Summer 2022 Reading Recommendations
The regular newsletter will be back in early September. I hope everyone has some time to disconnect, recharge and spend time with loved ones.
Meanwhile, here are the books [in no particular order] I enjoyed the most so far this year:
Gambling on Development: Why Some Countries Win and Others Lose by Stefan Dercon who is a Professor of Economic Policy at the University of Oxford and a former Chief Economist of DFID. Why have some countries succeeded in growing and reducing poverty rapidly while others failed to do so?
Dercon argues that this is a result of a key ‘development bargain’, whereby a country’s elites shift from protecting their own positions to gambling on a growth-based future. Despite the imperfections of such bargains, China is among the most striking recent success stories, along with Indonesia and more unlikely places, such as Bangladesh, Ghana and, tentatively, Ethiopia. Great stuff here with lots of interesting anecdotes.
2. The Journey of Humanity: The Origins of Wealth Inequality by Oded Galor. Brown University economist Galor hypothesizes that humanity could escape the Malthusian trap because rapid technological change placed a higher value on education, and families invested more in children’s schooling, which meant they could not afford to have as many children as before.
Here is an interview with the author:
3. Pitch Perfect by Bill McGowan: Bill McGowan was a broadcast journalist before becoming a media coach and trainer to executives, athletes, and celebrities. This book provides guidance on preparing for media interviews, speeches, conference panels, and other situations. Very relevant to for those of who talk and present in public settings on a regular basis.
4. The Anomaly by Herve Le Tellier. This sold more than a million copies in French and is now translated into English. An Air France flight from Paris to New York lands on March 10, 2021, after passing through a terrifying storm. One hundred and six days later, the same Boeing 787 flight with the same crew, the same passengers, and the same damage from an identical storm approaches the east coast of the United States. Hard to say much without spoilers, but a truly fascinating meditation on the concept of time, parallel and simulated worlds is highly relevant for the tumultuous times we live in and the tenuousness of what we take for granted.
5. Fragile Futures-The Uncertain Economics of Disasters, Pandemics
and Climate Change by Vito Tanzi: Vito Tanzi had a distinguished career at the International Monetary Fund, where he served for almost three decades retiring as the Director of the Fiscal Affairs Department. In this book, he examines the challenges of policymaking under extreme uncertainties that our modern society and our economies have faced historically as a result of natural disasters such as plagues and pandemics that are highly unpredictable and hard to model. It then considers how, given the future challenges humanity faces with climate change, and how tax and fiscal policy should be deployed.
6. Don’t Trust Your Gut by Seth Stephens Davidowitz who previously wrote the best-selling “Everybody Lies’. “An economist, former Google data scientist, Stephens-Davidowitz reveals just how wrong we really are when improving our lives. Scholars have mined enormous datasets in the past decade to find remarkable new approaches to life’s biggest self-help puzzles. ”
7. Talent: How to Identify Energizers, Creatives, and Winners Around the World by Tyler Cowen and Daniel Gross: Roughly a quarter of the country's economic growth since the 1960s came from better allocation of talent. That's thanks in large part to hiring teams looking for talent where they maybe hadn't before, primarily women and Black men. Economist Cowen and Venture Capitalist Gross offer helpful advice on finding the best candidate for your organization
8. Tomb of Sand- Geetanjali Shree: The first Hindi novel to win the Booker Award. This is not an easy read [I liked the Hindi version better] but Daisy Rockwell has done a valiant job in translation and deserves a lot of the credit for the international recognition received. This is a book about the partition of India like no other. The principal protagonist is just “Ma” or Mother who, after her husband's death, travels back to Pakistan to confront the traumas of partition. The invisibility of women in Indian society is a recurring theme in Shree’s novels; this is where she is at her sharpest best.
9. The Vortex: A True Story of History's Deadliest Storm, an Unspeakable War, and Liberation by Scott Carney and Jason Miklian. Path dependence is defined as when temporary shocks have permanent effects. In November 1970, a terrible cyclone hit what was then East Pakistan, killing possibly more than half a million people and setting in motion a series of further terrible events that led to the birth of Bangladesh. This is a wonderfully written book where every character comes alive vividly. As a happy footnote to the catastrophe of Super Cyclone Bhola is that through systematic investments, Bangladesh has dramatically increased its preparedness for these storms and the dramatic drop in deaths from cyclones is undoubtedly one of the great development success stories of all time.
10. Why We Fight: The Roots of War and the Paths to Peace by Chris Blattman. With the war in Ukarine this book takes on an urgent saliency. Blattman is a Professor of Public Policy in the University of Chicago and works at the intersection of economics and political science. He explains the five reasons why conflict (rarely) blooms into war, and how to interrupt that deadly process. Full of interesting insights and anecdotes.
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