Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Books Books Books

As a general thing, reading worthy books is a better pastime than reading blogs. Trust me. So here are some links about some books.

Hadar Sela reviews Michael Totten's new book, The Road to Fatima Gate: The Beirut Spring, the Rise of Hezbollah, and the Iranian War Against Israel. The review is here, and if you live in the US, you've got till the end of this week to order the book directly from Michael himself, as he explains here. I haven't read it yet but do intend to.

One reason I have yet to read Michael's book is that I'm reading Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore. Here, if you're in the US you've actually got a problem, since you can only buy the Kindle version of the book; the dead tree version will only come out later this year. I acquired a UK copy, and am very much enjoying the read. I'm also concurrently reading Albert Hourani's A History of the Arab Peoples which is also very interesting.

David Brooks, a semi-conservative who writes as a fig leaf at the New York Times, has recently published The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement, in which he apparently makes the argument that people are not as rational as they're supposed to be, and also that cultural conditionig can, well, condition us. The Economist reviews the book favorably, and in spite of themselves make a list of two kinds of countries, on which Israel ranks very well, apparently even better than the UK:
Culture and the community in which a child is raised help to build the way the conscious and unconscious intertwine. Mr Brooks recounts a survey of diplomats who failed to pay parking fines in New York. By far the worst non-payers came from countries where corruption is endemic: Egypt, Pakistan, Nigeria and so on. By contrast, diplomats from Sweden, Denmark, Japan, Israel, Norway and Canada had no unpaid fines at all. “Thousands of miles away from home,” Mr Brooks writes, “diplomats still carried their domestic cultural norms inside their heads.”
Finally, we've got the new book by Mark Malloch Brown,  The Unfinished Global Revolution: The Pursuit of a New International Politics. Personally, I would never buy a used car from someone with the name Malloch, and certainly not after having been reminded by Sebag Motefiore about what used to be done in his name (more or less) in a valley to the south of Jerusalem. But that's just me. The greater problem with the book is that Mr. Brown seems to think it would be a good thing to have some sort of universal government for all of humanity, which of course isn't going to happen, but even having to deal with the people who think it should is a major pain in the neck. Which means, this actually may be a book worth perusing, in a "know the enemy" sort of vein. The Economist reviews it here.

Well, that should keep you busy for a bit.


Silke said...

as the less rational than we believe we are story I think I've heard that first from several scientists in book talks or in interviews who happened to be Israelis.

I think one of them even got a nobel for it. Let's hope Brooks gives them adequate credit.

Also interesting on that subject is Freakonomics so it sounds to me as if Brooks is rehashing stuff. Let's hope he has something new to add.

BTW I forgot which philosopher told me that all these our brains deciding things before we are conscious stuff is nice but if we value our human dignity we should keep insisting against all science that we are responsible for what we do.

Lee Ratner said...

I think that Philip K. Hitti's History of the Arabs is a better history even if it goes slightly past WWI. Hitti is a better organizer and historian than Hourani.

Anonymous said...

Reconstructing a lost collection on the 'Science of Judaism'