Friday, January 25, 2008

The Wealth of Nations

The guest on Wednesday's Daily Show episode that I commented on yesterday was satirist P.J. O'Rourke. He was talking about his new book, On the Wealth of Nations, which is part of a series called books that changed the world. The series features well-known authors who read famous books and then write about them. As you can probably guess, the famous book that O'Rourke wrote about was Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations. I picked up The Wealth of Nations a couple months ago, but I was unable to get very far. The first problem was the edition that I picked up (Penguin Classics) had a 82 page introduction. No one who feels the need to write an 82 page introduction to any book (Andrew Skinner, in this case) should be in the business of writing introductions. I tried to slog my way through the intro because I was worried that I might find Smith's 230+ year old prose a little bit obtuse, but the actual book is an absolute page turner compared to the intro. Once I started getting into the book and the sheer joy of not trying to read my way through the introduction wore off, it began to get a little bit dry and pedantic, so I decided to cut my losses after about 60 pages. I don't know if I'll be reading O'Rourke's book, but it I don't see myself picking up The Wealth of Nations again anytime soon.

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