What is summer without a great book or two to enjoy? We asked a few of our faculty to share their recommendations for favorite business books—as well as works of fiction, history, and more. It is summer, after all.
Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior
One book that I keep going back to is Development as Freedom, by Amartya Sen. It is a very important reframe in how we think about development that I think is as relevant today as it was when it was written.
Professor of Finance
I recommend the book by Steven Pinker, Better Angels of our Nature. This book documents via many tables and charts how much human violence has declined by over the past few thousand years. You will be impressed by the remarkable progress human societies have made in the civilizing process, in terms of both our attitudes toward and actual acts of violence. So, what innovations have humans done in social organization, culture, technology, market, and finance that contributed to the dramatic decline in violence? What roles have commercial and financial innovations played? This book is an excellent read for understanding human progress from multiple perspectives.
William S. Beinecke Professor of Finance and Economics
Assistant Professor of Management
On non-fiction I really liked Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It is very well-written and gives a good portrayal of Lincoln, the interaction between his cabinet members, and the events leading up to the Civil War. On fiction, The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt. The book is a bit sad at times but beautifully written. The story ends fairly well, though.
Edwin J. Beinecke Professor of Finance and Management Studies & Director of the International Center for Finance
Jacksonland by Steve Inskeep: the story of how Andrew Jackson, as military hero, land-speculator and finally president of the United State, stole the land of the Cherokees from them and sent them on the Trail of Tears. It’s a cautionary tale of government and charismatic leaders gone wrong. You will never look at a $20 bill the same way again.
The Midnight Assassin: Panic, Scandal and the Hunt for America’s First Serial Killer by Skip Hollandsworth. Did Jack the Ripper begin his bloody career in Austin Texas? Londoners wondered this when the murders first began. The account of the unsolved mystery of the Austin murders is, quite unexpectedly, a fascinating account of progressivism and post-Civil War southern society that is suddenly frozen, then fractured by the notion that one of its own may be violating the oldest of social compacts.
The Edge of the World: A Cultural History of the North Sea and the Transformation of Europe, Michael Pye. A great history that integrates economics into the story of discovery and trade in Northern Europe.
Of course I suggest reading my new book, Money Changes Everything!
Professor of Economics
The Idealist by Nina Munk
Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty by Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee
Frederic D. Wolfe Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship
My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgård, a Norwegian writer. A multi-volume story of his life in excruciating detail, but somehow mesmerizing.
In a similar vein, Elena Ferrantes’ The Neapolitan Novels, a series set in Naples, is captivating.
Sterling Professor of Economics, Yale University
For purely escape reading, I am rereading, after an interval of 25 years, Ovid's Metamorphoses, in the Loeb edition from 1984, translated by Frank Justus Miller and edited by G.P. Gould, (both coincidentally Yale professors long ago). It has the original Latin and an English translation on facing pages. I enjoy this because Ovid has such a vivid imagination, and from another millennium, the time of Christ. Seeing the imagination of that time is more interesting than watching television today, and it is fun to try to read the Latin (which I barely know).
Also, I assigned Will Goetzmann's new book Money Changes Everything to my undergraduate finance class this semester. It qualifies as summer reading, since it is broad and inspiring. It traces the ancient origins of modern financial practices, and shows how fundamentally these origins interact with advancing civilization.