September 30, 2005

Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, September 2005

Attention conservation notice: I have no taste.

Anne Goldgar, Impolite Learning: Conduct and Community in the Republic of Letters, 1680--1750
Exhaustively documented, and full of interesting examples and interpretations. Not always adequately clear about how representative her examples were, or exactly what population she's writing about, and in places definitely under-argued. E.g., she alleges that a certain emphasis on politeness in scholarly conduct, at the expense of neglecting the content of scholarly communications, was caused by the declining standing of scholars in the eyes of potential patrons. Granting that she's correctly identified the cultural trait (emphasizing polite form over intellectual content) and the social change (declining status of scholars), I am utterly unable to tell by what means the latter caused the former (in her opinion), or how she was able to identify this causal relationship. But I've got neutral models of culture on the brain. — I was prompted to look this book up by this post.
Nadia Gordon, Death by the Glass
Apparently the second in a series of mysteries centered on the inevitable amateur detective, a fancy chef and restaurant owner in Napa Valley. Fun, especially if you're into food and/or wine. (Sequel to Sharpshooter, followed by Murder Alfresco.)
Jeremy A. Sabloff, The Cities of Ancient Mexico: Reconstructing a Lost World
Generally good at both explaining what archaeologists think about the ancient past of Mexico (and Mesoamerica more generally), and why they think that. The chapter on why they don't believe in Old World influences, however, is very weak (and I say that as someone fully persuaded of those conclusions).

Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur

Posted at September 30, 2005 23:59 | permanent link

Three-Toed Sloth