Ministry of Propaganda

Ministry of Propaganda - 31/Dec/2005: "A Good Read"

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A Good Read

On the way to recovery and returning to blogging after an unintended break due to a nasty cold (I blame the woman sitting behind me in the plane coughing all over the place) it's time for the last entries for 2005. First another crossposting in English to this as well as the Top 5 blog. I read a number of books this year (not all of them came out this year, some are older but I only read them this year), here are the five I enjoyed most:

5. Before The Frost

When I wrote about Before The Frost by Henning Mankell earlier this year I wasn't entirely convinced. But looking back it was still a good read, partly because Ian Rankin hasn't published an Inspector Rebus story this year. Not sure if there will be one in 2006, if there is one it can compete with The Man Who Smiled by Henning Mankell which I plan to read soon.

4. Status Anxiety

Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton was a tough yet fascinating read. I sometimes found the book difficult to follow but it describes some interesting background about status and why we worry what others think of us. I found the influence of religion and how it kept people in their place particularly interesting. Certainly gave me food for thought.

3. Freakonomics

A book hyped in a lot of blogs, magazines and newspapers, Freakonomics by Steven D Levitt & Stephen J Dubner was a good book but still somehow failed to fulfil my (probably too high) expectations. Certainly some fascinating ideas and analysis about hidden factors and why incentives don't always work as intended (e.g. because instead of motivating they provide an excuse), but for me in particular the last chapter let the book down. I somehow expected a really exciting revelation or idea, 25 pages about childrens names just didn't do it for me. Still a very good book though, otherwise it wouldn't have made it to number three.

2. Lost For Words

Kind of bought by accident (I had a voucher to use up and this was the book I could find for it) this book turned out to be a very interesting read. Lost for Words: The Mangling and Manipulating of the English Language by John Humphrys is about the use of language in particular by politicians, bureaucrats and business. It doesn't provide solutions but should make you think. See also my earlier comments on Lost for Words.

1. The Paradox of Choice

I had this book on my list to buy and read for quite a while and this Christmas finally got round to read The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz. To an extent written from an US perspective I still found a lot of parallels in the UK, in particular with our politicians constantly waffling on about 'choice'. Very well written with good examples I also felt lead through the book to concluding chapter about how to deal with too much choice. Highly recommended, especially if you are more a 'maximizer' than a 'satisficer'.

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