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New Books

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]


The Five Percenters: Islam, Hip Hop and the Gods of New York by Michael Muhammed Knight

Ideal by Ayn Rand

The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Good Politics by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith

Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to Public Schools by Diane Ravitch

An eclectic combination, to be sure.

I am mostly finished with Reign of Error and The Five Percenters. The former is a devastating and methodically documented critique by historian and former Bush I administration official Diane Ravitch of a crony capitalist network’s effort to hijack public education and its revenues under the guise of reform. The latter is a friendly journalistic history of the often feared and widely misunderstood Five Percent Nation, which split away, at times violently, from the better known Nation of Islam of Elijah Muhammed and Louis Farrakhan. Knight’s objectivity is somewhat suspect here as he himself became a rare white Muslim Five Percenter (a.k.a. “Azrael Wisdom“) and apologist, but his closeness to the group’s insiders cannot be denied.

What are you reading?

6 Responses to “New Books”

  1. Lexington Green Says:

    Currently reading: Yasmin Khan, The Raj at War: A People’s history of India’s Second World War. It is a little bit rambling and anecdotal but good so far. It is a little bit rambling and anecdotal but good so far. I recently finished a novel by Joseph Conrad, and outcast of the islands. It is an early novel and It is an early novel and far from his best. nonetheless, there are several very interesting things in it, which I hope to blog about soon. nonetheless, there are several very interesting things in it, which I hope to blog about soon

  2. Lynn C. Rees Says:

    Online edition of Real World OCaml.

  3. Grurray Says:

    I’m in the middle of Godel, Escher, Bach. I’ve been putting it off for years and just decided a few weeks ago to finally get into it.
    I warmed up with ‘Godel’s Proof’ by Ernest Nagel, in which Hofstadter wrote the foreward to the 2nd edition. It’s about 100 pages of clear, concise explanations that anyone familiar with basic math can understand.
    Conversely, Hofstadter’s GEB seemed at first to me like just amplifying and embellishing of Godel’s Proof with some idle meanderings and musings, but as I go on I’m starting to appreciate it more, such as his descriptions and metaphors for Godel’s metamathematic logic system. I was starting to wonder how that whole ‘golden braid’ was going to all come together and still get the feeling the book could say it all in about 400 fewer pages, but I guess there’s no turning back now.

  4. J.ScottShipman Says:

    Towards a New Maritime Strategy, by Haynes
    War Before Civilization, by Keeley
    Mao’s Way (still), by Rice
    By Guess and By God, by Carr (WWI sub history)
    Two Years Before the Mast (finally), Dana

  5. Eddie Says:

    Lions of the West (now I finally know the truth of “Johnny Appleseed” and can understand how mad James Polk was during the Mexican-American War)

    Finishing “The New Wild”- basically, many scientists in the natural sciences (biology, zoology) are buffoons. There isn’t another way around that conclusion based on the behavior, beliefs and policies pushed by these people.

    I took a detour due to long flights for work into Raymond Feist, but that petered out quickly.

    The Wind in the Reeds- a moving and thoughtful quasi-biography of African-American families, neighborhoods and dislocation in New Orleans and a bittersweet love letter to America. Among other incidents, the author’s father was denied medals earned for combat in Saipan because the idea of a black war hero was laughable to the Army clerk discharging him. Yet that and so many other slights against him never embittered the vision of America he shared and preached to his children. We are a very fortunate country for men like that.

  6. T. Greer Says:

    I am currently working on a document where I copy paste each paragraph from three different English translations of the Analects, the original classical Chinese, and a modern Chinese version. Then I add any notes or commentary from any book I have read that I have found particularly insightful, as well as my own notes on the meaning of the passage, the difficulties translating it, other sections of the Analects that shed light on the same issues, and a list of other significant works or quotations from different authors that address similar themes.


    It is very slow going. I will probably be done in December or January.


    I will probably do Sunzi’s Art of War after that.

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