Posts Tagged ‘consider the lobster’

Aught Lang Syne: The Decade in Nonfiction, Part I

Last week, NPI gave an overview of fiction (in two parts!) of the Aughts. Yesterday, Josh pointed out the popular economics trend in this decade’s nonfiction. Today, Josh and John are going over (in two parts!) what they believe are the biggest nonfiction books of the Aughts.

America: The Book – Jon Stewart and The Daily Show writers

I bought this book for a good friend at a surprise birthday party in high school, as did another friend of mine unbeknownst to me. My copy was not kept since I didn’t write a note inside mine. I considered frowning. But, this situation nonetheless demonstrated the book’s appeal.  America: The Book is funny and representative of the politically satirical form of comedy that Stewart engendered in the Aughts through The Daily Show. The book is filled with little tidbits like: “Were you Aware? Cloture is something all Senators seek when a piece of beloved legislation dies.” There are also asides written by Stephen Colbert and Ed Helms. But, America: The Book is insightful as well as humorous; if a scholar in a future decade wanted to understand the American political climate in the early 2000s, this is one book he should examine, particularly the chapter on The Future of Democracy.

–Josh

The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It – Paul Collier

In this book, development economist (and a former lecturer of mine) Paul Collier looks at the most impoverished countries in the world (home to about one billion individuals) and asks why they are experiencing so little growth. Explanations seem to occur in fours in the Aughts; there are four development traps that each of these countries typically suffer from: the conflict trap, the natural resource trap, landlocked with bad neighbors, and bad governance, particularly in small countries. While many of Collier’s suggestions are difficult to implement, the most promising is that trade policy needs to lower trade barriers for the Bottom Billion, giving preferential access to their exports. Another important highlight of this book is his attack on the misguided policies of NGOs and other charitable organizations. Ultimately, Collier popularized and integrated his important and informative empirical studies into one of the Aughts’ best development nonfiction books of the decade.

–Josh

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Monday Medley

What we read on the clandestine flight to South America:

  • This probably isn’t Tom Junod’s best work–the paragraph-to-paragraph logic is a bit lacking at times–but it is the best thing we’ve read about who, and more importantly what, Michael Jackson was. It’s also another reminder of a simple rule we have: If Junod writes it, we’ll read it. See: The Falling Man, which may just be his best.
  • Josh alluded to David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster earlier this week. Here’s the NPI consensus best essay from that collection. Take our word: It’s about much more than grammar. (N.B.: Feel free to skip the first paragraph/subtitle.)

Consider the Appetizer… Or the Lobster

I love the concept of tapas. Since dinner is served so late in Spain, tapas, a variety of small appetizers, serve to keep Spaniards from suffering from hunger bouts between work and dinner. What I love about tapas is that it allows people to eat a diversity of foods in one meal. One can reasonably eat four tapas for the price of one entrée.

In Spain, tapas precede dinner. But, I see no reason why tapas-style appetizers should not constitute dinner. Most entrees have diminishing returns. As you eat more of an entrée, that entrée becomes less pleasurable. Some of this can be attributed to decreased hunger but much of it can also be attributed to decreased novelty. The first taste of a delicious flavor does more for you than the 35th taste of that flavor (there, arguably, are exceptions: lobster may be one). The last bite of that steak or chicken is rarely as pleasurable as that first bite. Rich foods like creamy pastas tend to have significant diminishing returns. Anyone who has ever eaten penne alla vodka can attest to this.  Moreover, one of the benefits of going out to eat at a restaurant is that the chefs cook for far more people (who have varying tastes) than you probably do at your home: as a result, its easier to order a variety of dishes than it is to cook a variety of dishes.

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