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 Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?

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PostSubject: Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?   Mon Oct 27, 2008 9:34 pm

Time to curl up by the fire with a good book. Any suggestions?

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PostSubject: Re: Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?   Mon Oct 27, 2008 10:44 pm

If it's out - Conspiracy by Robert Harris.
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?   Mon Oct 27, 2008 10:51 pm

Ard-Taoiseach wrote:
If it's out - Conspiracy by Robert Harris.

What is it about?
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?   Mon Oct 27, 2008 10:55 pm

cactus flower wrote:
Ard-Taoiseach wrote:
If it's out - Conspiracy by Robert Harris.

What is it about?

Here's a blurb...

"63 BC, the year when Cicero is consul. Most of his time in office is devoted to uncovering and thwarting a violent conspiracy to overthrow the state, ostensibly led by Crassus and a group of disaffected senators. Underlying this is the great rivalry between Cicero and Caesar, who represent two different types of ambition: one orthodox, the other revolutionary. As Caesar's power grows Cicero must face the inevitable compromises that come from holding power - is it justifiable to use illegal methods in order to save the Republic? Robert Harris yet again proves himself a master of historical fiction as he takes the reader to the heart of republican Rome with a novel that is at once brilliantly researched and utterly gripping."
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?   Mon Oct 27, 2008 11:00 pm

I'm about to start Blood and Fire: William and Catherine Booth and the Salvation Army, by Roy Hattersley. It would suit the picture supplied by cactus, but I guess I'll be the only one reading it Very Happy.
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?   Tue Oct 28, 2008 4:03 am

I'd be surprised if this suggestion has not come up before - but if anyone is interested in finally getting down to Marx's Capital, Volume 1, there is a brilliant lecture series by David Harvey of City University of NY available free online - video or audio. I've just done the first one and it is amazingly clear and helpful. You need the Penguin Classics version of the book. Having tried to read it on my own several times without success, it's fantastic to have such a valuable guide to understanding it. Any takers? We could have ongoing dicussion here - it would take a few months to work through it in all probability.
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?   Tue Oct 28, 2008 4:00 pm

This is a fascinating book and very very enlightening. Highly recommended!!!
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?   Tue Oct 28, 2008 4:47 pm

Aragon wrote:
I'd be surprised if this suggestion has not come up before - but if anyone is interested in finally getting down to Marx's Capital, Volume 1, there is a brilliant lecture series by David Harvey of City University of NY available free online - video or audio. I've just done the first one and it is amazingly clear and helpful. You need the Penguin Classics version of the book. Having tried to read it on my own several times without success, it's fantastic to have such a valuable guide to understanding it. Any takers? We could have ongoing dicussion here - it would take a few months to work through it in all probability.

There may not be many takers here Aragon, but I'm interested. Perhaps we might spam around and find a group who would like to read it? It would be a long project so I would go at a shorter book club read as well. I've just been reading Adam Smith, the Wealth of Nations, because a lot of the concepts are the same and he explains them very clearly with loads of good examples. There is a great potted version linked to the Book Club thread. Have you been following the Capital/Brendan McCooney youtube lectures on Marxism here ? - they are very accessible too. I would have some doubts about David Harvey (used to be at Reading University) and BMc too. The other very good read relevant at the moment is Lenin's "Imperialism, the Highest Form of Capitalism" that shows that all the supposedly "new financial products" we are hearing about are not that new after all.
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?   Wed Oct 29, 2008 12:46 am

cactus flower wrote:
Aragon wrote:
I'd be surprised if this suggestion has not come up before - but if anyone is interested in finally getting down to Marx's Capital, Volume 1, there is a brilliant lecture series by David Harvey of City University of NY available free online - video or audio. I've just done the first one and it is amazingly clear and helpful. You need the Penguin Classics version of the book. Having tried to read it on my own several times without success, it's fantastic to have such a valuable guide to understanding it. Any takers? We could have ongoing dicussion here - it would take a few months to work through it in all probability.

There may not be many takers here Aragon, but I'm interested. Perhaps we might spam around and find a group who would like to read it? It would be a long project so I would go at a shorter book club read as well. I've just been reading Adam Smith, the Wealth of Nations, because a lot of the concepts are the same and he explains them very clearly with loads of good examples. There is a great potted version linked to the Book Club thread. Have you been following the Capital/Brendan McCooney youtube lectures on Marxism here ? - they are very accessible too. I would have some doubts about David Harvey (used to be at Reading University) and BMc too. The other very good read relevant at the moment is Lenin's "Imperialism, the Highest Form of Capitalism" that shows that all the supposedly "new financial products" we are hearing about are not that new after all.

Thanks for these tips - I hadn't seen the youtube lecture dsicussions here - assume they are in political theory? I'll hunt them out. I listened to the introductory Harvey lecture last night (90 mins approx) which I found very clear and having now read the first two chapters (previously been cross-eyed at the attempt) found I was much more easily able to follow it. He does acknowledge himself that he inevitably brings his own slant to it, though he tries not to, and encourages people to view the book through as many prisms as possible. I don't know Harvey at all - what would your reservations be? Reading's a pretty right-wing uni - or so they used to say at Oxford anyway (Of all the cheek!) Mind you, even the LSE has lurched to the right apparently. Infested with Blairites. If we can't find another perhaps if we just got going ourselves we might be joined by others - attracted by our sparkling insights and observations on a dedicated Capital thread Smile

You are right - it is a biggish undertaking and probably not suitable for a bookclub. I never finished Shock Doc Embarassed and feel I should at least do that having advocated it earlier this year so am not registering a preference this time round. Health issues intervened unfortunately as you know. Naomi is even now reproaching me from her big yellow book right in front of me on the desk as I type.

Here's a link to the Harvey lecture series fyi: http://davidharvey.org/
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?   Wed Oct 29, 2008 1:14 am

cactus flower wrote:
Aragon wrote:
I'd be surprised if this suggestion has not come up before - but if anyone is interested in finally getting down to Marx's Capital, Volume 1, there is a brilliant lecture series by David Harvey of City University of NY available free online - video or audio. I've just done the first one and it is amazingly clear and helpful. You need the Penguin Classics version of the book. Having tried to read it on my own several times without success, it's fantastic to have such a valuable guide to understanding it. Any takers? We could have ongoing dicussion here - it would take a few months to work through it in all probability.

There may not be many takers here Aragon, but I'm interested. Perhaps we might spam around and find a group who would like to read it? It would be a long project so I would go at a shorter book club read as well. I've just been reading Adam Smith, the Wealth of Nations, because a lot of the concepts are the same and he explains them very clearly with loads of good examples. There is a great potted version linked to the Book Club thread. Have you been following the Capital/Brendan McCooney youtube lectures on Marxism here ? - they are very accessible too. I would have some doubts about David Harvey (used to be at Reading University) and BMc too. The other very good read relevant at the moment is Lenin's "Imperialism, the Highest Form of Capitalism" that shows that all the supposedly "new financial products" we are hearing about are not that new after all.

Lenin! What a Face And I got told off by my uncle(a colomban missionary) for reading Machiavelli
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?   Wed Oct 29, 2008 1:16 am

Ard-Taoiseach wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
Ard-Taoiseach wrote:
If it's out - Conspiracy by Robert Harris.

What is it about?

Here's a blurb...

"63 BC, the year when Cicero is consul. Most of his time in office is devoted to uncovering and thwarting a violent conspiracy to overthrow the state, ostensibly led by Crassus and a group of disaffected senators. Underlying this is the great rivalry between Cicero and Caesar, who represent two different types of ambition: one orthodox, the other revolutionary. As Caesar's power grows Cicero must face the inevitable compromises that come from holding power - is it justifiable to use illegal methods in order to save the Republic? Robert Harris yet again proves himself a master of historical fiction as he takes the reader to the heart of republican Rome with a novel that is at once brilliantly researched and utterly gripping."

Ah yes. Imperium was excellent. Cant wait for this follow up.
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?   Wed Oct 29, 2008 1:17 am

Harvey's had one heck of a career! About to do the second lecture right now but will read some of his critics afterwards

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Harvey_(geographer)
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?   Wed Oct 29, 2008 1:26 am

What's this strange obsession with reading oudated nonsense like Marx and Smith? Why don't we all start with the Bible and be done with it? There is an alarming amount of idealism on this site and I won't stand for it.

Might I suggest something recent, realistic and practical: Chris Patten!
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?   Wed Oct 29, 2008 1:36 am

905 wrote:
What's this strange obsession with reading oudated nonsense like Marx and Smith? Why don't we all start with the Bible and be done with it? There is an alarming amount of idealism on this site and I won't stand for it.

I doth protest.
If the american and french revolutionaries of the 18th century didnt look back to the ancients for inspiration, and insteadstuck to their contempory systems, we would now have the United Kingdom of America and the Kingdom of France.
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?   Wed Oct 29, 2008 1:52 am

Respvblica wrote:
905 wrote:
What's this strange obsession with reading oudated nonsense like Marx and Smith? Why don't we all start with the Bible and be done with it? There is an alarming amount of idealism on this site and I won't stand for it.

I doth protest.
If the american and french revolutionaries of the 18th century didnt look back to the ancients for inspiration, and insteadstuck to their contempory systems, we would now have the United Kingdom of America and the Kingdom of France.
Inspiration is one thing, but slavish adherence is another. If they looked to the classics with all the devotion often meted out to Marx and Smith, we would be living in a slave-run misogygnistic society.

Which was more influential, the classics or Tom Paine?
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?   Wed Oct 29, 2008 3:03 am

Respvblica wrote:
Ard-Taoiseach wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
Ard-Taoiseach wrote:
If it's out - Conspiracy by Robert Harris.

What is it about?

Here's a blurb...

"63 BC, the year when Cicero is consul. Most of his time in office is devoted to uncovering and thwarting a violent conspiracy to overthrow the state, ostensibly led by Crassus and a group of disaffected senators. Underlying this is the great rivalry between Cicero and Caesar, who represent two different types of ambition: one orthodox, the other revolutionary. As Caesar's power grows Cicero must face the inevitable compromises that come from holding power - is it justifiable to use illegal methods in order to save the Republic? Robert Harris yet again proves himself a master of historical fiction as he takes the reader to the heart of republican Rome with a novel that is at once brilliantly researched and utterly gripping."

Ah yes. Imperium was excellent. Cant wait for this follow up.

Exactly, and we have had a run of non-fiction titles in the book club. I feel a fictionalised book would be an excellent choice to redress the balance and to focus on the book as a literary construct rather than merely a mine of information to be used in the future.
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?   Wed Oct 29, 2008 3:31 am

905 wrote:
What's this strange obsession with reading oudated nonsense like Marx and Smith? Why don't we all start with the Bible and be done with it? There is an alarming amount of idealism on this site and I won't stand for it.

Might I suggest something recent, realistic and practical: Chris Patten!

905, have actually noticed what is happening in the world of economics lately? Marx has never been so relevant! Smile There is no obsession, just an interest in understanding one of the most influential and original thinkers of the last two centuries.

The idea of a non fiction book is nice though.
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?   Wed Oct 29, 2008 10:55 am

905 wrote:
Respvblica wrote:
905 wrote:
What's this strange obsession with reading oudated nonsense like Marx and Smith? Why don't we all start with the Bible and be done with it? There is an alarming amount of idealism on this site and I won't stand for it.

I doth protest.
If the american and french revolutionaries of the 18th century didnt look back to the ancients for inspiration, and insteadstuck to their contempory systems, we would now have the United Kingdom of America and the Kingdom of France.
Inspiration is one thing, but slavish adherence is another. If they looked to the classics with all the devotion often meted out to Marx and Smith, we would be living in a slave-run misogygnistic society.

Which was more influential, the classics or Tom Paine?

Thats a good point. However I just read a book on the influence of the classics on the american founding fathers and it really was something that coloured their lives, to the point of obsession almost. There are observable signals(naming the hill in washington the Capitol, the river the Tiber, the architecture, the senate, the pen names, Cincinatti etc, but their letters and writings definitely show that the classical influence was everywhere. Its the same with Machiavelli and Montenesquieu. The context though was that they were christians and so the end result was what we have today and not a slavish resurrection of the pagan roman republic(america) or empire(france).
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?   Wed Oct 29, 2008 4:32 pm

Aragon wrote:
905 wrote:
What's this strange obsession with reading oudated nonsense like Marx and Smith? Why don't we all start with the Bible and be done with it? There is an alarming amount of idealism on this site and I won't stand for it.
Might I suggest something recent, realistic and practical: Chris Patten!

905, have actually noticed what is happening in the world of economics lately? Marx has never been so relevant! Smile There is no obsession, just an interest in understanding one of the most influential and original thinkers of the last two centuries.

The idea of a non fiction book is nice though.

My interest in Smith and Marx is practical and applied in intent - to understand how things work, and if and how they can be fixed. No need for them to hog the Book Club though, they can be in a separate study forum for anyone interested.

Bring on Patten or the Praetorian Guard !!! From past experience, I'd recommend that we pick a book that is in all the book shops currently, and that is not too expensive.
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?   Wed Oct 29, 2008 4:55 pm

Well heres a book worth reading:
THE WISDOM OF CROWDS by James Surowiecki.
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?   Wed Oct 29, 2008 6:31 pm

Respvblica wrote:
Well heres a book worth reading:
THE WISDOM OF CROWDS by James Surowiecki.

What's it about?
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?   Wed Oct 29, 2008 7:06 pm

cactus flower wrote:
Respvblica wrote:
Well heres a book worth reading:
THE WISDOM OF CROWDS by James Surowiecki.

What's it about?

Well I've just started reading it but its a powerful read I can tell you. The idea is that crowds, under certain conditions, are wiser than any individual or expert. Its well written, not heavy going by any means, and the author provides plenty of examples and cites some important examples. Theres a famous example of a victorian statistician who went to a fair where they were giving a prize to the person who could guess or come closest to guessing the weight of an Ox. That night he took all the slips of paper from the contestants, aggregated them and found that the "Crowd's" verdict was within ounces of the actual weight - in fact closer to the real weight than the winners guess.
A crowd is not a group of experts but more or less a group of strangers from diverse backgrounds and of varying degrees of intelligence. If they can avoid "group-think" and imitation then the mechanism works by aggregating all the disparate peices of information held by the members of the crowd. An example of this in action is the fact that fund managers practically always underperform the market. In this example the market is the crowd and the fundmanager is the expert. It puts the rest the old adage that the group is only as intelligent as its stupidiest member.

Of course you know were this is leading - Direct democracy might give us better results than political experts. Havent got to the political part yet.
This book is for you cactus.
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?   Wed Oct 29, 2008 7:08 pm

Respvblica wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
Respvblica wrote:
Well heres a book worth reading:
THE WISDOM OF CROWDS by James Surowiecki.

What's it about?

Well I've just started reading it but its a powerful read I can tell you. The idea is that crowds, under certain conditions, are wiser than any individual or expert. Its well written, not heavy going by any means, and the author provides plenty of examples and cites some important examples. Theres a famous example of a victorian statistician who went to a fair where they were giving a prize to the person who could guess or come closest to guessing the weight of an Ox. That night he took all the slips of paper from the contestants, aggregated them and found that the "Crowd's" verdict was within ounces of the actual weight - in fact closer to the real weight than the winners guess.
A crowd is not a group of experts but more or less a group of strangers from diverse backgrounds and of varying degrees of intelligence. If they can avoid "group-think" and imitation then the mechanism works by aggregating all the disparate peices of information held by the members of the crowd. An example of this in action is the fact that fund managers practically always underperform the market. In this example the market is the crowd and the fundmanager is the expert. It puts the rest the old adage that the group is only as intelligent as its stupidiest member.

Of course you know were this is leading - Direct democracy might give us better results than political experts. Havent got to the political part yet.
This book is for you cactus.

It is. That is what I do a lot of the time - I think the crowd is a crowd of experts.
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?   Wed Oct 29, 2008 7:15 pm

That sounds like a good choice for a book. I'm not sure about the idea of direct Democracy but I definitely think it should be tried and explored. There is also the 'herd mentality' as well. We kinda saw what happened with the Celtic Tiger, house prices and panic buying - I think this could have been an example of panic and herd mentality. This could be very dangerous.

A mild example of vilification as a result of herdish exploitation has been the quarantining of short sellers too - these are people who tend to want prices to fall. Even though there is a possibility that they can organise and collaborate, this can also be done by those who want shares and prices to rise. Therefore it's not fair if there's a yang but the yin is locked in jail.

It shows perhaps that a select group could manipulate a crowd mentality. Again, the crowd is by and large correct if given the correct information - it behaves like a mechanism without bias - but if the information is skewed towards an end then it might behave like a mechanism gone bananas ...
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club Winter Choices - Your Suggestions Please ?   Wed Oct 29, 2008 7:17 pm

cactus flower wrote:
Respvblica wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
Respvblica wrote:
Well heres a book worth reading:
THE WISDOM OF CROWDS by James Surowiecki.

What's it about?

Well I've just started reading it but its a powerful read I can tell you. The idea is that crowds, under certain conditions, are wiser than any individual or expert. Its well written, not heavy going by any means, and the author provides plenty of examples and cites some important examples. Theres a famous example of a victorian statistician who went to a fair where they were giving a prize to the person who could guess or come closest to guessing the weight of an Ox. That night he took all the slips of paper from the contestants, aggregated them and found that the "Crowd's" verdict was within ounces of the actual weight - in fact closer to the real weight than the winners guess.
A crowd is not a group of experts but more or less a group of strangers from diverse backgrounds and of varying degrees of intelligence. If they can avoid "group-think" and imitation then the mechanism works by aggregating all the disparate peices of information held by the members of the crowd. An example of this in action is the fact that fund managers practically always underperform the market. In this example the market is the crowd and the fundmanager is the expert. It puts the rest the old adage that the group is only as intelligent as its stupidiest member.

Of course you know were this is leading - Direct democracy might give us better results than political experts. Havent got to the political part yet.
This book is for you cactus.

It is. That is what I do a lot of the time - I think the crowd is a crowd of experts.

Exactly. This book could be a bible to us "democratista's". Its findings are exactly what I wanted to hear and they have warmed my heart greatly. Of course there is an important role in ensuring that the crowd has the information. Study is required and thats what makes the market such a powerful indicator. The crowd in teh market is actively trying to understand and that is good. Its like guessing the Oxen weight. You cannot be apathetic. You also need lots of transparency.
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