Stories | August 15, 2018

What’s on your book shelf this summer? Here’s our 2018 reading list

A good book provides information and entertainment in one neat, portable package: ideal when you're on the move for work or play. But we all make different choices – why not compare yours with the top picks of this year’s six economics, money and behavioural science experts?

We asked each to provide two recommendations: a book of any kind that he or she really enjoyed, and a book related to their work that everyone should read. Enjoy!

 Ian Bright, managing director - group research, ING

The Killing of Butterfly Joe by Rhidian Brook
Written by my friend Rhidian Brook, this introduces the larger-than-life character of Joe, his dysfunctional family and an opportunistic, naive Welshman on the great American road trip. You won’t forget Joe in a hurry.

Economics for the Common Good by Jean Tirole (English translation)
This is wonderful. It should not be read from cover to cover because each chapter forces you to think hard. I am still dipping in and out of it. Written in five parts it covers many diverse and topical issues such as environmental challenges, the usefulness of finance and – 2014 Nobel laureate Tirole’s speciality – how companies and markets are organised in an age of digitalisation and how or whether they should be regulated. More important in my view is the discussion about the role of economics in society. Tirole writes that he hesitated before including these sections because he “feared that they might contribute to the contemporary trend to turn economists into media personalities”. I am glad he relented. The discussion is challenging and rewarding.

 Jessica Exton, behavioural scientist - group research, ING

Rebel Talent: Why it Pays to Break the Rules at Work and in Life by Francesca Gino
Gino, a professor at Harvard Business School, explores traits of those who rebel against rules and norms in a way that it is constructive for the overall goals of the organisation or group they work for. The book is a collection of research that finds the different ways rebelling can be effective and interviews with people who are, by Gino’s definition, talented rebels. She argues that the passion, drive, curiosity and creativity of these people can be very valuable for organisations. A read for those interested in understanding why science suggests it pays to break the rules!

Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter by Dan Ariely and Jeff Kreisler
This is a rather characteristic collection of studies that look at the quirky ways we tend to think about money, coupled with some useful actions and takeaways. The book prompts us to think slightly differently about why we spend and save the way we do.

 Maria Ferreira Sequeda, senior economist, professional research, ING

Small Country by Gaël Faye (English translation)
“I was born with this story. It ran in my blood. I belonged to it.” A most powerful novel about childhood, conflict, exile and identity. This almost lyrical story takes you through the Rwandan civil war and genocide from the perspective of Gabriel, a 10-year-old boy with a French father and a Rwandan mother. Gabriel takes you on his journey -- stumbling through the processing of new realities, gaining delayed understanding. Simply unforgettable!

Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics by Richard H Thaler
An entertaining and intellectually stimulating book. With personal anecdotes, funny stories, and deep research, Thaler tells us the chronological history of behavioural economics, stemming from Simon’s idea that humans are rationally "satisficing", rather than mythical rationally optimising agents. The book persuades the reader that behavioural studies, which focus on humans, are here to stay!

 Annie Shaw, journalist and financial “agony aunt” @CashQuestions

Golden Hill by Francis Spufford (Costa Book Award Winner)
This book has been described by one critic as “the best 18th century novel since the 18th century”. Spufford conjures up in convincing detail a time when New York was a small town at the tip of Manhattan Island, still run by the British, with the War of Independence just 30 years away. Endlessly inventive, and written in an engaging 18th century style, Golden Hill is the very best kind of escapism for the summer.

Poverty Safari by Darren McGarvey (Orwell Prize 2018)
A comment on Twitter by Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator, led me to this one. The idea that a book about a life on benefits, written by a former addict and alcohol abuser from Glasgow, was being described as “the best short book about modern British poverty - its nature and causes - for many years” by a right-wing journalist piqued my interest enough to buy it and I too now recommend it. McGarvey, also known as rapper Loki, has an engaging narrative style and interesting ideas about how “the poor” can be helped out of poverty – or indeed help themselves, as he advocates and he himself has done. You can probably read this book in an afternoon and it is certainly worth doing so.

And Annie squeezed in a third top choice -
Raising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income Can Renew Our Economy and Rebuild the American Dream by Andy Stern
Like it or not, inequality and how people displaced from employment by the new age of machines will make ends meet are issues that will soon be at the top of politicians’ and economists’ agendas. The idea of universal basic income is not new but we are going to hear about it more and more as proponents push for it. Even if you end up disagreeing, at least you will have a grasp of the issues and know what everyone is talking about.

 

Garrett Meccariello, behavioural scientist and awardwinning Pennsylvania graduate researcher

The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google by Scott Galloway
I would say this one falls into my top five books of all time, let alone all year. The Four takes you on a deep dive into how Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google have captured the hearts and wallets of billions. The degree of power these four technology companies have over consumers and economies is fascinating. And Galloway does not stop short in explaining how these technology-powered entities have become such an influential factor in our lives. While I do not recommend that one applies similar principles to one’s own career, there is insight here into how an individual might use dishonest tactics for his or her own advantage. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding behavioural and social-norm change at such a large scale.

Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics by Richard H Thaler
Authored by the Nobel-Prize winning economist behind another famous behavioural economics text, Nudge, this is a detailed read that explains the origins of behavioural economics in depth. All too often, bestsellers on behavioural economics are simplified to appeal to a general audience, but Misbehaving (ironically for its name) bucks that norm. This is a fantastic introduction to behavioural economics as well as great supplemental reading for anyone who wants to learn more about the origins of the field. Similar works focus on changing behaviour in a variety of contexts, but typically gloss over the origins of "irrational thinking” - these origins helped shape the field we know today. If you have a slightest interest in the field of behavioural economics, run - do not walk - to your nearest bookseller and pick up a copy of this delightful book.

 

Richard Shotton, author of The Choice Factory, a book on applying behavioural science to advertising

One Plus One Equals Three: A Masterclass in Creative Thinking by Dave Trott
A fantastic book about creative thinking from one of Britain’s greatest advertising creative directors of the last 50 years. The book is comprised of a series of short chapters, each detailing an anecdote or event. The wide-ranging stories (they cover everything from military history to Trott’s childhood in the East End) are interesting in their own right but the real value of the book lies in how Trott relates them to broader themes of problem-solving. Trott’s accessible style, sense of humour and opinionated approach makes this a very enjoyable read.

Irrationality: The Enemy Within by Stuart Sutherland
If I had to recommend just one pure psychology book, it’d be this. It was written by Sutherland, professor of experimental psychology at the University of Sussex in 1992, a full 16 years before Nudge. Somehow, in the early 2000s, it went out of print. Before it was reissued, secondhand copies were so sought after that they traded for a hundred pounds. It’s a wide-ranging book, covering a huge array of biases. Whatever problem you’re working on, there’ll be a relevant experiment in here. Best of all: it’s a joy to read.

eZonomics team
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