Reihan Salam: What I Read

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How do people deal with the torrent of information that rains down on us all? What’s the secret to staying on top of the news without surrendering to the chaos of it?  In this series, we ask people who seem well-informed to describe their media diets. This is from a conversation with Reihan Salam, policy advisor for e21, author of The Agenda blog for National Review Online, and Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation.

After I wake up, I immediately reach for an iPad or an iPhone--sometimes both--to make a quick assessment: what time is it? Will it rain? And then I quickly scan Twitteriffic or Brizzly. As I complete various get-ready-for-the-day tasks, I’ll often listen and possibly watch a television program I’ve just downloaded for 20-30 minutes before heading out the door. There was a long period when I’d watch movies on fast-forward with the subtitles enabled, but that requires sustained attention and sitting still. During my brief commute (12 minutes walking to the subway, 12-18 minutes on the subway), I spend the first phase listening to 2-3 songs and the second subway phase reading the Wall Street Journal on the iPad or I’ll read a few pages of a book.

I organize my Google Reader by the assiduousness with which I read various feeds. There are blogs I read with great attention and care, i.e., I will read every post thoroughly, and there are others I scan, and others I glance at occasionally for a change of pace. The blogs that fall into the first category are generally related to economic policy and related issues.

I also like to keep tabs on a few not-so-frequently-updated blogs. One of them is this very interesting blog called Elite Chinese Politics by Victor Shih--he's a professor at Northwestern University and he focuses on internal Communist Party wrangling. And I always keep an eye out for anything by MIT economist Yasheng Huang. There's Randall Parker’s FuturePundit blog, which covers robotics, nanotechnology, alternative energy, and many other things. Rick Hess, an AEI fellow, writes a wonderful education policy blog for Education Week that deserves a wide audience.

One of my favorite blogs is The Transport Politic by Yonah Freemark, a scarily sharp recent Yale grad who covers transportation policy with a depth of knowledge that is just staggering. I disagree with Freemark often, not least because he is an enthusiastic supporter of a high level of public spending. But he definitely knows what he’s talking about.

Other favorites include Ross Douthat's blog at the New York Times, Tim Lee's Bottom-Up, Razib Khan's writing at Gene Expression, John Robb's Global Guerrillas, and, of course, the many blogs hosted by National Review Online, including a blog by Reihan Salam. I don’t know if I trust that guy, to tell you the truth. He seems a little shifty. Tim O'Reilly is a fantastic curator. ReadWriteWeb, Epicenter, and TechCrunch are daily reads. I'll read anything by Graeme Wood or Josh Levin, as well as Rebecca Dana and Bryan Curtis of The Daily Beast.

I subscribe to very few magazines. The New York Review of Books is one, in part because it has a pleasing format--it's a pleasure to read. I also read Harper's, the LRB, and Granta, as well as National Review and The Weekly Standard and The Spectator of London, which also has a couple of terrific blogs. I'm also a fan of National Affairs, where I'm a contributing editor, and I try keep up with a few scholarly journals in the social sciences and political theory.

As for social media, I am an enthusiastic early adopter. I've also taken to e-books. I'm also really obsessed with the promise and potential of tablet-only media.

Right now I'm reading: Phillip Nord's France's New Deal: From the Thirties to the Post-War Era and a book by Mark V. Pauly, Health Reform Without Side Effects. The latter is the kind of book that is just catnip for me because it's talking about alternative institutional design. I just finished Axis, a science fiction novel by Robert Charles Wilson, and book called Wired for Innovation, which is co-authored by this MIT economist called Erik Brynjolfsson (with Adam Saunders). That was a great book. People who want to understand the economy and the nature of this downturn should read Wired for Innovation. I'm also a fan of business books--David Kirkpatrick's The Facebook Effect was a pleasure to read. All time favorites in this category include The Only Sustainable Edge and anything by Clayton Christensen, who strikes me as one of our most important thinkers. I just started reading Gary Shteyngart's new novel, too.

Young adult fiction more broadly is an area that I'm kind of interested in--not related to the work that I do but just a longstanding interest.

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