1992 Christmas List,
- 1. James Stephen,
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity , 1874, $17.95.
For those of you who wonder how my seemingly bizarre political
positions can be consistent: read this book, which shows how
intelligent utilitarianism leads to conservatism. It was just
reprinted this year, with a foreword by Richard Posner, who admires
the book while vigorously disagreeing with it.
- 2. Infrared cordless headphones. These are
very useful in an office, where you want to (a) avoid bothering other
people and (b) move around the office from phone to computer to
- 3. John C. Miller,
Triumph of Freedom: 1775/1783 . 1948. A book on
the Revolution. Unlike the civil war, hardly anything written on the
Revolutionary War is interesting. This book is an exception.
- 4. Country music. Bloomington is
where new operas premiere, but it is also country country. Country
singers have wit, style, and melody, unlike most singers off broadway,
and it has been improving in recent years as the proportion of
western to southern style has grown. Garth Brooks is a genius, except
for his most recent, third-rate album. For starters, I recommend
the Heroes and Friends disk by Randy Travis,
composed of duets with famous singers from Merle Haggard to Roy
Rogers (and even Clint Eastwood!). See also Mark Chesnutt (``Bubba
Shot the Jukebox'') and Confederate Railroad (``Jesus and Mama Always
- 5. Ken Burns,
The Civil War , 1990, TV Series. The civil war
has inspired many good books, all going over the same ground. This
series shows why--- personality, geography, technology, and ideology
combine to make this war close to home .
- 6. Lexis and Westlaw. These two legal
research services are a delight to use. You can sit down at your
computer and find out what the Supreme Court said yesterday without
having to read between the lines of newspaper articles written by the
mentally disadvantaged. Alas, this is very expensive unless you are a
lawyer or connected to a university.
- 7. Edith Piaf. She is off-key and throaty,
but somehow it works. (Recommended by David Schimmelpenninck.)
- 8. Michael Crichton,
Jurassic Park , 1990, $9.60. I found all Crichton
Andromeda Strain worthless, but he has scored
again. This is real science fiction, combining paleontology and
- 10. Eric Ambler,
A Coffin for Demetrios , 1938,$7.16. This
adventure novel is from back in the days when the Near East still
existed and English gentlemen still had adventures. (Recommended
by Alan Schwartz.)
- 11. Greta Garbo,
Ninotchka, 1939, movie,$17.99. An early
prediction of the fall of the Soviet Union. Contains the classic
proletarian response: ``That depends on the size of the tip.''
- 12. The Magliozzi brothers,
Car Talk , 1991, $9.56. Cars are fascinating,
but car books are generally boring. This is an exception.
- 13. Charles Papazian,
The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing, 1991,
$9.60. This book is a joy to read; I bet Papazian could write on
accounting and make it interesting. He is aesthetic, scientific, and
practical all at the same time.
- 1 4.
Prozac. A wonderful anti-depressant drug. I felt tired
for three years, and this pill solved the problem in three months.
More effective than jogging, and less work.
- 15. Derek Jacobi,
I, Claudius , 1980, $10.84 per episode, TV
series. Watching this is the best way to learn about the
complexities of the Julio-Claudian family. The series is unfair to
Livia, but more interesting than Tacitus, whose absence you will note
from these lists.
- 16. Caving. If you live in the right
part of the country and do not mind mud, this could become an
obsession. Caving combines adventure, mystery, and discovery, even in
a safe cave with beer cans all over.
- 17. Glover and Gibson,
Lethal Weapon, 1982, $17.99, movie. A violent
action movie done with a very fine hand at the controls. Very L.A..
- 18. Belgian lambic . This style of beer
violates the usual rules by being purposely soured, contaminated by
wild yeast, and made using hops whose favor has faded away from age. I
like the gueze variety better than those made with raspberries,
cherries, or peaches.
- 19. Robert Macneil,
The Story of English , TV series, $99.99. How
can a TV series be made about speaking? ---By showing people talking
about interesting things in their daily lives, in exotic settings,
with careful editing.
Batman Returns, 1992, movie, $13.49. I never
liked Batman much, but with both Catwoman and
the Penguin this is very fine stuff. Superb casting, especially, all
the way down to the very minor characters.
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Rasmusen Recommended Books page.
Last updated: December 17, 2003. Maintained by Eric Rasmusen,
[email protected] .