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.