Book Bits | 5.17.14

Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain
By Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Summary via publisher, HarperCollins
Levitt and Dubner offer a blueprint for an entirely new way to solve problems, whether your interest lies in minor lifehacks or major global reforms. As always, no topic is off-limits. They range from business to philanthropy to sports to politics, all with the goal of retraining your brain. Along the way, you’ll learn the secrets of a Japanese hot-dog-eating champion, the reason an Australian doctor swallowed a batch of dangerous bacteria, and why Nigerian e-mail scammers make a point of saying they’re from Nigeria.

Beautiful Game Theory: How Soccer Can Help Economics
By Ignacio Palacios-Huerta
Summary via publisher, Princeton University Press
A wealth of research in recent decades has seen the economic approach to human behavior extended over many areas previously considered to belong to sociology, political science, law, and other fields. Research has also shown that economics can provide insight into many aspects of sports, including soccer. Beautiful Game Theory is the first book that uses soccer to test economic theories and document novel human behavior.

The Secret World of Oil
By Ken Silverstein
Summary via publisher, Verso
Oil is the lifeblood of modern civilization, and the industry that supplies it has been the subject of intense interest and scrutiny, as well as countless books. And yet, almost no attention has been paid to little-known characters vital to the industry—secretive fixers and oil traders, lobbyists and PR agents, gangsters and dictators—allied with competing governments and multinational corporations. Virtually every stage in oil’s production process, from discovery to consumption, is greased by secret connections, corruption, and violence, even if little of that is visible to the public. The energy industry, to cite just one measure, violates the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act more often than any other economic sector, even weapons. This book sets out to tell the story of this largely hidden world.

Energy Trading and Risk Management: A Practical Approach to Hedging, Trading and Portfolio Diversification
By Iris Marie Mack
Summary via publisher, Wiley
Energy Trading and Risk Management provides a comprehensive overview of global energy markets from one of the foremost authorities on energy derivatives and quantitative finance. With an approachable writing style, Iris Mack breaks down the three primary applications for energy derivatives markets – Risk Management, Speculation, and Investment Portfolio Diversification – in a way that hedge fund traders, consultants, and energy market participants can apply in their day to day trading activities.

Rethinking Housing Bubbles: The Role of Household and Bank Balance Sheets in Modeling Economic Cycles
By Steven D. Gjerstad and Vernon L. Smith
Summary via publisher, Cambridge University Press
In this highly original piece of work, Steven D. Gjerstad and Nobel Laureate Vernon L. Smith analyze the role of housing and its associated mortgage financing as a key element of economic cycles. The authors combine data from both laboratory and real markets to provide insight into the bubble propensity of real-world economic actors and use novel historical analysis on the Great Recession, the Great Depression, and all of the post-World War II recessions to establish the critical roles of housing, private-capital investment, and household and private institutional balance sheets in economic cycles. They develop a model that incorporates household balance sheets and bank balance sheets and offers insights based on this analysis concerning policy going forward, effectively changing the way economists think about economic cycles.

The Butterfly Defect: How Globalization Creates Systemic Risks, and What to Do about It
By Ian Goldin and Mike Mariathasan
Essay by co-author (Goldin) via The Financial Times
Globalisation brings immense benefits. As barriers to the movement of goods, services and capital have been lowered, many emerging economies have seen extraordinary improvements in living standards and incomes. Even more important than the physical flows across borders has been the rise of the internet over the past 15 years, which, together with improving literacy and education, is allowing ideas to spread faster than ever before. Yet growing integration and complexity has also resulted in new systemic risks that must be managed if we are to preserve the gains of recent decades.

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