just got back last week from Japan for a visit with my wife's family... while i was there i took some time to read a few books. all three were terrific:
- Dogs & Demons / Alex Kerr
- Undercover Economist / Tim Harford
- The Cathedral & The Bazaar / Eric Raymond
Dogs & Demons is a rather tough assessment of Japan, focusing on how bureaucratic national politics & the Japanese construction industry have created significant obstacles for the nation to overcome. It's a shocking criticism of how the Japanese built their key political, industrial, and cultural institutions after WWII ended (and to some extent, starting before that after the Tokugawa Shogunate / Edo Era ended). While i don't necessarily agree with all conclusions drawn by the author, the discourse is certainly an eye opener.
The Cathedral & the Bazaar was originally authored in the late 90's (updated more recently in early 2000/2001) and chronicles the birth of the open source movement. Although i considered myself somewhat familiar with open source concepts & products, this book gave me an entirely new perspective on the subject. Great companion piece to Paul Graham's Hackers & Painters.