“Economics and Business” Books of the Year (Economist)


These are Economist’s editorial picks —  and not best sellers (as was previously complained about) — in the category  "Economics and business"

Note: The selection of books and authors is by The Economist; the order of books is mine; The books that have the cover image I have either read or browsed and want to read (and are my recommendations off of this list):


Last_tycoonsThe Last Tycoons: The Secret History of Lazard Frères & Co—A Tale of Unrestrained Ambition, Billion-Dollar Fortunes, Byzantine Power Struggles, and Hidden Scandal

By William D. Cohan. Doubleday; 742 pages; $29.95

How an investment bank concentrated on providing corporate advice to the rich and powerful—a business model that relied not on its balance sheet but on the brains and wiles of the men toiling away in its famously ratty offices. William Cohan used to work at Lazard’s himself.



Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-by-Numbers Is the New Way to Be Smart

By Ian Ayres. Bantam; 272 pages; $25. John Murray; £16.99

lively and clear analysis of how the accumulation of large bodies of
data is changing the way that businesses (and people) make decisions.



The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
By Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Random House; 400 pages; $26.95. Allen Lane; £20

A Wall Street trader turned philosopher on the power of the unexpected.



Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything

By Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams. Portfolio; 320 pages; $25.95. Atlantic Books; £16.99

A believers’ guide to how the emergence of community on the internet is fundamentally changing business.


The Billionaire Who Wasn’t: How Chuck Feeney Secretly Made and Gave Away a Fortune

By Conor O’Clery. PublicAffairs; 352 pages; $26.95 and £15.99

rollicking story of how, by stealth, an Irish-American obsessed by
secrecy built a business empire and revolutionised philanthropy.


From Higher Aims to Hired Hands: The Social Transformation of American Business Schools and the Unfulfilled Promise of Management as a Profession

By Rakesh Khurana. Princeton University Press; 542 pages; $35 and £19

A Harvard Business School professor tells the fascinating tale of how management has lost its way.

The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It

By Paul Collier. Oxford University Press; 224 pages; $28 and £16.99

with statistical nuggets and common sense, this book, by an economics
professor at Oxford University, should be compulsory reading for anyone
embroiled in the thankless business of trying to pull people out of the
pit of poverty.

Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits

By Leslie R. Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant. Jossey-Bass; 336 pages; $29.95 and £15.99

As the importance of non-profit organisations grows, so does the need for them to be well managed and effective. Cleverly chosen examples show how the best achieve their impact.


The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World

By Alan Greenspan. Penguin Press; 531 pages; $35 and £25

memoir-cum-essay by the famously opaque former chairman of the Federal
Reserve that provides few surprises, but is an unexpectedly enjoyable

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. VJ commented on Dec 10

    Taleb’s “The Black Swan” is VERY good. His earlier “Fooled by Randomness” is good as well.

  2. Florida commented on Dec 10

    The Black Swan has been at the top of my list for some time now. I keep picking it up at the bookstore and finding choice passages, but never buy because I know I’m too busy to read it right now.

  3. Stuart commented on Dec 10

    Here’s a great book theme in the writing, by someone soon I’m sure;

    -Was mankind foolish or just insane-.

    I vote insane.

    Derivative Trades Soar to Record $681 Trillion in Third Quarter
    By Hamish Risk in London, Bloomberg
    Dec. 10, 2007

    Dec. 10 (Bloomberg) — Derivatives traded on exchanges surged 27 percent to a record $681 trillion in the third quarter, the biggest increase in three years, the Bank for International Settlements said.

    Interest-rate futures, contracts designed to speculate on or hedge against moves in borrowing rates, led the increase with a 31 percent increase to $594 trillion during the three months ended Sept. 30, the Basel, Switzerland-based BIS said today in its quarterly review. The amounts are based on the notional amount underlying the contracts.

    Trading surged as investors bet on losses linked to record U.S. mortgage foreclosures and policy changes by the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank to offset the credit slump. The Fed cut its benchmark interest rate by half a point to 4.75 percent in September, the central bank’s first reduction in four years.

    “The turbulence in financial markets led to the busiest trading on record,” BIS analysts Ryan Stever, Christian Upper and Goetz von Peter wrote in the report.

    Trading in stock index futures and options rose 19 percent to a record $81 trillion in the third quarter, as investors speculated on whether the credit-market losses would spread to the equity markets.

    The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 1.74 percent in the three months to Sept. 30. The Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index in Europe fell 3 percent in the same period.

    “Equity investors are using derivatives more aggressively as they have come to understand the more sophisticated instruments over time,” said Jim Josephson, head of derivatives flow trading at Bear Stearns Cos. in London.

    Currency Swings

    Swings in currencies increased as the turmoil in the U.S. subprime mortgage market prompted investors to dump high- yielding assets financed through low-interest currencies such as the yen and Swiss franc. Volatility among the seven most-traded currencies surged almost 24 percent in August, the most since December 1996, a JPMorgan Chase & Co. index shows.

  4. VJ commented on Dec 11


    Check out the 2002 Malcolm Gladwell essay titled “BLOWING UP: How Nassim Taleb turned the inevitability of disaster into an investment strategy“, about Taleb and Victor Niederhoffer. This was back when Taleb was a quant.

    Gladwell.com Link

  5. Mo commented on Dec 11

    I listened to a BBC Radio 4 interview with Nassim Taleb a few months ago, which might still be downloadable. A very unique individual.

  6. Eclectic commented on Dec 11

    I’ve got your book of the year right here. It’s called the “Book of Eclectic” and it’s free and it’s illustrated. I’ll start with the i-l-l-u-s-t-r-a-t-i-o-n first:

    Start by making a fist and hold it in front of your computer screen, or toward the direction of any other lighted background so as to make your fist form a silhouette. That’s it, yes… excellent!… but now slowly withdraw from the fist formation only the forefinger and thumb*

    [*] For any of you missing either of these 2 digits, you are free to substitute the next nearest digit for my purposes.

    Good! Now bring the thumb and forefinger straight out and almost parallel but curved slightly to a point between the digits, and keep them separated by just enough to let light pass through the space between their ends… not that much space!… Bring them closer and closer together until they’re so close that the light waves are bent into a mirage, close enough to simulate touching but not touching, but also still blocking the light.

    Now, from that position separate them the tinniest wee bit, until the mirage no longer blocks the light.

    That’s the point… now, hold it right there!

    You have now completed the illustration, and what it means is that…

    We are just that close to the financial system unraveling, and, to now, the Fed has been dead from the shoulders up.

    The rest of the Book of Eclectic, I‘ve been writing it all here for munts and munts.

    I don’t have time to teach it all to you again, but we are so pungently, palpably, preciously c-l-o-s-e to my Coefficient of Perceived Liquidity s-p-i-k-i-n-g to the moon, and if that ever happens (nobody can know when or if, but it’s just that close… just that close) it’s going to be a whole new world of hurt:


    Sitting around playing academic Ping-Pong over the matter of whether it’s 25 or 50, and what GDP and employment and inflation are doing is NOT the problem. It’s loss of CONFIDENCE in the financial system that put us at this precipice… and it’s going to take something sweeping and formidable to regain it.

    25 or 50 do not inspire CONFIDENCE.

    Are you listening?

    The word is C-O-N-F-I-D-E-N-C-E and to now the Fed ain’t generatin’ any of it.

  7. Vega commented on Dec 11

    Okay, I’ll take the other side of the Taleb trade: I HATED “The Black Swan.” Could he be more pompous? Could he explain away EVERYTHING due to chance? Hey, BUDDY, what about free will and self-determinism? Taleb strikes me as a smart dude who likes to reference-drop way too much, someone who comes from a nice/wealthy family, who seems more suited to be the son of a king rather than some dude who likes to buy options and trade his gamma. In fact, he makes so many contradictions in his book that I nearly puked reading it.

    Sorry to be a hater. I just refuse to like his need to be accepted as smart and quirky and better than most people because he thinks he’s smart and quirky. In a word: INTOLERABLE.

  8. cinefoz commented on Dec 11

    I started reading one of Taleb’s book and found it boring and ponderous.

    My favorite of recent date is ‘Mean Markets and Lizard Brains’. It is light reading, but provides exceptional insight into knee-jerk investing and how to avoid it.

  9. maltby commented on Dec 11

    I’ll also pipe in on Taleb. Fooled By Randomness is at best a long magazine article stretched to book length. Some good points, a few interesting anecdotes, and a fair amount of self promotion.

    He takes the old business saw, tell em what you are going to tell em, tell em, and then tell em what you told to new heights.

    Theres a preface where he does that, followed by a list of chapters with a description of what each chapter will tell you, and then each chapter begins with a description of what it is going to tell you, and in the chapters he tells you what he will be telling you in other chapters and what he told you in previous chapters, etc etc.

  10. daisycolorado commented on Dec 11

    Vega I am with you. The Black Swan is almost unreadable. And if you have met Taleb or seen him speak you know that he is even more pompous in person than he is in print.

    I also think it is a matter of professional jealousy that the Economist left out Amity Shales excellent book on the Great Depression, titled “The Forgotten Man”/

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