Book Bits | 31 January 2015

The Age of Cryptocurrency: How Bitcoin and Digital Money Are Challenging the Global Economic Order
By Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey
Review via The Washington Post
To their ample credit, Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey, veteran Wall Street Journal reporters, resist the common temptation to hype their trendy subject. They’ve written a reported explainer that patiently documents bitcoin’s rise, acknowledges its flaws and highlights its promise. Smart and conscientious, “The Age of Cryptocurrency” is the most thorough and readable account of the short life of this controversial currency.

Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate
By Stan Humphries and Spencer Rascoff
Review via GeekWire
Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries and CEO Spencer Rascoff have published a new book, Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate, that points their massive data trove at common real estate topics, sometimes debunking common myths or shedding light on economic realities that aren’t readily apparent.
Humphries and Rascoff are fans of Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s Freakonomics, calling it “one of our favorite books.”
If you read Freakonomics, you’ll immediately recognize the genre here. Rather than a monotonous recitation of economic stats, each chapter picks a commonly-held belief or frequently-asked question about real estate. The authors geek out on statistics about the topic and then give us an “aha” moment that either sheds light on something we haven’t thought about or debunks conventional wisdom.

Flashpoints: The Emerging Crisis in Europe
By George Friedman
Summary via publisher (Random House)
With remarkable accuracy, George Friedman has forecasted coming trends in global politics, technology, population, and culture. In Flashpoints, Friedman focuses on Europe—the world’s cultural and power nexus for the past five hundred years . . . until now. Analyzing the most unstable, unexpected, and fascinating borderlands of Europe and Russia—and the fault lines that have existed for centuries and have been ground zero for multiple catastrophic wars—Friedman highlights, in an unprecedentedly personal way, the flashpoints that are smoldering once again.

Europe Entrapped
By Claus Offe
Review via Prospect Magazine
The debate in the United Kingdom about Europe is usually premised on the idea that the European Union is a centre-left project. But elsewhere in Europe, and in particular Germany, left-wing intellectuals are increasingly critical of the EU as a neo-liberal—in other words, a right-wing—project. Like Wolfgang Streeck, whose book Buying Time made waves in Germany (reviewed below), the sociologist Claus Offe sees the EU as a “liberalisation machine” that has entered a new phase since the introduction of the single currency, which undermined democratic control of fiscal and monetary policy. “The euro has rendered European democratic capitalism more capitalist and less democratic,” he writes.

The Great American Dividend Machine: How An Outsider Became the Undisputed Champ of Wall Street
By Bill Spetrino
Summary via publisher (Humanix)
Build the optimal income-generating, investment portfolio using the power of dividends to achieve absolute financial security. In The Great American Dividend Machine, Bill Spetrino proves his investment philosophy will provide for a solid and secure financial future… By valuing safety and income above all else, Spetrino guides the reader through the process of unearthing true bargains in the marketplace. Following the author’s model, The Great American Dividend Machine portfolio is made up of mostly large multinational companies that are involved in diverse businesses.