September 30, 2016

Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, September 2016

Attention conservation notice: I have no taste.

Laura Lippman, Wilde Lake
This is both a mystery novel and a rather literary novel about family, secrets and guilt. It makes compelling reading at both levels.
Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze, Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet
Comic book mind candy, but also Coates playing with superheroes as fantasies of political agency.
Branko Milanovic, Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization
Milanovic has been responsible for carefully assembling some of the best data sets about economic inequality within and between countries that we have. He is also, as one can see from his weblog, an interesting and wide-ranging economic thinker. That said, this book is essentially a wordy glossy on some famous data he's assembled, dividing income inequality into different components, plus some ruminations about how it might, conceivably, the components of inequality might change in the future. The former are briefly summarized: since about 1980, incomes have gone up dramatically for the very richest people in the world (who are mostly but not exclusively the rich of the rich countries), and almost equally dramatically for people around the middle of the global income distribution, the beginnings of a middle class in Asia, especially India and most especially China. They have stagnated for those around, say, the 80th percentile of global income, the middle and lower classes of the rich countries (and of course the very poorest). In the total spread of income inequality, therefore, differences between countries have become somewhat less important, and those within countries somewhat more.
As for the ruminations, Robert Solow's famous put-down about "end[ing] in a blaze of amateur sociology" comes to mind. Milanovic is more qualified than most economists to sociologize (for starters, he actually reads sociology), but there is nothing here which goes beyond the level of a good magazine article or blog post in depth, insight, rigor, or even detail.
In a word, there is no new approach to global inequality on offer here, or even a sketch of one. I will continue to follow Milanovic's writing with interest, but the point to this book eludes me (except as a way to donate to the Home for Care and Feeding of Aged Economists, which is a worthy cause).
Max Gladstone, Full Fathom Five
Mind candy: more adventures among magicians working like lawyers, and those drawn into their schemes. Here the setting is an island which is not Hawaii, acting a bit like an off-shore financial haven in our world, which in that of the Craft means manufacturing synthetic gods, rather than synthetic collateralized debt obligations. Also, a lot of stuff gets blown up.
Jeannine Hall Gailey, The Robot Scientist's Daughter and Field Guide to the End of the World
Catching up with a favored poet. I think the Field Guide is a somewhat stronger collection, but they're both excellent. Here is a poem from Field Guide, and here one from Daughter.
Marie Brennan, Cold-Forged Flame
Fantasy mind candy, in which the implacable, past-less warrior compelled to a quest is female. Good if you enjoy fantasy stories about implacable, past-less warriors.
Gerhard Tutz, Regression for Categorical Data
This is a textbook on regression where the variable being predicted takes discrete, categorical values, rather than being a real number or vector. It presumes some prior knowledge of ordinary regression, and of the general statistical theory of estimation and testing, but nothing beyond what a fourth-year undergraduate should know. It's clear, extremely thorough, emphasizes common principles over minor details, and up to date. It also, welcomely, includes treatments of some common but not-so-standard situations, like hierarchical-organized categories and discrete-choice models from economics (both in chapter 8), ordinal responses (chapter 9), discrete multivariate responses and generalized estimating equations (chapter 13) and models with individual-level variation in coefficients (chapter 14). The emphasis is mostly on parametric generalized linear models, but there are good treatments of nonparametrics in chapters 10 (emphasizing additive models and functional data), 11 (on trees) and 15 (nearest neighbors and neural networks). My own preference would be to give less space to GLMs, but it would be easy for a teacher (or student) with those interests to make their own selections.
I would be very happy to use this as a textbook, though it somewhat competes with my own work-in-progress.
David Wong, Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits
Mind candy science fiction: everything its title promises.

Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur; Scientifiction and Fantastica; Enigmas of Chance; Pleasures of Detection, Portraits of Crime; The Commonwealth of Letters; The Dismal Science

Posted at September 30, 2016 23:59 | permanent link

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