Recent reading

The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Deception in Human Life, Robert Trivers — This is the most thought-provoking non-fiction book I read this year. (The Great Stagnation is a close second.) Early chapters are grounded in psychology and evolutionary theory, later ones get more speculative about politics, religion, and science. Trivers’ candid style can be off-putting at times but citing personal experience is a plus of the book. It’s fascinating throughout and a powerful corrective for being too sure of one’s beliefs. As I learned last week, the chapter on aviation and space disasters does not make for the best plane reading.

The Theory That Would Not Die: How Bayes’ Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy, Sharon Bertsch McGrayne — I’d been looking for a good, non-technical book about Bayes’ rule and was happy to see one published this year. It’s highly readable and light on math. An appendix applies the rule to mammograms, a demonstration that would have been useful earlier in the book. Applying Bayes to medicine can lead to the counterintuitive result that more testing is not always beneficial, a message that is difficult to deliver.

The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong With America, Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch — I’ve been remiss in not linking to this yet. I don’t think there’s a better contemporary popular defense of libertarianism out there. Grounded in pragmatism rather than ideology, this would make a great gift for the almost libertarian in your life.

America Walks into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops, Christine Sismondo — A comprehensive history of drinking houses in America, from the community centers of colonial times to the craft cocktail renaissance of today. Enjoyable and informative.

The American Cocktail: 50 Recipes that Celebrate the Craft of Mixing Drinks from Coast to Coast — Imbibe magazine kicked off at about the same time that I started tending bar, and ever since then I’ve found it an indispensable resource. This is the editors’ first book, a collection of fifty recipes from around the country. The drinks look great, but as with many contemporary books you’ll likely have to shop for or make at least one of the ingredients called for in many of the recipes.

Ice Cream Happy Hour: 50 Boozy Treats You Spike, Freeze, and Serve, Valerie Lum and Jenise Addison — I’ve tried two of the ice creams in this book, Guinness and Manhattan, and they were both pretty good. Many of the recipes are on the sweeter, fruitier side, but there is a good variety. It’s a good intro to making alcoholic ice creams and inspired me to dust off my ice cream maker. I’m sure I’ll apply the techniques to new recipes using some of my favorite ingredients; chocolate and Chartreuse perhaps?

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