Book Bits: 12 September 2020

Worked Over: How Round-the-Clock Work Is Killing the American Dream
Jamie K. McCallum
Review via Vice
Data shows that workers fear technology even more than immigrants. “Survey data shows that American workers are more afraid of being replaced by robots than by immigrants, are hesitant to apply for jobs in which applicants are sorted by algorithms, and strongly believe automation will drive down wages,” McCallum writes in his book Worked Over.

Kleptopia: How Dirty Money Is Conquering the World
Tom Burgis
Review via The Washington Post
The United States is a money-laundering mecca. Our legal system, corporate lawyers, bankers, real estate agents, title companies and accountants are eager to turn dirty money into gold. Or yachts. Or sparkling new luxury condos in Manhattan and South Florida. Though the true owners of these clean assets largely hide from view, the fact that America welcomes big dirty money from abroad is no secret. The mystery, however, is why our leaders in Washington have not taken the simple steps to stop this… Tom Burgis’s new book, “Kleptopia: How Dirty Money Is Conquering the World,” is a must-read for anyone wanting to better understand what has already happened here in America and what lies ahead if Trump is reelected in November. It provides a magisterial account of the money and violence behind the world’s most powerful dictatorships.

The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons On Wealth, Greed, and Happiness
Morgan Housel
Summary via publisher (Harriman House)
Doing well with money isn’t necessarily about what you know. It’s about how you behave. And behavior is hard to teach, even to really smart people. Money—investing, personal finance, and business decisions—is typically taught as a math-based field, where data and formulas tell us exactly what to do. But in the real world people don’t make financial decisions on a spreadsheet. They make them at the dinner table, or in a meeting room, where personal history, your own unique view of the world, ego, pride, marketing, and odd incentives are scrambled together. In The Psychology of Money, award-winning author Morgan Housel shares 19 short stories exploring the strange ways people think about money and teaches you how to make better sense of one of life’s most important topics.

Power on the Precipice: The Six Choices America Faces in a Turbulent World
Andrew Imbrie
Summary via publisher (Yale U. Press)
Is America fated to decline as a great power? Can it recover? With absorbing insight and fresh perspective, foreign policy expert Andrew Imbrie provides a road map for bolstering American leadership in an era of turbulence abroad and deepening polarization at home. This is a book about choices: the tough policy trade-offs that political leaders need to make to reinvigorate American money, might, and clout. In the conventional telling, the United States is either destined for continued dominance or doomed to irreversible decline. Imbrie argues instead that the United States must adapt to changing global dynamics and compete more wisely.

Uncharted: How to Navigate the Future
Margaret Heffernan
Summary via publisher (Simon and Schuster)
How can we think about the future? What do we need to do—and who do we need to be? In her bold and invigorating new book, distinguished businesswoman and author Margaret Heffernan explores the people and organizations who aren’t daunted by uncertainty. We are addicted to prediction, desperate for certainty about the future. But the complexity of modern life won’t provide that; experts in forecasting are reluctant to look more than 400 days out. History doesn’t repeat itself and even genetics won’t tell you everything you want to know. Tomorrow remains uncharted territory, but Heffernan demonstrates how we can forge ahead with agility.

The Meritocracy Trap: How America’s Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite
Daniel Markovits
Review via The New Republic
Daniel Markovits—a professor at Yale Law School, who has earned a doctorate in philosophy at Oxford, a master’s in econometrics at the London School of Economics, and a B.A. at Yale—believes that today’s highly educated, hyper-industrious elites have taken too large a share of the pie for themselves, and left over too little for the majority of Americans, who increasingly struggle to make ends meet from precarious and uninteresting work. If things continue this way, he worries, voters may “repudiate meritocracy wholesale and erect something considerably darker in its stead.”

Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing
Jacob Goldstein
Review via The New York Times
Of all the inventions we rely on to get through the day, nothing is as strange as money. Currency is a national bedrock that sits alongside anthems and flags; our cash — from pristine $100 bills to dog-eared 5 pound notes — seems solid, official and enduring. At the same time money is a confidence trick: an i.o.u. printed on cheap material that promises the holder nothing but more paper money. The evolving paradox of modern currency — foundational yet resting on faith — is the central theme of “Money,” a sweeping new history by Jacob Goldstein.

No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention
Reed Hastings
Review via Deadline
The memoirs and random ruminations of corporate leaders rarely find their way into the public conversation, but rules change when Netflix is involved. Tuesday marked the publication day of Reed Hastings’ book in which the co-CEO warned that no company employee at any level should assume job security. A day later, Cindy Holland, the long-term leader of original content strategy, was shown the door.

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