There are two things about reading lists that tend to drive me crazy. First, it always seems like virtually everybody else is getting more reading done through the holidays than me. That's of course insane, but finding an honest reading list is really sort of an art form. And I actually love to read, so I don't let myself be distracted by mum easily. Second, most reading lists are either incredibly dull or so highfalutin that one cannot seriously believe that any reader would ever really follow through with it. In contrast my reading list is absolutely erratic and lists only the books I actually did read in precisely that order.
James Mann – The China Fantasy: This book was published first a couple of years ago, but only now did I find time to fully read it. Its actually more sort of a pamphlet than a real book. Since reviewing his The Rise of the Vulcans I have come to expect quite a lot from James Mann. This book, however, falls short of these expectations. It makes one single argument over and again: that maybe China is not inevitably to turn into a democracy just because it has introduced economic liberalisation. Strongest point in favour of Mann's theory: China is still an autocracy. To which I can only respond sure that, but then again. China is not a democracy and I despise the system it has just as much as Mann does. But that does not change the fact that in contrast to 1978 and 1989 Chinese are now at least allowed to harbour an opinion. Will it lead to democracy? Probably. I've got more on that, but I'll wait with that tiny bit, till, well, wait for it.
Jeffrey Eugenides – The Marriage Plot: Read it! Its great! But I only now realise that the book a) is not academic and b) received some critical reviews. So here is in a nutshell why its a good read. 1) Its vintage Eugenides in style and prose. 2) It gives a lovely view of an America in the early 1980s when Reagan became president and the 68 generation makes way for the first entertainment generation. Its also a love story (though that does not qualify for a third point in favour).
Condoleezza Rice – No Higher Honour: I've already read some of the other memoirs from George Bush administration veterans and Rice's No Higher Honour fills in some of the blanks. It is also fairly obvious that Rice must have been the smartest person in the administration since her reflections reach a level of abstraction somewhat oddly missing in Rumsfeld's and Bush's own memoirs. But having said that, Rice is not exactly a comedian and the near total absence of anecdotes make this 700plus pages book a bit tiresome to read. It is, however, still an important document of one of the most contested presidencies of the past decades.