The books of 2019 you should not miss
From a primer on how people manage different kinds of risks and the choices they make, to a ready reckoner about the complicated world we live in, there are stacks of airport reading to catch up on. Mint cuts through it all to serve up the must-read books
Good Economics For Hard Times: Better Answers To Our Biggest Problems
Esther Duflo and Abhijit V. Banerjee, the Nobel Prize-winning wife-husband duo, do a great job of taking on the most vital issues facing us and writing about it in a simple way, using research and logic. My favourite part is the section dedicated to immigration. For politicians, both immigration across countries and migration within a country, is something they can cash in on. But do immigration and migration really hurt the local population? The writers don’t think so. The book is an excellent ready reckoner about the complicated world we live in.
Growth—From Microorganisms to Megacities
There’s no author whose books I look forward to more, Bill Gates recently said about Vaclav Smil’s new work. Growth, which has also made it to Gates’ list of books for the year, argues that the never-ending growth projections made by economists seem to ignore the fact that our planet has limited resources. The Czech-Canadian scientist and policy analyst also takes into account the improved energy efficiency over the years. Growth is a great number-driven effort rather than a polemic, as often tends to be the case with book on such topics.
Narrative Economics: How Stories Go Viral & Drive Major Economic Events
In this book, the Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert J. Shiller explores how popular narratives impact economies in general and economics in particular. One point that comes across clearly in the book is how narratives repeat themselves. One such narrative is technological unemployment. While we may see a lot of use of this phrase currently, the usage actually peaked in the late 1930s and early 1940s. If you are the kind who makes money out of the financial markets or are generally interested in economics, this is a must read.
The Third Pillar: How Markets And The State Leave The Community Behind
This book takes the idea that Raghuram G. Rajan explored in his first book, Saving Capitalism From The Capitalists, forward. Rajan builds on the idea of capita-lists hurting capitalism and the free market. He believes the community through the local government needs to play a bigger role in taking care of things which the market and the state won’t. “The more discretion local government has, the more programmes can be tailored to local conditions," he writes. For anyone wanting to know how capitalism and free markets will pan out in the days to come, this is the book.
Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias In A World Designed for Men
If you have time to read just one book in what is left of this year, then this has to be it. Caroline Criado Perez’s book starts with the oft-made point about “the lives of men" having “been taken to represent those of humans overall". What it does well is make this point in a data-driven way. My favourite detail is about how it took until 2011 for US carmakers to start using crash-test dummies based on the female body. The bias is so ingrained in society that it shows up at the most unlikely of places, even how transport systems are built. Such examples and thinking make this book a definitive read.
The Art Of Statistics: Learning From Data
David Spiegelhalter’s book primarily deals with how to interpret data visually in the right way. Spiegelhalter uses data from real life to make all the point he wants to make. My favourite section of The Art Of Statistics deals with a simple lesson: “Just because we act, and something changes, it doesn’t mean we were responsible for the result." This happens primarily because human beings are “keen to construct an explanatory narrative and even keener if we are its centre", says Spiegelhalter. The book is a must read for anyone who is into the business of analysis or loves statistics or maths in general.
Licence To Be Bad: How Economics Corrupted Us
In the run up to and the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, a new genre of books was born. These books typically question the economic orthodoxy of the day. Jonathan Aldred’s Licence To Be Bad falls in this category. The key point Aldred makes is: “When economists see the chasm between economic theory and real-world behaviour, their solution is often to change the world, not the theory." Much of the 2008 financial crisis was about everyone doing what everyone else was doing. In the process, no one could be blamed. Just this insight alone is worth the price of the book.
An Economist Walks Into A Brothel: And Other Unexpected Places To Understand Risk
Allison Schrager’s book is a study on how people manage different kinds of risks. One of the best parts of the book deals with the political choices that people make. “When the inaction and infighting of traditional politicians frustrates us, candidates often emerge who promise ‘change’.... ," writes Schrager. If we buy the message of the new candidate, we are basically willing to bet on him, without really knowing how does he plan to go about achieving whatever he has promised. And in doing this, we set ourselves up for disappointment.
Why We Sleep: The New Science Of Sleep And Dreams
This is the only book in our list, which was not published this year, but in 2017. The message of Why We Sleep, which is also part of Bill Gates’ must-read list of this year, is simple: sleeping well is important. As Matthew Walker writes: “Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer." Walker, a neuroscientist, explains the science behind sleep in simple language and also offers some easy-to-follow tips to sleep well. All in all, the science never takes over the writing and Walker writes for a wider audience.
Bottle Of Lies: The Inside Story Of The Generic Drug Boom
In May 2013, Katherine Eban wrote a story for Fortune, focusing on Ranbaxy Laboratories, which admitted to selling adulterated drugs in a US court. Soon after, Eban started digging if Ranbaxy was a single case, or was there an industry-wide problem, when it came to generic drugs coming into the US. What followed was a multi-year investi-gation, in which Eban dug up Federal Drug Authority (FDA) documents and spoke to regulators and whistleblowers, and came across an industry where fraud was rampant. This is investigative journalism at its best. What’s more, Eban has written the book like a thriller. There is never a dull moment.
FIRST PUBLISHED23.12.2019 | 08:30 PM IST
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