The 2020 Enlightened Economist Prize – (very) longlist

It’s the time of year when I look back over 12 months of reading and nominate a ‘winner’. The rules are: this is entirely arbitrary. It depends what I liked best (for ideas, quality of writing, provocativeness, accessibility etc) from what I happen to have read (publication date irrelevant). There is a prize: I offer to take the author(s) to lunch if we happen to be in the same city.

This year’s list is quite long. There is an actual longlist of 11 books (in the order I read them), then some supplementaries.

The longlist:

  1. Deaths of Despair – Anne Case and Angust Deaton. My review here.
  2. The Sum of the People – Andrew Whitby. My review here.
  3. Frank Ramsey – Cheryl Misak. My review here.
  4. The Economics of Belonging – Martin Sandbu. My review here.
  5. Arts and Minds – Anton Howes. My review here.
  6. Angrynomics – Mark Blyth and Eric Lonergan. My review here.
  7. If/Then – Jill Lepore. My review here.
  8. Boom and Bust – William Quinn and John Turner. My review here.
  9. The Code – Margaret O’Mara. My review here.
  10. Rentier Capitalism – Brett Christophers. My review here.
  11. The Mismeasure of Progress – Stephen Macekura. My review here.

Not much overlap with Tyler Cowen’s list. Mine reflects my leaning towards statistics and tech.

Supplementary lists.

Two books everyone should read before being allowed to hold or express any opinions about numbers in public life – compulsory purchases:

Three terrific books about democracy and its decline:

There are many good recent books about AI, but only one that can make you fall off your chair weeping with laughter. Great Holiday Season present to yourself:

There were a number of bubbling under titles, and a whole bunch of good books I read about logical positivism, the Vienna Circle, and the 1920s. But it was time to draw a line. I’ll select an overall winner in a week or so.




Enlightened Economist Prize 2017 – longlist

I’m late this year with drawing up my longlist. The rules are that the contenders are the books I happen to have read this past 12 months (they don’t have to have been published in 2017), and the choice of the ultimate winner is mine alone. Criteria include: interest and importance, enjoyability/readability/accessibility, and being related to economics (ruling out my history and pop science reading). Links are to reviews on this blog.

With that, and in no particular order, the 2017 longlist is:

The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis

Hall of Mirrors by Barry Eichengreen

The Financial Diaries by Jonathan Morduch and Rachel Schneider

The Wisdom of Finance by Mihir Desai

Beating the Odds by Justin Yifu Lin and Celestin Monga

The Pricing of Progress by Eli Cook

Adaptive Markets by Andrew Lo

Economics for the Common Good by Jean Tirole

Straight Talk on Trade by Dani Rodrik

The Attention Merchants by Timothy Wu


I’ll decide on the winner before Christmas. The Prize is the offer of a fine lunch or dinner should the prizewinner and I find ourselves in the same place. Oh, and the glory.

By the way, my nominations for the best non-econ books I read this year are:

Second Hand Time and The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich

The Deluge by Adam Tooze

East West Street by Philippe Sands


The Enlightened Economist Prize 2017 – the winner!

It has been a tough choice, as ever, to pick one winner out of the 14 titles on my longlist. It was a good year and all 14 are terrific books. After days of mulling it over, three contenders became clear. One was Robert Gordon’s The Rise and Fall of American Growth, because even though I disagree with parts of his analysis of today’s economy, it is a brilliant, magisterial work of economic history. All economists should read it. But Prof Gordon has won plenty of accolades for the book already and doesn’t need mine. I really enjoyed also Sam Bowles’s The Moral Economy, on the strengths but importantly the limits of economic analysis based on incentives as opposed to ‘moral sentiments’.


However, the Enlightened Economist Prize winner for 2016 is a book that was enjoyable to read, informed me about all kinds of things I hadn’t known, and is full of insights about the relationship between money and politics, and the nature of property and value. It’s a great example of history helping one think more clearly about the present and maybe the near future. It is Rebecca Spang’s Stuff and Money in the Time of the French Revolution.

Rebecca, if you read this, it means I owe you a nice lunch or dinner if we’re ever in the same place.









Winner of the Enlightened Economist Prize 2015

It has been a tough year to decide which of the titles on the longlist would win. The rules are that I make up the criteria and decide for myself – it’s a combination of readability,  telling me things I didn’t already know, and likely shelf longevity. And I have to have read the book in the past 12 months; publication date is not relevant.

The shortlist included

by Eden Medina,
by Cesar Hidalgo and
by John Kay.

[amazon_image id=”0262525968″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Cybernetic Revolutionaries: Technology and Politics in Allende’s Chile[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0465048994″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”1781254435″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Other People’s Money: Masters of the Universe or Servants of the People?[/amazon_image]

But the winner is:

by Joshua Angrist and Jorn-Steffen Pischke. It might seem surprising that I chose an econometrics text, but seriously if you have any interest at all in understanding how to treat evidence carefully and reason about causation, this is a very accessible explanation. It is also straightforward to read and understand – the technical bits are in an appendix to each chapter and easily skipped. I certainly think every economist and student of economics ought to read this book.

[amazon_image id=”B00SLVGQD0″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Mastering ‘Metrics: The Path from Cause to Effect: Written by Joshua D. Angrist, 2015 Edition, Publisher: Princeton University Press [Paperback][/amazon_image]


The Enlightened Economist Prize 2015 – the long list

A bit late this year, here is my shortlist for my personal prize for the best book I’ve read since last year’s shortlist. The rules are that date of publication doesn’t matter, only my date of reading the book, and that the winner in a week or so will be entirely my arbitrary choice – the one I enjoyed the most. The prize, apart from glory, is my offer to take the winner out for dinner .

So here they are in no particular order:

by Dani Rodrik (How to do economics well – review here )

Cesar Hidalgo (Information based economies  – review)

Alvin Roth (Market design – review)

James Bessen – (Technology and work – will review very soon)

William Davies – (Scepticism about behavioural economics and utilitarianism – review)

Peter Pomerantsev (The scary truth about modern Russia – review)

Jacob Soll (The history and influence of accountancy – review)

Martin Ford – (Technology and jobs, a pessimistic view – review)

John Kay (Pernicious modern finance – review)

Eden Medina (Using technology to shape society in Allende’s Chile – review)

Joshua Angrist and Steffen Pischke (Econometrics of the best kind, made fun – review)

Anthony Atkinson (What to do about it (and why), a practical agenda – review)

Ian Morris (Long run economic history – review)

– Joris Luydendijk (The sociology of pernicious modern finance – review)