A lovely historical, irrationality and Belgians

>> Friday, November 11, 2011

TITLE: Bound By Your Touch
AUTHOR: Meredith Duran

This was one that slipped through the cracks... I read it quite a long time ago, wrote down a few notes and then forgot about it. So, no full review, which is a shame, because what I do remember is that I really enjoyed it.

Anyway, the basic setup is bluestocking heroine, devoted to absent-minded Egyptologist meets wastrel, good-for-nothing rake, determined to get back at his father for his cruel treatment of his sister. There's a fake artifact that's the McGuffin, but the story itself is about the romance and the characters dealing with family issues (the heroine, Lydia, also has a very fraught relationship with her sister, who stole her suitor years earlier).

It sounds like a very typical historical romance setup, but it's so much more than that. I can't quite articulate the ways in which that is so, not after so many months, but I just remember (and my notes confirm this) finding these two real and complex, and really caring about them. I also remember thinking that the setting was really great, it's unobtrusive, but provides a lot of texture.


TITLE: The Upside of Irrationality
AUTHOR: Dan Ariely

Another one read for work. Ariely's previous book, Predictably Irrational was an excellent introduction to behavioural economics (which, in a nutshell, studies how we behave "irrationally" in predictable ways, and the implications of this for economics). The Upside of Irrationality continues to look at human irrationality, but with the premise that by being aware of our own instincts and biases, we can either rise above them or use them in order to improve our lives.

This was quite an inspiring and interesting read. All the other behavioural economics books I've read so far either concentrate on policy implications or warn about the dangers of the findings, so it was refreshing to read a more optimistic and personal take on things. Of course, that means that the book was not particularly helpful for work, but I didn't mind!


TITLE: A Tall Man in a Low Land: Some Time Among the Belgians
AUTHOR: Harry Pearson

I don't know that much about Belgium. Most people I know don't, either. I guess, as Pearson himself states in his book, it's just considered a pretty boring place. I actually have been there on a couple of overnight trips for work and liked it well enough, but that's just not enough to begin to know a place. Even after my visits, Belgium to me was Hercule Poirot, moules frites, Hergé and beer that's delicious but also so strong it'll knock you on your butt.

But that was before I read this book. Pearson's meticulous exploration of all sorts of places and people in Belgium gave me the background I was missing. He goes for the funny and quirky and disturbing, but there's also enough about the normal feel of the place to make me want to go back and experience it myself. It's not a particularly gripping book, but I liked the dry humour in the writing and enjoyed the read.



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