The Volokh Conspiracy

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Book Reviews

This Year's Book Recommendations


As is our annual tradition (here was last year's), the University of Chicago Law School has posted a list of books our faculty are reading and recommend this year. Here are the two I highlighted:

The Scout Mindset, by Julia Galef

A book about how and why to be rational–that is, to try to see the world as it is even if it isn't what we wish. (A "soldier mindset" is committed to fighting back against beliefs we don't currently hold; a "scout mindset" is committed to learning the truth about what's out there, even if it's bad news.) The book also demonstrates great sympathy for the emotional urges that make it hard for us to think clearly, using stories and examples ranging from the Dreyfuss Affair to the author's own love life. Important and maybe life-changing.

I tried to write that blurb without using the word "rationalism" for fear that the people who would most benefit from reading it would be put off by the "ism." I trust that isn't as true of Volokh readers.

As for fiction, I picked A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine

A palace intrigue set in an interplanetary empire. The protagonist heads from her far-flung homeworld to the imperial capital armed with the technologically implanted memories of her dead predecessor, a too-tempting love of imperial culture, and yet a stubborn loyalty to her home planet. A page-turning and haunting story ensues. The best science fiction book I've read in a long time, and the sequel (A Desolation Called Peace) is just as good.

There was no question that Julia's book was going to be my non-fiction recommendation for the year (and you can listen to my appearance on her podcast earlier this year if you want to know more about why). But I've read a lot of science fiction and fantasy this year so there was more competition there. I also really enjoyed the Goblin Emperor and its quasi-sequel by Katherine Addison; The Daevabad Trilogy (City of Brass, etc.) by S. A Chakraborty; the newest Penric books by Lois McMaster Bujold; The Scholomance books by Naomi Novik; Hail Mary by Andy Weir; and the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells.