Book Bits: 11 February 2023

At Work in the Ruins: Finding Our Place in the Time of Science, Climate Change, Pandemics and All the Other Emergencies
Dougald Hine
Summary via publisher (Chelsea Green Publishing)
In eloquent, deeply researched prose, Hine demonstrates how our over-reliance on the single lens of science has blinded us to the nature of the crises around and ahead of us, leading to ‘solutions’ that can only make things worse. At Work in the Ruins is his reckoning with the strange years we have been living through and our long history of asking too much of science. It’s also about how we find our bearings and what kind of tasks are worth giving our lives to, given all we know or have good grounds to fear about the trouble the world is in.

Money Machine: A Trailblazing American Venture in China
Weijian Shan
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
In Money Machine: A Trailblazing American Venture in China, Weijian Shan delivers a compelling account of one of the most significant deals in private equity history: the first and only foreign acquisition of control of a Chinese national bank. Money Machine is the fascinating inside story of the transaction as told by the man who led it, from the intrigues of dealmaking to the complex and uncharted process of securing control by a foreign investor of a Chinese nationwide financial institution, a feat that had never before been attempted, nor has it been repeated.

The Ties That Bind: Immigration and the Global Political Economy
David Leblang and Benjamin Helms
Summary via publisher (Cambridge U. Press)
Migration is among the central domestic and global political issues of today. Yet the causes and consequences – and the relationship between migration and global markets – are poorly understood. Migration is both costly and risky, so why do people decide to migrate? What are the political, social, economic, and environmental factors that cause people to leave their homes and seek a better life elsewhere? Leblang and Helms argue that political factors – the ability to participate in the political life of a destination – are as important as economic and social factors. Most migrants don’t cut ties with their homeland but continue to be engaged, both economically and politically. Migrants continue to serve as a conduit for information, helping drive investment to their homelands. The authors combine theory with a wealth of micro and macro evidence to demonstrate that migration isn’t static, after all, but continuously fluid.

How Big Things Get Done: The Surprising Factors That Determine the Fate of Every Project, from Home Renovations to Space Exploration and Everything In Between
Bent Flyvbjerg and Dan Gardner
Review via The Wall Street Journal
Mr. Flyvbjerg, an economic geographer at the IT University of Copenhagen, specializes in investigating why megaprojects so frequently go wrong and figuring out how to keep them on track. “How Big Things Get Done,” written with the journalist Dan Gardner, distills what he has learned for non-specialists. It’s a book that every legislator, city council member and corporate executive ought to read.
The performance of the more than 16,000 public and private projects in Mr. Flyvbjerg’s database indicates that businesses are just as prone as government agencies to misjudge the costs and risks of major investments. Only one in 200 projects was completed on time and on budget and delivered the promised benefits, he reports.

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