Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Books On The Bedside Table

Cocaine: An Unauthorized Biography, by Dominic Streatfeild.
A lengthy, if slightly flippant, history of the drug. (Which I've never tried, interestingly.) I'm skipping around in it, rather than going cover to cover. I haven't seen Blow, although this book sort makes me want to, because it discusses the real person, George Jung, whose exploits are depicted (with some artistic license, I'm told) in that film.

The Burma Road : The Epic Story of the China-Burma-India Theater in World War II, by Donovan Webster.
"From the fall of Burma to the Japanese in 1942 until the end of the war, the Allies strove to keep China supplied with material from India - by air over "the Hump," and overland via the Burma Road, which stretched 700 miles to the Chinese city of Kunming." Not at all my usual historical period, but I've gotten interested in the history of Burma/Myanmar for other reasons, and this seemed like an interesting chapter of it. I'm about halfway through, and I'm finding it uneven: some pages I'm skimming and some utterly absorb me. But I like it overall.

Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner.
"Levitt argues that many apparent mysteries of everyday life don't need to be so mysterious: they could be illuminated and made even more fascinating by asking the right questions and drawing connections." That line alone in the publishers review drew me in, because I am all about asking questions and drawing conclusions. Just got it and definitely looking forward to reading it.

Opium: A History, by Martin Booth.
Good historical information, although the writer's style is, rather appropriately, the opposite of the book on cocaine - slow and somewhat ponderous. (And I actually have smoked opium a couple of times - a college roommate from Delhi smuggled some over. It was quite nice. I recall thinking it was probably just as well I couldn't get any more.)

Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes And How To Correct Them: Lessons From The New Science Of Behavioral Economics, by Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilovich.
Just got this as a gift from one of my very favorite boys, and it looks fascinating. I've already started dipping into it. It was accompanied by a book called Stocks For The Long Run, which I will not be reading cover to cover, because the giver informs me I don't necessarily need to. It's got a lot of charts in it, and it's thick enough to club seals with, so I'm sort of relieved by that. I bet I wind up reading parts of it, though, because I'm quite interested in this whole investment thing.

Gosford Park: The Shooting Script.
Everyone in Robert Altman's movies talks just like me: fast and sometimes hard to understand. I'm sure some of my loved ones wish they had a script for me. But even though I'm usually pretty able to listen as fast as I speak, I did miss a lot of the good dialogue in this film, so...

Sherlock Holmes' Lost Adventure : The True Story of the Giant Rats of Sumatra, by Lauren Steinhauer.
Have I mentioned that I'm instantly attracted to any book (or movie, for that matter) that purports to be about Sherlock Holmes? But I have learned to approach anything outside the canon with carefully guarded hopes - Conan Doyle is undoubtedly revolving in his grave over some of the truly dreadful imitations in print. My favorite homage-to-Holmes author is Laurie King. But she isn't writing fast enough to suit me, so I'm casting my bibliographic net further afield. This book got good reviews, so I'm looking forward to trying it.

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