NRO Summer Reading List:
National Review Online asked a bunch of us to name two or three books we would be reading this summer. As usual, much of my summer will be spent on reading work-related books and articles — and I wouldn't subject NRO or VC readers to those recommendations. With that in mind, here was my contribution to the NRO symposium:
An Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths by Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds. I admit I'm already half-way through this book, and it's great — an exhilarating and provocative exploration of how technological change is empowering individuals and spurring the creation of a new, dispersed entrepreneurial class. Given Glenn's own pioneering efforts as a blogger extraordinaire, the insights of this book should be no surprise.

A Scanner Darkly by Phillip K. Dick. This novel by the ground-breaking, proto-cyberpunk sci-fi author will soon find its way to the silver screen. Given I'm a big fan of Dick's work (including Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the book upon which Blade Runner was based), and that Hollywood is quite good at making a hash of his stories (see, e.g., Paycheck), I want to read the book before seeing the movie.

In Defense of Freedom: And Related Essays by Frank S. Meyer. This collection by former National Review senior editor Frank Meyer is a must read — and worth re-reading (as I plan to do this summer). It sets forth the uniquely American brand of conservatism, labeled "fusionism," that helped define the modern American conservative movement and makes a powerful case for informing conservative politics with a more libertarian view of government.
The full symposium is here. What books are VC readers planning to read this summer?
The Divagator (mail) (www):
Nostromo by Joseph Conrad
Collected Poems 1951-1975 by Charles Causley
and I need to finish Postwar by Tony Judt
6.22.2006 10:25am
Steve Lubet (mail):
Novels, of course:

Intuition, by Allegra Goodman

Don't I Know You? by Karen Shepard
6.22.2006 10:51am
Jim Hu:
In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind by Eric R. Kandel

Kandel is a Nobel-prize winning neurobiologist. There was a very entertaining interview with him on Charlie Rose earlier this was while Rose was out with health problems, and the substitute host was fellow Nobel prize winner, former NIH director, and Sloan Kettering President Harold Varmus.

At some point I'll try to read some WWII histories that are currently on my wife's bedside table.

Otherwise, I plan on recreational reading being entertaining if often insubstantial fiction picked up on a whim in bookstores...sometimes in airports.
6.22.2006 10:53am
Student Reader:
Right now I am reading Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and Blaise Pascal's Provincial Letters so I want to finish those.

Strong candidates for further reading this summer are G.E. Moore's Principia Ethica, Thomas More's Utopia, more Dostoevsky, something by G.K. Chesterton, and maybe some Nietzsche.

Some reading in law or economics is also a strong possibility, but I don't have any titles or authors presently in mind.
6.22.2006 11:10am
Aeon J. Skoble (mail):
Last summer I read vol. 1 of The Baroque Cycle, but I found that during the academic year, I couldn't get more than 100 pages into vol. 2, so this summer's list is headed by that, and as much of vol. 3 as I can get to. Also, Marvel 1602. Also, Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed. (But see the July issue of Liberty for recommendations on what you should read.)
6.22.2006 11:15am
johnt (mail):
Jonathan Adler, thanks fot the mention of Frank S Meyer's classic. I purchased it brand new over forty years ago and still have it, strongly recommended.

Aeon J Skoble, and thanks for the tip on Liberty, I will pick up a copy.

Currently I'm reading Political Thought, From Gerson to Grotius:1414-1625, by J N Figgis. Also, Natural Law and the Theory of Society, by Otto Gierke. In the hopper is Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy, by Robert Michels.

Enjoy your reading.
6.22.2006 11:45am
my barbri outline, 100 times!
6.22.2006 11:58am
As an aside: One thing I realized after reading the Baroque Cycle that I had not seen mentioned anywhere is that each of the books is structured in the form of the popular entertainment at the time. So Quicksilver is in the mode of a biblical parable: Kings behave badly, suffer their inevitable justice. Confusion: trash adventure novel, band of plucky outcasts literally travel the world getting in misadventures, defeat cloaked evildoers. System: opera, "shocking" turn abouts abound ("Because I know you're actually Person X!" happens at least twice). Something to keep in mind when trying to digest the wildly divergent tones of the books.
6.22.2006 12:23pm
Anthony Sanders:
Just finished Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government by Robert Higgs. The book came out in 1987, but it is oh-so relevant today. It details the story about how in the twentieth century the federal government grew in response to crises, and how the government never would "retreat" (if at all) from its crisis-impossed size after the crisis was over.

The most interesting story in the book is how this (with a few exceptions) didn't happen in the 19th century, even when crises occured. Higgs says this was because the dominant ideology of those times was reflexive (classical) liberalism, whereas in the 20th century it was reflexive statism. The message I take from it is the only hope we have of cutting modern government is to have people (however crudely) become reflexively anti-government. Kind of depressing, but unsurprising at the same time.
6.22.2006 12:29pm
JGR (mail):
I recently read John Taylor Gatto's 'The Underground History of American Education' and I found it the most powerful book I have read in years. Even better is that the whole thing's available for free on the internet in reader-friendly format:

When you are almost 40 and have read as much as I have, you tend to think that no matter how good a book is it isn't going to alter your worldview - There are no longer any books that are going to "change your life" at this point. Gatto's book really did - it lays bare so many facts about the history and hidden purposes of our educational system, and how they inter-relate with other political phenomena that this book radically altered my view of many things. Be that as it may, Gatto frequently gets things wrong when he discusses things not in his area of expertise (education) - His view of science is pretty off-base.

I have to say that I'm horrified by this new trend of symposiums where writers list "intended" reading. We used to have symposiums where writers would recommend books that they have read, but apparently, many are now so busy reading blogs and writing blog posts that they just write what they intend to read. Since they haven't read the book, they don't have anything meaningful to say except that they heard from others it was a good book. Many writers understandably just ignore the rules and list books they're already reading or have already read and intend to re-read. Adler does this with two out of three of his books, and who can blame him - the whole exercise is just silly.
6.22.2006 12:32pm
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. I understand it is a biography about a guy that overcomes a bad drug problem.
6.22.2006 12:37pm
A Bored Lawyer (mail):
See No Evil by Robert Baer (ex-CIA operative in the Middle East).

I just finished A Dry Season by Peter Robinson and

Radicals in Robes by Cass Sunstein
6.22.2006 12:41pm
Hattio (mail):
Has anybody read Crunchy Cons by Rod Dreher. I really enjoyed it.
6.22.2006 12:45pm
bornyesterday (mail) (www):
I've been on a classic science fiction kick recently with the last five books I've read being:

ursula k le guin - left hand of darkness
thomas m disch - 334
alfred bester - demolished man
thomas m disch - camp concentration
marge piercy - woman on the edge of time

I have so many books that I've collected over the years that I haven't read that I basically just put them all on a shelf and then just read them from one end of the shelf to the other. So it looks like the next few up are:

Just So Stories and The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
The Aeneid by Virgil
The Dispossessed by Ursula K Le Guin
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Odyssey by Homer

To The Divagator - I read Nostromo around this time last year and really enjoyed it, further raising Joseph Conrad up my list of favorite authors.
6.22.2006 12:53pm
Tom952 (mail):
I recommend "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson. Non-political, informative, well written, not disavowed by Oprah.
6.22.2006 1:16pm
Rush (mail):
1: "Also Sprach Zarathrustra" by Nietsche

2: "How to hit .400" by Ted Williams

3: "A walk to remember" by Nicholas Sparks
6.22.2006 1:20pm
JGR (mail):
I recently read Colin Bruce's 'Schrodinger's rabbits', which is one of the best science-for-the-laymen books that I've read in a while. The author is a supporter of the many-worlds hypothesis, which most of the book is about. For people who have followed the great quantum physics debate over the years, Bruce does a good job summarizing in one chapter the history of different interpretations, and does an equally good job in another chapter summarizing the different current theories in Many-Worlds theory. This is basically the primary job of a popular science writer, but many do a horrible job at it. Most physicists who write popular books are more concerned with batting for their own pet theory, and give short shrift to other views that are as prevalent or more prevalent with other physicists.

Another good book I recently read is Peter Augustine Lawler's 'Aliens In America, The Strange Truth about Our Souls'. The book is a spirited attack on the therapeutic culture, and argues - shades of Allan Bloom - that a sense of longing and incompleteness is essential to a fully human life. The book is also a good source for readers who don't have the time or inclination to read all the primary works of modern political and social philosophers, and gives a good overview of the thought of thinkers like Francis Fukuyama and Richard Rorty.

Richard Lowry's book 'Legacy, Paying the Price for the Clinton Years' is a good book about one of the most dysfunctional administrations in American history.

I recently re-read James Bovard's classic 'Lost Rights, The Destruction of American Liberty'. For people who think libertarians are too worked up about things, this is THE book that you should give them. A book that in the words of Shakespeare,
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined licks to part,
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine"

Except that Bovard's book was written in 1994, and many of the things he describes (such as the militarization of our police forces) have gotten drastically worse since he wrote.
6.22.2006 1:45pm
Farmer/Lawyer -- You should do a little research into the book you mentioned. I guess not all of the biography is true.

I am currently reading The 48 Law of Power by Robert Greene and The Bill of Rights by Akhil Reed Amar
6.22.2006 2:10pm
bud (mail):
I only have one book en queue - Huntington's _Clash of Civilizations_; I mentioned it in passing to my son, whose comment was "the man's an idiot". Now I have to read it to be able to discuss it. BTW, my son is an Army lifer with a History major.

As a tangential comment - After doing it both ways numerous times, I've come to the conclusion that I like to see the movie *before* I read the book. That way I can appreciate it without constantly being jarred by the minor (And sometimes major) edits made to fit it into the visual, time-constrained realm... or the whim of the director. I find it easier to mentally accept the differences while reading. Of course, in some cases, it's hopeless. Even if I hadn't read Starship Troopers long before seeing the movie, I'm pretty sure that I would have thought that it was, is, and always will be a dog.

email is human readable - aloud
6.22.2006 2:42pm
CLD -- Thank you Professor Obvious.
6.22.2006 3:17pm
CLD -- P.S. I'm reading the actual Bill of Rights.
6.22.2006 3:19pm
Cornellian (mail):
The Bostonians, by Henry James.
6.22.2006 3:44pm
Just finished a good SF book: Carl Schroeder's "Lady of Mazes." Schroeder tends to have a lot in common with Strauss, but his books tend to be deeper and less energetic. Other SF I'm going to be reading include's Vinges new book "Rainbows End" and David Drake's "Lord of the Isles."

For non-fiction, now I'm reading "The Elusive Quest for Growth" by William Easterly. There's also that award winning biography of Kruschev on my bookshelf staring at me, and "The Rationality of Emotion."
6.22.2006 4:05pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
I think perhaps I'll read Boswell's Life of Johnson properly, from start to finish, instead of doing what I've been doing with it for a decade, which is opening it at random and reading whatever I chance on. I have a nagging feeling there are bits I didn't read yet. Only one way to find out . . .

Dante's Vita Nuova and Thomas More's Utopia are reproaching me from a nearby shelf for their unreadness. How do you explain to a book that some things just aren't suitable for being read on an exercise bike, or walking to the grocery store?

Now, Sara Paretsky's Fire Sale, OTOH . . . I've been waiting a year for that to come out in paperback (which it does next month). I don't have the shelf space for hardcover mysteries. Unless, of course, they're by Elizabeth George, in which case I really can't wait that long.

Thanks to JGR for the John Taylor Gatto recommendation — I'll check that out.
6.22.2006 4:07pm
The list of books I intend to read grows faster than I can read them. Or, rather, used to grow, since I no longer keep such a list. Whatever catches my eye in a bookstore or library - just from a familiar name, or a half-remembered book review, or an interesting-looking subject - moves to the top of my "list," and I read it forthwith.

Of course, I recently acquired the first 80 years of The New Yorker on DVD. Between that, current magazines, blogs, and the web, I may never read a book again.
6.22.2006 4:08pm
Farmer/Lawyer -- Based on your post I couldn't tell if you were serious or not on the book, just wanted to give you some heads up.
6.22.2006 4:19pm
AAE (mail):
Pace, Prof. Adler. A Scanner Darkly is being directed by Richard Linklater. With Waking Life and Slacker to his credit, he probably deserves the benefit of your doubt before you assume that Scanner will be just another piece of Hollywood "hash."
6.22.2006 4:45pm
Phil (mail):
Kierkegaard Repetition
Durkheim Suicide
Maraniss They Marched into Sunlight

I might re-read Russo Straight Man to remind me of how happy I am to be out of academia
6.22.2006 4:54pm
CLD — Thanks. I apologize for being a smart alec in my reply to your response. I really only meant to be a smart alec in my original post.
6.22.2006 5:36pm
Silicon Valley Jim:
It's about time for me to do my annual re-reading of the Iliad, the Odyssey, and Grimm's Fairy Tales. I've recently read (for the first time) all of Christopher Buckley's novels and Flashman On the March, George Macdonald Fraser's latest, and re-read To Have and Have Not, for which my admiration has grown greatly. I'll probably re-read several of P.G. Wodehouse's novels over the summer, as well; Wodehouse and Hemingway are the novelist whom I find inexhaustible, as Bach and Mozart are the composers.
6.22.2006 5:43pm
John-Paul Pagano (mail) (www):
Donald Kagan's The Peloponnesian War and Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
6.22.2006 5:57pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
"The Diary of Anne Frank" , makes me realize my personal misfortunes aren't so bad. Its also an excuse to read a teenage girls diary.
6.22.2006 6:44pm
Pete Freans (mail):
I recently finished "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis (an excellent recommendation from Prof. Volokh) and "Countdown to Crisis" by Ken Timmerman. I am looking forward to "The Constitution in Exile" by J. Andrew Napolitano, "Manliness" by Harvey Mansfield, and "Frontiers of Legal Theory" by the one and only J. Posner.
6.22.2006 7:42pm
Mark H.:
I just started "Krakatoa" by Simon Winchester. Very interesting read so far.

Next up is "Warlord" by Ilario Pantano.

On the pile as well, is "From Dawn to Decadence" by Jacques Barzun, but that really feels more like a fall vs. summer book to me.
6.22.2006 8:01pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
"Great USA World Cup wins", oh thats on my worlds thinnest book list.
6.22.2006 9:03pm
OR (mail) (www):
"Shake Hands With the Devil," by Romeo Dallaire, who headed the UN Assistance Mission in Rwanda during the genocide. Ironically, UNAMIR is listed as one of the UN's "Completed Peackeeping Operations."
6.22.2006 9:08pm
Chrees (mail):
SV Jim: I just finished listening to The Iliad audiobook read by Derek Jacoby. I enjoyed it more than previous readings...just an option if your commute is like mine here in SV.

Finishing Vanity Fair and next is Austen's Northanger Abbey. Both are book group selections.

I've read 6 Greek tragedies so far this year, and plan to read the rest over the summer and fall.
6.22.2006 9:38pm
John Jenkins (mail):
Well, completed isn't necessarily the same as succesful. They certainly are finished there. I read Gourevitch's book in undergrad, so I recognize the name, but I didn't realize he had written a book.
6.22.2006 11:08pm
Well as for a work goes mine is the same year round so it being summer makes no difference and I rarely take more than 1 or 2 day off at any one time. But, that does not mean I do not read alot . I do everyday. I need to have a room that is nothing but a large library. I will finish Witness a book that opened my eyes already. I will probably re read Radical Son by David Horowitz a book that really opened my eyes. I will finish up my many C.S Lewis books. And continue reading through the whole Bible even all the begats. I am ashamed I haven't already done so. I'm sure I will read a useless historical Romance Novel for fun.
6.22.2006 11:23pm
Randy R. (mail):
Just finished "Dark Age Ahead" by Jane Jacobs, who recently died. Terrific and insightful. She quotes from Jared Diamond, author of "Collapse" another terrific book about the that is in store for us if we continue to live as we do.

Read "Misquoting Jesus" by Bart Ehrman, which details has the Bible is full of errors made by scribes over the centuries, and The End of Faith by Harris, a book about the destructive power of religion today.

All a little dark, of course. So for light reading ahead, I have The Zookeeper, a novel by a young gay author. I run a gay author's book club here in Washington, DC. I get local gay authors to read from their books and sell them during an afternoon in my house. Cocktails all around, of course. Makes for a lovely civilized afternoon. So I have a number of these novels that I have to read thus summer. Another author is Alex Sanchez, who writes novels geared towards gay teenagers, and I have to read his latest.

Beyond that, I have to keep up with the Sunday NY Times and the Washington Post, and numerous magazines.
6.22.2006 11:34pm
Randy R. (mail):
One periodical I highly recommend to everyone is Metropolis. It's based in NY, and it's about design and how we live, but it's really so much more. The articles I see there are about trends that the mainstream press doesn't write about until about two years later. It covers so many topics that any developer or policy person should read it.
6.22.2006 11:36pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
In the summer of 91' I was stationed in the Saudi Desert and had gone through all of the books I had brought with me. Rummaging around the "Library" tent I found "For whom the Bell Tolls" and "Gone with the Wind". I expected the Hemingway book to be good,as it was,but I was surprised how good GWTW has held up. In any event it was long, and helped me get throught the last few weeks of the deployment.
6.23.2006 12:20am
Here's what everyone is reading in our department:
here and

I just finished the novel War Trash by Ha Jin and liked it very much—the Korean War from a Chinese POW's perspective.
6.23.2006 2:03am
logicnazi (mail) (www):
I really liked 'A scanner darkly' though I'm not sure people without some significant drug experience will enjoy it. I mean the effects of the drug in his book are totally fictional but the flavor is very recognizeable.

This summer mostly I'm going to be reading various recursion theory tomes and papers. Really don't have too much time for alternative reading if I want to get something done on my thesis. Though if I stopped spending so much time on the web...

If I can get my hands on it though I think greg egan has another book out (or at least there is a book on amazon I haven't read). I can't recommend him for the characther development but I love his plots/ideas.

Other than that though I can't say I'm much into reading fiction anymore. I grew out of most badly written genre junk a while ago but find that most good writers insist on writing in a certain high literary style that I find unappealing. Unfortunatly there seems to be a certain tendency in the literary world to avoid elements which might be too exciting or otherwise appealing to the general public or light reader (rather than just requiring there to be more). I'm sure there are plenty of exceptions and I have read and liked some of them but it makes it more difficult to find good things to read.
6.23.2006 3:21am
Becky Dale (mail):
I started Tolstoy's War and Peace last weekend, am now in Book 10 (of 15). Just finished Anna Karenina before that. I've been on a Thomas Wolfe kick all spring, and am going to read O Lost (the uncut version of Look Homeward, Angel) when I finish War and Peace. If you haven't read Thomas Wolfe, you're missing some great stuff.
6.23.2006 6:55am
The Education of a Statesman (bio of JFK); Collected Works of Emerson; and te Three Drunkards Discourse on Government
6.23.2006 10:37am
Tyrone Slothrop (mail) (www):

I'm currently reading Ron Suskind's The One Percent Doctrine.

When I'm done with that, I will go back to Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch, which the World Cup prompted me to pick up.

And then I'll go back to Stanley Elkins' The Dick Gibson Show, a wonderful novel I've had a hard time reading while watching soccer.

I blog about books I've read at
6.23.2006 11:07am
Tyrone Slothrop (mail) (www):

Anthony Sanders wrote:

Just finished Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government by Robert Higgs. The book came out in 1987, but it is oh-so relevant today. It details the story about how in the twentieth century the federal government grew in response to crises, and how the government never would "retreat" (if at all) from its crisis-impossed size after the crisis was over.

The most interesting story in the book is how this (with a few exceptions) didn't happen in the 19th century, even when crises occured. Higgs says this was because the dominant ideology of those times was reflexive (classical) liberalism, whereas in the 20th century it was reflexive statism.

This reminded me of something I read recently, but this thread doesn't seem like the place to start a substantive discussion, so I've posted about it here.
6.23.2006 11:34am
Tom McKendree:
I recently read Saratoga by Richard Ketchum, and am now reading Benedict Arnold's Navy by James Nelson. The first was very good, and Nelson's book has been better than I expected (although if you already knew in detail about the Benedict Arnold joining the capture of Fort Ticonderoga and invasion of Canada, the first half wouldn't seem like much). Of course, I should have read them in the opposite order.

Regarding the Baroque cycle, I liked them very much. When I read Quicksilver, however, I stalled out just a few pages before King of the Vagabonds started. Whether is was the writing style, or something else, I just found much of the first part hard going.
6.24.2006 3:58pm