Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Reading

Here are the 90 books I read in 2011:

  • Hector and the Search for Happiness by François Lelord
  • Denationalisation of Money by Friedrich A. Hayek
  • A Dog Called Grk by Joshua Doder
  • Invasion From Planet Dork by Greg Trine
  • The Phantom Mudder by Darrel and Sally Odgers
  • Very Good, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
  • Lehi in the Desert/The World of the Jaredites/There Were Jaredites by Hugh Nibley
  • Manias, Panics, and Crashes by Charles P. Kindleberger and Robert Z. Aliber
  • The Name of This Book Is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch
  • Money and Foreign Exchange After 1914 by Gustav Cassel
  • The Iliad by Homer (Rodney Merrill, trans.)
  • Grk and the Pelotti Gang by Joshua Doder
  • Abel's Island by William Steig
  • Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About by Mil Millington
  • The Theory of Monetary Institutions by Lawrence H. White
  • Ion by Plato
  • Tom Brown's Schooldays by Thomas Hughes
  • Apostles and Bishops in Early Christianity by Hugh Nibley
  • Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett
  • The White Feather by P.G. Wodehouse
  • William Tell Told Again by P.G. Wodehouse
  • The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
  • The Mugged Pug by Darrel and Sally Odgers
  • The Puzzling World of Winston Breen by Eric Berlin
  • Cicero by Anthony Everitt
  • Understanding Isaiah by Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry, and Tina M. Peterson
  • The Republic by Plato
  • Amazing Monty by Johanna Hurwitz
  • Grk and the Hot Dog Trail by Joshua Doder
  • Martin Bridge Blazing Ahead by Jessica Scott Kerrin
  • One of Our Thursdays Is Missing by Jasper Fforde
  • The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury
  • Man Out at First by Matt Christopher
  • The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Going Rogue by Sarah Palin
  • The Blue Stealer by Darrel and Sally Odgers
  • Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt
  • More Adventures of the Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald
  • The Punic Wars by Adrian Goldsworthy
  • Long Stretch at First Base by Matt Christopher
  • The Not-So-Great Depression by Amy Goldman Koss
  • Babe by Dick King-Smith
  • Empire Falls by Richard Russo
  • Mostly Monty by Johanna Hurwitz
  • Me and My Little Brain by John D. Fitzgerald
  • The Book of Mormon by Joseph Smith, Jr., trans.
  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  • The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
  • The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom
  • My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  • Inspector Jacques by Darrel and Sally Odgers
  • 101 Commonsense Rules for Making Things Happen by John R. Brinkerhoff
  • Grk: Operation Tortoise by Joshua Doder
  • A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, Vol. 1 by Stephen E. Robinson and H. Dean Garrett
  • Honus & Me by Dan Gutman
  • Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
  • The Advanced Genius Theory by Jason Hartley
  • The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett
  • A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, Vol. 2 by Stephen E. Robinson and H. Dean Garrett
  • Optimum Currency Areas by Mario I. Blejer, et Al., eds.
  • Beric the Briton by G.A. Henty
  • The ECB: Safe at Any Speed? by David Begg, et Al.
  • One Money, Many Countries by Carlo Favero, et Al.
  • The Crystal Bridge by Charles M. Pulsipher
  • Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson
  • Less Than Zero by George A. Selgin
  • A Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
  • The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd
  • Competition and Currency by Lawrence H. White
  • Mighty Monty by Johanna Hurwitz
  • Richard III by William Shakespeare
  • Grk Smells a Rat by Joshua Doder
  • Cranky Paws by Darrel and Sally Odgers
  • A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, Vol. 3 by Stephen E. Robinson and H. Dean Garrett
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
  • Money Mischief by Milton Friedman
  • Doctrine and Covenants by Joseph Smith, Jr., et Al.
  • A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, Vol. 4 by Stephen E. Robinson and H. Dean Garrett
  • Henry Reed, Inc. by Keith Robertson
  • King Lear by William Shakespeare
  • Economics of a Pure Gold Standard by Mark Skousen
  • The Depression Cure by Stephen S. Ilardi
  • Becoming Metropolitan by Nathaniel D. Wood
  • The Pig Scrolls by Paul Shipton
  • When Money Dies by Adam Fergusson
  • Managerial Dilemmas by Gary J. Miller
  • Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Monthly Update - April 2011

I'm trying to get back to writing one post per book. This is a baby step in that direction. And according to the ground-breaking work of Dr. Leo Marvin, baby steps are very, very important.

The Iliad, by Homer (translated by Rodney Merrill)

If I'm hoping to say something novel about Homer, I'm probably a few generations too late. The book is what it is, and nothing I can say about it is going to change that, or convince the author to write differently in the future. It was interesting to read this book while reading Hugh Nibley's There Were Jaredites, which is all about the coincidence of epic literature throughout ancient societies.

What I can talk about is Merrill's translation, although I haven't read very many other translations of The Iliad for comparative purposes (I read selections from The Iliad in a Norton anthology in college 12 years ago.) But Merrill wrote a long introduction where he defends his choice of imposing a poetic meter, and I think it went well. I'm sure the effort was like the construction of a freeway bypass: an unbelievable amount of work that I barely noticed after the fact.

For some reason, this edition has some low ratings on Good Reads, but his edition of The Odyssey, which is a companion volume, has good ratings. I'm probably going to read The Odyssey later this year, and I suspect I'll read Merrill's translation for continuity.

Rating: five and a half out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.



Grk and the Pelotti Gang, by Joshua Doder

My kids enjoyed A Dog Called Grk, so we have moved on to the rest of the books in the series. This one was set in Brazil. My daughter was upset that her favorite character, Natasha Rafiffi, was an after-thought in this book. All the action centered on Tim and Grk. It was helpful that I had just read an article on Jose Mourinho, so I knew the proper way to pronounce the Portuguese name "Jose." Also, there were no murdered parents in this one, which is a big improvement over the last one. Not an unenjoyable book to read aloud, and my kids are eager to hear the next one.

Rating: six out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.



Abel's Island, by William Steig

Last year I read Steig's Dominic to my kids, and they absolutely hated it. I mean, even more than I hated Bubble and Squeak hated it. I, however, really enjoyed it. Rarely does a book make me want to read the Cliffs Notes to make sure I'm not missing anything, but Dominic made me wish there were Cliffs Notes for it.

Given how much they hated Dominic, I probably shouldn't have read Abel's Island to them, but I'm a firm believer that a dad should do things merely to bug his kids. It helps them build character, right? Character and a resentment of their dad, I guess.

Well, I've got good news: the kids liked this one. My son liked the planning Abel had to put into his different ideas for how to leave the island. My daughter liked that there were no roving gangs of toughs (which was how Dominic began, and was a large part of why she hated that book). I liked that this book also had deeper meaning, and didn't ignore the fact that Abel had to "defecate." (My son said, "Wait, does that mean he pooped?")

Rating: six and a half out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.



Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About, by Mil Millington

This is a book I liked a lot more towards the end than I liked towards the beginning, but I still can't bring myself around to saying I liked it as a whole. It's hard to like and it's hard to not like.

Firstly, the "mapcap zaniness" was not so much funny as disturbing. I know it's supposed to be over-the-top funny, like a Punch and Judy show, but there's a reason no one goes to Punch and Judy shows anymore. Reading the "hilarious" arguments between Pel and his girlfriend Ursula reminded me of reading about the mother from Bubble and Squeak; the mother's psychological abuse was too real for a children's book. It wasn't the ha-ha kind of abuse you get from Roald Dahl adult characters, it was the holy-crap kind of abuse you get from Mommy Dearest. Millington's scenes of domestic turmoil made me want to turn away, not read more. A spot-on description of a badly dysfunctional relationship is not funny. It is sad.

Secondly, I felt the book was too autobiographical. A British man with a German girlfriend and two children writes a book about a British man with a German girlfriend and two children. This contributed greatly to my inability to enjoy the Punch and Judy aspect: what if at the end of every performance, the puppeteer came out and said, "This show was based on the true story of a man feeding his baby to an alligator"? I'm aware of the advice to "write what you know," but I think maybe that can be interpreted a little more loosely.

Thirdly, Pel goes out of his way to tell his oldest child that God isn't real, and then goes out of his way to cover for Santa Claus. Maybe it was supposed to be a send-up of parents with misplaced priorities, but it came through as just a parent with misplaced priorities. It bothers me that there are people in the world who really deny God and support Santa. With the too-autobiographical nature of the book, it is unclear if this is the narrator or the author who feels this way. The entire thing sets up a joke much later, but there's a very weak connection. It's like telling someone Schindler's List is a comedy because it will help them understand The Producers, which is funny.

Fourthly, the whole coffee shop setting with his two non-work-related friends bothered me, because I felt everyone wasn't communicating, they were acting for the benefit of the two on-lookers. It was like "Gilmore Girls" dialog: the funny thing to say instead of the thing that actually had meaning.

Okay, now for what I still managed to enjoy about the book. As the book progressed, Pel's arguments with Ursula became less dysfunctional. Maybe I just got acclimated, but elements of them could be enjoyable. Also, Millington is a great comic storyteller. I get the feeling that he'd be a great guy to meet at the party of a mutual friend. He'd regale you all night with outlandish tales from his past. He can write funny description very well, which is a big plus for a humorous novel.

This story just sort of peters out, and we're supposed to be okay with it because we think, “It'll turn out all right, because he's got Ursula.” But can we really think that when we've just spent over 350 pages reading about how he and Ursula want to murder each other (ha-ha murder, though, remember?)?

I feel like Millington came up with a funny premise, wrote it until he grew tired, and ended the book. Which is what John Grisham does sometimes with a thrilling premise, but at least Grisham pulls an ending out of nowhere (“Who was the murderer? Um, this character I'll introduce to you right now.”) Millington didn't even bother to make up an ending. But I can't really be too critical of any novel anyone else has published, because it's more than I've managed to accomplish, isn't it?

Rating: three out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.



The Theory of Monetary Institutions, by Lawrence H. White

I'm going to give this book a high rating, because this is exactly the type of thing that interests me, but the normal person shouldn't necessarily take that high rating as a reading recommendation. Monetary theory is definitely not for everyone (and White, my professor, would probably say it's not for me, too). My three-year-old son came over to have me read to him, and I didn't even complete the first sentence before he ran away.

The book starts with theories of the origin of money, then the history of redeemable currency, then theory regarding the current fiat money framework, and then ends with ideas of how competition could be reintroduced in a non-redeemable environment. Like I said, not for everyone, but totally awesome to me.

Rating: seven out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.



Ion, by Plato

I read this because I had a school assignment that mentioned Ion and I thought, “That's short enough that I don't even have to fake it.” In retrospect, I wish I'd faked it.

Ion is annoying, because Socrates is a jerk. I agree with Adeimantus when he says in Book VI of The Republic, “And, as unskillful daught-players are in the end hemmed into a corner by the skillful, till they cannot make a move, just in the same way your hearers conceive themselves to be at last hemmed in and reduced to silence by this novel kind of draughts, played with words instead of counters. For they are not at all the more convinced that the conclusion to which they are brought is the true one” (487c). Socrates doesn't necessarily have correct ideas, but he spends much more time and energy devising arguments for his ideas. He then picks fights with productive people, who devote less of their concentration on the topic, and he runs circles around them, thereby concluding that his ideas are correct. All that has really been shown is that Socrates has too much time on his hands.

I don't even think Socrates believes half the crap he says. I think he just wants to show he can take any premise and make it sound true. So Ion says he's a better actor in the role of general than a general, and Socrates takes him apart, but if Ion had said the opposite, Socrates would have contradicted that position, too.

It's hard for me to say these things about a conclusion which I support--namely, that actors have mental deficiencies--but there it is nonetheless.

Rating: two out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.



Tom Brown's Schooldays, by Thomas Hughes

I read P.G. Wodehouse's Tales of St. Austin's, which includes a story where the narrator gives a lengthy review of Tom Brown's Schooldays. I figured I should read the book, seeing how it serves as inspiration for some of Wodehouse's school settings. Since the book is from 1857, and it wasn't written by anyone named Disney, it's now in the public domain, and easy to get for free.

The biggest problem with the book is that it is from 1857. There's a whole lot of moralizing that doesn't drive the story at all. Even in the first half, which mostly escapes criticism in Wodehouse's treatment. The second half, though, is so needless pretentious it's scandalous. I'd like to read a history of the public schools of the era to see if they really were so full of platonic love, but the boredom I'd have to suffer would be unbearable. I'll stick to Wodehouse for my public school tales.

Rating: three out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.



Apostles and Bishops in Early Christianity, by High Nibley

This book is a wonderful treatment of the question of Christian authority. The disconnect between the apostles and the Christian Fathers is clearly shown. The office of bishop underwent a change between AD 100 and 350, and Nibley definitively presents the change. This period of apostasy is very interesting to me, and I've read other books on the same topic (Nibley's Mormonism and Early Christianity, Jackson's From Apostasy to Restoration, and Talmage's Great Apostasy, for examples), but this book is probably the best of them, in terms of the extensiveness of the argument in relation to the length of the text.

Rating: seven out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.



Chasing Vermeer, by Blue Balliett

I got this book for my daughter at the library, and she started it, but then gave me excuses for why she wasn't finishing it. She does that sometimes, and I don't know if it's because the text is too difficult for her or the material is too scary to read alone. I offered to read it aloud to her and her brother, and she readily accepted.

I liked this book. It was a good mystery for a pre-teen kid. I am dumbfounded by the number of scathing reviews on Good Reads. One said,

This book may very well be the worst book I have ever read in my entire life. Why? Let me break it down for you.

There's a painting. It gets stolen. Lucky for the art museum of Chicago, three fifth graders have a plan to get it back. So if you'd ever read the last three chapters of flat stanely [sic], you have read this entire book.

First of all, I generally hate mystery books anyway, which is most likely a prime factor of my hatred for this book. Secondly, I hate mysteries that involve children, just adding on to my hatred.

The book makes no mystery (no pun intended) of the fact that it's a mystery involving children. And the quixotic shout-out to Flat Stanley, which I've read without feeling this book was derivative of it, is just confusing. Is all art-theft-themed literature a rip-off of Flat Stanley?

My kids liked the book. It got them interested in the life of Vermeer, and the work of Charles Fort. It was suspenseful without being too scary. They are eager to hear the sequels Balliett's written.

Rating: six out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.



The White Feather, by P.G. Wodehouse

A great Wodehouse schooldays book. A boy is a coward, bringing dishonor to his house. The house "cuts" him. He undertakes a plan to win honor for the house. Comedy doesn't necessarily ensue like it would in a later Wodehouse novel, but it unfolds alongside the plot. As funny as Blandings and Jeeves books are, there's a certain sense that the plot was serving the comedy. This book is the other way round. As I tend to remember it, there's very little cricket in this book, so the cricket-ignorant reader can rest assured.

Rating: six and a half out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.



William Tell Told Again, by P.G. Wodehouse

An unfortunate book. It very much seems like someone said, "Hey, Plum is a funny writer. Let's see what he can do with the story of William Tell. I bet it will be hilarious!"

Well, it's certainly funny, but to what end? Just to read a funny version of William Tell? If you're in the market for this type of thing, look no further, but if you are after something more substantial, this is not your book.

Rating: two and a half out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.



The Man Who Was Thursday, by G.K. Chesterton

A book which made me want to get the Cliffs Notes, yet sadly none exist. The "surprise ending" was fairly easy to see coming, but since the meat of the book is the allegory, it didn't make it any less powerful. A great short book about the interplay of socialism, religion, and capitalism, that will leave you thinking for a long, long time.

Rating: seven out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.



The Mugged Pug, by Darrel and Sally Odgers

I've written before about my son's love for these books. This was another that he thoroughly enjoyed. The mystery was low-key without seeming trivial. My son laughed a lot. Next on our list to read is The Blue Stealer, and I'm going to have him read alternating pages with me.

Rating: six and a half out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Quarterly Update - 1st Quarter 2011

I had plans this year to no longer do quarterly updates. I would write the reviews soon after I read the books. Not only did that not work out, but I didn't even finish this quarterly update within the first quarter. That might be excusable if I was late because I was so busy reading. But that's not my excuse.

Hector and the Search for Happiness, by François Lelord

Rating: six out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Denationalisation of Money, by Friedrich A. Hayek

Rating: six out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

A Dog Called Grk, by Joshua Doder

Rating: five and a half out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Invasion From Planet Dork, by Greg Trine

Rating: five and a half out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

The Phantom Mudder, by Darrel and Sally Odgers

Rating: six and a half out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Very Good, Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse

Rating: seven out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Lehi in the Desert / The World of the Jaredites / There Were Jaredites, by Hugh Nibley

Rating: six out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Manias, Panics, and Crashes, by Charles P. Kindleberger and Robert Z. Aliber

Rating: five out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

The Name of This Book Is Secret, by Pseudonymous Bosch

Rating: six out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Money and Foreign Exchange After 1914, by Gustav Cassel

Rating: six and a half out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Money and Foreign Exchange After 1914, by Gustav Cassel

(I had to make my own book cover, for the reasons outlined on the cover.)

This book's title might be deceiving. Reading this book in 2011, you might think, "I'm going to get nearly 100 years of history here." But the book was written in 1922. Hmmm. Slightly less history.

Nevertheless (the second time I've used that word in this collection of book reviews), a very, very good book. Cassel highlights all the problems with the supposed "return" to the gold standard that the gold exchange standard was said to be. The war-caused inflation that each government tried desperately to pin on other causes is shown to be completely the result of government action. The correct exchange rates at which the gold parities should have been pegged are worked out.

While we are 40 years into a non-redeemable floating exchange rate world, this book might seem irrelevant. However, I think it is a great lesson in what happens when redeemability is suspended or lost. The problems Cassel outlines are happening around us all the time; we just don't know it anymore because we don't have a memory of the world before 1914.

Rating: six and a half out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Name of This Book Is Secret, by Pseudonymous Bosch

This book got better as it went along. At first I thought the author was a little too enamored of how cute he was being. As the story picked up, though, the showy cuteness dropped away some.

This was a good mystery for my kids. Some shadowy bad guys who are thought to have killed someone, but there's some evidence the guy's not really dead, and a boy-and-girl detective team that is still slightly too young to be interested in anything but being friends. Although the culminating conflict did include the threat of killing a kid by sticking instruments up his nose and rooting around in his brain, which might have been slightly excessive.

Anyway, there are more books in this series and my kids want me to read them out loud, also. They're hard to get a hold of at the library, though, and our local library started charging for placing holds (unless you do it in person, which goes against every economics lesson I've ever had, except for the one about "entrenched special interest groups").

Rating: six out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Manias, Panics, and Crashes, by Charles P. Kindleberger and Robert Z. Aliber

Kindleberger wrote this book in the 1970s, and updated it a few times before his recent death. Aliber edited it some to reflect the 2008-10 economic crisis.

In some ways, this book was a great history lesson on past economic downturns. In other ways, it was completely uninformative (I now know a lot about the existence of the Mississippi Bubble of 1720 and how it was related to John Law, but as to what the Mississippi Bubble was, or who John Law was, I'm going to have to turn to Wikipedia).

Kindleberger outlines his distinctions between manias, panics, and crashes, and gives a useful model for how hedge debt can become speculative debt. It gave me a framework in which to think about my own finances which I had been missing.

Where things fall apart a bit is in the analysis of modern events. Like with most history books, it's easier to be objective about stuff that is over 100 years old. Kindleberger's most egregious writing was when he throws out an accusation that "most" CNBC financial analysts were profiting from the analysis they were spewing. Not an implausible hypothesis, but there is no footnote with a source or evidence. It's just "common knowledge."

Rating: five out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Lehi in the Desert / The World of the Jaredites / There Were Jaredites, by Hugh Nibley

The convoluted title comes from the fact that this is three smaller books put together in one. I almost feel like they should get separate reviews, since they were so different, but that would triple the work this review required, so I'll just give each its own paragraph.

The first book was great. It was very interesting reading. It was full of historical evidence that the way people behave in Arabia is exactly how the Book of Mormon says Lehi and his family behaved when they were in Arabia, and nearly all of these sources would have been unavailable to a 19th-century farmboy. I really enjoyed the fleshing out of a more complete picture of what that journey would have looked like.

The second book was great, as well. It goes through the historical sources to outline what the life of ancient Asian nomads looked like, and shows that it was exactly how the Jaredites are said to have behaved. It also details the differences between the Jaredites and the Nephites, differences that wouldn't make sense if they were two invented groups doing the same thing written by the same guy.

The third book was a little weak. It basically reviews epic literature to show that there are common elements to all epic literature, postulates that these commonalities must be based on the reality of the ancient world, and then shows that the Book of Ether fits into this pattern of epic literature. It was made more interesting by the fact that I was concurrently reading The Iliad, but otherwise it was a little dry.

Rating: six out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Very Good, Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse

I haven't read Jeeves stories in a few years. In that interim, I've watched a few episodes of the BBC show, so some of these plots were already known before I read them. Nevertheless, there are few ways to spend my time as enjoyably as reading Wodehouse. Maybe if I could read Wodehouse while having sex and eating a really great deli sandwich, but I don't know that my wife would agree to that, and the deli would probably kick us out.

Rating: seven out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Phantom Mudder, by Darrel and Sally Odgers

My son keeps loving these books, and he is now closing in on being good enough of a reader to read them himself. This book was more enjoyable to me than others have been, because the high-strung overbearing lady turned out to be the villain and Jack helped get her in trouble. Hurray for sticking it to annoying people!

Since this book took place at a dog show, it was kind of like a Jack Russell surprise party, with all of his friends in one place. My kids liked that some dog characters they had forgotten about were continually showing up. And I liked that the office supervisor-type lady got in trouble. (Have I mentioned how much I hate that type of lady?)

Rating: six and a half out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Invasion From Planet Dork, by Greg Trine

The last of the Melvin Beederman books we had left to read. I thought this series was getting progressively annoying, culminating in the unpleasant experience of reading Book 6, but since then, the last two books have become enjoyable again.

My kids like when Superhero James and Superhero Margaret are involved, and I like when it's not always the same thing (a bad guy buys a lair from Big Al's and sets up shop in the Hollywood Hills to do evil and sinister things, yawn). This story involved aliens, and required the heroes to do some space travel, which was something that hadn't come up in any of the previous books.

Rating: five and a half out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Dog Called Grk, by Joshua Doder

Again, my family are suckers for books about dogs. Sometimes that is handsomely rewarded, as with the Jack Russell series by Darrel and Sally Odgers, and sometimes we are completely screwed, as with the horrendous Space Dogs book (also by Australians, actually). This book was also written by another of the Queen's subjects, the Englishman Joshua Doder.

My kids liked this book, and it was enjoyable to read to them. The only problem is that it was probably aiming for kids slightly older than mine (eight and six right now). The parents of some of the characters are disappeared by an authoritative regime, and sometimes the regime wants to kill the kids, not just tie them up or something. It would probably be just fine for someone 10 or older.

The book isn't as much about the dog as you might be lead to believe. The dog is more the common element that ties the human characters together, and the action is mostly organized around the people. The dog, though, manages to be helpful in critical situations, so to some degree success depends on him.

Rating: five and a half out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Denationalisation of Money, by Friedrich A. Hayek

This book had quite a bit to say about the problems that arise from government monopolizing currency issue, which was probably the high point of the book. This book also has quite a bit to say about competitive issue of non-redeemable currency, which I think is sort of an intellectual dead end. But in a world where perhaps 90% of people think "Of course government has to control currency; otherwise, there'd be chaos!", the parts regarding government currency monopoly are sorely needed. And as a bonus, the whole thing is only about 100 pages.

Rating: six out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hector and the Search for Happiness, by François Lelord

On a family trip to the bookstore, I saw this book. I know everyone says judging a book by its cover is a bad thing, but the truth is we all do it, and it works out pretty well. I'm not ashamed to say I judged the crap out of this book based on its cover. I made a note to get my hands on a copy someplace cheaper (and yet my wife continually asks me, "Why is Borders going out of business?").

That "someplace cheaper" turned out to be Target, where I selected it as a Christmas present for my wife to give to me. And thanks to the number of things I have distracting me, I honestly forgot about it until I opened the present. Maybe I should pick out all my Christmas presents.

I liked this book. I thought it had a nice balance of moral and story. I've read Who Moved My Cheese? and, because I'm evidently a glutton for punishment, The Present, so I know all about books that beat you over the head with their too-cute fables. This book wasn't like that at all. Hector traveled to visit friends in distant countries, taking notes on aspects of happiness he learned along the way. A perfectly good book, with some good insights into the nature of happiness.

Rating: six out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.