● Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy
By Robert H. Frank
Summary via publisher (Princeton University Press)
How important is luck in economic success? No question more reliably divides conservatives from liberals. As conservatives correctly observe, people who amass great fortunes are almost always talented and hardworking. But liberals are also correct to note that countless others have those same qualities yet never earn much. In recent years, social scientists have discovered that chance plays a much larger role in important life outcomes than most people imagine. In Success and Luck, bestselling author and New York Times economics columnist Robert Frank explores the surprising implications of those findings to show why the rich underestimate the importance of luck in success—and why that hurts everyone, even the wealthy.
● From Keynes to Piketty: The Century that Shook Up Economics
By Peter de Haan
Summary via publisher (Palgrave)
From Keynes to Piketty provides the reader with an accessible and entertaining insight into the development of economic thought over the past century. Starting with John Maynard Keynes’s bestseller, The Economic Consequences of Peace (1919), and ending with Thomas Piketty’s blockbuster, Capital in the Twenty First Century (2014), the author explains which dramatic political and economic events changed the way economists interpreted these events, and how they revolutionized the economic science.
● Five Easy Theses: Commonsense Solutions to America’s Greatest Economic Challenges
By James Stone
Essay by author via Knowledge@Wharton
Some political economists will tell you that wealth and income disparities don’t matter because large distinctions in a mobile society spur ambition to succeed. But America is rapidly becoming less mobile as the distinctions grow. More wealth held tightly in the hands of fewer families implies a diminishing reward for hard, honest work on the part of everyone else.
● Third Wave Capitalism: How Money, Power, and the Pursuit of Self-Interest Have Imperiled the American Dream
By John Ehrenreich
Summary via publisher (ILR Press/Cornell University Press)
In Third Wave Capitalism, John Ehrenreich documents the emergence of a new stage in the history of American capitalism. Just as the industrial capitalism of the nineteenth century gave way to corporate capitalism in the twentieth, recent decades have witnessed corporate capitalism evolving into a new phase, which Ehrenreich calls “Third Wave Capitalism,” which is marked by apparent contradictions: Rapid growth in productivity and lagging wages; fabulous wealth for the 1 percent and the persistence of high levels of poverty; increases in the standard of living and increases in mental illness, personal misery, and political rage; the apotheosis of the individual and the deterioration of democracy; increases in life expectancy and out-of-control medical costs; an African American president and the incarceration of a large percentage of the black population.
● Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
By Angela Duckworth
Summary via publisher (Simon & Schuster)
Drawing on her own powerful story as the daughter of a scientist who frequently noted her lack of “genius,” Duckworth, now a celebrated researcher and professor, describes her early eye-opening stints in teaching, business consulting, and neuroscience, which led to the hypothesis that what really drives success is not “genius” but a unique combination of passion and long-term perseverance. In Grit, she takes readers into the field to visit cadets struggling through their first days at West Point, teachers working in some of the toughest schools, and young finalists in the National Spelling Bee. She also mines fascinating insights from history and shows what can be gleaned from modern experiments in peak performance. Finally, she shares what she’s learned from interviewing dozens of high achievers—from JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon to New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff to Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll.
● Economic Thought: A Brief History
By Heinz D. Kurz (Translated by Jeremiah Rieme)
Summary via publisher (Columbia University Press)
In this concise and strategic history, Heinz D. Kurz selects major moments in the development of economic ideas to portray the growth of the field and how economic insights are acquired, lost, and reborn. His timeline focuses on the dynamic individuals who give old ideas new life and the historical events that provoke the combination and recombination of different approaches and theories.
Kurz takes the reader from ancient Greece to classical economics to the visionary work of Kenneth J. Arrow and Amartya Sen. Among many other topics, he explains what Adam Smith meant by an “invisible hand”; how Karl Marx’s “law of motion” works in capitalist economies; the roots of Austrian economists’ emphasis on the problems of information, incomplete knowledge, and uncertainty; and John Maynard Keynes’s principle of effective demand and economic stabilization. A final chapter sums up the major concerns of economists today and their relation to world events.