Simon Huggins's blog

Wed, 25 Apr 2007


I've been meaning to post about books for a long time now but haven't got around to it so you can have them all at once. It's a bit of a random list from sci-fi to thrillers to prize-winning books to books discussing economics but hopefully you'll pick something out you like.

The Undercover Economist - Tim Harford
Everyone should read this book. Seriously. It's being republished shortly (early May) so you should all preorder it. It's a book that explains how the world works or rather how economics touches much of what we all do day to day. It examines a number of cases and explains in simple terms how some bits of economic theory can be applied to them. But that description makes it sound dry which it isn't at all; it's fascinating.
The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
I think lots of people have read this now but this is just a really good, well written story. The time travel element seems a bit implausible when you first hear of the story but actually you get so absorbed in the story that it really isn't a problem with believing it.
The Line of Beauty - Alan Hollinghurst
Set in the 80s, it's an interesting story with plenty of references to the excesses of that time.
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
I enjoyed this well thought out sci-fi story with a slightly sinister leaning. It's a classic apparently, but I hadn't heard of it so thought I should read it. I'm glad I did.
Vanish - Tess Gerritsen
A thriller pure and simple. It's quite good but nothing much to it. Good for a holiday or a plane/train journey. (see I don't just rave about every book I read :p)
White Teeth - Zadie Smith
This is a charming, interesting story of families, roots, mixing cultures and relationships. It won a prize 'n everything.
The Selfish Gene - Richard Dawkins
I do think Richard Dawkins has a good way with words and examples but this was hard going probably down to being read mostly late at night. It provides insights into an area that I don't know a lot about so I'm glad I read it.
Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
I'd never read this and someone recommended it to a group so I grabbed a copy and read it. I think it probably means more to people who are English students analysing it to death. There wasn't a lot there for me other than some good observations of human behaviour.
Freakonomics - Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
This is one of the recent books about economics which has been in vogue and I think it's worth a read. It looks at a number of more extreme cases than "The Undercover Economist" above by looking at things like drug dealers, the difference your name can make, factors that make people a good parent and how cheating by teachers was discovered in school tests. Interesting read.
Lunar Park - Bret Easton Ellis
Oh this is utter rubbish. Don't bother reading this. I read it based on recommendation and whilst it starts out with an auto-biography and then diverges into an interesting fictional extension of that it soon becomes a really oddball fantasy book.
The Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell
It seems that this book had to be read; it was just that popular. It's an interesting read. It develops a theory of how an idea becomes a trend and a trend becomes a runaway success. I remember finding some of the language a bit sloppy when I read it but it didn't detract from the ideas.
blink - Malcolm Gladwell
Amazon recommendations are a great thing. I was recommended this by them and given I'd enjoyed The Tipping Point thought I should follow through. It was a good idea to. This book explores first impressions and subconscious reactions to things both when they are right and when they are wrong. It's a little scary in that it looks at your subconscious so it looks at things you don't know you are doing and things you try to rationalise away later (which can work to your advantage or not). Fascinating.
Amsterdam - Ian McEwan
I read Saturday by the same author and didn't fully enjoy it but I liked the writing style and the well filled out descriptions at times so I thought I'd give him another chance. Saturday was after all a novel set on one day so maybe something set over a longer period would be more interesting. Amsterdam just never really got my attention. The plot seemed quite obvious at points and whilst it was well told it just didn't interest me and seemed to have a weak ending.
One Big Damn Puzzler - John Harding
A friend I went to uni with recommended this book and it's definitely worth reading. It's a lovely tale of a lawyer with OCD who ends up on a remote island where the natives are translating Shakespeare into pidgin English. It sounds quite strange but it works well as a framework to hang several threads on. I really liked it.

Don't be scared, I didn't read them all at once but rather over a period of months but hopefully it'll encourage some of you to read some of them.
Do please punt your own recommendations at me.


I recently enjoyed The Dumas Club by Arturo PĂ©rez-Reverte. It's about Lucas Corso, a mercenary of the book world who has been asked to authenticate a rare Dumas manuscript and a seventeenth-century satanic text. Whilst travelling around Europe to carry out his investigations, he becomes increasingly aware that he's involved in a diabolical plot himself, but that just makes him all the more determined to continue. And there's a mysterious girl he keeps bumping into....

-- t'other Simon H at 2007-05-14 20:29

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