Roger’s Recommended Reads

“When you know what is in a person’s library, you know what is in their head—and some people have an empty library,” is a quotation people hear Roger say. That comment is often followed by requests for recommendations about books they should read. This section contains some of his recommended books, divided into the categories of “recent reads” and “classics—books everyone should have read by age 30.” “If you are over 30, it is not too late to catch up,” he quickly adds.

In making recommendations, Roger recognizes not everyone will agree with every viewpoint expressed by the authors. He doesn’t either, but believes it is important to read authors that influence lives, organizations, and the economy. Sometimes it is more important to read seriously-written, analytical books that disagree with your own viewpoint than merely to read additional books agreeing with your perspective.

Here are Roger’s Recommendations for your consideration.

The End of Men, 2012 by Hanna Rosin

What if the modern, postindustrial economy is more congenial to women than to men? For the first time in American history, the balance of the workforce has tipped toward women, who now hold a majority of the nation’s jobs. Women dominate today’s colleges and professional schools. For every two men who will receive a B.A. this year, three women will do the same. Under age 30, women receive higher income than men, associated with more education. Of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most in the next decade in the U.S., all but two are occupied primarily by women. A major veterinary school recently admitted a class 100% female, and professional education is a major determinant of who gets higher income. “The working class is slowly turning into a matriarchy,” Rosin says. Controversial and provocative– a book everyone should read.

 

Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson

I regard this is as one of the most important books of the year, a well-researched investigation by highly-qualified scholars demonstrating why people in some nations are prosperous and some are poor. It’s certainly not natural resources, as the authors demonstrate well in their analysis of the dramatic differences between North and South Korea, nor is it a generic explanation of poverty in Africa, as they show in their analysis of Botswana.

Perhaps the reason I like the book so much is because the conclusions are similar to From the Edge of the World, written more than a decade ago in which I identified Botswana as the fastest growing economy in the world, a fact they describe and compare with neighboring Zimbabwe and other African nations. You will find their analys

The greatest value of the book may be in analyzing the causes of prosperity in the United States and Australia, carefully documenting the founding of the U.S. with comparisons to Spanish-dominated South America. The book can be a bit tedious if you don’t enjoy economic history or current economic statistics, but I believe it is OK to skip some of the details and compare founding principles leading to prosperity in the U.S. (which may surprise you) with the direction of the economy currently (which they avoid). Which economist was correct? Keynes or Shumpeter? The authors make no explicit reference to that question, but I urge you not to express your opinion until after you read and reflect on this book.

 

Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty by Abhijit v. Banerjee and Esther Duflo

This was not designed to be a textbook about consumer behavior, nor a book about achieving success as an entrepreneur. Yet, it is an excellent analysis of both topics—-all in the context of studying how consumers and entrepreneurs behave causing them to be poor, and what others can do to change that behavior.

The analysis is almost entirely empirical—what works, based on randomized field trials, among impoverished people throughout the world. The authors explain why the poor borrow in order to save, why their children go to school but often do not learn, why they miss out on free life-saving immunizations, but pay for drugs they do not need, why they start businesses but do not grow any of them, and many other realities of why the poor make poor decisions. Remember, this book was written based on studies in India, Africa and other parts of the world, but the conclusions are just as relevant in explaining why poor consumers in America make bad decisions about what to eat, buy and do. The authors even analyze why people don’t keep resolutions and make frivolous consumption decisions instead of saving for the future. It is difficult to read this book, even though focused on poor people, without applying the research-based findings to most any consumers—including ourselves. It might sound like a lot of economic theory and scientific analysis, but I think you will have difficulty putting the book down. It is that intriguing.

 

Uncontrolled: The Surprising Payoff of Trial-and-Error for Business, Politics, and Society. by Jim Manzi

If you are the leader of a business, non-profit group, educational institution or any other organization, how do you know which ideas will work and which won’t? There is never any shortage of experts ready to offer their opinion about the best solution to problems.
Read this book, and you may never think the same away again about whose opinion to trust. The correct answers arise most reliably from the scientific method, usually establishing cause and effect with Randomized Field Trials (RFT). If you are a long-time marketing researcher or a university professor dependent upon peer-reviewed journals for survival, you probably
already understand the scientific approach Manzi commends. If you are not a career researcher, reading this book should convince you, helping you make more objective decisions with fewer mistakes and reliance on the opinion of other people.

 

A Culture of Growth by Joel Mokyr

How fast will the U.S. economy or any other nations grow in the future?  You will have a better understanding of that question and answers to why some nations (and companies) grow faster than others after reading A Culture of Growth, by Joel Mokyr.   Some innovations succeed and some fail, and the culture of a nation (or a corporation) plays a major role in the success of innovations.  Despite similar levels of technology and intellectual activity, why did the Industrial Revolution grow out of Western culture, especially England, instead of Asia?  You will find answers in this book, including fascinating insights to the research of Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton, leading you to ideas to make your own organization more innovative.

 

Misbehaving by Richard Thaler

Richard Thaler won a Nobel Prize for Economics.  Along with Daniel Kahneman and Dan Ariely, Thaler introduces readers in Misbehaving to the “new” science of Behavioral Economics.  Traditional economics provide precise algorithms to predict how consumer should act, usually precisely wrong.  Behavioral Economics are less precise, but more nearly correct.  Business leaders who have studied CB course in business schools or read Consumer Behavior may be surprised that economists are just discovering what actually causes consumers to buy products and spend money as they do, but Behavioral Economics offers more realistic forecasts of behavior than traditional, Keynesian Economics, and Thaler provides an easy-to-understand introduction in Misbehaving and his earlier book, Nudge.

 

Bougeois Equality by Deirdre N. McCloskey

A monumental book, but worth reading even if you skip some pages.   The subtitle captures what McCloskey documents in the book.  How well the people of a nation care about and for each other explains a lot about prosperity.   It is not resources that determine the wealth of a nation, and not capital or technology as many people believe.   It is ideas and how they are handled as part of a nation’s values, “when ideas start having sex.”   The same principles apply to the success of a company, successful entrepreneurs discover.  You can read the nature of those values (“virtues”) in her earlier, but shorter book Bougeois Virtues.   Call them basic values, constitutional values, biblical values or Puritan values, but the conclusion is the same.  It is not the values of the poor or elite socio/economic classes that determine success, but Bourgeois (middle class) values.  Prudence predicts poverty or prosperity.

 

Competing Against Luck by David S. Duncan

Clayton’s books on innovation and disruptive technologies are classics, ranking along with authors such as Peter Drucker, Tom Peters and Jim Collins.  Competing Against Luck is Christensen’s latest, describing “jobs theory” as a way to understand which new products will be accepted by customers, like “problem recognition,” “need recognition” or benefit analysis in consumer behavior and marketing textbooks.  If you are not familiar with jobs theory, this is a quick, insightful introduction to the first step in creating successful and disruptive new products.

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