Wednesday, 5 January 2005

The Big Five-0

Via Will Baude and Amber Taylor, I see that bloggers are being challenged to read and review 50 books this year. This may be a bit of a daunting challenge—even for those of us expected to read (and write, not to mention teach) for a living—but since I’m currently ahead of the curve, I might as well participate.

Book the First: Time Lord. Reviewed (somewhat unfavorably) here.

Book the Second: The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America. Mini-review: a brilliant, accessible, non-scholarly look at the contemporary political right (broadly defined) in America. Minor faults: the book is sometimes confused over which left-right axis it’s talking about (for example, it sometimes refers to the political left in Europe as “liberals,” a mistake I wouldn’t expect Britons to make), and it underemphasizes the role of political institutions (aside from the Senate, which is overemphasized) in making the United States a generally more conservative nation than other industrialized democracies—the role of federalism and the Constitution gets about a page of treatment in nearly 400 pages of body text. I strongly recommend this book for either the general reader, or as a supplemental text in an undergraduate course in either political parties or American political culture (if such a beast exists).

Book the Third: The Lady Tasting Tea: How Statistics Revolutionized Science in the 20th Century. Just bought it; the book got a favorable review by Simon Jackman in The Political Methodologist a year or so ago.


Any views expressed in these comments are solely those of their authors; they do not reflect the views of the authors of Signifying Nothing, unless attributed to one of us.

My first reaction was to join the 50 book challenge, mostly as a means to read more books. Then I thought that my natural need for dignity would cause me to read a lot of stupid easy books instead of the dense long ones that I often tackle. Then I thought of a story that a friend of mine told me. She had dated a fellow many years ago who was a lawyer in a big Washington law firm. When the guy finally got my friend into his bedroom she saw that he had a bookshelf that wound along the wall along the ceiling all around the room. Being a librarian and a bibliophile, she plucked a book from the shelf at which point the guy gets all jumpy and explains that they are all shelved in exactly the order in which he has read them. Apparently books were not qualified to sit on the shelf until they had been read, and thereafter had an appointed place. This creeped out my friend, although she will not say whether she “went through with it.” (Naturally, I asked. That’s the kind of guy I am.) My lesson: the chicks won’t dig us if we get too into book-reading scorekeeping.


I don’t know that the lawyer’s system is that strange. Read and unread’s useful for figuring out what to read next.

I have several major groups of books. Books that were assigned for a course in college are shelved first by department, then by what class I read them for, then by the order in which I read them in that class (ok, at that level it’s slightly compulsive). Fiction and non-fiction are separated. Books I had with me in college or have bought since are in one group; old books that never made it in the move to college are in a different set. All of that is alphabetical by author. Vonnegut’s arranged in the order he wrote them; Warren’s arranged by how well I liked them; Greene’s arranged in the order I read them. Only on the most detailed level does this start becoming really odd. Before that, it’s so I always know where a book is when I need to find it.


In what I suppose might be misplaced presumptuousness, you don’t need the chicks to dig you.

I’m a piles and boxes guy, myself. A great disappointment (and possibly a reaction) to my father, who was, among other things, a librarian.

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