All my book reviews

All my book 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 🙂


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.

* books complement TEoA by describing problems
** books substitute for TEoA by describing the forces underlying the 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.
Running Out of Water (3★): Verges on boring.
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.
** Heart of Dryness (5★): Botswana’s Bushmen fight to live in the desert.
** 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.
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?)
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.
Water in the Middle East (5★): It’s politics, not scarcity, that’s causing shortages.
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.
Say Everything (4★): The rise of blogging (and why I do it).
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 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.