After reading the Economist’s rather harsh review of Binyavanga’s new book I decided to order it on Amazon. I was not disappointed (although I must admit that the Economist was right as far as editing goes. They could have done better).
The book is vintage Binyavanga, a fast paced read with insertions of commentary hear and there. The political commentary could have been done better – but that might just be the Political Scientist in me wanting more. I also felt like Binyavanga could have done more telling of the struggles of a young writer. How many manuscripts got rejected? How exactly did he discover his calling to become a writer? (he talks a bit about how he loved reading and hated other subjects in school but it would have been nice to know how as an adult this happened).
The book is great in many respects, but for me what did it was the combination of witty political commentary and a narration of a struggle against family expectations and personal failures.
I highly recommend it.
Siaya is hot and rainy – it rains every day in the afternoon. I am not kidding.
This has allowed me time to read when I am not hanging out with my extended family or doing some of my own work.
I finally started reading Portfolios of the Poor. Fascinating read, especially now that I am spending some time in Siaya. My time in Siaya has also made me think that poverty is not just about small, irregular and uncertain cash flow. It is also about ideas and mindsets. I have talked to quite a few people who would be living in better dwellings and eating better if only they had the right ideas. I have seen theoretical works in evolutionary game theory on inter-generational transfer of ideas and stuff, but almost no empirical social-scientific work on the uptake of ideas within communities.
I am also reading Fukuyama’s Origins of Political Order. Great book, with echoes of Huntington all over the place. I have my issues with Huntington and his scions but the fundamental concept of the degree of government being an indispensable precondition for political competition and socio-political development is hard to ignore. I highly recommend this book.
Lastly, I am almost done with Poor Economics. Great read for those not well versed with the amazing world of RCTs. I happen to be one leaning more towards structural reforms rather than targeted program interventions, but it is still a good read nonetheless.