What I've been reading

So much good stuff I feel spoiled.

  • Paul Collier’s The Bottom Billion is a splendid data-driven romp through development economics, and what we can do to make a difference, particularly when it comes to thorny topics of corruption and conflict (HT: Andrew Egan, who also drew my attention to this critique by David Roodman).
  • Sudhir Venkatesh’s Gang Leader for a Day is a funny, brave, slightly crazy, and incredibly insightful look into how gangs operate, and how tough it is to do great observational sociology.
  • Tyler Cowen’s Discover Your Inner Economist is the advice book you should buy for your favourite teenager or twentysomething. While Tyler is an economist through and through, it somehow felt like the book was mis-named. Perhaps it should have been called ‘how to be a polymath like Tyler’ (I mean that in the nicest way – the guy’s incredible). Readers past the age of 30 will enjoy it too – it’s just that younger readers will have more years to put his advice into action.
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4 Responses to What I've been reading

  1. While I liked Cowen’s earlier books, and his blog is among my favourites, I wasn’t so keen on Discover Your Inner Economist. It was too much like the blog, I want more depth and detail in a book.

  2. christine says:

    With Andrew N on this one. A couple of gems, but it’s well behind most of the other popular economics books I’ve read recently. I thought it put too much emphasis on counterintuitive and quirky points (which is what’s so great about the blog), without really managing to pull it together. Also, not much evidence for anything – mostly speculative. Fun still, but not great.

  3. Andrew Leigh says:

    I think you might both be evaluating it as an economics book, while I’m assessing it as a life advice book.

  4. Andrew – I am less interested in lifestyle books than economics books. But I don’t think that’s the problem, it is that you expect with the space of a book authors will develop an argument and create some get their material to cohere. I’ve said before that books by journalists are rarely any good, because they read like a succession of long feature articles, and end up being shallow and disjointed. If this is a guide, books by bloggers have the same problem, but worse. If you read this book like a blog – a few minutes a day – it would be ok. But read it in longer stretches and it doesn’t work, or didn’t for me.

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