The Enlightened Economist book prize shortlist, 2014

The year has flown past, and it’s time to announce the list of contenders for the Enlightened Economist Prize this year. Last year’s winner was Jeremy Adelman’s biography of Albert Hirschman, The Worldly Philosopher. A reminder of the rules: this is my personal choice among the books I happened to read in the past 12 months, no matter when they were published. The prize is that I offer to take the winner out to dinner should we find ourselves in the same city.

With that, here is this year’s shortlist.

 Vaclav Smil (review)

 Joe Studwell (review) [amazon_image id=”1846682436″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the World’s Most Dynamic Region[/amazon_image]

 David Runciman

 Anthony King & Ivor Crewe [amazon_image id=”1780744056″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Blunders of Our Governments[/amazon_image]

 Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee (review)

 George Packer (review) [amazon_image id=”0571251293″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Unwinding: Thirty Years of American Decline[/amazon_image]

 Gregory Clark (review)

 Thomas Piketty (review)

Jon Gertner (review) [amazon_image id=”1594203288″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation[/amazon_image]

 David Colander and Roland Kupers (review)

 Rose George (review) [amazon_image id=”1846272998″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Deep Sea and Foreign Going: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Brings You 90% of Everything[/amazon_image]

 Till Duppe and Roy Weintraub (review) [amazon_image id=”0691156646″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Finding Equilibrium: Arrow, Debreu, McKenzie and the Problem of Scientific Credit[/amazon_image]

The winner will be announced in a couple of weeks.


The Enlightened Economist Prize – 2013 Winner

A couple of weeks ago I posted the shortlist for the Enlightened Economist prize this year. The time has come to announce the winner – with the reminder that the rules are wholly idiosyncratic: the candidates are books I happen to have read this year, regardless of publication date; the choice is entirely down to me; and the prize (apart from the honour) is that I will take the author for a fine dinner should we find ourselves in the same city.

It has been a tough choice. In fact, so close that I want to announce two runners-up as well. They are  by Anat Admati and Martin Hellwig and  by Dieter Helm.

 makes a simple, powerful argument: that banks need to raise more capital. It is entirely persuasive that the extent of their leverage makes the financial system fragile, and it clearly and patiently demolishes all the counter-arguments made by the banks and their lobbyists. Why should banks, so central to the economy and in the business of risk, be allowed to get away with so much less capital versus debt than any other kind of business? Here is my original review.

[amazon_image id=”0691156840″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Bankers’ New Clothes: Whats Wrong with Banking and What to Do about It[/amazon_image]

 is a wonderfully clear-eyed assessment of energy policy in the light of climate change, and in its respect for facts over myths could annoy environmentalists and climate change sceptics equally. It is a model of how applied economics should engage with policy questions, with recommendations that lie in the realm of everyday politics. It is also extremely well-written – everybody should at least read the chapter on wind power. My review here.

[amazon_image id=”0300197195″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Carbon Crunch: How We’re Getting Climate Change Wrong – and How to Fix it[/amazon_image]

However, the winner is Jeremy Adelman’s , a biography of Albert Hirschman. Hirschman’s life story is extraordinary, and his early years make for a gripping tale. What I particularly enjoyed, though, was the portrait of an economist whose economics had a context in the realities of the countries Hirschman studied, their history and politics and culture, and in his wide reading in philosophy and other subjects. As I noted in my review and an FT Alphachat podcast discussion with Tyler Cowen, Hirschman was out of touch with the direction economics took during his lifetime, but the subject is now turning away from abstraction and back (I think and hope) towards its roots as ‘worldly philosophy’.

[amazon_image id=”0691155674″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman[/amazon_image]

A worthy winner – congratulations to Professor Adelman!


The Enlightened Economist Book Prize shortlist, 2013

It is a year since I announced the winner of the inaugural Enlightened Economist Book Prize – it was Ariel Rubinstein’s . A little late this year, here is this year’s shortlist.

A reminder of the rules. This prize is wholly idiosyncratic. The entrants are books I happen to have read since the last prize – date of publication, format etc are irrelevant. They are suitable for the general reader as well as the professional economist. The choice of winner is entirely mine, although I’m always interested in other people’s opinions. The prize is the kudos, although I also offer a nice dinner to the winner, should he or she want to take it up.

Just recently I discussed some of the best books of the year with Tyler Cowen and Cardiff Garcia on the FT Alphaville podcast, so there is a small overlap (the first three titles here) with that discussion in my list.

The first time through my notes, I came up with shortlist of 28, which isn’t all that short. So I brutally struck out all the non-economics books, including some terrific histories, such as  by Anne Applebaum and  by Tristram Hunt, and technology books like  by George Dyson and  by Illah Reza Nourbaksh.

So here is the final shortlist.

 by Jeremy Adelman

 by David Nye

[amazon_image id=”B00BIOFLWE” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]America’s Assembly Line[/amazon_image]

 by James Heckman

 by Tyler Cowen

 by Tim Harford

 by Dieter Helm

[amazon_image id=”0300197195″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Carbon Crunch: How We’re Getting Climate Change Wrong – and How to Fix it[/amazon_image]

 by Michael Pettis

 by Anat Admati & Martin Hellwig

 by Karl Sabbagh

[amazon_image id=”B00BBJCUUW” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Shooting Star (Kindle Single)[/amazon_image]

 by Stephen King

 by Benn Steil

 by Nate Silver

[amazon_image id=”0141975652″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Signal and the Noise: The Art and Science of Prediction[/amazon_image]

I will announce my winner in a couple of weeks.


Best economics books – The Enlightened Economist Prize

The announcement of the shortlist for the FT’s Business Book of the Year is always interesting – tellingly, the article about it in yesterday’s paper had the headline A reading list to reflect loss of faith in capitalism. As ever, I’ve read some, but not all, of the titles, so it adds some interesting new ones to my reading list. Of the shortlist, I’ve reviewed Why Nations Fail, Paper Promises and What Money Can’t Buy.

I’ve gone back through the months since January 2012 to pick out my own longish shortlist for The Enlightened Economist Prize (the criterion is that I happened to read them in the past 12 months, and my non-economics reading is excluded).

The list is:

 David Graeber

 Roger Backhouse and Bradley Bateman

 Daniel Kahneman

 Nicholas Wapshott

David Wolman

 Nicholas Shaxson

 Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson

 Gary Fields

 Timur Kuran

Peter Marsh

 Ariel Rubinstein

 Paul Ormerod

Scott Patterson

 Justin Yifu Lin

The winner of The Enlightened Economist economics book of 2012 will also be announced in September. I can’t offer a cash prize but will be delighted to offer a nice dinner in London to the winning author(s).

The prize – dinner’s on me