What I’ve Been Reading

A brief round up of recent books:

1. Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith. A great collection of non-fiction essays from one of my favorite writers, Zadie Smith. Savor sentences like “It’s a feeling of happiness that knocks me clean out of adjectives” throughout varied journalistic and literary essays.

2. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. If you’re not familiar with heursitics and biases, this is a good roundup volume of Kahneman’s groundbreaking research. I personally didn’t find much new here since I follow the field pretty closely already.

3. Erotic Capital: The Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and the Bedroom by Catherine Hakim. I didn’t learn much beyond what’s stated in the subtitle: physical attractiveness matters in a big way in business. There were a few interesting, random stats sprinkled throughout — like Hugh Hefner says he’s had about 2,000 lovers and that half of women have never masturbated — but nothing big stuck with me.

4. Never Enough: America’s Limitless Welfare State by William Voegeli. A thoughtful, steady look at the growing size of America’s welfare programs. The promises government has made to the people are unaffordable, as Voegeli shows. Yet so often, on ideas for how to fix it, you hear about taxing rich or cutting military programs. The tax-the-rich debate especially is a distraction. As Charles Kesler recently put it, “Not even the most piratical of liberal tax collectors could extort enough money from the rich to pay the enormous bills coming due.” We need bigger reform of the entitlement programs.

5. Identity Economics: How Our Identities Shape Our Work, Wages, and Well-Being by George Akerlof and Rachel Kranton. I wanted to love this, but tentatively decided that economics may not be the best primary lens through which to think about this topic. I did love the paragraphs on Erving Goffman, though. He’s awesome.

6. The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup by Noam Wasserman. Among academics, Noam is one of the most respected by startup folks. His latest book focuses on classic tradeoffs entrepreneurs have to make when getting a business going. He writes clearly, cites research and specific examples, and covers a lot of ground on everything from financing to co-founder relationships. I’ll be keeping this to my reference library for consultation in the future.

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