Late December links: Holiday guide edition

* From James Fallows, excellent holiday shopping advice for you to ignore. I’ve followed it, but like a person of religious persuasion who pats himself on the back from not fornicating, I can’t help but think that I’m not much going to change the composition of the cultural ocean around me. Still, giving books for me is only half about the book itself: the other half is gauging the book someone else would want.

In large part, I’m not just giving the physical manifestation, but the fruit of whatever meager knowledge I have about book and recipient. Sometimes this works better and sometimes not, but I think it worth trying, since the gift of expertise is perhaps the best one of all.

Fallows has a second post on the subject here. And Random House’s Modern Library imprint gets in on the action here. And Mark Sarvas does here. And I do in the post you’re reading.

* Although not directly related to the above, this is pretty interesting:

There is a Catalan custom of men giving women and girls red roses on St. George’s Day (April 23), while women traditionally give men and boys a book on that day.

My guide mentioned that the books are always sold to the (female) buyer at a 10 percent discount below the regular price […]

But why the book discount?

Answer: no one knows.

* As if to reinforce some of the points I made in my post on Beer and Circus, the Financial Times reports:

But students at Manchester University, where he is paid £3,000 an hour as professor of creative writing, barely recognise him.

A survey by Student Direct, the company that offers undergraduate loans and banking services, asked students to put names to faces of the university’s prominent figures. Only 12 per cent knew who Mr Amis was.

Then again, maybe 12% is pretty good for an author.

(Hap tip TEV.)

* According to a Wall Street Journal analysis

Your parents might have worried when you chose Philosophy or International Relations as a major. But a year-long survey of 1.2 million people with only a bachelor’s degree by PayScale Inc. shows that graduates in these subjects earned 103.5% and 97.8% more, respectively, about 10 years post-commencement.

After 10 years, Philosophy majors earn more than Business Management majors, but still less than Math and many engineering majors. Consider this in light of the second bullet point in this earlier post from me. Consider too “The Management Myth” in The Atlantic, which argues that

Most of management theory is inane, writes our correspondent, the founder of a consulting firm. If you want to succeed in business, don’t get an M.B.A. Study philosophy instead.

As so often happens with such arguments, I don’t know whether I like it because it’s true or if I like it because it flatters the values I hold.

(But maybe the smartest people of all discard philosophy, as Paul Graham argues at the link.)

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