Here’s a list of books recommended by Vaclav Smil, who does interdisciplinary research in the fields of energy, environmental and population change, food production and nutrition, technical innovation, risk assessment, and public policy. He is the author of several books Bill has read and reviewed.
I have kept a (more or less complete) list of books I read since September 1969, and so it is easy to scan this year’s items and to single out some perennial favorites and a few new discoveries.
First belles-lettres, memoirs, narratives and stories:
- This spring I re-read again Burton’s great two-volume classic of a pilgrimage to Mecca (R. F. Burton: Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to al-Madinah & Meccah), one of the greatest, and the most informed travelogues ever written.
- Another enjoyable re-read was Beerbohm’s playful Zuleika story (M. Beerbohm: Zuleika Dobson).
- New, and highly recommended, first-time readings have included von Rezzori (G. von Rezzori: The Snows of Yesteryear and G. von Rezzori: Memoirs of an Anti-Semite) and Crace (J. Crace: Continent), and Jean Renoir’s memories of his father (J. Renoir: Renoir, My Father).
- Decades ago I was impressed by Caro’s first volume of Lyndon Johnson biography: this year came out a no-less readable latest instalment (R. Caro: The Passage of Power).
On the science/engineering side I have been reading (in preparation for my next book) many works on old and new materials:
- Allwood and Cullen (J.M. Allwood and J.M. Cullen: Sustainable Materials with Both Eyes Open) and Berge (B. Berge:The Ecology of Building Materials) stand out and should be much more widely read.
- I have also appreciated Eisler’s sobering history of fuel cells falling short of their repeatedly exaggerated promise (M.N. Eisler: Overpotential)
- And among the books on global economy I must recommend Nolan’s look at China and the world (P. Nolan: Is China Buying the World?).