Stories | July 29, 2015

Twelve must-read books for summer 2015

ING economists’ summer reading lists revealed.

The summer holiday season can be a time to kick back and catch up on some reading.  But which books are top of the list? Five ING economists have shared their must read books for 2015 – with the list ranging from the economics of cycling to a book about “hyper-capitalism”. 

Global chief economist Mark Cliffe
Antifragile: How to live in a world we don’t understand, Nassim Nicholas Taleb

After recent disruptive events in Greece and China I found myself rereading Nassim Taleb's 'Antifragile'. This book champions the idea of seeking positive benefits from negative shocks. Along the way, Taleb hurls abuse at those - including economists and regulators - who fail to recognise that the pursuit of stability can be self-defeating. While some critics find his colourful style offensive, I find it amusing. But his core thesis is compelling in a world that is in an era of radical political, social and technological change.
The psychopath test: A journey through the madness industry, Jon Ronson
Billed as a journalistic journey through the "psychopath industry", this books reads like a satirical novel. At turns funny and disturbing, it charts the struggles of medical professionals in treating psychopathic people who use charm and manipulation to conceal their condition and gain advantage. Through a series of entertaining interviews, Ronson learns that the eponymous test is not easy to apply. One unnerving observation, which he does not explore enough, is that people in leadership positions have a greater than average tendency to be psychopaths.

Head of macroeconomics, the Netherlands, Marieke Blom
Bikenomics: How bicycling can save the economy, Elly Blue

I love cycling, and I love economics. And this book is able to see the economic side of cycling – it actually explains how bicycling can save the economy. What are our real transportation costs? What are the external effects? My personal hope is that once everyone loves their bicycle as much as the Dutch, it will make them healthier and happier, with life being more sustainable.
How to avoid the other tourists: Amsterdam, Nina van der Weiden
Over the years, tourism has become more important to Amsterdam, which I like to see as an economist as it creates jobs and opportunities. But it does make the city busier and sometime locals try to escape the tourists. Even some tourists may now try to avoid “the other tourists” – hence the name of this independent tour guide book. From what I have seen, this book is thorough enough that it can inspire me to get to know my city even better. I am moving to another part of town this summer and am happy I can use it to get to know the new area. Reading it may be worthwhile for you, if you like visiting our city and really getting to know it.

Senior economist Ian Bright
Savage continent, Keith Lowe
This book gives a harrowing account of European development immediately after the Second World War. It has helped me put developments in Greece, the Ukraine and Russia into perspective – and sometimes a wish to scurry back to the relative safety of my native Australia.
New facts in finance, John Cochrane
It’s not a book, but the summer holidays might give enough relaxing headspace to contemplate this working paper explaining the role of index funds and understanding individual risk when setting up portfolios. I was re-introduced to this 1999 piece as I attempted part one of the author’s Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on asset pricing. Similarly, I have spent considerable time thinking and reading about lifecycle investment and target date funds. The 2013 article The Glidepath Illusion … and Potential Solutions is one of several that continues to challenge my preconceptions of investment.
Misbehaving, Richard Thaler
Lighter reading by the renowned behavioural economist and co-author of Nudge, this book is a readable and personalised history of how behavioural economics developed.

Dutch consumer economist Marten van Garderen
Abundance: The future is better than you think, Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler
This book by Singularity University chair Diamandis and journalist Kotler is about the idea that believe it (or not), new technology will solve most problems in the next few decades. I have yet to decide whether I believe it all, but it does make an interesting read.
The age of access, Jeremy Rifkin This title on “hyper-capitalism” is food for thought on how (internet)technology has changed and will change our economy. It was written in 2000, long before the sharing economy became a “trending topic”.
Makers: The new industrial revolution, Chris Anderson
As a firm believer in the wisdom of crowds, former Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson takes readers on a journey through a more-open playing field in which inventor-entrepreneurs (makers) will fuel economic development while creating fulfilling, less-hierarchical communities. It is another title that offers inspiration on how technology could change our world even more in years to come.

Chief international economist Rob Carnell
1000 years of annoying the French, Stephen Clarke

An irreverent “historical” narrative of the love-hate relationship between the English (and latterly the British) and the French. Not to be taken too literally, and definitely with a strong Anglo bias, that will doubtless infuriate my French colleagues. But otherwise, quite fun and at times eye-opening. I recommend reading it together with my second recommendation, which bolsters the historical perspective.
Napoleon the great, Andrew Roberts
A rather more balanced biography detailing the complexities of the “French” leader. Always helps to understand present day social and cultural tensions by knowing your history. A good balance after my first choice. Though not nearly so fun.

Your “must reads”
Do you have a book to recommend? Tell us here or tweet @eZonomics with the hashtag #summerofbooks.

The 2015 list has been updated from nine books in the original to twelve, to include additional recommendations.

eZonomics team
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