Associated Press Stylebook notwithstanding, the ‘serial comma’ is indispensible. Consider this:
... highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector.
Herodotus: The Histories
Translations vary, but this is the one that I have.
Walter Isaacson: Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
Ashlee Vance: Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
(9/8/2015) Too hagiographic for my taste; Musk's work at SpaceX is over-the-top great (He deserves superhero status for that alone!), but in reality the Tesla is a boutique car for LA poseurs (and San Francisco, and Silicon Valley …). Musk's plan for solar-powered charging stations will only work where there's lots of uninterrupted sunlight, i.e. in California, Arizona, and maybe Nevada, and, I suppose, the Middle East, if he can convince them to abandon fossil fuels. (Heh.) If there's any serious volume of cars using the stations, though, solar power won't easily keep up even with a backup battery array, so he'll need a lot of stations, probably grid-attached – all providing, he says, a free service (!) – and I expect that his idea of a ‘quick charge’ by replacing the battery (for a few tens of dollars, robotically installed) will prove even more wildly uneconomical.
I notice, too, that despite Tesla's $32.5 billion (!) market value, its earnings per share is negative. Tesla is basically a three-ring dot-com bubble. Three cheers (each) for the Tesla's style, technical design, and improved lithium-ion battery technology, but without yet greater improvements in battery capacity and life, and a better plan to charge those batteries quickly, the company and the cars are going nowhere. Sorry, Elon, that's just basic physics.
I don't know, maybe he can go back to his ‘supercapacitor’ idea and see if they all pop their tops under stress. That might be more entertaining than a Falcon 9 launch! (****)
Isaac Asimov: Pebble in the Sky
Richard Dawkins: The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True
Ben Carson M.D.: America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great
(8/17/2015) Apparently Dr. Carson thinks that healthcare is somehow exempt from the laws of economics, and that doctors should design the system of finance for healthcare – on a mostly socialist model in which competition for services is forbidden and insurance companies are ‘non-profit service providers’ of government-mandated coverage – because they're the experts. No, Doc, the correct expert, when the question is of finance, is an economist. Medical experts should, of course, advise, but socialism won't work no matter how much they wish it to be so. Such irrational hope is what got us into the present mess. (But yes, as Dr. Carson says, a ‘loser pays’ system for lawsuits would certainly reduce medical costs. That is very good advice.) Three and a half stars, because it's not all about Dr. Carson's poor grasp of basic economics. (***)
Winston S. Churchill: The World Crisis Volume III: 1916-1918
Michael S. Gazzaniga: Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain
(7/27/2015) Neuroscientists are really bad at interpreting their own studies. Blah. (**)
Larry Niven: Fallen Angels
(7/26/2015) This is absolutely brilliant! It's slightly outdated on some details – 25 years is a long time for computer technology – and the authors misidentified the solar contribution to global warming (it's an indirect effect), but this is a must-read. (****)
Robert Kagan: The World America Made
Martin J. Blaser: Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues
(7/16/2015) I think that he overstates his case, but he's on to something here. (****)
Winston S. Churchill: The World Crisis Volume II: 1915
Winston S. Churchill: The World Crisis Volume I: 1911-1914
T. E. Lawrence: Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph: The Complete 1922 Text
(5/12/2015) That's Lawrence of Arabia to you. (****)
Xenophon: The March Up Country: A Translation of Xenophon's Anabasis
(4/5/2015) For some reason, a mercenary Greek army and the Persian prince who hired them thought it a good idea to march 1,500 miles on a shoestring budget to fight the king (the ambitious prince's brother) close to his capital - fricking Babylon! This worked out miraculously well and the Greeks got the best of the fight until the prince was killed in battle. Then came the march home, the long way through mountainous terrain, poorly-clothed (and -shod), hungry, without pay, and with the pissed-off (and probably embarrassed) king and all his petty satraps on their asses. Did I mention that the Greeks were mercenaries who thought that the army was a democratic institution? Good times!
Émile Zola: I Accuse!
Margaret MacMillan: Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World
(3/20/2015) From Germany and France to eastern Europe to the Middle East to China and Japan, the Treaty of Versailles screwed the pooch pretty thoroughly. Wilson was so hung up on the creation of his League of Nations that he couldn't be bothered with trifles such as justice and principle – except the ‘principle’ of his own ‘Fourteen Points’, which didn't exactly impress – and Clemenceau was insufferably demanding. (E.g., the ‘indemnity’ – charging Germany not just for reparations but also for the economic value of lost Allied men – was unhelpful and contrary to existing and stated principle. But the French were in no mood for forgiveness.) But Keynes's concern about the supposedly unbearable size of reparations was baseless. Unfortunately, the German people took Keynes's BS seriously, another terrible injustice among many as they saw it.
Another failing was the absence of proper war crimes trials for, at the least, the officers responsible for the murderous German behavior in Belgium – Falkenhayn, Ludendorff, and Bülow spring immediately to mind – rather than simply forwarding their names to the German government for trial at home (!) where they were either acquitted or allowed to escape and disappear without official trace. (!!) Also, allowing the German army to march home in good order, rather than forcing them to surrender publicly in the obvious disarray of defeat, encouraged the German public to believe that they had not really ‘lost’ but had rather been ‘stabbed in the back’ by traitors and Jews. Merde! (****)
Kevin Garrison: The CEO of the Cockpit
Baroness Orczy: The Scarlet Pimpernel
(2/20/2015) A bit juvenile for this old man. I wish I'd read it in the sixth grade. Or even the eighth. (****)
Isaac Asimov: The Stars, Like Dust