Friday, December 9, 2005

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Books worth buying

The hard working staff here at has noticed a trend in recent e-mails, along the lines of, "Say, Dan, what books would you recommend for the holidays?"

Well, I can't help much with the holiday-themed books. What I can do is recommend the books I've been reading recently:

Ian Urbina, Life's Little Annoyances: True Tales of People Who Just Can't Take It Anymore. Back in March I blogged about one of Urbina's New York Times stories about the small rebellions against petty annoyances. Urbina's story must have struck a nerve -- six months later he's got a short book chronicling more examples. Do check out his website at

Zadie Smith, On Beauty. A comic novel about two academic families who can't avoid complicating each others' lives. Smith's writing style has the kind of arch omniscience I aim for in these blog posts -- the difference is that Smith hitsher target, whereas I usually swind up linking to some jaw-dropping picture of Salma Hayek as a diversion from the bad writing.

Philip Tetlock, Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?. See my previous posts here and here about why I like this book.

Ed Mansfield and Jack Snyder, Electing to Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go to War A book-length updating of a groundbrreaking article from last decade. The gist is that while mature democracies may be less war-prone with each other, democatizing states are the most war-prone regime type out there. Debate amongst yourselves the disturbing policy implications that flow from this finding.

Arrested Development - Season One and Arrested Development - Season Two. No, they're not books, but they are just so f#$%ing funny it really doesn't matter. I once again apologize to Mitchell Hurwitz for not watching this show before it got cancelled. Go watch the first two seasons -- I promise you'll never think about the music to the Peanuts TV specials the same way again.

That's all for now -- read those and report back while I wend my way to Hong Kong.

UPDATE: Megan McArdle has a long list of book selections. Go check them out -- you don't want to see those porcelain cheeks glisten with tears again.

posted by Dan on 12.09.05 at 10:05 PM


Isn't it obvious that bringing democracy to the Middle East, could it be done, would not serve American interests? Unless, that is, it's in our interests to have to deal with regimes (a) hostile to Israel, (b)loath to sell us their oil on favorable terms, (c) less able and willing to hunt down terrorists, at least those who target folks like us, and (d) averse to our presence in the region and the cut of our jib?

posted by: Mr. Bennet on 12.09.05 at 10:05 PM [permalink]

The thing I don't get about the Snyder/Mansfield book is Snyder's already written this book; it was published in 2000 and was called Democratization and the Danger of War. Maybe it's more case studies and less purely theoretical, but I just don't get it, as I remarked in my mediocre review of the older book (linked in my name).

posted by: Tom on 12.09.05 at 10:05 PM [permalink]

If I am allowed to advise a book: Another Bloody Century, written by Colin S. Gray. This is a must-read. At least for me. Really, really great.

Dan, have you read it? What do you think about it?

For those who do not know Gray: he is a classical realist (former adviser of both Reagan and Tatcher): in comparison, Mearsheimer is a liberal.



aa (from Italy)

posted by: aa on 12.09.05 at 10:05 PM [permalink]

While intuitively appealing, this idea has been challenged by a number of scholars. I cannot summarize the debate, but I remember that one of the stronger critiques was an article written by Kristian Gleditsch and Michael Ward that came out in the APSR. They used sophisticated quantitative methods to show that democratization has a pacifying effect at all stages.

posted by: Kerim Can on 12.09.05 at 10:05 PM [permalink]


Is the Gilpin book still the best primer on IPE? I'm taking an IPE course next semester and we're using Balaam's Introduction to International Political Economy [ISBN: 0130183490]. Should I buy the Gilpin book to suplement?

posted by: UCF Journalism Student on 12.09.05 at 10:05 PM [permalink]

What I find "intuitively appealing" (see Kerim Cam comment above) is more jaw-dropping looks at Salma Hayek.

posted by: John Salmon on 12.09.05 at 10:05 PM [permalink]

Speaking of both books and "she who is not to be attained", it would seem that Selma is not as unattainable as our host would have us beleive...

Unforntuantely, it comes too late for our beloved professor.

posted by: loves labor lost on 12.09.05 at 10:05 PM [permalink]

This time, with link:

Speaking of both books and "she who is not to be attained", it would seem that Selma is not as unattainable as our host would have us beleive...

Unforntuantely, it comes too late for our beloved professor.

posted by: With link on 12.09.05 at 10:05 PM [permalink]

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