January 1–10th 2020: New books to read
New additions, bold plans, ambitious conquests
On average the number of books I consume exceeds 100 per year since I know too well the amount of good books on subjects close to my heard and mind far exceeds that number. After Kindle was made available on iOS, I travelled with the phone in hand during my train commutes to work starting in 2011.
I wrote my second degree’s thesis using almost exclusively Kindle editions and since then learned a habit of constantly trawling for good reviews and recommendations from professional domain peers.
dgwbirch is one such don who also reinforced the knack for history books I picked in the University where I majored with a B.A in history. Merging the professional need of knowing the world of transactions with the trove of knowledge of what old tokens signify in terms of trust, identity, value, how later was exchanged, insured, converted and stored — all that allowed to start a library building of my own.
Since 2013 the average number of books, mainly on Kindle, but lately in paper too, approached 200 per year. I will almost certainly — to my sadness, sadly will never read them all in my lifetime — because new keep on arriving.
What I once considered a core topic of innovation and marketing and management I know consider shallow waters, and so dig deep in specialized domains.
Rabid reading is never good. Too much is lost. It is still better than not to introduce one to one’s mind and decide if one would want to read it in a slow setting. Several books I treasure and return if not to the full compendium, then to the gist I make, as it helps to remember better the small detail.
The power of the book is shown when one uses it in conversation or in practice. I was lucky to have found a domain where one broad particular topic is universally appreciated and so I consider it my weapon.
The search for knowledge and learning of how it was accumulated, stored, used:
Books that tell a story about human perseverance and fight for knowledge, against overwhelming odds of persecution, multiplication of knowledge through serendipity or careful nurturing ideas, discussion and discourse — that is a treasured subject that goes through aeons. Be that the Republic of Letters, the conquest of Constantinople or the flight of philosophers after the closing of the Athenian Academy by Justinian to Persia and the Abbasids — all that is part of one fabric of knowledge transmutation.
Picking it up when I was moved by an opportunity to read a lecture commemorating the quincentennial of Luther’s 95 thesis against the Roman Church, events moved by either propagation of paper or development of naval commerce and riches sponsoring arts and sciences — as they glued together by renewed interest in Greek philosophy… all that matters. Especially so in the times of ignominy, rancid talks, clueless faceless acts that no no historical basis — and so reap the consequences.
My attempt to cover certain books I both consume and buy as a consumer is my attempt to share so that any one of you readers become interested to read them as well.
So, this January, several tomes got my attention:
I am re-reading The Emperors of Chocolate (first book I’ve ordered I then gave to a friend and so decided to restock), currently available through second-hand alleys but still considered the best that covers the rivalry of secretive privately owned companies: Hershey and Mars (did you know that M&M’s was a product mutually developed by the two?). The rivalry speak volumes as companies continue to dominate the imagination of those who love chocolate bars and sweets. I’d also recommend researching a podcast Business Wars by Wondery that tells of similar stories (like Fender and Les Paul, Coca Cola and Pepsi, Northwestern and American with style). They never did the one about Mars though. Podcasts are indeed the new books for the fast-paced.
Mosaics of Knowledge and Time and Its Adversaries in the Seleucid Empire is the basis of how information was collected and processed and how time was counted — and how this phenomena assisted the might and the economic prowess of the ancient empires. There are a number of other books I’ve started hoarding on the ancient subject — about Greek documents stored by Ptolemy dynasty in Alexandria — or propagation of modern technology at the times of Hadrian in Rome.
Architect of Empire: Walter Railegh is a navigator of a more modern empire, and Rembrandt’s Universe is a masterpiece on the painter — following the newfound passion after re-reading Edward Tufte’s trio of books on information design. Suprised I was when on my second reading I’ve picked up new facts — that I originally did not seek as I was too much about UX UI when I first uncovered them in 2009 — that he mentioned several interesting facts now of interest about how Durer captured subtle details, or how Da Vinci took notes (there was a great exhibition of his graphics and notes in Queens House in Edinburgh lately) — and how late Renaissance artists used optics — researched by no one else by the eminent Hockney himself (I will do a review shortly).
Liberalism at Large is a reminder of the time we live in — and how vocal supporters of liberal economics get a different setting from what was originally manifested as the end of history. So appealing it is then to escape in history of these other great tomes — and times.