Mercatus Scholars' Must-Read Book Recommendations of 2018

Weekend Reads: December 28, 2018

Want weekend reads delivered to your inbox every Friday afternoon? Click here to sign up.

Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet

Claire L. Evans | Portfolio | Recommended by Jennifer Huddleston-Skees

We often hear about Silicon Valley as a boys club, but as this book explains, women have long played a vital role in the innovations that make our lives better.

Johnny Cash: The Life

Robert Hilburn | Little, Brown and Company | Recommended by Daniel Griswold

This book contains the well-told story of a true artist who struggled all his life to live out his faith despite his personal weaknesses. It gave me a deeper appreciation of the roots of American country music.

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

Steven Pinker | Viking | Recommended by Adam Thierer and Peter J. Boettke

Enlightenment Now is not a book in intellectual history. It is also not a book in original data analysis. It is, however, a book defending reason and analysis in an age of emotion and outrage, and an appeal for science against grievance studies so we can offer serious analysis against the injustice in the world and improve the human condition. Post-truth grievance studies produce kvetching and the angry mob, but truth-seeking reason and analysis can offer sound arguments and careful examination of the data while displacing dogma with science. The Enlightenment project was an emancipation project—freeing individuals from the dogma of religion, the oppression of monarchs, and the power of the privileged few. At least that was the promise. And the weapon of choice was ideas—human reason and scientific pursuit of truth.

The Great Convergence: Information Technology and the New Globalization

Richard Baldwin | Belknap Press | Recommended by Christine McDaniel

Baldwin lets us see the history (both ancient and recent) of globalization through a lens that gives an organizing analytical framework. You may or may not agree with the framework, but it's extremely helpful for thinking through this complicated topic. I find myself going back to my notes in the margins. Many of the examples and stories are presented with data and graphics that make it easy for the reader to grasp.  This is a good addition to a class reading list on globalization.

F.A. Hayek: Economics, Political Economy and Social Philosophy

Peter J. Boettke | Palgrave Macmillan | Recommended by Christopher Coyne

This book explores the life and work of Austrian-British economist, political economist, and social philosopher, Friedrich Hayek. Set within a context of the recent financial crisis, alongside the renewed interest in Hayek and the Hayek-Keynes debate, the book introduces the main themes of Hayek’s thought.

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong about the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think

Hans Rosling | Flatiron Books | Recommended by Adam Thierer

In Factfulness, Professor of International Health and global TED phenomenon Hans Rosling, together with his two long-time collaborators, Anna and Ola, offers a radical new explanation of why we often get the answers to important questions about society wrong. They reveal the ten instincts that distort our perspective―from our tendency to divide the world into two camps (usually some version of us and them) to the way we consume media (where fear rules) to how we perceive progress (believing that most things are getting worse).

Order without Design: How Markets Shape Cities

Alain Bertaud | The MIT Press | Recommended by Emily Hamilton

Bertaud explains that markets provide the indispensable mechanism for cities' development. He cites the experience of cities without markets for land or labor in pre-reform China and Russia; this “urban planners' dream” created inefficiencies and waste.

Tomorrow 3.0: Transaction Costs and the Sharing Economy

Michael C. Munger | Cambridge University Press | Recommended by Christopher Coyne and Peter J. Boettke

With the growing popularity of apps such as Uber and Airbnb, there has been a keen interest in the rise of the sharing economy. Michael C. Munger brings these new trends in the economy down to earth by focusing on their relation to the fundamental economic concept of transaction costs.

Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families

J. Anthony Lukas | Vintage | Recommended by Salim Furth

A best-seller when it came out in 1985, Common Ground examines race relations in Boston, Massachusetts through the prism of desegregation busing. It has lost none of its power or personality. Common Ground is required reading for anyone who loves America's cities.

Captured Economy: How the Powerful Enrich Themselves, Slow Down Growth, and Increase Inequality

Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles | Oxford University Press | Recommended by Matthew D. Mitchell

In Captured Economy, Lindsey and Teles offer a guide to how the left and right can come together to tackle favoritism.

Tyranny Comes Home: The Domestic Fate of U.S. Militarism

Christopher J. Coyne and Abigail R. Hall | Stanford University Press | Recommended by Peter J. Boettke

As the Costs of War project at Brown has documented, the cost of the latest rounds of US militarism has been staggering. If you take into account the loss of our liberties here at home these costs become unfathomable. Chris Coyne has developed an entire body of work that demands our utmost attention and respect.

The Political Spectrum: The Tumultuous Liberation of Wireless Technology, from Herbert Hoover to the Smartphone

Thomas W. Hazlett | Yale University Press | Recommended by Brent Skorup

Hazlett is an economics professor at Clemson University and a former Financial Times and Reason Magazine columnist. The Political Spectrum contains a lively history of spectrum regulation and the Federal Communications Commission, including the frequent, disastrous examples of government planning and agency capture. Hazlett explains how deregulation and the introduction of property rights to spectrum are promoting technological innovation, competition, and investment.

Political Capitalism: How Economic and Political Power is Made and Maintained

Randall G. Holcombe | Cambridge University Press | Recommended by Matthew D. Mitchell and Christopher Coyne

We both recently discussed Randall Holcombe’s Political Capitalism on the FA Hayek Podcast in a book panel with Randall and Joshua Hall. It is the right book for understanding today’s politics, economics, and the way the two collide.