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November 27, 2011

Sunday Book Thread

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving!

I moved a couple of reading projects to the front of my queue recently: Paul Rahe's Republics Ancient and Modern (one book but split into three volumes), and a re-reading of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose.

Rahe's book is something I've been meaning to tackle for years and years, but kept putting off for one reason or another. Yet I found myself with a few days off and nothing particularly pressing to do, so it seemed like a fine time to finally delve into this project. And a "project" it is -- it's well over a thousand pages in the omnibus volume. (This is one book I truly wish had been available in an ebook edition, but alas.) I've always wanted to read a book that places America's Republic in a historical context, and does so without the usual academic leftist/marxist tilt. How do we compare with other historical Republics? Are we truly sui generis, or are we simply another iteration on an old idea? (A Hudson Hoover Institute Uncommon Knowledge interview with Rahe can be found here.)

As for Eco's wonderful medieval detective novel: it's the only thing that has stuck with me from my college Semiotics courses. Had I not discovered that book, the entire course would have been a total waste of time. I re-read it every few years (with Latin dictionary close at hand; Eco -- or his translator William Weaver -- leaves in great chunks of untranslated Latin). If you're a fan of Ellis Peters' Cadfael novels, this book ought to be on your short list. It's got the reputation of being a forbidding, highly-complex read, but don't be scared off by all the semiotics claptrap: it's a fun read even if you ignore the Latin stuff and let the Semiotics gameplay fly right over your head. (And the book is actually a good bit less clever than both it and its academic admirers think it is, but that's a story for another day.)

What's everyone else reading?

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posted by Monty at 09:52 AM

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