Picks & Pans

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker (New York: Allen Lane, 2014). (TS-3). Steven Pinker is a cognitive scientist and psycholinguist who is Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. In The Sense of Style, Pinker defends classic style as an metacommunication strategy for writers to communicate effectively with different audiences. He explains how grammar and syntax work as language structures. One of Pinker’s major contributions is a chapter on the ‘arcs of coherence’ – structural forms of paragraphs, sections, and chapters – that writers use. This book will help you to write more efficiently and effectively.


DBT Skills Training Manual (2nd edition) by Marsha M. Linehan (New York: The Guilford Press, 2015). (TS-4). In the early 1990s, Lineham developed Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) as a specific form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to deal with Borderline Personality Disorder and suicidality. This training manual and the accompanying DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets manual (2nd edition) explain the major DBT frameworks and skills-building exercises, which are influenced by Platonic dianoia (reasoning) strategies to deal with eikasia (imagination) and pistis (emotion).


The Nature of Value: How to Invest in the Adaptive Economy by Nick Gogerty (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014). (TS-3) (MAM-3). After the 2007-09 global financial crisis, companies and governments have reacted to the post-bubble draw-down with austerity budgets and ‘efficiency dividends’ (meaning: redundancies and restructures). The language used to defend such decisions is ‘value add’ or ‘value creation’ – taken from General Electric’s former chief executive officer Jack Welch who influenced the operational models used in asset management and private equity firms. Yet on a closer examination this ‘value add’ rhetoric is more often about balanced budgets. Gogerty’s book will equip you with a solid framework for how ‘value creation’ works – drawing in part on the Santa Fe Institute’s frameworks for complex adaptive systems. The Nature of Value also offers insights into the economic models used by the hedge fund Bridgewater. Gogerty builds on the earlier conceptual frameworks in Eric D. Beinhocker’s The Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity, and the Radical Remaking of Economics (New York: Random House, 2006) (TS-4). Gogerty’s adaptive economy framework may also help you to understand how complex adaptive systems might work in macroeconomic contexts.


Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters (London: Virgin Books, 2014). (TS-3) (MAM-1). Thiel co-founded the internet firms PayPal and Palantir, was the first outside investor in Facebook, and has funded LinkedIn and Elon Musk’s SpaceX venture. ‘Vertical or intensive progress means doing new things—going from 0 to 1’ (p. 6), Thiel writes, which he equates with technological change. This book distils Thiel’s insights on entrepreneurship and innovation from a Stanford course that co-author Blake Masters took. It deals with the unfolding process of seeking after mysteries – and offers a methodology on how to create more Liberty in the world. Potential Gandalfs and Hari Seldons, take note.


The Yellow Peril: Dr Fu Manchu and the Rise of Chinaphobia by Christopher Frayling (London: Thames & Hudson, 2014). (TS-4). Frayling is a cultural historian who has written the probably definitive historical and literary analysis of Sax Rohmer’s Dr Fu Manchu novels. Fraying locates the Yellow Peril fears about China in an historical context that includes the British-China opium wars and treaties; racialist stereotyping; and popular culture manifestations. The Yellow Peril can be read illustratively as a case study on the intersection of magic and politics, and operatively as a primer on how societies create villains as Evil, and why.