Review: The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds
The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More proof that you can’t go wrong with a Michael Lewis book. This is the story of the revolution in psychology and behavioral economics ushered in by the work of two researchers, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Together they pretty much demolished the idea of human beings as coldly rational economic agents.

I had encountered their ideas before, but this book was a good refresher. What I wasn’t aware of was their extraordinary individual biographies and the remarkable, and sometimes fraught, nature of their collaboration.

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Review: The Gene: An Intimate History

The Gene: An Intimate History
The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really excellent history of the science and medicine and social impact of genetics and heredity. As a practicing oncologist (a discipline being revolutionized by recent advances in the genetics of cancer) Mukherjee brings a novel perspective to this subject. He also does not avoid the darker aspects of the field including our shameful history of eugenics.

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Review: Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street’s Great Foreclosure Fraud

Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street's Great Foreclosure Fraud
Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street’s Great Foreclosure Fraud by David Dayen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I knew there was bad behavior by banks during the finance crisis, but I had no idea of its extent and the fact that it’s still going on and continues to infect much of the industry. This book chronicles the people who uncovered the mortgage fraud and their quixotic struggle to bring some justice to the situation.

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Review: Empire of Cotton: A Global History

Empire of Cotton: A Global History
Empire of Cotton: A Global History by Sven Beckert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amazing globe-spanning history of cotton production and how it ended up being the driving force behind industrialization and modern capitalism.

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Review: The End of Alchemy: Money, Banking, and the Future of the Global Economy

The End of Alchemy: Money, Banking, and the Future of the Global Economy
The End of Alchemy: Money, Banking, and the Future of the Global Economy by Mervyn King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very thoughtful and clear-sighted analysis of the late-2000 financial crisis and Great Recession. Although King was a key figure at the time, this is not a blow-by-blow account of the events nor a search for immediate blame. King is looking for the deeper causes of what happened and how to prevent such crises in the future. He also presents one of the most lucid accounts of the underlying structural problems that led to the crisis and subsequent recession that I have read. I’m not enough of an expert to know whether his prescriptions make sense, or even go far enough, but this book is a valuable and timely addition to the debate on how to move forward.

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