Thursday, September 1, 2005

previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (0)

September's Books of the Month

This month's general interest book is in response to the question I get asked on occasion -- "So what's the University of Chicago really like?" The work that I've seen best capture the spirit of the place is actually a play -- Proof, by David Auburn. The drama won a Pulitzer and some Tonys, and has been made into a movie that will be released this month (click here to see the trailer).

The movie's director, John Madden, was smart enough to shoot the film on location on campus and in Hyde Park, and even in the trailer you get a strong sense of place. Ordinarily I'd say more about it, but I'd rather not give away important plot details (as an aside, kudos to Madden and Miramax for not revealing these details in the trailer).

Proof is quite short, so I'll counterbalance by recommending a mammoth of an international relations book -- S.E. Finer's three-volume The History of Government. Finer -- an Oxford Professor of Government -- decided to write about the development of government from Sumeria to modern times as his retirement project. After surviving a massive heart attack, he devoted the next six years to the project and managed to almost finish it (34 out of 36 chapters). Some polishing by his colleagues and former students led to three volumes that the Economist raved as the best political science book ever when it came out in 1997.

[So you've read it then?--ed. Er, no. But this year I've agreed to join a small book club (only one other member) devoted to tackling this tome over the rest of the academic year. With September upon us, I look forward to cracking the spine -- especially since I just finished Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steeland I'm intrigued about whether Finer will buttress or refute some of Finer's assessments about the ancient world. So, you just finished a 1998 book and are now tackling a 1997 book. You are so cutting edge.--ed.]

posted by Dan on 09.01.05 at 07:27 AM


I'm a big fan of Finer's history. I saw it first in the bookstore at the British Museum. Back in the US, I found it a bit hard to track down, finally got a set from the gret Satan (where I posted this review: Having said that--I won't pretend to have read every word of it. But it is the kind of book you can take in pieces, doing a country at a time as you feel you can handle it. Overall reading would be good--there is an arc to the story. But one way or another, it is very much worth the time and attention.

posted by: Buce on 09.01.05 at 07:27 AM [permalink]

Thanks always for the recommendations. Finer's work really is seminal; why don't you open up the book club to online participants. I'd like to join you and Jacob...


posted by: Antid Oto on 09.01.05 at 07:27 AM [permalink]

What did you think of G, G, and S?

posted by: Pigilito on 09.01.05 at 07:27 AM [permalink]

They want $435.59 for paperbacks? A bit rich for my blood.

posted by: Steven Andrew Miller on 09.01.05 at 07:27 AM [permalink]

I just ordered all 3 volumes. I found 2 from the used bookstore site on the UK version of Amazon ( I found one on the Barnes & Noble used site. All in all, cost me $100, including the shipping from the two bookstores in the UK.


posted by: Antid Oto on 09.01.05 at 07:27 AM [permalink]

Post a Comment:


Email Address:



Remember your info?