My bookshelf

I don't attach any ratings to books, because my enjoyment often hinges on initial expectations and other people surely pick up books with different subjective benchmarks. If I knew what was the "general opinion" then I could rank higher those books that I saw as "underrated", but I don't read enough book reviews to really get an accurate sense of what the typical reader thinks...

On my pile now

The Euro and the Battle of Ideas; The Curse of Cash (see Bethany McLean's review); Angela Merkel; The Great Persuasion; Rich People Poor Countries; Progress and Confusion: The State of Macroeconomic Policy; The Tyranny of Utility; Leftover Women; Lee Kwan Yew; Data and Goliath;


Taxing the Rich. Before reading the book, I would not have believed that ideas and arguments swayed fiscal policy in the past as much as I have now learned. (It seemed more intuitive that taxes would be set based on the balance of power within societies, or the visions of those leaders who had enough influence, or just lucky timing.) After reading Scheve and Stasavage's book, I know that compensatory arguments used to be prominent and they made a difference when politicians wanted to tax richer individuals more heavily. (Read Chapter 1 online for free.) The authors' summary of the book: "Countries tax the rich when the public thinks the state has failed to treat citizens as equals and in so doing has privileged the rich."

Just Freedom: A Moral Compass for a Complex World by Philip Pettit. A terrific book. I will read it again.

Cosmopolitanism. I enjoyed the book a lot more than I had expected. Shallow "cosmopolitanism-type" assertions (moral posturings) irritate me very much. Many of the subtle arguments in the book convinced me that 'cosmopolitan' need not be a bad word. (The label still does not ring right, but that book does a good job refuting some unappealing images we may associated with the term.) It seems to me that "universalism + respect for differences" probably merits an alternative umbrella term. One of the messages I will remember: Through malice or negligence we can easily send harmful messages or ideas. I fully agree that we are responsible for the trail of messages that we leave behind.

Alter Egos. Mark Landler is an engaging writer.

The Only Game in Town: Central Banks, Instability, and Avoiding the Next Collapse. I love reading Mohamed A. El-Erian's columns. This book is an excellent summary of the "new normal" (global GDP growth slowdown).

The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools? Enjoyed Dale Russakoff's book a lot, finished in about three days. The struggles of well-meaning philanthropists are intriguing - and an antidote to the foolish and popular notions that "you can fix X if only you had more money".

Old Bears.

I have read parts of / most of:

  • What Have We Learned?
  • The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President
  • American Amnesia
  • Leadership BS
  • The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves
  • The System Worked
  • The Productivity Project


The Kennan Diaries and George F. Kennan: An American Life by John Gaddis.

Berlusconi: The Epic Story of the Billionaire Who Took Over Italy.

Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception.

The Great Tradeoff by Steven Weisman.

The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker.

Believer: My Forty Years in Politics by David Axelrod.

  • What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets
  • Dealing with China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower
  • The Cold War: A New History. (Would read everything from John Lewis Gaddis if time allowed.)
  • The Examined Life
  • The Courage to Act: A Memoir of a Crisis and Its Aftermath
  • China's Disruptors
  • On the Edge of the Cold War : American Diplomats and Spies in Postwar Prague
  • A Contest for Supremacy: China, America, and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia
  • The Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead
  • The Tipping Point
  • Strategic Vision
  • Putin's Wars: The Rise of Russia's New Imperialism
  • Dog Whistle Politics
  • God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy

Fiction: You Deserve Nothing & The Circle


More Than You Wanted to Know. A fantastic book.

Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises. An underrated book by Timothy Geither.

Capital in the 21st Century.

Excellent Sheep. As description of the anxieties of college students, this is a fine book. But it could have been a lot more.

  • The Tyranny of Silence
  • Poor but Sexy: Culture Clashes in Europe East and West (sorry to say, but not recommended)
  • The Everything Store
  • David and Goliath
  • The Center Holds
  • The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy
  • The Assumptions Economists Make
  • House of Debt
  • The Euro Crisis and Its Aftermath (selected quotes)
  • Why Leaders Lie: The Truth About Lying in International Politics (selected quotes)
  • The Dollar Trap: How the U.S. Dollar Tightened Its Grip on Global Finance
  • The Great Rebalancing
  • HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton
  • The Small Big
  • Seven Bad Ideas
  • The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914
  • The Shifts and the Shocks: What We've Learned - and Have Still to Learn - from the Financial Crisis
  • The Bankers' New Clothes
  • A Fighting Chance
  • The Path to Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson
  • Finance and the Good Society
  • Free Will
  • Think Like a Freak (but podcasts are better, at this stage...)
  • Infotopia
  • Mindwise
  • The Second Machine Age
  • Fiction: Disgrace


  • The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
  • The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution
  • Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much
  • Simpler: The Future of Government
  • The Art of Strategy
  • Narcissism Epidemic (picked it up again in 2016)
  • Double Down: Game Change 2012
  • The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail - but Some Don't
  • Average is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation
  • The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life
  • Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked
  • The Center Holds
  • Subliminal
  • Antifragile
  • Cool War
  • The Secretary
  • All the Devils are Here
  • Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe
  • The World Until Yesterday


  • A Capitalism for the people (Chapter 6 on intellectual honesty stood out for me)
  • Plutocrats
  • Alone Together
  • Fat Tail
  • The Price of Politics
  • Steve Jobs
  • Thinking the 20th Century
  • Twilight of the Elites
  • The Power of Habit
  • Ill Fares the Land
  • The Clash of Civilizations
  • Inside the Circus - Romney, Santorum and the GOP Race
  • Poor Economics
  • The Escape Artists
  • Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten 20th Century
  • Post-War
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow
  • On China


  • The Blank Slate
  • Why Nations Fail (One of the key messages: "To understand world inequality we have to understand why some societies are organized in very inefficient and socially undesirable ways. Nations sometimes do manage to adopt efficient institutions and achieve prosperity, but alas, these are the rare cases. Most economists have focused on ‘getting it right’, while what is really needed is an explanation for why poor nations ‘get it wrong.")
  • Civilization: The West and the Rest (Ferguson highlights: 1. Medicine, 2. Competition, 3. Science, 4. Property, 5. Consumption, 6. Work)
  • The Making of Modern Economics: The Lives and Ideas of the Great Thinkers
  • Overhaul
  • Identity Economics
  • That Used to Be Us
  • Nixonland
  • Third World America
  • The Social Animal
  • The Triumph of the City
  • The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama
  • Beyond the Crash
  • The End of the Free Market
  • Darwin Economy


  • (Loved it and gave it as a gift to several friends) Fault Lines
  • Game Change
  • A Journey: My Political Life by Tony Blair
  • The Upside of Irrationality
  • Decision Points
  • The Moral Landscape
  • Choke
  • Freefall
  • The Big Short
  • The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street
  • The Myth of the Rational Voter
  • 13 Bankers

2007 - 2009

  • My favorite book in 2009: In Fed We Trust: Ben Bernanke's War on the Great Panic
  • This Time is Different
  • In Defense of Globalization
  • On the Brink: Inside the Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel
  • Too Big to Fail
  • Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets
  • SuperFreakonomics
  • The Predictioneer's Game: Using the Logic of Brazen Self-Interest to See and Shape the Future
  • Predictably Irrational
  • The World Is Curved: Hidden Dangers to the Global Economy
  • Wilentz's The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974-2008
  • The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008
  • The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World
  • Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History
  • (An Excellent book) Dreams from My Father
  • The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives
  • The Black Swan
  • (Did not know it would become a classic) Nudge
  • Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes
  • The Audacity of Hope
  • (Many people scoffed at it, but I thought it was worth reading) The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World
  • The Post-American World
  • The Future of Europe
  • The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth
  • Fiction: Music of Chance; Animal Farm; 1984; Macbeth; Medea; The Joke; Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí; etc.