Recent Reading: Fiction Edition
By Art Carden
1. Foundation. I’m working on reading more fiction, and I’m trying to check off some of the classic trilogies and series in fantasy and science fiction. About a year ago, I read C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy (which was brilliant) and gave up on the Dune trilogy about halfway through the third volume.
I won’t give spoilers, but here’s the Wikipedia page. This is a bit of a slog in parts, but it offers a fascinating story: a “psychohistorian” named Hari Seldon explains that the decline of the Galactic Empire is inevitable and begins the Foundation in order to preserve art, culture, and technology through the resulting chaos with the goal of shortening the chaotic interregnum. I found this especially interesting in light of my recent reading on forecasting and statistics as well as what I’ve read in Karl Marx on supposed “laws of history.” Are there immutable laws of history around which individual purposive action is just noise (my view: no). I’ll be very interested in seeing how this develops through volumes 2 and 3.
2. Star Wars: The Old Republic: Deceived. About a year and a half ago, i started a dip into the Star Wars “Expanded Universe” novels. These are mostly brain candy, though there’s much of intellectual interest in the rise of the Sith, the recovery of ancient wisdom, and the tension between the light and dark sides of the force. My venture into the Expanded Universe began in earnest with the Darth Bane trilogy, which was captivating and brilliant. Deceived discusses the rise of Darth Malgus. Malgus is a pretty bad dude, but he lacks the complexity of later Sith like Darth Vader and Darth Bane. I suspect the inevitable sequels will rectify this.
Most of my Star Wars “reading” is actually listening to books on CD. Our local public library has a pretty extensive selection of audio books, and these are fun to listen to in the car on short commutes and long drives.
3. Atlas Shrugged (again; warning: CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS). I’m teaching what we call an “Oxbridge Tutorial” on the Moral Foundations of Capitalism in Spring 2014. This will be central to the course. I’ve been tinkering with an article on Atlas for years. After I finally finished The Brothers Karamazov and read Crime and Punishment about a year ago, I understand Rand-the-novelist a lot more. As for Rand-the-philosopher and Rand the thinker with a sound grasp of general equilibrium economics and public choice theory, I refer you to co-blogger Bryan Caplan’s excellent posts from 2005 (start here). There is much to like in Atlas, but there are two passages I find most gripping and most heartbreaking: the tunnel disaster and the death of the young man Rearden (non-)affectionately called “Non-Absolute.” Can you figure out why?
On the Pile, Fiction: Volumes 2 and 3 of the Foundation Trilogy, Orson Scott Card’s Ender quadrilogy.
On the Pile, Non-Fiction: a pile of Hayek books for a Liberty Fund seminar in August, a small mountain of papers about food security for a paper about food security and the expansion of Supercenters like Walmart Supercenters and Super Target, Gavin Wright’s Sharing the Prize, many others.