An extraordinary read. I had never really gotten into economics partly because I didn’t have a good entry point—the one college economics class I tookAn extraordinary read. I had never really gotten into economics partly because I didn’t have a good entry point—the one college economics class I took was quite dry. This book was the perfect antidote: outrageously engaging while explaining in great detail the foundations of our systems of exchange throughout history.
After having discussed with a colleague how the IMF forces countries to repay debts at the expense of the livelihood of their constituents, Graeber starts the book with the question: “Do we need to pay back our debts?” He then moves throughout history, from ancient societies to today, to try and answer this question by showing how debt has always been a critical component of human societies but has been treated quite differently in different times and spaces. Graeber approaches the issue from all sides: moral, philosophical, political, historical, cultural, geographical, linguistic—you name it. Yet for all his intellectualism and his grappling with complex issues, he always writes in very clear, exciting prose, without jargon. Every chapter explains some mysterious historical phenomenon through thought-provoking questions and fascinating stories. Since Graeber is an anthropologist, there were a number of stories from various tribes that lie outside the typical historical reference point. But he culls ideas and examples from all places: Nietzche, medieval Islamic jokes, ancient Roman ledgers, 20th century cultural theorists—the man has read everything! (the bibliography is nearly forty-9pointfont-pages!)
I will point out that Graeber is not a fan of modern Capitalism in the sense of Capitalism as a system that demands endless growth. He is not, however, anti-market and takes great pains to show us alternate systems of exchange beyond the capitalist-socialist binary that have existed throughout history and have been wiped from our contemporary imaginations (for example, medieval Islam was a cashless society without usury that relied on trust and reputation rather than financial manipulation). At a time when people can sometimes feel hopeless in their inability to change a system that is destroying much of what people have come to love and hold dear, Graeber, through his profound and thought-provoking history, may not provide any easy solutions, but he at least gives us the intellectual breathing room to ponder possibilities for the future. ...more
Wow. This may be one of the best novels I have ever read. Which, of course, means that I was quite moved by this book. Which also means that I relatedWow. This may be one of the best novels I have ever read. Which, of course, means that I was quite moved by this book. Which also means that I related to it. The vividness with which Carr depicts this idyllic landscape--the freshness, the strangeness, the intoxicating nature of discovering a new you in a new place--called forth so many memories of great, great joy from my own life. And the sorrow of lost love and missed opportunities that this book also magnificently realizes? Well, I can relate to that, as well, as I’m sure many, many people can. Everything just rang so true, every detail lovingly crafted from a lifetime of experience. A simple, beautiful, perfect novel....more
An amazing book about the body's internal circuitry. This book is divided into many different parts and each one is reveals information that is both fAn amazing book about the body's internal circuitry. This book is divided into many different parts and each one is reveals information that is both fascinating and incredible.
The first part deals with the history of regeneration in animals and the discoveries that led to Becker's work. Then it dives into Becker's work with salamanders. Becker takes us step by step through his discoveries, allowing us to share his thrills as he makes genuinely monumental discoveries about the origins of healing and life.
Next he details the various applications of these discoveries, including his work with people, and the miraculous healing he was able to accomplish. An orthopedic surgeon as well as a researcher, Becker guides the reader (through Selden's prose) through esoteric areas (such as the semi-conductivity of bone) with careful but thorough explanations. Every once in a while the prose becomes slightly dry (for example, when talking about the potential for healing spinal cords) but never overstays his welcome and moves on the next discovery before the reader becomes bored.
The third part deals with the positive ramifications of the discovery of the internal DC current and its relationship with healing and biorhythms: how it's responsible for acupuncture; for our biorhythms; even (potentially) for extra-sensory perception and paranormal phenomena.
The fourth part deals with the negative ramifications of our reliance on electricity: we are seriously affected by all electric and magnetic fields. The consequences of our modern man-made electropollution and it's potential for disease, psychosis, environmental disaster, and other terrifying outcomes is real and close at hand. At this point the book seems to veer into conspiracy theory but because we have seen what a thorough scientist Becker is up till this point, we believe that he speaks the truth.
Finally, Becker ends with the politics of scientific research and it, too, is horrifying. Becker paints a picture of a world in which new discoveries are frowned upon and the status quo is upheld, even at humanity's potential demise. This is not necessarily surprising, but it certainly is bleak.
This is one of the most eye-opening books I've ever read and one of the most satisfying, too....more
Terrific book. Kahneman explains multiple fascinating topics about how we think--how we judge, how we compare, how we interpret, etc.--in a clear andTerrific book. Kahneman explains multiple fascinating topics about how we think--how we judge, how we compare, how we interpret, etc.--in a clear and thorough way. Substantial and rewarding....more
I enjoyed nearly all the stories in the book but I feel that as a "First Spanish Reader," it progresses much too rapidly from the initial stories to tI enjoyed nearly all the stories in the book but I feel that as a "First Spanish Reader," it progresses much too rapidly from the initial stories to the stories at the end of the book. The final stories require a huge vocabulary--I ended up looking at the English translation on the opposing side much more frequently. Hence, the problem is more about the title of the collection than the collection itself! It should of been called, a Spanish folk tales in Spanish and English. Period. No "first" or "beginner" mentioned. The stories are fun, though, most with easily digestible lengths....more
Wonderful short read on aesthetics. Challenges notions of how we perceive art and how aesthetic judgment and the act of creation has become oftentimesWonderful short read on aesthetics. Challenges notions of how we perceive art and how aesthetic judgment and the act of creation has become oftentimes more important than the artwork itself. Second half of the book is a bit denser than the first half. Here's a nice quote from it to give you a taste:
“It is also likely that we will soon create institutes to restore natural beauty just like those for the restoration of works of art, without recognizing that such an idea presupposes a radical transformation of our relationship to nature, and that the inability to penetrate a landscape without spoiling it and the desire to purify it from such penetration are two sides of the same coin. What used to present itself to aesthetic judgment as absolute otherness has now become something familiar and natural, while natural beauty, which was for our judgment, a familiar reality, has become something radically alien: art has become nature, and nature, art."...more
Annoyingly bad. Why is Ballard respected? He can’t write sentences, he can’t write characters, he can’t write story. It reminds me of something I readAnnoyingly bad. Why is Ballard respected? He can’t write sentences, he can’t write characters, he can’t write story. It reminds me of something I read in middle school, except with more sex and violence. It is appealing in the same way pornography is appealing: stimulating but empty. Just completely unbelievable and ultimately, unrewarding....more