On this the Eve of the Annual Celebration of Giving Thanks, it seems Most Appropriate to Mark this Happy Occasion by Offering Up to One and All an Item of Note for Which Your Humble Narrator is Quite Appreciative. It is Tradition at this Time to begin with a Catalogue of all the Many Blessings which have been Bestowed upon the List-Maker, allowing all those with Earshot (or in the case of the Printed Word, Eyeshot) to Nod Approvingly at the Effusion of Appropriate Sentiments expressed about Pleasant Things. Ah, but the Patient Reader notes: said tradition is not actually a tradition for Thanksgiving Eve, but rather for the Day Itself, and so, to the Patient Reader, Your Humble Narrator would seem to be out of Season (but not, it is worthwhile to note, Out of Sorts). But, Fear Not Patient Reader, Your Humble Narrator will compensate for the ill-timing of this expression of Thanks by bestowing appreciation on an object for which, Your Humble Narrator daresays, few others will think to Give Thanks at this Most Thankful Time of Year.
For what is Your Humble Narrator Thankful? Pirates.
Well, OK, not really pirates (note: this abrupt change in the tone of the writing is not accidental). Rather a book about Pirates. And why am I thankful for a book about Pirates. Well, it’s not just any book, but a book of particular beauty and charm:
The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates, by Peter Leeson
And, why, am I thankful for this book? Well, because I assigned it in one of my classes, and it is a really fun book, so I suspect that at least a subset of the students in the course (the geeks) will have greatly enjoyed the book.
The book is every bit as geeky as the title would suggest. And if you are a geek, you have already left this blog space and bought a copy at Amazon. If you aren’t a geek—well, I feel sorry for you.
I learned a lot about pirates in this book. A lot. Who knew that Pirate Society was so well organized? Far from the bloodthirsty savages beloved by Hollywood and children’s fiction, pirates, it turns out, rivaled modern businesses for their sophistication in structuring their activities to maximize profits. From the Jolly Roger to conscription to the Pirate Code to the use of torture to the way a captain was selected, everything about life on a Pirate Ship was strikingly rational, well-planned and designed to help revenues exceed costs by as large a margin as possible. As noted above—this is an odd book to review. Either you already want to read it or you think the whole thing sounds ridiculously childish and absurd. I can’t think of anything I could say at this point which would influence either type of reader in the least.
So, I’ll add: I really liked the book. (Yeah, OK, Dante was a better writer than Leeson, but if we start using that criterion, then what book would we ever read? (OK, you are right, we’d read The Divine Comedy and the best of Shakespeare, but what else would we ever read?))