You find here some book suggestions related to the topics covered by my blog (in order of years of publication). The list will be expanded continuously. Further recommendations are welcome.
- Fred Hirsch Social Limits to Growth (1976): a Veblenian argument explaining sociological-psychological roots of economic growth and the problems relating therefrom.
- Elinor Ostrom Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (1991): when it comes to collective goods and collective action in general, do we really have the choice between market and state regulation only? Ostrom rightly got the “Nobel prize” in economics for giving a negative answer.
- Amartya Sen Development as Freedom (1999): the book that pushed me towards economics; a nice synthesis of Sen’s highly interesting economic thinking, in which he includes such normally ignored aspects as freedom, rights and justice.
- Hans Christoph Binswanger Die Wachstumsspirale: Geld, Energie und Imagination in der Dynamik des Marktprozesses/The Growth Spiral: Money, Energy, and Imagination in the Dynamics of the Market Process (2006): a highly interesting critique of conventional economic thinking, including much history of economic thought; at the same time, a disconcerting model showing that a non-growing economy might be terribly difficult to achieve, if it is achievable at all.
- Frank Ackerman Can We Afford the Future?: The Economics of a Warming World (2009): what’s wrong with conventional climate economics? And why is Bjørn Lomborg wrong? A fresh view of the limits of economics to deal with climate change in an exact way.
- George Akerlof & Robert Shiller Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism (2009): the best book on the financial crisis known to me; also, a powerful critique of the assumption that people are rational or that markets “force” them to be so (see Efficient Market Hypothesis).
- Daniel Kahneman Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011): an exciting and sometimes frightening account of how irrational people are; great summary of existing research in behavioural psychology.
- Dani Rodrik The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy (2011): a thorough analysis of the limits of economic globalization and its possible conflict with democracy.
- Tim Jackson Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet (2012): should be required reading for every economics student; a powerful yet factual argument against the idea of infinite economic growth and a great summary of existing research.
- Niko Paech Befreiung vom Überfluss/Liberation from Excess (2012): a powerful pamphlet against growth economics and for a post-growth society; should be read together with Jackson’s Prosperity Without Growth.
- John Stuart Mill On Liberty (1859): it is sometimes amazing that really old books can be still highly relevant today; Mill’s essay is among those: his arguments in favour of self-scepticism, individual freedom, but also regard for the interests of society at large are compelling and much ahead of his time.
- Albert Hirschman Shifting Involvements (1982): why are people engaging into common causes (collective action) just to focus on private life soon after that? A very interesting theory, in which I recognised myself repeatedly.
- Jon Elster Sour Grapes: Studies in the Subversion of Rationality (1983): an unconventional philosophical-psychological analysis of rationality, both individual and social, including excursuses into political theory and economics.
- Amartya Sen The Idea of Justice (2009): an excellent book being both a summary of decades worth of Sen’s work and the outline of a highly interesting and compelling theory of justice, which builds upon the likes of John Rawls, Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill, while being a novel contribution to the subject.
- Donald S. Maier What’s So Good About Biodiversity: A Call for Better Reasoning About Nature’s Value (2012): one of the books that I do not completely agree with but still find extremely enriching and thought-provoking.
- Richard Dawkins The Selfish Gene (1976): a still-fascinating book about evolution and genetics, controversial for the wrong reasons, often misunderstood.
- Pamela Roland & Raoul Adamtchak Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food (2008): the book that definitely turned me from a “Stop GMO!” activist into a “It depends” realist; shows impressively how organic agriculture can benefit from biotechnology.
- Jonathan Safran Foer Eating Animals (2009): made me a vegetarian – ’nuff said.
- Mark Lynas The God Species: How Humans Really Can Save the Planet (2012): another thought-provoking book, with whose author I don’t quite agree – still, Lynas’s argument in favour of far-reaching “management” of the biosphere by humans to our long-term benefit is highly interesting.
- Alvin Tofler Future Shock (1970): a fascinating account of the consequences of a clash between the ever faster developing world around us and our aversion to change; still highly relevant.
- Jared Diamond Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (1997): much better than David Landes’s Wealth and Poverty of Nations, as Diamond explains differences in socio-economic development between various regions not in terms of culture (which begs another explanation a level further down), but in terms of “exogenous” factors such as ecology and geography – and he does it in an extremely convincing manner.
- Alan Sokal & Jean Bricmont Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science (1999): the authors’ account of how postmodern thinkers write nonsense and are hyped for that is both amusing and terrifying; also, the book provides a nice introduction into some aspects of epistemology/philosophy of science.
- Zygmunt Bauman Liquid Modernity (2000): a lucid analysis of modern society, in which we “enslave” ourselves, after having defeated the great dictatorships of the first half of 20th century.
- Amartya Sen Identity & Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (2006): a response of sorts to Samuel Huntington’s clash of civilizations thesis; also, a highly interesting investigation into the nature of identity and the multiplicity of its sources.
- Jared Diamond The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn From Traditional Societies? (2013): a highly interesting exercise in anthropology, including some linguistics, philosophy of religion, economics and a lot to learn from.