What I have read since coming to Dublin:

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Probably the most easily digestable book about economics ever, because it’s not really about economics, but rather about making stories from statistics. Individually interesting chapters, but doesn’t really have an argument beyond “it’s good to look at things in different ways”. Structurally suited to become popular via blogs (which it did), in that it’s chapters are totally modular and explainable in a single line. (2/5)

A HeartBreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers One from the pile. The passion AHWOSG was written with is contagious; I devoured this book. So often I could imagine Eggers hunched, sweating over his computer at night, belting out page after page in a frenzy. Of course it’s pretentious and self-obsessive, but unashamedly and consciously so, and not afraid to hide it’s hangups behind fiction – that’s what’s at it’s core, and Eggers has got the writing talent to pull it off in spades. Monumental. I wonder why almost all of the novels that have really blown me away are written by people in their 20’s? (5/5)

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. A wonderful book by any account, but mainly in that it instills just that: a sense of wonder. I read this in stops and starts a while back, but didn’t feel I gave it a fair run, so I reread in a couple of sittings. Through glorious prose and imagination, Marco Polo recounts descriptions of imaginary cities to Kublai Kahn, and describes what can in some form be found in any city. (5/5)

Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware Completely different to any comic book I’ve read before. Half the action consists of people staring out the window sadly, yet on another page the story of two generations of family history is told without words. It’s surprising how gripping it remains throughout given how slowly it burns. Follows on nicely from the last book I read; Ware is to Eggers as painful family history exorcism through writing is to both of them. (4/5)

The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton Actually more a book about the aesthetics of everyday objects than architecture in particular, but a good and entertaining read nonetheless, and inspired me to spend some time gaping at every ugly and beautiful building I came across. I probably read this at a good time, given that I’m not long in the city and the architecture is still new to me. I enjoy nothing more than my evening ride home on the train every day. It’s got all the good stuff: buildings, sunset, shifting perspective (rotating around an object is better, but dollying past is still pretty good), a train… this isn’t a book review any more, is it? De Botton talks around a topic nicely, but never really punctures through it with a point. (3/5)

Recommendations welcome.

— 30 May 2006