Recommend books to make me smart-like

I majored in Chinese studies in college, and I can’t help but feel I’ve missed out on learning some things that are common knowledge to other people. I’m fishing for suggestions in regards to textbook-like materials to give myself a generalized primer on:

]Politics / International relations

Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. :thumbsup:

The fact that this thread is in the A & E forum would make one think of more items involving literature that entails prose, drama and poetry.

However, if you want my honest opinion about political texts I would start with this basic reading list: … philosophy
That might entail too much reading, and too many items to peruse. Why not start somewhere small, such as this?

Economics is a load of utter twaddle. I read an A-level textbook once, thinking it would be useful, and gave up in disgust halfway through. I tried The Internets, and discovered that those childishly simple models with no obvious practical application do, in fact, represent current thought. Anything more advanced is still a subject of intense debate - for example, economists still can’t accurately describe what money is, which you would imagine is a bit like a chemist not knowing how an atom works. If you have a Kindle, you can subscribe to The Economist for free (use Calibre to download - completely legit), and read new twaddle every week. It also contains a lot of twaddle about politics, so you can kill two birds with one stone.

Frankly, I’d stick with Chinese. 蘋果日報, maybe.

Reading a bunch a books won’t make you smart. If anything, they will get in the way of original thought. The best-read people I know usually end up regurgitating a bunch of ideas spawned by other people for the sake of completing a discussion. In other words, many of them repeat a bunch of meaningless phrases. Some of them even read themselves to the point of stupidity. Kind of reminds me of Chinese students who can recite entire chapters only to get stumped by common sense. That being said, it’s good you want to broaden your horizons with some off-topic materials

If you’re interested in economics at all, I would recommend: “A Brief History of Economics: Artful Approaches to the Dismal Science.” It’s a fast read and an interesting look at economic theory from a political and historical perspective. It was the book I had to read for my favorite econ class, though much of that had to do with the teacher

Don’t you remember our friend Mencius? 『盡信書,不如無書。』

Utter twaddle of the First Order!
There is common sense, street sense, and the untold senses revealed by reading and re-reading the classics.
Language, thought, and music are equally entwined in the human skull. One cannot think truly independently until one has paid one’s dues, much the same as great music cannot be created unless one learns the notes that others have played.
One cannot break any rule solidly, without learning it first.
I have no idea which ill-read asshats with whom you have kept company, but I get the feeling they are the silly pogues who read anything, and spout it off, to project themselves as something superior. Flakes and poseurs, walts and wannabes.
Fuck them.
The true intellectual reads to compensate, not to accentuate, their own being.

I think you need some Bukowski, at once!

True enough, but I think louisfriend was simply pointing out that a lot of people pay their dues, yet never bother using what they’ve paid for.

Bukowski sounds like the same self-inflated, narcissistic, “well-read” pseudo-intellectuals I’m used to

Well then I guess either you don’t understand his references, or you perhaps are a man of “action”.
Either way, you either need to lift some weights, or learn to read some of the classics.

As I can pretty much tell from your writing style, that Buk lived more before he was 15 than you will probably ever do.
But what do I know, I am self-inflated, lover of ponds, and more well read than you could ever hope to be. Such is the problem with wisdom before inexperience.

Maybe I get his drift but still unimpressed. In the video of Bukowski you shared, his affect is at the expense of common man. But he bores me more than common man bores him. Does that mean I just don’t get it? Perhaps. It’s funny to think you would compare me to how much he lived at 15 when you probably have little idea about what either of us has really experienced. Nevertheless, I have read my share of classics and enjoyed many of them. Fortunately, I didn’t use them to learn how to think.

I highly recommend “Extraordinary Delusions and the Madness of Crowds” by Charles Mackay.

I studied literature, history, sociology, etc. at university, but for some reason, this book was never on the required reading list.


Free to read online:

[quote=“Hokwongwei”]I majored in Chinese studies in college, and I can’t help but feel I’ve missed out on learning some things that are common knowledge to other people. I’m fishing for suggestions in regards to textbook-like materials to give myself a generalized primer on:

]Politics / International relations

Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. :thumbsup:[/quote]

I resent the absence of Quantum Physics among your interests. :-p

Fair go.

Hmm… Allow to make some clarifications.

I agree with the view that rote memorization does not necessarily bring about new epiphanies, and that’s not what I’m trying to achieve. Basically, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the nature of education and what it means to learn in schools those things which we would discover sooner or later in life if left to our own devices. There is nothing, I’m sure, in Economics 101 that you won’t figure out by watching stock markets and economic changes over a few years. But the educational system basically condenses years of other people’s observations into easy-to-swallow facts so that you can build on top of them.

I’m not totally ignorant of economics and I like to think I know a reasonable amount about government and international relations, but I’m unhappy with the fact that I don’t understand the underlying reasons and consequences for decisions made in the world. I read the Economist loyally and understand what I’m reading, but I want to get to know more about what these things will mean in the long run. My questions are things like: What does Japan’s quantitative easing mean for exports, and how does that affect other countries? Why could Sony hope to achieve by selling off its lucrative movie and music business? The Economist touches on these things, as do other papers, but I am hungry to learn more.

With that in mind, I was hoping to get a basic overview of the major principles, laws, theories, and schools of thought in Economics and Politics.

Hope that makes thinks clearer.

for many political decisions, the major impetus is “Vote for me again”.

Beyond that, there’s little of actual substance in real politics.

BUt a grounding in history wouldn’t hurt to make sense of much of the current political landscape.

and then there’s the impossibly vast domain of science, where the published literature dwarfs all other written output by 100s to 1 (and is infinitely more meaningful, to boot). Ignore that at your peril. Unless you like to rely on the approach of the Alabama Board of School Education.

I agree. You’re looking at subjects that call themselves sciences, but are barely even subjects. They’re pseudosciences at best. Pseudery at worst. If you’ve been reading The Economist for a while, you probably know as much about it as anyone. What does Japan’s quantitative easing mean for exports in the long run? Nobody knows (does it matter?). Nobody can agree on the “meaning” of QE (read up on Modern Monetary Theory). Nobody can predict the future with any certainty, and they definitely can’t do it when they are so many interrelated factors. Oh, sure, we can probably point the ship in roughly the right direction (as opposed to the diametric opposite - most of the time). But the idea that we’ve got our hands firmly on the tiller is an illusion, fabricated by policymakers to justify the fact that we have policymakers. On that aspect, I recommend a book called “The Signal and the Noise”, which rambles on a bit, but has some interesting anecdotes about real-world predictions.

For a light introduction to Science, I recommend “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out”, which is a collection of essays and lectures by Richard Feynman. You’ll then have a good idea what science is - a step that too many people miss out in their haste to get to the juicy bits. OTOH science isn’t the be-all and end-all of everything. Reading lots of history is definitely a good start. Or if that bores you, get some videos from The History Channel.

I always think it’s a great pity that kids are marshalled into ugly buildings for the most interesting part of their lives and told to sit still, shut up, and listen to a load of tedious waffle. I remember being a snotty little kid at school and thinking “well, this is a bloody waste of time”. And then I got older (and snottier), and found that, actually, it was a bloody waste of time. Kids should be taught to think at school. To look around them, to use their eyes and their ears, and to communicate with other people. They should be shown how to explore the world, understand it, and assess it. So many kids leave school less able to do these things than when they went in. Too much for a ten-year-old? Don’t think so - this is what Feynman describes as his early “education”, and one reason I recommend that book about him.

I’m pretty good on science and history, actually, as that’s mostly what I read in my spare time. Finley, you wrote that I should read up on modern monetary theory, so my question is where should I turn (other than Wikipedia) to find info on things like this? … _of_Dunces

That’s a great fuckin’ book. :thumbsup:

I have an old edition of Pugel’s International Economics you can have if you want. It’s pretty interesting and among other things, explains comparative advantage pretty well. It was one the few textbooks from business school that I didn’t sell back as soon as the semester was over, but now it’s just just taking up space on my bookshelf. If you’re going to be in Jiayi anytime, let me know and I’ll get it to you.