The emergence of capitalism as the pre-eminent economic system in the world has always fascinated me. Cathedral by Ben Hopkins tells the story of one German town and how the nobles, clerics, tradesmen and women, and merchants (some of them Jews) collaborated and fought over the building of the town’s massive cathedral. In the process we see the growing corruption of the church and the rapid emergence of a merchant class as the dominant group in society.
Tune in (by Mark Lewisohn) is one of the best books i’ve ever read about the media industries. It is a group biography of the Beatles (and George Martin, Brian Epstein, Liverpool, and rock n’ roll in the UK). Volume 1 (the only one out) covers their childhood, youth, and emergence as a band in Liverpool and Hamburg and considers both the institutional context that enabled their rise and the cultural influences upon their work as well as the innovations they contributed early on to pop music. I gained a new appreciation of their early music, and the ways they constructed a more complex gendered identity as men (relative to how men presented themselves at the time). I agree with the blurb Lewisohn has on his site: “Mark Lewisohn is doing for the Beatles biographically what Robert Caro is still doing for Lyndon B. Johnson”.