Books #32 and #33: Eileen Gunn and Steven Levitt

I’ve read a fair amount lately, but not a lot of it in books – mostly reading journal articles.  But I did have the pleasure of finishing Eileen Gunn’s collection of short stories, Stable Strategies and Others, which deserves to be much better known than it is.   The collection ends with a brilliantly done group story, Green Fire, co-written with three others, and chronicling the adventures of Issac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and future Admiral Grace Hopper as they perform secret Tesla experiments in WWII.  If that’s not enough of a teaser, the "title story" is the most hilarious mix of corporate strategy and biotechnology I’ve ever read.

Steven Levitt’s book Freakonomics is a different kettle of fish altogether.   It’s interesting how much press this book is getting, and I hope people are reading it.  The message overall is the power of setting aside "common sense" or "received wisdom" and doing actual data analysis on everyday phenomena, in hopes of really understanding how our social world really works.  This shouldn’t be exceptional stuff to long-time practitioners in the social sciences, but somehow it is, most disciplines being trapped in formal theory on the one hand and anecdotal but non-rigorous empirical study on the other.  Levitt has the potential to open a lot of eyes with his counter-intuitive but analytically rigorous work, and I recommend this book highly.

Probably another gap in book posting coming up; I’m finishing Schwarz’s book Freedom Regained (see book links on the left for the ref), and a couple of other hefty tome-like things which will take awhile.  Oh, and I’m thoroughly enjoying Banville’s The Untouchable, but I’m not yet ready to write about it.


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