Summer Reading, Part 1

Now that Commencement has passed, we can get on with our summers.  For me, that means I can try to take a bite out of the big, tasty stack of books I have been accumulating over the past 9 months.

These are my picks:

Michael Lewis, The Big Short.  Almost anything by Lewis is fun to read.  I was plussed* by the series he did for Vanity Fair, and recommend those highly. Last year we read his classic, Moneyball.

Peter Drucker, Innovation & Entrepreneurship.  This summer’s Reading Group pick.

Tim Harford, Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure. Harford writes beautifully (well, for a guy on the economics beat) and his explanations are generally lucid, convincing, and theoretically sound.  More on Harford here.

Daniel Okrent, Last Call.  Tyler Cowen calls this history of U.S. prohibition “a masterpiece.” I am interested in the causes and consequences of criminalization of drugs and alcohol, and I am guessing excerpts of this will end up on my political economy reading list. Perhaps a course on the subject?

Ron Howard and Clint Korver, Ethics (for the real world): Creating a Personal Code to Guide Decisions in Work and Life.  Howard is considered the father of decision science by many (and founder of the purple balls!). Korver is a successful entrepreneur and fellow Grinnell alum! I like this quote on “ethical dilemmas,” which they say is often fundamentally misunderstood:

“When we pick up just about any newspaper, we read about people caught in ‘ethical dilemmas.’ But nine times out of ten, they are not dilemmas at all. They are conflicts between prudential gain and ethical action. They are issues of temptation.” (p. 38).


Philip Mirowski, Science Mart: Privatizing American Science. This looks like a clear winner. A historian I sometimes fraternize with is excited about this one, and I hear that “Mirowski is a wild man.” Let’s hope so. Expect to see this in Econ 450.

F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom.  Following the Schumpeter Roundtable and Discovering Kirzner, we are picking up Hayek this fall as our department reading pick.

Jonathan Franzen, Freedom. Well, I am going to be on the beach for a week.

*It’s possible that “plussed” isn’t a word.  Perhaps it should be.