darkskywatcher (darkskywatcher) wrote,

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Books of 2008

I entertained the idea early in the year of setting a mandatory daily reading amount, something that I put into practice in August. My policy is that I am supposed to read 5 pages a day, and I can let myself get behind but not ahead. Hence, if I read 50 pages one day I still owe 5 the next. Seeing as I'm currently about 100 pages behind, that wot be a problem again for a while. Here's what I've been reading this year:

Iron Kingdom:The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947, Christopher Clark. ~500 pages
In this case, the page count indicates not the actual length of the book, but rather the amount I read during the current calendar year(started it in 2007). A very good work, focused on the heterogeneous nature of Prussia territory from very early on, and subsequent attempts to impose national standards with varying degrees of enthusiasm and success.

The Oxford History of the Dutch Republic, Jonathan Israel. 1130 Pages
What a massive work. Extensive discussion of the ongoing dualities that continually emerged in both the political and cultural life of the republic.

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Michael Pollan. 395 Pages
Easy reading, and worth it if you haven't thought about the supply side of food before. The last section, other than containing interesting factoids about mushrooms, was a waste.

Cardano's Cosmos, Anthony Grafton. 295 Pages
An interesting explanation of the complexities of the practice of Renaissance astrology (which was taught as an academic subject, specifically for the interest of doctors). I'd tried to start it my junior year (it was supplemental reading for a Rob LaFleur class), and found it too difficult. But after Dutch Republic, it was a breeze.

Citizens of the World: London Merchants and the Integration of the British Atlantic Community 1735-1785, David Hancock. ~420 Pages
Unusual for a historical work in that it follows the lives of a small number of commercially successful individuals whose influence on the grand stage of history was fairly modest. Uses these men as examples to advance several general theories about the necessary qualities for commercial success in the expanding markets of the 18th century, and breaks down their expenses and investments.

Plagues and Peoples, William McNeill. 395 pages
A granddaddy of a work, first published in 1976. Still relevant, but the details have changed substantially: the first chapter, focusing on disease in early humans, is mostly speculation because there was so much then we didn't know about human origins. Still, an important work that brought the demographic study of epidemic disease within historical study.

The Fragility of Goodness, Martha Nussbaum. ~50 pages
Started, but waaaaayyy behind, as I mentioned. A work of moral philosophy, which has been very good if extremely heavy reading.

So, my total page count on the year is ~3185, which is above the 1825 that the 5/day rate yields, which is good. Still, with so many books worth reading in the world today I feel that I need to step it up, which why I actually have a resolution this year: 10 pages a day, same rules as above.I usually don't do resolutions, but this time I think it's worth the effort. It's not an impossible goal, especially once I get past Fragility. Also, I'm willing to abandon it if circumstances change: If I couldn't read at work, or actually got an intellectually demanding job, this would be substantially more difficult, and in the latter case possibly also less worthwhile. Still, here's hoping.

Also I am not taking suggestions for what to read. I want to read what I already have first, and I already have 3600+ pages on my reading list with an incomplete survey of that collection.

EDIT: Added the book I had forgotten.
Tags: books

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