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11 Smart Books You Should Read This Summer

Books

1. Beautiful Game Theory: How Soccer Can Help Economics by Ignatio Palacios-Huerta (May 25)

Economics can be boring. But I’ve always enjoyed econ books that use sports (see Soccernomics and Freakonomics) to explain economic principles. In Beautiful Game Theory, Palacios-Huerta uses soccer to explain not just economics but game theory, probability and mathematics. Here’s the title of the first chapter: “Pele Meets John von Neumann In The Penalty Area.” Hooked?

Warning: there are a few equations in the this book. Soccer fans without a background in math should still enjoy it. Here’s the flap copy from Princeton University Press. “Palacios-Huerta… offers unique and often startling insights into game theory and microeconomics, covering topics such as mixed strategies, discrimination, incentives, and human preferences. He also looks at finance, experimental economics, behavioral economics, and neuroeconomics.”

2. Complexity and the Art of Public Policy by David Colander & Roland Kupers (May 25)

Maybe the most groundbreaking book on this list. Colander and Kupers rightfully claim that the “Regulation versus Laissez Faire” debate is a false dichotomy. We should think about the economy and the government as a symbiotic relationship and ask the question: “Under what conditions does this relationship flourish” instead of getting into partisan philosophical debates.

Here’s the interesting part. Colander is an economist and Kupers studies complexity. They treat the economy not like a machine that can be “fixed” but as an organic, complex system consisting of millions of interacting parts best understood from a bottom-up perspective. “They argue that a central role for government in this complexity framework is to foster an ecostructure within which diverse forms of social entrepreneurship can emerge and blossom.”

3. Everybody Dies: A Children’s Book for Grown-ups by Ken Tanaka & David Ury (May 27)

“Finally, a book about death that the whole family can enjoy.” Well… About time!

“Written and Illustrated by Ken Tanaka along with his long lost identical twin brother, actor David UryEverybody Dies will help grown ups cope with the inevitable fate that awaits us all.  Although originally meant for adults, Everybody Dies may be most effective when read to frightened parents by their children.”

Follow Ken and David on Twitter: @KenTanakaLoveU @isthisdavidury

4. The Secret Club That Runs the World by Kate Kelly (June 3)

Solid financial journalism. Here’s what Publishers Weekly says:

CNBC reporter Kelly (Street Fighters) offers brief portraits of successful traders from the lightly regulated world of commodity trading, where deals for oil, copper, and livestock are engineered for billions in profits. Much of the action described took place during a post-2001 boom that prompted major investment banks to get in on the action, and spurred regulators to try curbing the potential fallout from wild market swings that “created kings in the trading world’s empowered class and drove other people and companies into financial ruin.

Follow Kate on Twitter @KateKellyCNBC

5. Fearless Genius: The Digital Revolution in Silicon Valley 1985-2000 by Doug Menuez (June 3)

Don’t worry. This is not yet-another-Steve-Jobs-book. Menuez is a renowned documentary photographer. In the spring of 1985, right when Jobs was kicked out of Apple and a few years before he founded NeXT Computer, Menuez was looking for a story. That’s when he found Jobs, who gave him full access to NeXT to document the company, from its first meetings to its first product launch and beyond.

From there, Menuez went on to document “John Warnock at Adobe, John Sculley at Apple, Bill Gates at Microsoft, John Doerr at Kleiner Perkins, Bill Joy at Sun Microsystems, Gordon Moore and Andy Grove at Intel, Marc Andreessen at Netscape, and more than seventy other leading companies and innovators. It would be fifteen years before Menuez stopped taking pictures, just as the dotcom bubble burst.”

Follow Doug on Twitter: @dougmenuez

6. Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck by Amy Alkon (June 3)

I’m normally not interested in “advice columns” and tend to avoid the self-help aisle. Alkon is different. She incorporates contemporary psychology into her columns, citing researchers like Francesca Gino, Adam Grant, and Dan Ariely. She’s also funny. Here’s an except from the first chapter:

The good news is, we can dial back the rudeness and change the way we all relate to one another, and we really need to, before rudeness becomes any more of a norm. That’s why I’ve written this book, a manners book for regular people. The term “nice people who sometimes say f*ck” describes people (like me and maybe you) who are well-meaning but imperfect, who sometimes lose their cool but try to be better the next time around, who sometimes swear (and maybe even enjoy it) but take care not to do it around anybody’s great-aunt or four-year-old.

Follow Amy on Twitter: @AmyAlkon

7. Roadside MBA by Michael Mazzeo, Paul Oyer, Scott Schaefer (June 10)

Fun premise: Three economists. One Car. One goal: redesign the MBA.

Mazzeo, Oyer, and Schaefer are former colleagues at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. Sick of typical case studies–GE, Microsoft, Apple–they hit the road in search of small- and medium-sized businesses “to help translate MBA strategy frameworks for owners of small and medium-sized businesses.”

Imagine that. Three economists in the real world studying how normal businesses function.

Follow Roadside MBA, Michael, Paul, and Scott on Twitter: @roadsidemba@stratmazz@pauloyer, and @scottschaefer

8. Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton (June 10)

Via Simon and Schuster:

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s inside account of the crises, choices, and challenges she faced during her four years as America’s 67th Secretary of State, and how those experiences drive her view of the future.

“All of us face hard choices in our lives,” Hillary Rodham Clinton writes at the start of this personal chronicle of years at the center of world events. “Life is about making such choices. Our choices and how we handle them shape the people we become.”

In the aftermath of her 2008 presidential run, she expected to return to representing New York in the United States Senate. To her surprise, her former rival for the Democratic Party nomination, newly elected President Barack Obama, asked her to serve in his administration as Secretary of State. This memoir is the story of the four extraordinary and historic years that followed, and the hard choices that she and her colleagues confronted.

9. Invisibles by David Zweig (June 12)

In an era of TED Lectures, superstar CEOs and “gurus,” David Zweig identifies a different set of people that he deems the “invisibles.” Sounds promising:

Zweig bypasses diplomats and joins an elite interpreter in a closed-door meeting at the UN, where the media and public are never allowed. He ascends China’s tallest skyscraper without the architect, guided instead by the project’s lead structural engineer. He even brings us on stage during a Radiohead concert, escorted not by a member of the band, but by their chief guitar technician.

Follow David on Twitter: @DavidZweig

10. The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan by Rick Perlstein (August 5)

An 800 page giant and must read for history and president buffs, or anyone interested in contemporary politics. Perlstein is the author of Before the Storm and NixonlandThe Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America. The Invisible Bridge is the third volume in this trilogy that traces the rise of modern conservatism by taking a detailed look into politics in the United States during the mid-1970s.

11. Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs by Josh Wolf Shenk (August 7)

I had the pleasure of helping Josh research this book, so I admit that I’m bias. When we think about creativity, we tend to ask questions like “How can I be more creative” or “What do eminently creative people do differently?” Yet our greatest creative minds, from Jobs to Lennon to Van Gogh, did not work alone. They had partners. The question Josh asks is: “Under what conditions do creative pairs form and flourish?” One paradoxical finding is that creative pairs form through a shared interest or circumstance, but thrive through contrast. It’s the human friction that creates the sparks.

Follow Josh on Twitter: @joshuawolfshenk

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Books Mentioned in this Post

Beautiful Game Theory: How Soccer Can Help Economics

Beautiful Game Theory: How Soccer Can Help Economics by Ignatio Palacios-Huerta

Complexity and the Art of Public Policy

Complexity and the Art of Public Policy by David Colander & Roland Kupers

The Secret Club That Runs the World: Inside the Fraternity of Commodity Traders

The Secret Club That Runs the World: Inside the Fraternity of Commodity Traders by Kate Kelly

Fearless Genius: The Digital Revolution in Silicon Valley 1985-2000

Fearless Genius: The Digital Revolution in Silicon Valley 1985-2000 by Doug Menuez

Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck

Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck by Amy Alkon

Roadside MBA

Roadside MBA by Michael Mazzeo, Paul Oyer, & Scott Schaefer

Hard Choices

Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton

Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion

Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion by David Zweig

Everybody Dies: A Children’s Book for Grown-ups

Everybody Dies: A Children’s Book for Grown-ups by Ken Tanaka & David Ury

The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan

The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan by Rick Perlstein

Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs

Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs by Joshua Wolf Shenk

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