Week of May 23, 2016

In the US, we have a three-day weekend; what our English friends would call a bank holiday. There's a little extra time to read. So this week’s faiV is book recommendations—but not the new books that are getting all the attention. I’m also taking this opportunity to rebel against the tyranny of the new. Herewith are some books, all at least a year, if not decades, old that if you haven’t read, you should. Or at least you should read a review of them so you can mention it during your next conference call. These are almost all Kindle links since you don't have time to get the book before heading out on holiday. 

1. Entrepreneurship, Social Investment and Not-so-Social Investment: Scott Shane's The Illusion of Entrepreneurship is a great overview of entrepreneurship research in the US, a body of knowledge that is a lot more applicable to developing contexts than is generally acknowledged. For those wishing to spur social businesses, going to back to first principles of corporate finance and principal-agent problems is a good idea--check out Henry Hansmann's The Ownership of Enterprise. There's a lot of entrepreneurship in the secret spaces of the web, though its generally not what we think of when you use the word entrepreneur. Here's a guide to The Dark Net

2. Memorial Day: The reason for the holiday in the US is it's Memorial Day, to commemorate the sacrifice of those in the Armed Forces--what's usually invoked is fighting for or defending freedom. I always tend to think of The Gettysburg Address. It's not just soldier and sailors who fight for freedom and to defend rights; Letter from a Birmingham Jail is a good reminder of other fighters. Sometimes you fight for your rights by leaving--The Warmth of Other Suns is the story of the Great Migration in the United States when African-Americans pursued freedom by moving out of the South en masse (I can't quite put my finger on what present situation it makes me think of...). The use of power in pursuing virtuous ends is tricky, and something we should think about more on weekends like this, perhaps by reading Reinhold Niebuhr's The Irony of American History.

3. Global Narratives: Long weekends are designed for travel and "getting away." Some books to vividly take you to other places (and times): Behind the Beautiful Forevers (India), My Colombian War, Every Day is for the Thief (Nigeria), Notes from the Hyena's Belly (Ethiopia) or Chen Village (China)     

4. Economic Thought: Perhaps you prefer to use the vacation to bone up on some economic thought to really impress your friends, family and neighbors at the requisite Memorial Day barbecue. In that case how about Lives of the Laureates, Fifty Key Thinkers on Development or Economics Evolving.

5. Economics meets Anthropology (or at least the real world): Still not your style? Need something intellectually challenging but outside the ivory tower? Try Seeing Like a State, The Anti-Politics Machine, Give a Man a Fish or Development Projects Observed. Yes, you probably know most of these, but have you actually read them? If you read them this weekend, no one will ever have to know and one small piece of your impostor syndrome will be resolved.

Special Thanks to Joanne Williams, Jonathan Morduch, Lucy Bernholz, David Evans, Michael Clemens and Joanna Smith-Ramani for contributing recommendations. If you can match up the book to the recommender, I'll buy you all the books listed here.

Return to the Weekly faiV