Stories | August 2, 2016

Summer reading list 2016

Six ING economists select the books that have kept them busy this summer, from how big data affects our behaviour to tidbits of mathematical nuggets – all the way to poolside reads about honesty, truth-telling and a trip through hell in suburban Georgia.

  Mark Cliffe, chief economist

Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread-The Lessons from a New Science by Alex Pentland
This is a provocative pop science book about Social Physics, which anlayses how human social networks spread ideas and affect people’s behaviour. It highlights an important point that almost all decisions made in social situations are rarely completely independent and instead rely heavily on your social ties, i.e family and friends. The ideas are similar to those of Network Economics and Econophysics. Where Pentland brings in new insights is in describing how predictive models can be built by ‘reality mining’ of new sources of Big data covering our social interactions.

 Rob Carnell, chief international economist

Professor Stewart’s Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities by Ian Stewart
On holiday, on a plane, by the beach, the last thing I want to do is think about economics (and work), so this year, I have opted for this small (and hence readable) book about obscure mathematical facts. It includes bite-size chapters on aspects of maths such as number theory, geometry and also mathematical puzzles. This is a pleasure to read and will not bore you, even if you hated (or were terrible) at maths at school.

Killing Floor: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child  
This is something even less highbrow, and even less connected with economics. However, it is at least as gory as any of the current genre of Scandinavian police thrillers. A first-person trip through hell in suburban Georgia, this first book has extremely punchy writing, amazing (if horrific) descriptions, and a pleasing, though slightly predictable, ending.

 Marieke Blom, chief economist ING Nederland

Flashpoints: The emerging crisis in Europe by George Friedman
What will happen to Europe has been the main question on my mind these days, as it will determine the economic future of our continent full of geographical and historic barriers. I read the book last year and it helped me understand at least a part of where we are at. Friedman is provocative, but that is what I like about his book – it makes me think about this continent in a different way.

Purity: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen
Who would name her daughter Purity? And if named Purity, how would you live? The answers are in this story about family relationships, honesty and truth-telling. A friend recommended it to me, saying it was great to read by the pool. I was expecting something a bit lighter given that recommendation, but it was still a fascinating read.

 Ian Bright, managing director - group research

Superforecasting by Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner  
Much of my reading concentrates on making better decisions. Superforecasting is excellent as it challenges the reader to consider carefully how they live their everyday and professional lives with practical suggestions.

Economics Rules by Dani Rodrik  
When it comes to the shortcomings of economists (not economics), Economics Rules is invaluable. Economists are called to account for not considering the many ways in which societies make decisions and the contributions economics can make if the multitude of models available to economists were used more effectively. Rodrik’s ability to challenge mainstream economic thought is particularly useful in understanding the tensions in societies across Europe that have contributed to the UK’s BREXIT vote. But he lets economists in banks and financial markets off far too easily.

Neopolitan Saga by Elena Ferrante
Relaxation has been dominated by the novels of Elena Ferrante. My holiday on the beaches of Spain may see me finish the final two books of her Neopolitan novels.

 Inga Burk, economist ING-DiBa

The Circle by Dave Eggers
This science fiction novel reminds us that we should get involved and stay involved when it comes to shaping our digital future in the internet age. Sometimes the perspective seems a little too black and white, but nonetheless this is an enjoyable and not too heavy read which provides food for thought.

 Marten van Garderen, senior economist ING Nederlands 

Understanding Consumer Financial Behavior by W. Fred van Raaij
The title is very self-explanatory and the book essentially talks about money management in an age of financial illiteracy. It gives a good overview and brings ideas together from behavioural finance, financial psychology and consumer research.

How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg
This book is insightful as it explains how technology has shifted the balance of power from companies to consumers. And that the only way to succeed in this ever-changing landscape is to create superior products and attract a new breed of multifaceted employees who they call "smart creatives" This is exactly what ING is doing in the Netherlands.

eZonomics team
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