Below is the list of books from which you may choose for the 5-7 page papers for this course. Since there are two papers, you must chose two books. I will not allow students to substitute their own choices, because I see part of my job as a professor as being to recommend books to students. In any event, there is a fairly wide range of choices here.
Your analysis will focus on an important thesis of the book from an economic perspective. Describe the thesis, explain how the author supports that thesis, and analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the author's argument.
These assignments challenge you to read and digest nonfiction. It is not a good idea to sit down and read nonfiction books cover to cover. Instead, first skim the book, looking for introductory material, summary material, or other chapters that seem to contain main ideas. Read those chapters first. Often, you will have to hunt for such chapters, because authors may put them in unexpected places. Once you have a notion of the main ideas in the book, then you can proceed to read the entire book.
The book paper is not a summary or a review. Instead, imagine that a Presidential candidate asked you to read the book and extract from it some lessons that pertain to economic policy. The reader is not interested in your personal opinion or reaction to the book. Feel free to dispute the author, but express your disagreement analytically, not personally.
Note. For each paper, it would be a good idea to have the book chosen and in your possession three weeks before the paper is due, so that you will have time to read the book.
Most of these books are likely to be available in the university library. However, most of them are less than $30 on Amazon.com, so that it would not hurt to purchase one of them--or several!
For your two papers, do not choose two books from the same category. Categories are given in bold.
For more on the grading criteria and expectations for the book papers, there is this old lecture.
Economic Development and Growth
- William Easterly, The White Man's Burden. A former World Bank expert looks at what's wrong with aid programs.
- Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital. Claims to have the solution to economic backwardness
- William Lewis, The Power of Productivity. Why some countries are more successful than others.
- Paul Collier, The Bottom Billion. Discusses the tremendous gap between the poorest sixth of the world's population and the rest of the world, and what to do about it.
- Lant Pritchett, Let Their People Come. Makes the case for allowing more immigration in order to help the world's poor.
Technology, the Environment, and the Future
- Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near. A successful geek-entrepreneur looks at where we came from and where we are going.
- Carl Shapiro and Hal Varian, Information Rules. The modern dilemma is that information wants to be free but people still need to get paid. This book was written soon after the Internet became commercial. The examples will seem outdated but the economic principles are not
- Bjorn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist. Economic and statistical analysis of environmental issues
Health Care and Poverty
- Arnold Kling, Crisis of Abundance. We obtain lots of health care services. How do we pay for them? (warning: flattery will get you nowhere. treat this book as you would any other)
- David Cutler, Your Money or Your Life. Economic analysis of our health care system.
- Nortin M. Hadler, The Last Well Person. An M.D. with a radical critique of the cost-effectiveness of heart surgery and other widely-accepted medical practices.
- Kevin Lang, Poverty and Discrimination. This book takes a careful look at trends in poverty and causes of poverty. The publishers position it as a textbook, so it is relatively expensive.
- Amity Shlaes, The Forgotten Man. This history of the Great Depression takes you into the minds of some key leaders of that period.
- Gregory Clark, A Farewell to Alms. How the world got stuck in the "Malthusian trap" of perpetual poverty, and how part of the world escaped.
- Robert Fogel, The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death. A Nobel Prize-winning economic historian looks at where we came from and where we are going. Warning--starts out somewhat difficult.
Business and American Well-being
- Ben Casnocha, My Start-up Life. The wit and wisdom of a very young entrepreneur.
- Amar Bhide, The Origin and Evolution of New Businesses. Brilliant examination of the role of size and risk in the business ecosystem. Somewhat difficult