For the economics category, you can either read about the economy of any country you’re not a citizen of or international economics. As always, I’ve divided the suggestions I found into categories.
- Power and Plenty: Trade, War, and the World Economy in the Second Millennium by Ronald Findlay (Author), Kevin H. O’Rourke: this is a huge look at economics around the world over the last thousand years.
- No One Makes You Shop at Wal-Mart: The Surprising Deceptions of Individual Choice by Tom Slee: a 2006 book that looks at whether individuals really can protest corporations by simply shopping elsewhere. And if not, should more be done on a government to reign in those corporations?
- Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science by Charles Wheelan: a ‘pop economics’ book aimed at making people economic literate. It’s also written in a light and entertaining style! It could provide a good base for those who want to learn more about the discipline. That being said, Wheelan works for The Economist, so I’m sure the book is strongly biased towards neo-liberal economics.
Development Economics and Philanthropy
- Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits by by Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant: this an analysis of the American non-profit industry through the lens of business. Non-American participants might enjoy reading about charitable work that occurs in the developed world, instead of just the developing! 🙂
- The Billionaire Who Wasn’t: How Chuck Feeney Made and Gave Away a Fortune Without Anyone Knowing by Conor O’Clery: this is a biography of a modern American billionaire philanthropist. As such, it’s really more appropriate for non-American challenge participants, but since he gives some of his money to international charities, I’ll look the other way if an American reader wants to go for it. 😉
- The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It by Paul Collier: another important work on development, in the same vein as Sachs (with different theories, obviously).
- The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good by William Easterly: for a different view of development, check out this scathing analysis of the ‘humantarian aid establishment.’
- The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time by Jeffrey Sachs: in this book, Sachs argues that new global policies could end extreme poverty (people living on less than a dollar a day) within twenty-five years. I found his case compelling and interesting. (He also has a new book out, Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet that I haven’t read but that sounds good.)
- Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism by Muhammad Yunus : Yunus, a Bangladeshi, founded the use of microcredit to help raise people out of poverty. For those who don’t know, it’s a widely successful form of development aid that gives poor people access to very small loans (maybe around $200) that allow them to break the cycle of their poverty. The borrowers form small circles that support each other and ensure the money is paid back. I’ve read Yunus’ memoir (Banker to the Poor) and found it compulsively readable-I’m sure his new book, which looks at microcredit in depth as well as ‘social business’ will be as well.
- A Billion Bootstraps: Microcredit, Barefoot Banking, and The Business Solution for Ending Poverty by Philip Smith and Eric Thurman: if you’re curious about microcredit as a tool for philanthropy, this short, straightforward account will answer all of your questions. See my review.
Against the Mainstream Point of View
- Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang: this is another critique of neo-liberal philosophy and globalisation, one that’s received high marks from all sorts of reviewing sources. Plus, the first chapter shows why Thomas Friedman’s thinking is flawed! I’ll definitely be reading this one. 🙂
- How Rich Countries Got Rich . . . and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor by Erik Reinert: a revisionist look at the history of development as well as its status today. This is an important book, in that it balances out the neo-liberal viewpoint that makes up the majority of this booklist.
- Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future by Bill McKibben: a new book (2008) that addresses various aspects of sustainability and both analysis current practices and offers suggestions for the future.
- Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered by E. F. Schumacher: a more philosophical approach to economics, and an analysis of what needs to be done for sustainable (in both the human and environmental sense) practices.
Globalization and World Trade
- The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade by Pietra Rivoli: a Georgetown economic’s professor exploration of world trade’s effect at the personal and policy levels.
- Global Capitalism: Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century by Jeffry A. Frieden: this is a longer book (over 500 pages) that looks at whether today’s globalization was always as inevitable as it now seems. Not surprisingly, the answer is no.
- George Soros On Globalization by George Soros: Soros is one of the most famous investors today, he’s that good. In this book, he reflects on the economics of that twenty-first century buzzword: globalization. (He also has a new book out about the credit crisis: The New Paradigm for Financial Markets)
- Globalization and Its Discontents by Joseph E. Stiglitz: a strong introduction to globalization by a Nobel-prize winning economist.
The Financial Market (and our current crisis)
- Fixing Global Finance by Martin Wolf: another book on the current financial crisis, written by a columnist for the Financial Times. Thus, it’s going to be intelligent, well-written, and have a strong neo-liberal bias to it.
- The Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash by Charles R. Morris: obviously, the most visible aspect of the economy right now is its problems. This book, chosen by The Economist as a book of the year, explains where the credit crisis came from.
- The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World by Niall Ferguson: this new book about financial history (and it starts in 1000 BC) by a Harvard professor has a fascinating premise, and mainly strong reviews.
- The Elephant and the Dragon: The Rise of India and China and What It Means for All of Us by Robyn Meredith: a short (less than 300 pages) book from Forbes foreign correspondent that takes the view that India and China do not threaten the US.
- China Shakes the World: A Titan’s Rise and Troubled Future — and the Challenge for America by James Kynge: a former Financial Times bureau chief’s analysis of how China’s growing demand for raw materials will affect world markets.
- In Spite of the Gods: The Rise of Modern India by Edward Luce: this book looks at India as a whole, but especially how its economic transformation has affected the country.