Nick Gillespie on C-SPAN: My Summer Reading Includes Culturematic, a Roger Williams bio, Hunger Games…


While attending and speaking at FreedomFest in Vegas last week C-SPAN's BookTV asked me about my summer reading list. View the clip by clicking on the image or going here.

Spoiler alert: I'm reading Grant McCracken's fantastic Culturematic, which looks at various ways in which the creators of fantasy football, Twitter, Burning Man, Reality TV, and a whole host of other creative "life applets" (my term; McCracken's is much better) that allow us all to explore the world and start conversations in new and fascinating ways.

I'm also reading Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul, by John M. Barry (watch Reason's interview with Barry below). Williams, the great religious dissenter who founded the first Baptist congregation in what became the U.S.—and created Providence, Rhode Island as a secular haven in a theocratic colonial landscape—has long been a hero of mine and Barry's book is a great and highly relevant read. Williams said no to power when doing so meant imprisonment and death and, even more amazingly, conceptualized a truly limited government that remains part and parcel of the American experiment.

I interrupted my reading of The Hunger Games trilogy to polish off the above. I started reading them after my kids got into them and seeing the movie. Critics bitch and moan about the sub-literary quality of the prose and some of the plot developments—fair-enough points that are simply irrelevant to the larger spirit of the books and the cultural phenomenom they have become. Certainly it's worth puzzling over a series of novels that topped the best-seller charts for a year or more in which an all-powerful and avaricious "central district" treats all other parts of its country as vassal states from which tribute (literal and figurative) is extracted. Sounds less like fiction and more like 2012 to me.

And what, gentle readers, are you reading this summer, which still has a month-plus to go? Lest ye forget, I am the co-author with goodman Matt Welch, of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America, just out in paperback and e-book formats with a new foreword.

Here's the interview with John M. Barry about his Roger Williams bio:


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  1. I just finished Ready Player One. Really dug all the references and in-jokes, but the whole thing was fairly frothy and predictable. It would make a decent summer tentpole film, assuming they could afforded all the rights they would need to do it properly.

    The Apocalypse Codex was very good, maintaining the high standard Stross has set for the series. It is not the last Laundry novel, maybe not even the penultimate one. My only quibble is that the basic plot mechanics has been done in the series previously. I ended up re-reading the entire series after I finished Codex.

    Waiting for the US release of The Departure, by Neal Asher. I was buying the paperback from the UK to get a jump on his stuff, but the paperbacks from Britain are so hilariously crappy–paper, binding, glue (who can’t make book glue)–that they fall apart after two or three reads, so they are worth it.

    1. but the paperbacks from Britain are so hilariously crappy

      Amen, Mr Free. We usually get the UK editions out here of anything and they are just shit. Even the book jacket is usually designed by muppets. I tell everyone I know to get US editions, especially as the exchange rate is so in our favour. And it’s kinda like a charitable donation too.

      1. They are often weirdly-sized as well. My UK copy of Altered Carbon is almost square.

    2. My recent SF –

      Blue Remembered Earth, Alastair Reynolds. Another excellent new space opera novel from one of the best.

      Existence, David Brin. Nice to see Brin back after so long away, and this novel takes on the Fermi Paradox very nicely. He also keeps his miserable left-wing politics to a minimum.

      And just finished the first of The Mongoliad. The team-written approach clearly shows its flaws, but it’s an good read overall.

      1. I had heard good things about Existence. It’s nice to hear he’s kept his repulsive politics mostly out of it.

        Reynolds is hit and miss for me. Hopefully starting a new series will get him away from the awful one-off novels. (Although, House of Suns wasn’t all that bad, if in a sub-genre I really don’t care much for.)

        1. Just read House of Suns about a month ago. Thought it was pretty decent though the characterization was a bit flat compared to some of my faves like Chasm City and Diamond Dogs.

  2. While I generally liked the Hunger Games and thought the first book was excellent I feel the quality of them declined steadily throughout the series and the ending of the 3rd book was actually abysmal.

    As far as my reading plans, well I havn’t got any specific plans to read anything, I might pick up a copy of Heinleins Citizen of the Galaxy and start working through it with my 12 year old and if I get really lucky I may finally get a chace to pick up a copy of Moneyball to read but realistically with 4 kids time for reading is quite scarce and I’ll settle for just trying to keep up with Reason’s posts.

    1. I haven’t read the third book of the Hunger Games Trilogy… and based on what I’ve heard, I’m not planning to.

      1. You don’t feel compelled to finish it just for the purpose of finishing it? Are you suggesting I watched season 8 of Scrubs (9 doesn’t count) for nothing?

        1. I don’t know – like Fluffy wrote below, the first book was flawed but still enjoyable. The second book less so. I guess I would hate to see how bad it gets.

          1. Given that the author has gone on record admitting it is the worst thing she has ever written you’re not really missing much.

            Apparently the first book was such a success the publisher put her on a ridiculous deadline for the 3rd book and she rushed it to meet the deadline.

            Ulimately however the biggest problem with the 2nd and 3rd book is that Katniss never really grows or changes as a result of what she experiences. Throughout she remains a self absorbed girl more concerned with what people think of her and what she wants without ever really seeing the bigger picture of what is going on in the world around her.

            1. I thought the real problem with the third book was the first person perspective pov just does not work for a story about a broad sweep of events.

              That and the death of her sister was totally unnecessary.

              Her killing the other leader was a decent twist, but I saw it coming for a couple hundred pages.

  3. The Hunger Games gets worse as it goes along.

    The first book had a certain narrative energy that made it enjoyable even as you rolled your eyes at it.

    But the next two books are repetitive, padded, and somewhat annoying.

    It’s funny how much mileage some authors get out of extrapolating teenage-girl emotional situations into vampire or dystopia plots, though. The Hunger Games trilogy is an awful lot of sturm and drang for a story that boils down to a 16 year old girl who can’t decide between two guys.

  4. Lest ye forget, I am the co-author with goodman Matt Welch, of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong with America

    I’m waiting for the movie. Is it true Matt is being played by Dakota Fanning?

    The Roger Williams is on my list. Currently reading The Winter King and rereading the first of Jonathan Israel’s Enlightenment trilogy. Just finished Adam Michnik’s latest collection of essays.

    1. Is it true Matt is being played by Dakota Fanning?

      Have you even seen the beard?

    2. Is it true Matt is being played by Dakota Fanning?

      I can’t wait for that beard.

  5. And what, gentle readers, are you reading this summer, which stil has a month-plus to go?

    Small Engine Repair: 5.5 HP Thru 20 HP Four Stroke Engines (Haynes Techbook) and A Feast for Crows by George RR Martin. I’ll probably get another book or two in there somewhere, but I’ve just started a new job and I find I don’t read as much until I’m acclimated to the new responsibilities.

  6. Why am I such a slow reader?! I have about 3 Heinlein books to get through (Friday, Strangers in a Strange Land, Cat Who Walks Through Walls), the next two Asimov non-foundation books, various evolutionary biology non-fictions (Moral Animal, Red Queen), and another Iain M. Banks novel. If only I could go on a maternity leave for the summer.

    1. I can relate to being a slow reader. What makes it worse is that I used to fly through anything written.

      It took me a week and a half reading sporadically to finish Ubik, which is just 170 pages.

  7. I’m currently re-reading my Raymond Chandler collection for the nth time.

    Afterward, I’ll return to my favorite series of books: Matt Helm. Written by Donald Hamilton, these late-50s to early-80s books put a different spin on the spy genre. These are dark, violent and without the “gee-whiz” techo gadgets of the Bond Series. The main character is a mean bastard when he needs to be, but falls in and out of love, hates the police/authority, and is also a hunter/sportsman.

    1. oh, and the realistic portrayal of guns is very good. I’ve learned plenty about pistols, shotguns, and long-distance rifle shooting from the series.

      1. So it sounds like you’d also like to read the Jack Reacher books, pretty much?

  8. hates the police/authority

    Sounds like the perfect protagonist.

  9. My Pa insists I read Letters to a Young Contrarian. Since I generally only read at bedtime, I’m finding this difficult. It is not bedtime reading. It is fully-awake daytime reading.

  10. William Manchester’s Catherine the Great

    The Year of the Conquest

    A New Book on the Plantagenets

    Did Mohhamad Exist

    David McCullahs book on Americans in Paris.

  11. Currently reading:

    “Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe” by Robert Gellately

    “Young Hickory: The Making of Andrew Jackson” by Hendrik Booraem

    “The Last Gentleman” by Walker Percy

    All highly recommend.

  12. The Hunger Gamers: Catching Fire, I figure based on the reviews for the last two books, if I can push myself through finishing the Twilight saga this should not be much of a challenge.

    Finishing up, finally, Clash of Kings and Van Gogh: The Life

  13. Question, I haven’t read any of the Game of Thrones books but I’ve watched the t.v. series. Should I read Storm of Swords before the next season starts?

    1. I’d read em all. Book vs movie. You know the drill.

  14. Gone to Texas by Randolph Campbell, a book on the Lone Star state’s history.

    The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

    The Forever War by Joe Haldeman.

  15. David Ricardo’s Principles of Political Economy and Taxation.

    V for Vendetta is next in the queue.

    After that I have a few Middle Eastern history books whose names escape me. I’m at the office and the boxes with my unread books are at home.

    My unread book queue keeps getting longer. I’m the dumping ground for books my relatives don’t want for whatever reason. I also keep buying books. Maybe one day I’ll finish the queue.

  16. Well it looks like someone knows whats going on over there lol.

  17. Just finished Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, which I really loved.
    Currently reading Anarchy, State, and Utopia by Robert Nozick. This one might take all summer to read properly.

  18. . Critics bitch and moan about the sub-literary quality of the prose and some of the plot developments – fair-enough points that are simply irrelevant to the larger spirit of the books and the cultural phenomenom they have become.

    Some critics aren’t happy unless a literary work is bashing capitalism and evil businessmen.

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