Tuesday, February 2, 2010

More on econ books

I have been reading quite a few books recently. Here are my thoughts for both students and non-students who are looking for economics (or non-economics) related readings:

1. Game Change. An outstanding book. Not really related to economics, but a student of game theory should find this book fascinating, as the campaign is basically one long sequential game. The authors do a good job of explaining all the moves in the campaign, and all the little things that become big things.

2. The Return of Depression Economics. (Krugman). A very good book. Krugman, in his NYT articles, ceases to be an economist. He is instead, in my opinion, a hack for the democratic party. You can see this as his policy recommendations shift over time to represent the current views of the party and by his hatred for republicans and ideas generated by republicans. It is quite disgusting, really, to think about the hatred he harbors. This book, however, is Krugman the economist. He does a great job describing how crises evolved in various countries with great clarity.

3. Superfreakonomics. (Dubner and Levitt). A horrible book. As you may remember, I loved the first book. In freakonomics, the authors told neat stories of how names were chosen, cheating on tests, and drugs based on their research. In this book, they think they have solved all the world's problems. Their arrogance is pretty appalling. In one section, I have significant expertise. The discuss field experiments and laboratory experiments - and I have conducted both. The discuss a problem with inflated giving in a game called the dictator game and how field experiments solved them. However, a 2002 American Economic Review article by Cherry et al. already solved that problem within laboratory experiments (7 years prior to this book being released). That is like the authors today saying they have just solved the problem of smallpox in the US - a disease that has been eradicated for decades. Their (knowingly?) ignoring these facts makes me think lightly of everything else in this book. I simply cannot believe anything they write. If I had to nominate a worst book of the decade that I read - this would be it.

Non-Econ related books that I have read recently:

Doyle Brunson's autobiography: Outstanding, at least if you like poker.

Lee Child's books. I have read two now - and both are outstanding. The first I read was Echo Burning after my brother Mark recommended it to me and let me borrow his copy. From there, I bought his first book about Jack Reacher called Killing Floor. I will likely read more of Child's books.

Currently reading Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do by Mandel and about to start Mike Matasow's autobiography.