Book Review: John Durant – The Paleo Manifesto

“The Paleo Manifesto” by John Durant, published in 2013. Rating: 5/5. Most books on the paleo diet follow a set pattern: An inspirational story about how the author wrecked his health with junk food or vegetarianism before the caveman came riding on a white horse to the rescue; an explanation of why, contrary to the […]

Book Review: Xin Liu – The Otherness Of Self

“The Otherness of Self” by Xin Liu, published in 2002. Rating: 1/5. I don’t want to sound overly demanding, but really, unless a writer is the next Kant or Heidegger, he owes it to his readers to make his prose at least minimally engaging. With this book on too many occasions I was under the […]

Book Review: Benjamin Schwartz – In Search Of Wealth And Power

In Search of Wealth and Power by Benjamin Schwartz, published in 1964. Rating: 4/5. In Search of Wealth and Power is a very dense but richly rewarding tome by Benjamin Schwartz, a noted China scholar. He focuses on the life of the translator Yan Fu to illustrate the culture clashes that arose when traditional Chinese civilization came into […]

Book Review: C.S. Friedman – Black Sun Rising

Black Sun Rising (Book 1 of the Coldfire Trilogy) by C.S. Friedman, published in 1991. Rating: 3/5. The Coldfire Trilogy is sometimes described as a successful fusion of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. So what better work to start reviewing on this site? I will be forthright: By far the most wondrous and intriguing element of this series […]

Book Review: Arthur H. Smith – Chinese Characteristics

Chinese Characteristics by Arthur Henderson Smith, published in 1894. It is available free here. Rating: 5/5. In rich and evocative prose reminiscent of De Tocqueville’s writings on America, Arthur H. Smith lays out what he sees as the core features of the Chinese character and his values. The tone is bold and fearless, making sweeping generalizations and brusque judgments that […]

Book Review: Matt Forney – Confessions of an Online Hustler

Confessions of an Online Hustler by Matt Forney, published in 2013. See the Amazon version of this review. Rating: 4/5. Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: This book isn’t for the casual reader. Despite the title, it’s not a “life interest” story with a morass of prurient and scandalous details, nor is it […]

Book Review: Paul Wade – Convict Conditioning

Convict Conditioning by Paul Wade, published in 2010. Also Convict Conditioning 2, a followup published a year later. Rating: 4/5. A couple of months ago, I was walking in a park with my dad. We passed an outdoor gym sort of place and decided, “Why not try out some of the exercises?” It was quite embarrassing […]

Book Review: Kenneth Pomeranz – The Great Divergence

Pomeranz, Kenneth – The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy (2001) Category: economy, history, world systems; Rating: 5*/5 Summary: Brad DeLong’s review; The Bactra Review; Are Coal and Colonies Really Crucial? The Power Of Contingency: Why China Didn’t Rule The World It’s a rare book that not only vastly informs you on a […]

Book Review: Howard Bloom – The Lucifer Principle

Depressingly fatalist, morbidly truthful, irresistibly Nietzschean. That’s Howard Bloom’s “The Lucifer Principle” in a nutshell: a meandering trawl through disciplines such as genetics, psychology and culture that culminates in a theory of evil, purporting to explain its historical necessity, its creative potential and the possibility of it ever being vanquished. The odds do not appear to […]

Book Review: Peter Turchin – War and Peace and War

Then you might get something like Peter Turchin’s War and Peace and War, which I’ve finally read on the recommendations of Kolya and TG. Ranging from Ermak’s subjugation of the Sibir Khanate to the rise of Rome, Turchin makes the case that the rise and fall of empires is reducible to three basic concepts: 1) […]

Book Review: Donella Meadows et al. – Limits to Growth

If I could recommend just one book to someone with a business-as-usual outlook, someone who believes human ingenuity and free markets will always bail us out of any resource scarcity or environmental problem, it would be Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update (henceforth LTG). After reading it, you may never look at the world in quite […]

Documentary Review: Lessons from Byzantium

I finally watched the film Гибель Империи. Византийский урок (Death of an Empire: the Byzantine Lesson), narrated by Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov, the father-confessor of Vladimir Putin. This film takes a stylized interpretation of the decline and fall of the Byzantine Empire – the root cause of which is attributed to mystical factors such as loss of faith […]

Book Review: Jared Diamond – Guns, Germs, and Steel

While trawling through my computer archives, I stumbled across this book review of Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, and Steel” from five years ago. Overall, it’s a great book, better than his follow-up “Collapse”, which is also interesting – especially in the psychological aspects of “collapse”, like creeping normalcy and “landscape amnesia” – but far from […]

Book Review: Ha-Joon Chang – Kicking Away the Ladder

Chang, Ha-Joon – Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective (2002) Category: economy; history; industrial policy; Rating: 5/5 Summary: Kicking Away the Ladder:How the Economic and Intellectual Histories of Capitalism Have Been Re-Written to Justify Neo-Liberal Capitalism (Ha-Joon Chang) Much has been said of the smug arrogance, cultural aloofness and end-of-history conceit characterizing the […]

Book Review: Alexander Werth – Moscow War Diary

Review of “Moscow War Diary” (A. Werth) Werth, Alexander – Moscow War Diary (1942) Category: history, Soviet Union, WW2; Rating: 4/5 Soviet Resilience under Fire On 22nd June 1941, the armed columns of Nazi Germany began rolling into Russia, heralding the start of the Great Patriotic War. For Alexander Werth, a correspondent for the British Sunday […]

Book Review: Vaclav Smil – Global Catastrophes and Trends

Smil, Vaclav – Global Catastrophes and Trends (2008) Category: futurism, climate change, geopolitics, catastrophes; Rating: 5/5 Summary: Google Books Vaclav Smil, an energy theorist and language connoisseur, brings his talents to bear on this idiosyncratic, incisive and balanced book on the global future. From the outset, he outlines his skepticism in universal theories of history […]

Book Review: John Scott – Behind the Urals

Scott, John – Behind the Urals: An American Worker in Russia’s City of Steel (1941) Category: history, Soviet Union, Stalin; Rating: 5/5 Fear and Fervor under Stalinist Industrialization The Great Depression of the 1930’s, with its iconic images of well-dressed bourgeoisie in soup lines and gaunt figures with hopeless eyes from the Dust Bowl, challenged the […]

Book Review: Mark Steyn – America Alone

Steyn, Mark – America Alone: The End of the World as we Know It (2006) Category: Islam; Eurabia; humor; Rating: 3/5 Summary: The future belongs to Islam (M. Steyn) It crept up on the West silently. Even as post-historical white Europeans were busy puffing on their weed, hugging trees and chanting Kumbaya in a happy […]

Documentary Review: BBC Global Dimming

Not only is global warming a real and present threat that may yet in conjunction with impending energy shortages doom industrial civilization, it may have even been dangerously underestimated. “What have you been smoking!?,” you might say to me. Get off the doom train and enjoy the Sun. Unfortunately, we might not have much of […]

Book Review: James Kunstler – World Made by Hand

“World Made by Hand” by James Howard Kunstler, published in 2008. Rating: 3/5. World Made by Hand is a speculative fiction book about how a sociopolitical collapse may be experienced by small-town Americans. It is of a reasonable length, engaging and generally well-written, although far from a literary masterpiece – not that that is necessarily a […]