Stories | July 23, 2013

What’s on ING economists’ recommended reading lists?

July and August are associated with holidays in Europe – and holidays are often associated with reading.

With this in mind, we’ve asked five of ING’s economists for their “must read” right now. Their recommended reading lists range from an analysis of failed forecasts through to a thriller novel set in 19th century Europe.  

ING Group chief economist Mark Cliffe
Positive Linking, Paul Ormerod

This book points out that people don't always respond to incentives in the way that conventional economics calls “rational”. But it goes beyond the biases identified by behavioural economics to show how people react to the behaviour of others. Social networks, and not just the online versions, sometimes show sudden and dramatic changes.

Smile or Die, Barbara Ehrenreich
It’s not new, but I read it recently. It's an engaging attack on the “positive thinking” ideology which has become particularly prevalent in the United States. The happiness industry is shown up as at best delusional and at worst actively damaging.

Future Babble, Dan Gardner
An entertaining romp through the history and psychology of failed expert forecasts. It explains why the most confident and dogmatic of experts, so beloved of the media, are generally the least accurate in their predictions and yet continue to thrive.

Antifragile, Nassim Taleb
Taleb, author of The Black Swan, expounds the merits of things that benefit from shocks. While some might find it rambling and bombastic, I find it hugely entertaining and provocative. The eclectic and unusual sources of his ideas are thought provoking.

Chief international economist Rob Carnell
Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T E Lawrence

If you can get past the first 80 pages or so of Lawrence’s objectionable and borderline racist views of the world, the rest delivers a fascinating narrative of the first “Arab revolt”, which shaped the Middle East as we know it today, and helps to explain the intra-regional conflicts that are still affecting our lives in a variety of ways – not merely economic.

Eurozone senior economist Martin van Vliet
Ending the Management Illusion, Hersh Shefrin

Shefrin is a pioneer of behavioural finance and I recently took one of his courses. In this book , he puts behavioural concepts into corporate practice; he addresses the biases that can take you or your organisation off course and shows how to run psychologically smart businesses.

Stabilising an Unstable Economy, Hyman Minsky
More than five years since the start of the global financial crisis, I thought it would be good to re-examine how it all began. This can hardly be done better than by using Mynsky’s financial instability hypothesis. This book was first published in 1986. At the time of writing, not everybody was a fan. Some say he cried wolf too often. To paraphrase an old joke by Paul Samuelson, he predicted around nine of the last three major financial crises...

The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, Dan Ariely
The third popular book of Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics. The subtitle How We Lie to Everyone, Especially Ourselves basically says it all. A must read for those of us looking for some self-reflection.

The Prague Cemetery, Umberto Eco
Not economics related but it’s good to have other interests, right? This thriller novel published in 2010 about 19th Century Europe abounds with conspiracy both ghastly and mysterious, and considered by some as Eco's best novel since The Name of the Rose.

Dutch consumer economist Marten van Garderen
Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman

The basics of behavioral economics. Learn to understand your own decisions, and why they do(not) always make sense…

Freakonomics, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
Published back in 2005, this book still gives fascinating insights into the real world. And it provides answers to intriguing questions like “what is more dangerous: a gun or a swimming pool?” All about carrots and sticks, and what really drives people.

Senior economist Ian Bright
Sometimes the best writing is short and challenging. And it does not need to be recent. At only seven pages (more than one of which is references), George Loewenstein’s paper Emotions in Economics Theory and Economic Behaviour from 2000 is still powerful and important. It can be read in one sitting but will stay with you forever. Holiday time well spent.

The Great Rebalancing, Michael Pettis
The best and most important economics book I have read this year. I do not think there is a single equation, data table or graph in this book. It relies only on balance of payment and national account identities to expose the foolishness of the moralistic approach of praising “good” savers and “bad” spenders. The introduction alone is thought provoking.

The Aftermath, Rhidian Brook
And just to prove economists don’t have to read economics books all the time, this book is an engaging story of the reconstruction of trust in post-war Germany. The author is a family friend but the story is engaging.

Do you have a book to recommend? Tell us here.

eZonomics team
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