Featured Reading

What I read in 2012

Posted January 8, 2013

I tried to get this ready in time for the end of the year, but was too busy with writing, reading, and family. It’s still far from complete, but I figure if I don’t put this out now, I’ll never do so. What follows is a very partial list of what I read (and almost uniformly enjoyed or profited from) last year. I’m listing them roughly in backwards order, starting from most recent:

[I'd forgotten these, and will add others I've omitted as they occur to me:

Chris Stringer: Lone Survivor: How We Came to be the Only Humans on Earth.

Robert A Caro: Passage to Power]

James C. Scott: Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed

Scott Straus: Remaking Rwanda:State Building and Human Rights after Mass Violence

Filip Reyntjens: Ruling Under a Volcano: Political Governance in Post-Genocide Rwanda

Yukio Mishima: The Decay of the Angel

Chinese Characters (Edited by Shah and Wasserstrom)

Olen Steinhauer: The Tourist

John Garnaut: The Rise and Fall of the House of Bo: How a Murder Exposed the Cracks in Chinese Leadership

Ryszard Kapuscinski: Another Day of Life,

Marie Ndiaye : Three Strong Women

Curt Kraus : The Cultural Revolution: A Very Short Introduction

Charles Robertson: The Fastest Billion: The Story Behind Africa’s Economic Revolution

Richard Burger: Behind the Red Door: Sex in China

James McGregor : No Ancient Wisdom, No Followers: Challenges of Chinese Authoritarian Capitalism,

V.S. Naipaul : The Enigma of Arrival

Andrew Nathan and Robert S. Ross: The Great Wall and the Empty Fortress: China’s Search for Security

Chinua Achebe: There was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra

Wole Soyinka: Of Africa

James N. Stewart : Follow the Story: How to Write Successful Nonfiction

Errol Morris: Believing is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography

Noo Saro-Wiwa: Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria

James Fallows : China Airborne

Ben Lerner: Leaving the Atocha Station

Stephen Ellis : Season of Rains: Africa in the World,

Jean-Michel Severino, Olivier Ray : Africa’s Moment

Edward Thomas: The Kafia-Kingi Enclave: People, Politics and History in the North-South Boundary of Western Sudan

Douglas H. Johnson: When Boundaries Become Borders: The Impact of Boundary Making in Southern Sudan’s Frontier Zones

E.O. Wilson: The Social Conquest of Earth

Sebastian Barry : On Canaan’s Side

Michael Ondaatje : The Cat’s Table

Eric Newby : A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush

Artur Domoslawski: Ryszard Kapuscinski: a Life

Chinua Achebe: A Man of the People (re-read)

Gordon Mathews: The Ghetto at the Center of the World: Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong

Chan Koonchung: The Fat Years


Other recent Readings

Unmastered: A Book on Desire, Most Difficult to Tell

This was a fantastic, tasteful yet straightforwardly honest read about female desire that is unusual in its structure, composed as it is of a series of riffs, snippets of near poetic condensation and often beauty, and more essay-like argument. I’m including a link here to the review in The Economist, which put me on to the book, but doesn’t really go very far in telling what’s to be found between the covers. Perhaps that is because of some of the explicit nature of some of the writing: a smart, sensitive woman talking about what it is like to have sex, to want to have sex. I’m also including a link to an interview with the author here. The book was …

Posted September 25, 2012


Book Roundup

It’s been a very busy time in the semester, with two classes going – Foreign Reporting and Photography. I’m in the thick of my book writing project, as well, and I’ve been able so far to maintain a fairly good pace. The hope is to be finished by early spring. In lieu of even thumbnail impressions, here is a quick roundup of what I’ve been reading: What Price for Privatization: Cultural Encounter with Development Policy on the Zambian Copperbelt, by Elizabeth C. Parsons; The Rebel, by Albert Camus; A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway; Ancient Chinese Thought, Modern Chinese Power, by Yan Xuetong; Delivering Delivering Development, by Edward R. Carr; La Silenciosa Conquista China: Una Investigacion por 25 Paises para …

Posted December 1, 2011


Summer Reading via the iPad

I’ve been on the road in Africa, save for a week’s detour to Hungary, since May 15, and the odyssey will finally wind down in a couple of more weeks. In the last few days I’ve given a bit of thought to my reading habits on the road and how they may or may not differ from earlier periods in my life as a correspondent and inveterate traveler. My iPad has been my sole source of book reading during these months away and mostly that’s been a very good thing, even if quite recently I’ve found myself longing for the pleasure of a physical book now and then. I seem to read faster on the iPad, and it’s also great …

Posted August 22, 2011


Books by E.O. Wilson

I’ve been reading a lot of Wilson lately, in preparation for a meeting with him – details to come. Other than in the general press, I haven’t done a lot of true science reading for a very long time, but what an extraordinary pleasure this has been. To be truthful, the books I’ve read have been written for the general public and bear no relationship to scholarly writing, but that takes nothing at all away from its value; quite the contrary. Two titles that I think are fantastic introductions to this man’s work are: The Future of Life, and especially, Biophilia (links below). I also enjoyed Anthill: A Novel, Wilson’s late-career foray into fiction. Amazon.com Widgets

Posted July 17, 2011


Spring Snow

Yukio Mishima

Posted September 3, 2010


The Imperfectionists

Tom Rachman

Posted August 3, 2010


The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China

Lu Xun

Posted August 2, 2010


Bangkok Days

Lawrence Osborne

Posted April 18, 2010


Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain

Posted April 18, 2010


Doing Documentary Work

Robert Coles

Posted February 27, 2010


In Other Rooms, Other Wonders

Daniyal Mueenuddin

Posted January 17, 2010


The Odyssey


Posted January 3, 2010


The Squeeze: Oil, Money, and Greed in the 21st Century

Tom Bower

Posted January 3, 2010


Jesus: A Life

A.N. Wilson

Posted January 3, 2010



Joseph O’Neill

Posted October 31, 2009


The Pillow Book

Sei Shonagon

Posted October 2, 2009


Zen in the Art of Archery

Eugene Herrigel with an introduction by D.T. Suzuki

Posted October 2, 2009


Tristes Tropiques

Claude Lévi-Strauss, Roland Barthes and Bruce Chatwin

Posted September 27, 2009


The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature

Steven Pinker

Posted September 27, 2009


The Great Crash – 1929

John Kenneth Galbraith

Posted April 27, 2009


Smoke and Mirrors: An Experience of China

Pallavi Aiyar

Posted January 11, 2009


The Rebels’ Hour

Lieve Joris

Posted January 11, 2009


Things Fall Apart

Chinua Achebe

Posted December 10, 2008


Beijing Coma

Ma Jian

Posted December 10, 2008


The Congo Wars: Conflict, Myth and Reality

Thomas Turner

Posted October 19, 2008


Red Lights

Georges Simenon

Posted September 23, 2008


The Creative Digital Darkroom

Katrin Eismann and Sean Dugan

Posted September 14, 2008


More Readings