to question the sanctity of our white-coated guardian angels.

  8. steve brophy commented on Dec 23

    Bravo Barry!
    You are so right.
    Selig must go.
    You know, on one level the players shouldn’t be given ALL the blame (there’s enough to go around) for using steriods and trying to gain every edge in this incredibly difficult game. They are (as in any sport) after all, just big kids, as displayed by some of their other antics. But where were the people at the top to clamp down. To enforce the rules? The grown-up supervision. Where was our beloved Joe Torrey. Did he really know nothing? And of course, Selig should resign in shame!

Read this next.

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