Tag Archives: Molière

My 2018 reading list

In this post I wanted to share the list of books I read along the year (1) with a small comment for each one and links to some Twitter threads where I shared some passages that caught my attention while reading the book. I have also included a small rating from one to three “+” depending on how much do I recommend its reading.

2018_reading_list

  1. Dom Juan” (by Molière) (+++): Molière wrote this play for his theater group in 1665 when he faced troubles with Le Tartuffe and inspired by the work of Tirso de Molina. It tells the story of Don Juan, an unscrupulous adulterer who finds a counter point in his servant Sganarelle, with the action taking place in Sicily. I found in the book a good critique of hypocrisy and defence of good morals. [I leave here a Twitter thread with some passages that caught my attention while reading the book]
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird” (by Harper Lee) (++): Written in 1960 and winner of the Pulitzer prize, this novel tells the story of Atticus Finch, widower lawyer and single parent who is raising his two children in a principled way in a setting that does not help: segregationist Alabama in the 1960s in the midst of a trial in which Atticus is defending the weaker part, a black man who has been accused of raping a young white woman.
  3. Aeneid” (by Virgil) (++): the book tells the story of Aeneas, a Trojan character mentioned in the Iliad, who travels to Italy and becomes the ancestor of the Romans. I found the book a good epic legend for Italy, I liked that it mixes the adventurous side of the Odyssey and the cruelty and violence of the combats of the Iliad. However, I found it a bit tedious compared to the other two. [Twitter thread]
  4. Caligula” (by Albert Camus) (++): This play, published in 1944, and part of the cycle de l’absurde, is centered around the Roman emperor Caligula, who following the death of Drusilla engages in different dialogues, at times humorous, absurd or abusive, where he experiences and plays around the impossible, power and finally plots his own assassination. [Twitter thread]
  5. L’Étranger” (Albert Camus) (++): in this novel written in 1942, the main character, Meursault is an French Algerian, who epitomizes indifference. The novel starts with the death of his mother, which already does not move him much. Later, he sees himself hanging around with friends when they are assaulted. Without much thought he finds himself committing a crime, poorly defending himself in court and seeing life go by in front of him in the death row. [Twitter thread]
  6. Skunk Works” (by Ben Rich & Leo Janos) (+++): This book, the biography of Ben Rich (coauthored by Leo Janos, coauthor as well of “Yeager”), tells the fascinating story behind great engineers and legendary airplanes such as P-38, Starfighter, U-2, SR-71 Blackbird or the F-117 Nighthawk. The book includes some insight of the struggle of engineers and managers in developing those programs with the pressure from the authorities and the bureaucracies linked to them. It includes as well some light insight into the engineering innovations behind the successes of those aircraft, mixed with many witty remarks and plenty of humour and passion for aviation, It’s definitely a must read. [Twitter thread]
  7. Juan Belmonte, matador de toros” (by Manuel Chaves Nogales) (+++): I had come across the book as being referred by Spanish author Perez Reverte as the best biography in Spanish language, no less. Written by the journalist Chaves Nogales, it tells the life of Belmonte, a bullfighter from the beginning of the XX century, who had a close “rivalry” with Joselito. From the stories of his childhood in Seville (sneaking naked with friends in the night into the properties of bulls’ breeders to practice the fight), to his becoming a figure of bullfighting (his great days, the times he was injured), to his trips to Latin America (where even he got married by power of attorney as he found ceremonies rather dull!), the life of Belmonte is the life of character to be found only novels. [Twitter thread]
  8. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” (by Yuval Noah Harari) (++): written in 2014, I quickly saw this book being very positively referred to in multiple publications, thus I had marked it in my to-read list. I finally did it this year. I was disappointed. The author, a historian, covers in this book the different revolutions of human kind, which he classifies in: cognitive revolution, agricultural revolution, unification of humankind and scientific revolution. It is an entertaining read, with a few original ideas and provoking questions at the end. Otherwise, I found that 70% of the content of the book must have been in my high school history/biology courses’ content. Highly overrated. [Twitter thread]
  9. War and peace” (by Leo Tolstoy) (++): With almost 1,500 pages in the Spanish version that I read, this master piece from Tolstoy is according to him neither a novel, nor a poem, essay or chronicle, but a mix of all those genres. It is a monumental and historical piece, where the author mixes real characters and situations (e.g. battlefields) with fictional (or masked) ones. It chronicles the Napeoleonic wars with the campaigns in Austerlitz and Russia, it describes the life of Russian nobility and bourgeoisie, the missery of the war. This one is definitely a must read. [Twitter thread]
  10. Checklist manifesto: How to get things right” (by Atul Gawande) (++): Gawande, a surgeon at a Boston hospital and professor at Harvard, wrote this book in 2009 and since years ago I had been wanting to read it. It includes a compelling message: use of checklists to improve safety, mainly in operations related to healthcare in general and in operating rooms worldwide. He approached the subject following requests from the World Health Organisation to find ways to drastically improve safety. And he found in check lists, like the ones used in aviation since the 1930s (when Boeing developed the B-17 Flying Fortress, much more complex to fly than previous aircraft), a cheap and effective way to improve operations. There are other lessons to be drawn from the book from the importance of preparation, communication, rehearsing or visualizing in advance the critical steps to be performed, etc.
  11. Apology (of Socrates)“, “Meno“, “Cratylus” (by Plato) (++): Apology is the Socratic dialogue which describes the defence that Socrates made of himself in the trial that that condemned him to death. I especially liked that dialogue and the high moral status that portrays of Socrates. In Meno, Socrates tries to define what is virtue and whether it can be taught. In Cratylus Socrates discusses the nature of the names given to concepts and whether they are linked to them, digging into their etymology. [Twitter thread]
  12. Protagoras“, “Gorgias“, “Seventh Letter” (by Plato) (++): In Protagoras Socrates takes on Sophists and further discusses about virtue, what it is and whether it can be taught. In Gorgias Socrates takes again on Sophists and the use of rhetoric for persuasion. The Seventh Letter is an autobiographical account by Plato of his activities in Sicily and his exchanges with Dion. [Twitter thread]
  13. Ion“, “Timaeus“, “Critias” (by Plato) (+): In Ion Socrates takes on a rhapsode and discusses about skills in different fields of work. Timaeus is a kind of text about physics, chemistry and biology, a kind of genesis… which I absolutely recommend not entering into it. In Critias Plato tells the story of Atlantis and its attempt to conquer Athens. I would not read it either. [Twitter thread]
  14. Normandy 1944” (Remy Desquesnes) (++): During our visit to the Normandy coast in the month of May, I purchased this book to complement what I had learnt through the reading of the panels, the monuments, and the museum at Vierville-sur-Mer. The book in itself is easily read. It covers the preparation, previous attempts by the Allies to land in continental Europe, the refinement of the strategy and the Operation Over Lord itself from different points of view. It includes several maps of the theatre of operations, pictures, figures. Even if the edition of the book (by Ouest France) is not very good (some paragraphs are uncompleted), the reading of the book did provide a good complement to the visit. [Twitter thread]
  15. Fahrenheit 451” (by Ray Bradbury) (++): written in 1953, it presents a future society in which books are forbidden and firemen are employed to search and burn books or the houses in which they are stored. The main character is Guy Montag, on of such firemen. The story shows him troubled by getting in contact with a neighbor who secretly reads or a woman who choses to burn herself rather than parting ways from her books. This makes Montag question some aspects of his society. [Twitter thread]
  16. The Whistler” (by John Grisham) (++): the nth book from Grisham that I read. In this one the plot has a mafia taking benefit of a casino handed to the Native American tribe living in an area in the north of Florida. A team of three lawyers from the Board of Judicial Conduct start investigating the conspiracy with almost no means and serious risk to their lives until late into the story when they manage to get the FBI onboard. Thrilling and engaging as always.
  17. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” (by Robert Cialdini) (+++): written in 1984, the book is today a classic of influence, persuasion or negotiation. It introduces what he calls the six weapons of influence and in different chapters he explains how they work in the setting of a negotiation or a sale, providing real life examples and, in the edition that I read, feedback from readers of the previous editions. The six weapons being: reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority and scarcity. A very good read. [Twitter thread]
  18. Hergé, Tintin et les avions” (by Jose Miguel de la Viuda Sainz) (+++): this book, written in 2018 by a work colleague, is a compilation of the airplanes that appear in the different books of Tintin by Hergé. The book was edited in parallel to an exhibition about Tintin and airplanes at the Aeroscopia museum in Toulouse Blagnac. For each of those planes, the author reviews the plot of the Tintin book, the setting of the airplane(s) that appear in the book and discusses some technical features of the plane, whether in the book they are adapted from the real plane, whether those planes were marking a moment in aviation history at the time, etc. It is a rather short book (65 pages) but highly enjoyable. [Twitter thread]
  19. Why Nations Fail. The origins of power, prosperity and poverty” (by Daren Acemoglu and James A. Robinson) (++):  The thesis of the book is that the main driver determining whether countries follow a path of prosperity or the reverse is whether they have inclusive (vs extractive) political and economic institutions, i.e., democratic institutions, checks and balances, separation of powers, but as well respect for private property, contract law enforcement, etc. The book is well written, reads easily, and have quite a few facts that I discovered while reading the book, but I found it too long, as once the idea has been transmitted, the book becomes repetitive. [Twitter thread]
  20. Les Fleurs de Mal” (by Charles Baudelaire) (+): The most famous volume of poetry by Baudelaire, published in 1857, it was a must read if I wanted to venture into French poetry. With it Baudelaire tried to extract beauty from decadence, evil, mal. I especially liked the following poems: “La mort des pauvres”, “L’horloge”, “L’homme et la mer”, “Les Phares” and “Spleen”. [Twitter thread]
  21. Le rouge et le noir” (by Stendhal) (+): I took on this book, regarded as one of the best novels from the author, looking for a similar read to Les Miserables (by Victor Hugo), i.e. the struggle of a character from the lower ranks of French society of the XIX century. I was disappointed with the book. The book tells the story of Julien Sorel from his village Verrières to the Parisian society, the jobs he has to take, the relationships he entertains, the parties of the nobility… but I found too much storyline around his love affairs with Madame de Rênal and Mathilde de la Mole and I found the narrative very slow. [Twitter thread]
  22. Le Cid” (by Pierre Corneille) (+): I learned about Corneille and its Cid in one diagram about French literature included in the dossier of one of the Moliere’s books that I had read. Being the Cid a legendary Spanish knight about which I had recently read, I quickly put it into the to-read list. Whereas the Spanish “Cantar del Cid” is an epic poem, this “Le Cid” is a tragedy play for theatre. It confronts the hero Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar and his father with Ximena and her father. Ximena’s father offended Rodrigo’s one and this forces Rodrigo to search vengeance to save the honour of the family. Once that is settled, the course of action for Ximena is in question: whether to follow is loved one or not, once he has killed her own father. [Twitter thread]
  23. Captain of Hungary” (by Ferenc Puskas) (++): Ferenc Puskas was a great football player in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1954, at age 27, after having won a Olympics in 1952 and finishing second in the 1954 World Cup, he wrote this autobiography, when he still had ten years ahead as player and his best pages as club football player to be written. In the book he covers from his first games in the fields of Kispest during his childhood, to being called for the local club junior categories, to his promotion to the first league and national team. He very much focusses on his exploits with the national team with the other big teams of the time: England, Austria, Yugoslavia, Germany, Brazil. His passion for the sport, his dedication to the training and self-improvement and the importance of the tactical innovations, including the playing as a team and sacrificing oneself for the team, are constant themes along the book. [Twitter thread]
  24. Vingt ans après” (by Alexandre Dumas) (+++): “Twenty Years After”, published in 1845 as a serialized novel, is a sequel to the  “The Three Musketeers” and precedes “The Vicomte de Bragelonne”. The main characters are the same (i.e. D’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis) though after 20 years their personal situation has changed. The France in which the live has also changed. Now the setting is the Fronde, with cardinal Mazarin and Anne d’Autriche in France, and Cromwell and Charles I in England. The book is as entertaining as the first book of the series, with continuous plots, adventures, surprises, fights, witty dialogues and gasconnades from D’Artagnan. [Twitter thread]
  25. The Sun also rises” (by Ernest Hemingway) (+): After a few visits to the fiesta of San Fermin in Pamplona, Hemingway published in 1926 this book, which has become possibly his most popular work. The plot portrays a group of American and British friends that organize a trip to Pamplona passing by Bayonne, San Sebastian and a few days in the mountains. I did not like much the half of the book that runs the lives of rather decadent characters in Paris, I did not like the intricated relationships among them, but I did like the way the bullfighting (corrida) and the bull run (encierro) are explained. Pamplona’s encierros have world fame, and even if not thoroughly described in the book, they do get a few pages of fast, intense narrative. The corridas get a longer share of the book as they include a fictional bullfigher, Romero, and Belmonte. There is a delicious full page describing the final moments of a corrida, when the bull’s ear is finally handed to Romero. I definitely recommend reading the last ~ 40 pages. [Twitter thread]
  26. Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder” (by Nassim Nicholas Taleb) (++): With this book written in 2012, Taleb built on concepts exposed its previous books to offer a new main idea: antifragility, as opposed to fragility and to what would be a midway concept  of robustness. He invites the reader to look for situations in which one can gain from situations of disorder, crisis, uncertainty.  Some steps in that direction would be to reduce the exposure to situations in which he is fragile, to question calls for action when inaction might be more appropriate (via negativa), to question third party forecasts, to pay attention to the effect of low probability risks (fat tails), etc. [Twitter thread]
  27. The first 90 days” (by Michael Watkins) (++): published in 2006, this book is a useful guide about how to face the transition into a new job position. It helps to focus on some aspects of the business, the processes, the relationships involved, questions to be made, the learning process to be had, etc. The book does not bring any breakthrough idea, but it’s a useful reminder of some basic and common sense elements to keep in mind during the transition.

During this year again, I have been able to read at a higher pace than years ago, before I adopted a more rigorous approach following these two tips:

  • a blog post from Farnam Street blog “Just Twenty-Five Pages a Day“, which was published well after I had adopted such an approach to reading but captures it very well,
  • the Wikipedia article about the Pomodoro Technique, which enables you to efficiently use the last hours of the day.

I wish you all very interesting reads in 2019!

(1) You can find here: my 2012 reading list2013201420152016 and 2017 ones.

3 Comments

Filed under Books

My 2017 reading list

In this post I wanted to share the list of books I read along the year (1) with a small comment for each one and links to some Twitter threads where I shared some passages that caught my attention while reading the book. I have also included a small rating from one to three “+” depending on how much do I recommend its reading:

Portadas_2017.png

  1. Iliad” (by Homer) (+++): arguably the first book of Western civilization, I took on reading after having discussed about it and the Odyssey with a friend during 2016 summer holidays. The Iliad is widely seen as the more epic of the book of the two. I would say it is harsher. It is centered in the battle of Troy, fought around the XII century BC between a coalition of Greek armies led by Agamemnon king of Mycenae and Troy, led by Hector. The war features warriors the size of Achilles, Odysseus, Ajax, Menelaus… the origin of the war is the kidnapping of Helen, wife of Menelaus, by Paris, who takes her to Troy, against which the Greek armies fight in order to bring her back. The description of the fights does not spare any bloody detail, reaches at times the point of recreation in the violence and brutality of the characters. Another interesting point to note are the Homeric epithets; every single time the name of character is referred to a series of epithets will be quoted to describe him, such  as “swift-footed” Achilles.
  2. The dragons of Eden” (by Carl Sagan) (++): I was not yet born when the series Cosmos was released and became so popular in 1980, but I had read often about the character and the importance of Sagan as a outreach scientist. I bought this book, on the evolution of human intelligence, about a decade ago and took on it this year after having read “Exploradores: La historia del yacimiento de Atapuerca” by one of the lead researchers of Atapuerca (José María Bermúdez de Castro) last year. The book is read very easily and draws from different disciplines in order to provide examples, outcomes from scientific studies and his vision on evolution. [I leave here a Twitter thread with some passages that caught my attention while reading the book]
  3. Las cuentas y los cuentos de la independencia” (by J. Borrell and J. Llorach) (+++): this short book by the economists Joan Llorach and Josep Borrell (who among other posts was the Spanish minister of Public Works and Transport in the 1990s) originated from an article they wrote for a news paper refuting some of the populist arguments often used by separatist leaders in Catalonia (note: both writers are Catalan themselves). The main point of the book goes around the different calculations methods for what is called the fiscal balance, pointing to the distortions played by separatists. Before that point is tackled many other mantras are dismantled, such as the purported calculations of fiscal balances in Germany and the limits to them often cited by separatists, for which the authors of the book made a thorough research including cross checking with German economics professors and the German embassy just to find out that the whole story is based on nothing, pure invention, hence the title of the book (“las cuentas y los cuentos“, as in the “the calculations and the stories”). [Twitter thread]
  4. The Right Stuff” (by Tom Wolfe) (+++): released in 1979 and awarded the US National Book Award for Nonfiction, this book portrays the lives, the selection process, the training and mission of the Mercury Seven. The book was later adapted to the cinema in a movie by the same title. The movie and the book are classic of aerospace literature and cinema. The images of the mercury seven in their silver space suits or their orange fighter pilot suits are part of popular culture. The book goes into the struggles and ego disputes among the different astronauts and between them and Air Force test pilots, including Chuck Yeager whose auto biography I had read in 2016, thus letting me see that episode from both sides. A definite must read. [Twitter thread]
  5. Odyssey” (by Homer) (+++): this book is partly the continuation of the Iliad, as in it Homer describes the return trip of Odysseus from Troy to Ithaca, his kingdom, where is wife Penelope and son Telemachus suffer for years the absence of the king. This book is more of an adventure book than the Iliad, and some of the passages are quite known such as those of the cyclops or the sirens. [Twitter thread]
  6. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (by Douglas Adams) (+): the novel is part of a comedy science fiction series released in 1979, originated from radio broadcasts and later taken to TV. I read it as had seen it recommended by Elon Musk a couple of times. The book has some hilarious points and fine criticisms, but other than that I thought it was quite overrated. [Twitter thread]
  7. Oresteia (Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers (Choephoroi), The Eumenides)” (by Aeschylus) (+): Aeschylus is seen as the father of tragedy. The Oresteia is a trilogy first represented at a festival in 458 BC. The play plots several tragic events: the murder of Agamemnon by Clytaemnestra, the murder of Clytaemnestra by Orestes, the trial of Orestes, the end of the curse on the House of Atreus and pacification of the Erinyes. [Twitter thread]
  8. La Bete humaine” (by Emile Zola) (++): published in 1890, this novel by Zola caused a great impact in the French society by its brutality: murder, suicides, abuses… the novel is centered around the rail company and the line Paris – Le Havre, and the plot relates the lives of the president, some workers and their relatives.  [Twitter thread]
  9. 1984” (by George Orwell) (++): published in 1949, the influence of this novel cannot be overstated. It coined terms and introduced figures widely used today such as Big Brother, Newspeak, Thought Police, thoughtcrime… even if I found some passages of the book rather tedious, it is a must read, a wake up call, a reminder of always having to be alert in the defence of individual rights. [Twitter thread]
  10. Puro Fútbol” (by Roberto Fontanarrosa) (++): In the 90s I used to read some newspaper articles of former football player and coach Jorge Valdano, in some of them he would refer to stories from the writer Fontanarrosa. Since then, I had heard about those stories some other times. In April we visited Argentina and we went to a bookshop to enjoy going through book stands, when I found his name in bookshelf I picked one of his books to read a few of his stories. The book is a compilation short stories of Argentinean football. They are fictional stories which feature amateur players and aficionados, either playing football, remembering memorable matches or attending events. I especially liked its fresh and down to earth language, which very easy transmit that for some people football is much more than sport. [Twitter thread]
  11. El Tango” (by Jorge Luis Borges) (+++): during a trip to Argentina I bought 3 books of Borges to approach the author. This was the first one I read. Rather than a book written by him, it is the transcription written in 2016 of a series of lectures Borges gave in 1965 around Tango, its origins, meaning, etc. I loved the book, as it gave me some insight into Argentinean life at the beginning of the XX century, the dance itself, its evolution from a dance of locals of dubious reputation to a dance more than socially accepted. Living in Toulouse, I loved to learn that in fact Carlos Gardel might have been a Frenchman by the name Charles Gardés born in the same neighborhood of Saint Cyprien (Toulouse) where I used to live when I came to France. [Twitter thread]
  12. Ficciones” (by Jorge Luis Borges) (+): published in 1944, the book is a compilation of about 20 short stories. With them Borges plays with different concepts, styles and themes. I saw that it has a great reception by critics, I do not share it.
  13. Dracula” (by Bram Stoker) (++): the count of Dracula and vampires are part of our popular culture. There are countless films, books, comics, plays, that include such characters. This book, published in 1897, set a framework for that popular culture: the prominent teeth, the biting and sucking of blood, the coming out at night, the counter measures, etc. The story is made of a series of letters, entries into the diaries of some of the characters and press articles. I liked the originality of such approach, although in my view it lacked some rhythm at some points. [Twitter thread]
  14. Waiting for Godot” (by Samuel Beckett) (+): I got some books from 1969 Literature Nobel prize winner, the Irish Samuel Beckett, as part of my Irish literature immersion following my 2016 trip to the island. Waiting for Godot is theater play that portrays two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, who wait for a third one, Godot, who never arrives. Meanwhile they engage in a series of discussions, absurd at times, comical at others, or even tedious. I have read reviews of the play stating that it is one the most significant play in English language of the XX century. I found it rather absurd and wouldn’t recommend it, other than for the humorous note of reading once and again the gag “We can’t / Why not? / We’re waiting for Godot”. [Twitter thread]
  15. The travels of Gulliver…”  (by Jonathan Swift) (+++): during a trip to Ireland in 2016, I found out that Jonathan Swift had been about everything in Ireland, I thus decided to take on this classic book, out of which some stories we all have heard of at some point or another, such as the trip to Lilliput. Written in 1726, the book covers several trips of Gulliver, to nations previously unknown to him, where he discovers different civilizations (Lilliputians, giants, a civilization on a flying island) with their own ways of thinking. These travels offer the author situations to explain different points of view from menial subjects to more profound ones, such as fraud, the importance of rewarding good behavior, the importance of attitude over skills, astronomy, the influence of lawyers, taxes… up to a rather harsh criticism on human kind in comparison to the honesty of horses. A classic definitely worth reading. [Twitter thread]
  16. The Price of Inequality” (by Joseph E. Stiglitz) (+++): I had bought this book from the 2001 Nobel prize in economics to my father a couple of years ago. Once he finished it, I grabbed this boomerang gift so I could read it too. The book is a review of income inequality in the USA, the policies that have been taken in the last decades and that have contributed to the increasing of that inequality and its consequences. Criticism of austerity, defence of higher taxes, denouncing the double standards, the fine print of trade agreements, the need of labor unions, globalization and rent seeking are some of the topics discussed in the book. [Twitter thread]
  17. Out of Africa” (Karen Blixen) (++): I visited my sister in Denmark in the summer of 2016 and it was in that trip that I got acquainted with Karen Blixen (not having yet seen the movie based on the book). I bought the book and put it on the reading list. Written in 1937, the book is a passionate story of a farm life in Africa, lovely at times, with some descriptions of landscapes, relationships, the sounds of nature, the animals in the safaris, the flights in the Moth of her friend Denys…, that brings you back to a time and a world that most probably, for good and bad, we will never see again. A melancholic read at times, especially at the end, when the author describes when she was already closing her experience in Kenya. [Twitter thread]
  18. Ajax“, “The Trachiniae“, “Antigone“, “Oedipus Rex” (by Sophocles) (++): Sophocles was one of the great tragedians in ancient Greece, following Aeschylus, he lived in the 5th century BC. The book I read is a compilation of the four plays mentioned above. The plays treat the death of Ajax, of Heracles, of Antigone and the self-blinding of Oedipus, this last one considered to be the masterpiece of Greek tragedy. [Twitter thread]
  19. La tregua” (by Mario Benedetti) (++): written in 1959, this novel by the Uruguayan writer, long time based in Buenos Aires, tells the story of the widower Martín Santomé who falls in love with a much younger female work colleague just prior to his retirement. The book is written in the form of entries into the diary of Martin. [Twitter thread]
  20. El libro de arena” (by Jorge Luis Borges) (+): this book, published in 1975, is a compilation of 13 short stories. Together with “Ficciones“, which I had read a few months before (above), it is considered one of the masterpieces of Borges. Other than some pills of sharp criticism on fairmindedness, self described liberal free thinkers, disdain for science, culture and history, I did not like much this book either. [Twitter thread]
  21. Les Misérables” (by Victor Hugo) (+++): it took over 15 years to Victor Hugo to write Les Misérables, a 1,900-page (in the French version) historical novel considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century if not of all time. Hugo centers the story around Jean Valjean, who was initially convicted for stealing bread but after a series of escape attempts he ends up serving 19 years. Valjean will be transformed into a benefactor who is always chased by his past and who follows an internal struggle between justice and doing good. Valjean will take as personal mission to save Cosette, a young orphan girl. The book includes some other central characters such as Fantine, Eponine, Marius, Gavroche or Javert, and Hugo will use them and the historical events hapenning at the time around which the novel is staged (1820s and 30s) to discuss about several subjects such as monarchy, social justice, criminal justice, romance, family, French politics…  It took me about 10 weeks and around 70 hours to read it, the longest book I have read so far, but definitely worth it, especially the last about 300 pages. [Twitter thread]
  22. L’Écoles des femmes” (by Molière) (+++): this play, published in 1662, portrays a comedy around Arnolphe, Horace and Agnès, where the first has been isolating and “educating” Agnès to marry her and Horace is her lover. Through candid and innocent dialogues between Horace and Arnolphe and Agnès and Arnolphe, the latter will become aware of the affair going on and the failure of his strategy. A great comedy and criticism of the society of his time in its view of women rights. [Twitter thread]
  23. Social Choice and Individual Values” (by Kenneth J. Arrow) (+): one of the 1972 Economics Nobel prize winner, Kenneth Arrow passed away in February 2017. At that point I thought of reading this book, a 100-page essay in which he derives his “General Possibility Theorem”, known as Arrow’s impossibility theorem or voting paradox: “If there are at least three alternatives which the members of the society are free to order in any way, then every social welfare function (…) must be either imposed or dictatorial”. The exposition of his social choice theory, the implications of the theorem and the particular cases when some conditions are quite interesting. However, the book is a plagued with demonstrations with which he arrives to his theorem; a tough read if not on student mode. [Twitter thread]
  24. Le Tartuffe ou L’imposteur” (by Molière) (+++): the first version of this play appeared in 1664, and after some struggles with censorship it reappeared in its final version in 1669. In this comedy, Molière criticizes the hypocrisy and trickery often hidden behind a pious appearance. In the plot, Tartuffe is an impostor that passes by a fervor devotee who uses religion to trick Orgon, to the point of getting his state and at the brink of getting his wife. A great pointed comedy. [Twitter thread]
  25. L’Avare” (by Molière) (+++): written in 1668, in this great comedy the author takes on greed and its influence on love between parents and children, jealousy, marriage arrangements based on dowries…  [Twitter thread]

During this year again, I have been able to read at a higher pace than years ago, before I adopted a more rigorous approach following these two tips:

  • a blog post from Farnam Street blog “Just Twenty-Five Pages a Day“, which was published well after I had adopted such an approach to reading but captures it very well,
  • the Wikipedia article about the Pomodoro Technique, which enables you to efficiently use the last hours of the day.

I wish you all very interesting reads in 2018!

(1) You can find here: my 2012 reading list201320142015 and 2016 ones.

3 Comments

Filed under Books