In the season’s spirit of sharing, here are a few things I’ve enjoyed this year:
- Slate Star Codex has been very very good this year. Among many excellent posts, I really enjoyed Beware the Man with One Study, Meditations on Moloch, Five Case Studies on Politicization, and The Control Group is Out of Control (“the Ouroboros of scientific evidence”).
- For all your nerdier political economy and global income inequality needs, Branko Milanovic has been writing an occasional blog, Global Inequality. I’ve also enjoyed reading Dietz Vollrath’s Growth Economics Blog this year. Both a bit technical, but generally excellent.
- For the 2-3 people reading this blog with interests in Venezuelan politics, the unimaginatively named Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights blog has been very good this year, though I don’t always agree with their conclusions. Hugo Perez Hernaiz has been doing some amazing work monitoring every weird conspiracy theory emanating from the Venezuelan government.
- I’ve been on a Neal Stephenson kick; The Baroque Cycle and Cryptonomicon were great fun. (My favorite is Anathem, though I read that a few years ago. Anathem has a lot to say about what it means to be a scholar).
- Stephen Kotkin’s first volume of his planned three-volume Stalin biography is amazing so far (I have not finished it). It’s more like a history of the world over the last two centuries than a simple biography; hopefully I’ll have more to say about it next year. Among big books on dictators I read this years, Stanley Payne’s The Franco Regime is also fantastic, a work of overwhelming scholarship (Payne appears to have read everything related to Franco in about nine European languages, including Finnish and Russian). Richard Evans’ three volume history of the Third Reich (mentioned here in the post on the tedium of authoritarianism) is extremely readable and full of interesting details; I had planned to write more about it, but life intervened.
- Among online long reads worth noting this year, this powerfully evocative piece on Maoist China by Simon Leys from 1977 really stuck in my memory. Other long reads from this year I’ve liked and failed to promptly forget, in no particular order: Perry Anderson on basically everything you could ever really wish to know about Italian Politics; The New Atlantis on elephants; “That Impostor Known as the Buddha;” Dimitris Xygalatas on extreme rituals; Boriz Munoz on Emptying the Tower of David; Justin E. H. Smith on The Skeleton Garden of Paris (which made me think back to many visits to museums this year).
- Your regularly scheduled solstice extremophiles blogging: microbes in space.
Where has our appreciation of the true Yule gone?: the blessings of the wisdom of Odin, the protection given us by Thor, the abundance bestowed by Freya? Recognition that with the passing of another year, the guardians of Asgard have again held off the Frost Giants , Ragnarok is again deferred, and in a few months the light and warmth of summer will return?Here in the Southern hemisphere it’s the summer, not the winter solstice, but happy solstice/christmas/festivus/yule/Newtonmass/Toxcatl or any other ritual you may celebrate to all!