Book Review I – Recent Reads

Some notes on a few that I have read lately. Enjoy.

The Undercover Economist –

Tim Harford is an Oxford trained economist who left a career at the IMF and World Bank to write for the Financial Times. His first book is an extension of his column of the same name. It explains economic basics such as externalities and marginal cost in a legitimately accessible and fun way. The chapter on consumer behavior (What the Supermarket doesn’t Want you to Know) is particularly interesting. I know that these sort of economic basics sound VERY dry, but this really is a refreshing, fun look at them.

Jacques Pepin – My Life in the Kitchen

Pepin is of course a well loved chef, writer, and TV host. This memoir of his wartime boyhood in France, his culinary training, and his life and work in New York City is warm, humble, and a brilliant read. His account of his long suffering mother’s business acumen – she would purchase a failing restaurant, rehabilitate it, and then sell – presages Pepin’s own successful career in fine restaurants and with Howard Johnson. This is a must read for anyone who likes food and cooking.

Bill Bryson – At Home

Bill Bryson is a madman. Who else would decide to write a thick book about mundane household items? Who else could pull it off? Prompted by a move to an old rectory in rural England, Bryson details the history of each part of the modern home – the stairs, the hall, the bedroom, the cellar, etc. Only Bryson can illuminate these mundane items with colorful stories of history and language. Anyone who has read his Notes from a Tiny Island will be on familiar ground here.

Mark Bowden – Killing Pablo

Having breathlessly read Black Hawk Down a few months ago, I decided to check out the rest of Bowden’s writing. Killing Pablo is written in a similar style, and details Pablo Escobar’s rise to power, his arrest, his time on the run, and his death at the hands of Columbian police. This is a fascinating tale of corruption, violence, covert operations, and the US’s secret, paternalistic dealings in Latin America.

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