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Arthur Conan Doyle. The Sign of the Four.

The second of the Sherlock Holmes novels. Not as strong as A Study in Scarlett, but not bad either.

Partha Dasgupta. Economics: A Brief Insight.

Not just a book about economics, but a book about how to think like an economist. Dasgupta hangs his discussions of various topics around two characters, one in the American Midwest, and one in Southwest Ethiopia. The prose is perhaps a bit plodding at times, but the discussion is clear and guided by a genuine interest in human well-being.

Theda Perdue and Michael D. Green. North American Indians: A Very Short Introduction

Perdue and Green make a real effort to stress the agency of North American Indians in this brief history. It’s not all just stuff that was done to them. For all their determination to correct for this emphasis in earlier scholarship on North American Indians, there is nonetheless a tremendous amount of victimization related in this almost unbearably sad story.

David Nobbs. Fall And Rise of Reginald Perrin

Reasonably funny British novel from the 1970s about a middle manager who has a nervous breakdown. It was made into a BBC series, and subsequent novels in the series actually came after their counterparts in the series. I read this first novel and then started the BBC version. But the BBC version—which was apparently quite popular—fell so far short of the version in my imagination that I stopped it pretty quickly and never went on with the series. Anyway, it’s not great, but it had me laughing a few times.

Lawrence J. Cohen. Playful Parenting: A Bold New Way To Nurture Close Connections, Solve Behavior Problems and Encourage Children’s Confidence

I was very tired of the phrase “Tower of Isolation” by the time I finished this book, but the author actually has a humane, sensible, and creative approach to children and the ways that adults can use play to get them unstuck when they do get stuck. The many examples throughout the book were as helpful as the author’s theoretical observations. Worth reading if you spend any time around children, whether as a parent or not.

Jan Morris. Hav

This offering from the New York Review of Books Press brings together two short books, Last Letters from Hav, published in 1985, and Hav of the Myrmidons, written for inclusion in this book in 2005.
Hav is a small but notable city state perched on the sea in Asia Minor, a dazzling collection of nationalities and influences: Arab, Turkish, Russian, Greek, British—the list goes on. It’s history is tangled up with larger powers, and it’s rather confused architecture reflects all these influences. Although a small city, it was visited throughout the 20th Century and earlier by a parade of notables, from Hemingway to Freud. The only catch—and it eluded some original readers of Last Letters From Hav, who pestered travel agents for information on cheap passage to Hav—is that the only way to get there is through Morris’s books: Hav is an imaginary city. But it is a richly imagined one, and Morris has done a remarkable job of weaving it into our reality. Last Letters from Hav ends with a mysterious Intervention. Morris returns to Hav in 2005 to find that the Intervention, and the strange brand of fundamentalism it ushered in, has swept away much of what she explored on her first visit to the city. Although a bit slow in places, Hav is a fascinating meditation on place, history and modernity. Recommended.