Books, music, etc. from Q1 2018


  • Ellsberg, The Doomsday Machine. Pretty good, scary.
  • Kwak, Economism. Not ideal, but still: many people need to read an economics 101 textbook, and many other people need to read Economism.
  • Simler & Hanson, The Elephant in the Brain. Pretty great, especially given the authors’ own caveat that “we are no doubt wrong in many places, not just in the details, but also in some larger conclusions” and that “to demonstrate that hidden motives are common and important” they “don’t need to be right about everything.” Though I wish it was more clearly flagged that one key reason much of the book is likely wrong is just that the underlying research is false, as must be true for ~all books summarizing large amounts of “soft” science.
  • Caplan, The Case Against Education. I read about half. I don’t know much about the research in this area but I personally find the “mostly signaling” model more intuitive than the alternatives. A good example of synthesizing important relevant data from multiple fields (not just from economics).
  • Pinker, Enlightenment Now. Generally pretty good. I disagree with the section on existential risks and AI, and I disagree with Pinker’s weird transcendental argument in favor of humanism, and I’m less confident in humanism’s role in human progress than Pinker seems to be, and his account of “the Enlightenment” is inaccurately clean & rosy, and some his data are exaggerated and cherry-picked, but shrug, I generally agree with most of the book, and with the overall thesis about human history. Pinker also skips over the history of likely-sentient animal welfare, but at least he tweeted Jacy Reese’s essay about that.
  • Sowell, The Thomas Sowell Reader. I read this on Pinker’s recommendation of Sowell in general. These short essays didn’t exhibit much of anything special. Maybe he’s more impressive in longer formats.
  • Pillsbury, The Hundred-Year Marathon. I found it pretty informative, but I’m still far too much a China novice to know whether Pillsbury’s overall take is more reasonable than the other high-level takes I’ve read.
  • Rid, Rise of the Machines. Fine, I guess.


Spotify playlist here.

Music I most enjoyed discovering this quarter:


Ones I “really liked” (no star), or “loved” (star):

  • Benson & Moorhead: Resolution (2012)
  • Gertwig: Lady Bird (2017)  ★
  • Gillespie: I, Tonya (2017) ★
  • Pesce: The Eyes of My Mother (2016)
  • Zahler: Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)
  • Safdie brothers: Good Time (2016)
  • Lehmann: Blue Jay (2016)
  • Soderbergh: Mosaic (2018)
  • Wright: Baby Driver (2017)
  • McDonagh: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)  ★
  • Vigalondo: Colossal (2016)
  • Reeves: War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) ★
  • Soderbergh: Logan Lucky (2017) ★
  • Anderson: Phantom Thread (2017)
  • Various: Top of the Lake, Season 2 (2017)
  • Richards: Pushed to the Edge (2016)
  • Iannucci: The Death of Stalin (2017) ★
  • Franco: The Disaster Artist (2017) ★
  • Baker: The Florida Project (2017) ★


Ones I “really liked” (no star), or “loved” (star):

  • Skyrim
  • Stardew Valley
  • Rayman Legends
  • Celeste ★


  1. Yannick says

    At what places do you think Pinker is cherry-picking? I didn’ really fact check anything, but he covers a lot of areas and his conclusions seem suspiciously clear at many points.

  2. Nick Reymann says

    Has your list of favorite albums changed since I first saw it on the (now defunct) Listology website almost a decade ago? Just curious because your tastes seemed to match mine pretty well, and was wondering if anything you’ve listened to since then would merit a place on your list (or if any that were on it would drop off).

    • Luke says

      I think the main thing that’s changed since then is just that I stopped trying to track how “good” I think albums are, and just pay attention to how much I enjoy them. So my lists here are always just about how much I enjoy different albums, not how artistically meritorious I think they are. So, it’s hard to tell how my tastes have changed because I’d be comparing apples to oranges, i.e. ‘good’ to ‘enjoyed’.

      • Nick Reymann says

        Do you have any more comprehensive lists of music you enjoy the most then? I’m with you on the shift from “objective” artistic merit to subjective experience: my goal is to find more music I’d really enjoy, and given the amount you’ve explored and how much our tastes line up, I figure finding out what you’ve liked the most is a good strategy. I’ve already listened to pretty much everything Scaruffi rates highly across the realms of Classical, Rock, and Jazz, and it’s a bit of a one way street: most of the stuff I like, he ranks highly, but a lot of the stuff he ranks highly doesn’t do anything for me, and it gets spottier the further I go down his lists.

        • Luke says

          See my guides to contemporary classical and jazz in the sidebar, and also my regular “Books, Music, etc.” posts on this blog.

  3. Juliet Dilanchyan says

    Hi Luke,
    Just wondering if you’ll be doing more interviews on the radio. My husband and I just discovered you, and have been enjoying listening to you.

  4. John says

    Regarding Sowell, there are two versions of his writing: the scholar and the columnist. I’ve found the latter’s writing to be largely not worth reading; but the former’s very much worth reading. “The Thomas Sowell Reader” falls into the latter camp.

    I’d recommend “Knowledge and Decisions,” “Ethnic America,” and “The Einstein Syndrome” to start. The first is a work of philosophy, the second a work of history, and the third work of science.

    (If you enjoy the second, “Conquests and Cultures” and “Migrations and Cultures” are worth reading too. Also, his autobiography, “A Personal Odyssey,” is pretty great.)

  5. Winston says

    If you still are into pdfs…

    This is an example of a script for removing the first page of many pdfs.

    /* Delete First Page */ this.deletePages(0);

    found here, at yor site, i believe:

    Is there a javascript that will make the entire pdf, each and every page, hotlinked to a url?

    The pdfs will be all images and I want the viewer to be able to click on the image and go to a specific URL.

    Thanks and you can email me….

  6. David says

    I’m curious: what book do you recommend as a readable Economics 101? This is an honest question, I want to learn more, if possible from a neutral book between Keynesians and Austrian scholars. Thanks.

    • Luke says

      Cowen and Tabarrok is certainly readable. Bowles might be the closest thing to what I want an econ 101 textbook to be. The CORE textbook is another pretty different take on an econ 101 textbook:

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