12 February 2013

All my reviews

Blogs are great for fast discussions, but nothing beats a (good) book for learning in detail. Here are my reviews of books that you might consider reading -- after mine, of course :)

Addendum: Movie reviews at the bottom.

NB: I give stars based on the author's fulfillment of the promises made on the cover. I am also biased in my reviews to the extent that they reflect my knowledge when I write them. I may be a tougher reviewer over time, but I TRY to review for readers who may not have read any/all of these books -- let alone worked on water issues for years! I also want people to know that I am reviewing books and ideas, not people.

* complement TEoA by describing problems
** substitute for TEoA by describing forces underlying problems (and sometimes solutions)

General discussions of water management, use and crisis (ordered by stars):
* Blue Revolution (5★): Excellent examples and theme
Take Me to the Source (5★): A nice wander around the way we live with water
* When the rivers run dry (5★): Great overview of the impacts of water shortage
* The Big Thirst (4★): Snappy writing, sometimes sloppy [read this]
Drinking Water (A History) (4★): An interesting illumination of how we've lived with water
The Future of Water (4★): A look into the future but uneven quality
* Unquenchable (4★): Good examples but perhaps too many
Investing in Water for a Green Economy (3★) Uneven and incomplete
Running Out of Water (3★): Verges on boring
The Price of Thirst (2★): Baseless, anti-capitalist non-sequiturs
Aqua Shock (1★): A waste of paper (or electrons)

Specialized discussions of a particular water dimension:
* Dead Pool (5★): Updating Cadillac Desert on mismanaged infrastructure
Down the Drain (5★): Water and policy fail in Canada
** Heart of Dryness (5★): Botswana's Bushmen fight to live in the desert
IBNet Blue Book (5★): Understand and compare utility performance
** Priests and Programmers (5★): Amazing description of traditional irrigation in Bali
* Water and the California Dream (5★): Excellent history of disastrous policies
** Water Follies (5★): Exploring the mismanagement of groundwater in the US
** Water for Sale (5★): Why private water companies can help the poor
Water Trading and Global Water Scarcity (5★) Theory, data, reforms, case studies
When the Levees Broke (5★) A documentary on Katrina and government failure in NOLA
Elixir: A History of Water and Humankind (4★): An archaeologist's exploration (see Water)
Governing the Tap (4★): A detailed look into water management districts in the US
* Liquid Assets (4★): A deep look at water mismanagement in the Middle East
Rivers of Gold (4★): Some case studies of water markets in the western US
* Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization (4★): Excellent (see Elixir)
The Nile River Basin (3★): Incomplete information, but better than nothing?
Water: Asia's New Battleground (2★): Confused

Other relevant books on politics, philosophy, and psychology:
The Appeal (5★): A John Grisham novel on how power and money destroy the environment
Arabian Sands (5★): Culture changes slowly, and this book is still relevant, 50 years later
The Black Swan (5★): Watch out for the unexpected!
The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI (5★): From thugs to professionals
The Calculus of Consent (5★): A classic discussion of laws in a just society
Collapse (5★): A good history of sustainability (but perhaps flawed?)
Cooked (5★): A lovely book on food, the ways we prepare it and how it binds us together
The Company: A History (5★): A social construct that's served us well
The Company of Strangers (5★): How and why humans cooperate
Crude World (5★): An update on The Prize that discusses politics and corruption
Death and Life of Great American Cities (5★): Social evolution and planner failure
Fast Food Nation (5★): Eat out sometimes, but prepare your own food
The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty (5★): Ariely on how we lie to ourselves
Investigating the Russian Mafia (5★): Good background for understanding Putin's Russia
King of California (5★): How subsidized agribusiness destroyed the environment
King Leopold's Ghost (5★): The horrors of Belgian colonialism in the Congo
The Last Lecture (5★): THIS is passionate teaching
The Limits to Growth (5★): Still relevant 40 years later
Madmen, Intellectuals and Academic Scribblers (5★): Diagnosing policy failure and change
Megaprojects and Risk (5★): How to build infrastructure with fewer mistakes
The Origins of Virtue (5★): Similar to Moral Sense, but snappier (if slightly over-optimistic)
The Prize (5★): Brilliant history of the oil industry
Predictably Irrational (5★): How we (imperfectly) process information and make decisions
Prophet of Innovation (5★): Biography of Joseph ("Creative Destruction") Schumpeter
Silent Spring (5★): The book that (deservedly) launched modern environmentalism
Small is Beautiful (5★): An early -- and still relevant -- book on sustainable economics
There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch (5★): THE environmental economics text
Two Cheers for Anarchism (5★): More People, less State
Water in the Middle East (5★): It's politics, not scarcity, that's causing shortages
The Armchair Economist (4★): A varied and insightful application of economics to life
Business Adventures (4★): Interesting, still-relevant, stories from the 60s
The Economic Naturalist (4★): The economics of everyday life
Government Failure and Over-Government (4★): Essays that presaged Thatcher
The Land Grabbers (4★): Good stories on land grabs, but occasionally too polemic
The Moral Sense (4★): So much (too much?) interesting discussion of our moral evolution
The Organization of Inquiry (4★): How academic SHOULD do research
The Quest (4★): Good overview of many energy sources
Say Everything (4★): The rise of blogging (and why I do it)
Thinking Fast and Slow (4★): The psychology economists everyone should know
Weapons of the Weak (4★): A long, perceptive narrative of village development
Economic Gangsters(3★): Pop development economics
Anything from Food and Water Watch (2★): Their bias interferes with their logic
The Starfish and the Spider (2★): Boring
The Third Industrial Revolution (2★): "Look at me" waste of time
The Value of Nothing (2★): Anti-capitalist, illogical ideological rant
You Don't Have to Wear Hemp Underwear (1★): Even bigger waste of time.

Rango (5★): Ridiculous, funny and lots of "dry" humor
Big Men (5★): Interesting insights to oil exploration in Nigeria
Food Inc (5★): "More filling, tastes crap, destroys communities and the environment"
When the Levees Broke (5★): A documentary of government failures surrounding Katrina
Gasland (4★): Cheap gas may not be so cheap
Ivory Tower (4★): Expensive universities may not be worth it
Know your H2O (4★): A fun way to understand water flows
Last Call at the Oasis (4★): We're drying out!
Lost Rivers (3★): See sewers and buried rivers
FLOW (2★): Unbalanced propaganda
Watershed Movie (2★): More opinion than expertise


  1. Very useful information. Thanks. It would be great to see the name of the author(s) alongside the title.

  2. @Peter -- good idea. Author and year would be even better, but I tried to get each "review" on one line. It's form over function for now :)

  3. Thanks so much for sharing this, David!


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