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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

December 16, 2013 at 10:38 AM

Book ’em: Suggestions for business readers

If you want to get between the covers with your favorite econ nerd this season, I recommend Alan Blinder’s After the Music Stopped: The Financial Crisis, the Response and the Work Ahead. Written by the former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, this deserves a place among the top reads on the Great Panic and its aftermath.

I didn’t read what was no doubt the most popular and hyped business book of the year, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook. I’m sure it is as good as its reviews suggest. What’s holding me back is that it is no doubt easier to be honest and authentic and push one’s way to the top when one has benefited from an elite education and mentors (i.e. Larry Summers). The rest of us have to play the game.

Brad Stone’s The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon is a crackling good read about our hometown neo-monopolist. The Seattle TimesJay Greene wrote that the book “offers previously untold anecdotes to provide deep insight into the executive and the company he created. It’s a deeply reported and deftly written book revealing how Amazon is a reflection of the drive of its founder.”

If economic history is your thing, consider The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White and the Making of a New World Order. Benn Steil not only produces the finest account of the conference that established the Pax Americana economic system after World War II, he does it with the skill of a fine novelist.

Tyler Cowen’s Average is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation has rightly made a stir. Cowen is a professor of economics at George Mason University, writes the Marginal Revolution blog and is always informative and trenchant. Ignore the Tom Friedman title; the book is better than that in looking at the crisis of inequality. I have many arguments over many of Cowen’s conclusions, but he still breaks ground worthy of argument.

The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths by Mariana Mazzucato does just that and the timing couldn’t be better. Mazzucato uses case studies to argue persuasively that the state and the private sector both play important and intertwined roles in creating a successful economy. Refreshingly free of cant.

James Howard Kunstler’s Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation won’t attain the enduring popularity of his The Geography of Nowhere — the medicine is too bitter — but it is still a valuable read. Kunstler is one of the few widely read writers warning that technology alone can’t solve the challenges of climate change and resource limitations.

Rose George’s Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas In Your Car and Food on Your Plate is essential reading for everyone, but especially those in the port cities of the Puget Sound. George not only did fine research on the 10,000-mile supply chain but also traveled aboard a massive container ship. It is one of the year’s best reads.

I’m sure 2013 has produced some other “must reads.” I invite you to place them in the comments section.


Today’s Econ Haiku:

Stick it too the man!

Send that airplane work elsewhere

Who got stuck again?


Comments | More in Economics | Topics: Economic and business books


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