Book Recs Needed- international relations, economics or other meaty non-fiction.

After four years living abroad and basically not having access to new English-language books, I’ve discovered I can download books from Amazon’s kindle store onto my computer and iPhone. Lucky for me, I find this a perfectly acceptable way to read. Perhaps it’s not as good as a physical book, but it’s certainly handy for all the travel I do and better than no books at all. I’ve gone a bit nuts buying books, and love having a little library with me everywhere I go.

So basically, I’m looking for some good non-fiction recommendations. I’ll be starting a grad program in International Development in a few months, so anything having to do with development/economics/international relations is good. I’m particularly interested in Africa and China. But really, my interests are pretty wide- history, language, whatever. Anything interesting.

I’m a fast reader, so I appreciate a good meaty book with lots of substance. Although something quick and light is nice now and then, I usually prefer a good slog that takes a while to get through and gives me lots to think about.


Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It) by William Poundstone

I wouldn’t call it a slog. It’s pretty easy to read, but it’s full of interesting ideas.

Try Military Expenditures and Economic Growth. It’s pretty good, and was written by a former student of mine.

Tropical Gangsters was great fun - IMF wonk’s adventures in Equatorial Guinea in the 1980s.

ETA: It’s far from a slog, though - it’s fairly light, only a couple steps, perhaps, above a standard travelogue.

**Nonzero **by Robert Wright - looks at the evolution of human’s ability to function in larger communities through the lens of Game Theory. By observing how societies behave in terms of their interests, it establishes a principal - that societies that survive look for win/win strategies with their bordering states. Truly readable and fascinating.

Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond: states the hypothesis that human racial groups are fundamentally equal in ability and that Western European (i.e., white) peoples became dominant through their environmental situation - nurture, not nature. The book then sets out to support this hypothesis - and does, IMHO, a great job of it.

Both seem like they might resonate with you given your global exposure and interests…

Some books I’ve enjoyed recently:

Why Your World Is About To Get A Whole Lot Smaller by Jeff Rubin - talking about peak oil.

Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update by Meadows, Randers, and Meadows - I’m still wading through this one. I’m a fast reader, too, and it’s taking me months to read this book, but the information is so good I keep slogging away. It’s basically an overview of human society and where we’re headed.

ETA: Forgot this one! Where Underpants Come From: From Checkout to Cotton Field - Travels Through The New China by Joe Bennett. This was an absolutely fascinating look at manufacturing, capitalism, and consumerism.

I recced it in a recent thread, but if you haven’t read it already, check out White Man’s Burden by Greg Easterly (on economic development in poor countries). Also, The Invisible Cure by Helen Epstein (on HIV/AIDS in Africa; I found this book to be particularly enlightening on how HIV spread so rapidly in Africa). Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder is good. Hm, kind of random, but I always like to recommend Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader by Bradley Martin (on the history of the North Korean regime).

Thanks! I recently got White Man’s Burden, which I read a while ago and completely forgot. I just put Priceless on my iPhone and will get to it as soon as I’m finished with my current books. And yeah, Mountains Beyond Mountains is a great book that changed my view of most things.

Keep 'em coming!

F. A. Hayek’s Road to Serfdom is a classic in economics, then you can go the opposite way and read Keynes or something.

I recently read The Bottom Billion, which is about the poorest of the poor countries, very interesting, though I don’t know enough about the topic to judge properly.

Read Robert Heilbroner’s “The Worldly Philosophers”, which is a history of economics by looking at the lives and philosophies of six economists; Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, Karl Marx, Thorstein Veblen, John Maynard Keynes, and Joseph Schumpeter.

You have to start with Sachs’s the End of poverty, and then go online and look up the actual articles that it’s based on. Also Global Problems, Global Solutions edited by Lomborg is an interesting read, especially if you’re interested in the practical elements of developing the third world.

For fun, Freaconomics is great.

Not at all a slog, but I’m finding much to think about: Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche by Ethan Watters. How the American model of mental illness – and its treatment – is changing understandings of various phenomena and behaviors around the world. The first chapter is on anorexia in Hong Kong, the second on PTSD in Sri Lanka, I’m in the middle of the third chapter, on schizophrenia in Zanzibar, and the last chapter is on depression in Japan.

Fascinating stuff – history of psychological diagnosis, mechanics of how our version gets exported, reflections on the implications [hint: we’re not necessarily helping here], plus some thoughts on the underlying dynamics. I’m going to be recommending this to several people.

Thanks guys! I’m gonna bump this one more time…I’ve got a lot of spare time and have been plowing through a couple of books a day!

The Metaphysical Club by Louis Menand. Philosophically delicious even if you are a Yale person.

My first post…woopie!

From Poverty to Prosperity
The Mystery of Capital
From Miracle to Maturity

The Founders and Finance: How Hamilton, Gallatin, and Other Immigrants Forged a New Economy by Thomas K. McCraw is good. It’s about how the American economic system was formed out of the amalgamation of two competing schools of economic theory.