These are a few of the books I’ve read recently (mostly) on topics ranging from the banking crisis and randomness to behavioural economics and Web 2.0
Well worth a read if you’re in the business of social innovation, public policy and social change:
How Markets Fail: The Logic of Economic Calamities by John Cassidy – excellent (though sometimes quite dense) critique of the financial crisis with strong analysis of economic theory (and all its flaws)
Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky – looking at the impact of new technology (particularly the web) on innovation, collaboration and organisations.
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness by Richard H Thaler and Cass R Sunstein – currently much loved by policy makers of all hues. Explores how people can be gently encouraged to make better choices
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner / Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner – original (popular) work on behavioural economics with lots of illuminating and often humorous stories.
The Political Brain The Role Of Emotion In Deciding The Fate Of The Nation by Drew Westen – seminal book on the relationship between neurology and political decision making (not as dry as it sounds). Offers a blueprint for the US Democratic party to sort out its messaging. Fascinating
The Selfish Capitalist: Origins of Affluenza by Oliver James – explores the relationship between free market capitalism and mental well being suggesting the more capitalist a country is the sicker society becomes
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb – A Cameron favourite… randomness theory. Brings Rumsfeld’s ‘known knowns’ and ‘known unknowns’ to the fore (but not quite like that!)
Too Big to Fail: Inside the Battle to Save Wall Street by Andrew Ross Sorkin – insiders’ story on what really happened in the midst of the banking crisis – Lehman, Bear Stearns, etc… full of mind-boggling stuff (like the extent to which banks were speculating way beyond their means on the basis that property prices could never, ever, fall)
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell – an oldie but an absolute classic. The pinnacle of Gladwell’s writing. How information travels and ideas take root.
The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett – sets out a compelling argument that inequality is bad for society as a whole (not just those at the bottom). Makes a strong argument for anti-poverty work
Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear by Frank I. Luntz – Right-wing US political strategist’s engaging story of how he helped craft the Republican Party’s messages to appeal to people’s emotions (probably prompting Westen’s efforts to do the same for the Democrats)
I’m always on the lookout for new interesting non-fiction. So if you like these or don’t like these or have any recommendations of books you like, I’d love to hear them! (and feel free to disagree or agree with my selection… I know people who think Tipping Point is rubbish, whereas I’d say it was one of the best books I’ve ever read!)