The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse


Gregg Easterbrook - 2003
    He makes a compelling case that optimism, gratitude, and acts of forgiveness not only make modern life more fulfilling but are actually in our self-interest. An affirming and constructive way of seeing life anew, The Progress Paradox will change the way you think about your place in the world–and about our collective ability to make it better.

The Hidden Persuaders


Vance Packard - 1957
    Through analysis of products, political campaigns and television programs of the 1950s, Packard shows how the insidious manipulation practices that have come to dominate today’s corporate-driven world began. Featuring an introduction by Mark Crispin Miller, The Hidden Persuaders has sold over one million copies, and forever changed the way we look at the world of advertising.Vance Packard (1914-1996) was an American journalist, social critic, and best-selling author. Among his other books were The Status Seekers, which described American social stratification and behavior, The Waste Makers, which criticizes planned obsolescence, and The Naked Society, about the threats to privacy posed by new technologies.

Monoculture: How One Story is Changing Everything


F.S. Michaels - 2011
    One of The Atlantic's best books of the year. As human beings, we've always told stories: stories about who we are, where we come from, and where we're going. Now imagine that one of those stories is taking over the others, narrowing our diversity and creating a monoculture. Because of the rise of the economic story, six areas of your world - your work, your relationships with others and the environment, your community, your physical and spiritual health, your education, and your creativity - are changing, or have already changed, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. And because how you think shapes how you act, the monoculture isn't just changing your mind - it's changing your life.“A single lucid narrative that’s bound to first make you somewhat uncomfortable and insecure, then give you the kind of pause from which you can step back and move forward with more autonomy, authenticity and mindfulness than ever.” - Maria Popova, BrainPickings“A thin, enrapturing gem. It’s accessible, sensible—exactly the sort of book that should have (and still could + should!) take off and create a tiny little dent in books.” - The Kenyon Review“Michaels offers a smart and realistic guide to first recognizing the monoculture and the challenges of transcending its limitations, then considering ways in which we, as sentient and autonomous individuals, can move past its confines to live a more authentic life within a broader spectrum of human values.” - The Atlantic“5 stars: The cause and effect of our world is more surprising than you’d think. With intriguing notions about the driving ideas of stories in every shape of our life, “Monoculture” is an incredibly fascinating look at how the mind works and today’s consumer culture.” - Midwest Book Review“If you just read one book this year, read this one…You won’t just be considering the narrative of the culture in which you live, you’ll be considering the everyday choices you make in your life. But the best part of the story is that the author affords you the opportunity to pick up your pen and demand a rewrite…A mind-altering work.” - BuriedInPrint.com

Rational Ritual: Culture, Coordination, And Common Knowledge


Michael Suk-Young Chwe - 2001
    Each person wants to participate only if others also participate. Members must have knowledge of each other, knowledge of that knowledge, knowledge of the knowledge of that knowledge, and so on. Michael Chwe applies this insight, with striking erudition, to analyze a range of rituals across history and cultures. He shows that public ceremonies are powerful not simply because they transmit meaning from a central source to each audience member but because they let audience members know what other members know. For instance, people watching the Super Bowl know that many others are seeing precisely what they see and that those people know in turn that many others are also watching. This creates common knowledge, and advertisers selling products that depend on consensus are willing to pay large sums to gain access to it. Remarkably, a great variety of rituals and ceremonies, such as formal inaugurations, work in much the same way.By using a rational-choice argument to explain diverse cultural practices, Chwe argues for a close reciprocal relationship between the perspectives of rationality and culture. He illustrates how game theory can be applied to an unexpectedly broad spectrum of problems, while showing in an admirably clear way what game theory might hold for scholars in the social sciences and humanities who are not yet acquainted with it.

Trust: The Social Virtue and the Creation of Prosperity


Francis Fukuyama - 1995
    In Trust, a penetrating assessment of the emerging global economic order "after History," he explains the social principles of economic life and tells us what we need to know to win the coming struggle for world dominance. Challenging orthodoxies of both the left and right, Fukuyama examines a wide range of national cultures in order to divine the underlying principles that foster social and economic prosperity. Insisting that we cannot divorce economic life from cultural life, he contends that in an era when social capital may be as important as physical capital, only those societies with a high degree of social trust will be able to create the flexible, large-scale business organizations that are needed to compete in the new global economy. A brilliant study of the interconnectedness of economic life with cultural life, Trust is also an essential antidote to the increasing drift of American culture into extreme forms of individualism, which, if unchecked, will have dire consequences for the nation's economic health.

Armchair Economist: Economics & Everyday Life


Steven E. Landsburg - 1993
    But Steven E. Landsburg...is one economist who fits the bill. In a wide-ranging, easily digested, unbelievably contrarian survey of everything from why popcorn at movie houses costs so much to why recycling may actually reduce the number of trees on the planet, the University of Rochester professor valiantly turns the discussion of vexing economic questions into an activity that ordinary people might enjoy. -- Joe Queenan, The Wall Street Journal The Armchair Economist is a wonderful little book, written by someone for whom English is a first (and beloved) language, and it contains not a single graph or equation...Landsburg presents fascinating concepts in a form easily accessible to noneconomists. -- Erik M. Jensen, The Cleveland Plain Dealer ...enormous fun from its opening page...Landsburg has done something extraordinary: He has expounded basic economic principles with wit and verve. -- Dan Seligman, Fortune

Go Figure: Things you didn't know you didn't know: The Economist Explains


Tom Standage - 2016
    Bringing together the very best from the clever people at The Economist, Go Figure explains the mind-boggling, the peculiar and the profound, things you might always have quietly wondered about and yet more you didn't know you didn't know.Figure out why so many Koreans are called Kim, how bitcoin mining works, why eating insects makes sense and how to get ahead under a dictator - a treat for the knowing, the uninitiated and the downright curious.

Luxury Fever: Weighing the Cost of Excess


Robert H. Frank - 1999
    With the super-rich setting the pace, everyone spent furiously in a desperate attempt to keep up. As cars and houses grew larger and more expensive, the costs were enormous--not only monetarily but also socially. Consumers spent more time at work and less time with their family and friends; they saved less money and borrowed more.In this book, Robert Frank presents the first comprehensive and accessible account of these financial choices. Frank uses scientific evidence to demonstrate how these spending patterns have not made us happier or healthier. Luxury Fever offers an exit from the rat race, suggesting ways to curb the culture of excess and restore true value to our lives.

Identity Economics: How Our Identities Shape Our Work, Wages, and Well-Being


George A. Akerlof - 2010
    In 1995, economist Rachel Kranton wrote future Nobel Prize-winner George Akerlof a letter insisting that his most recent paper was wrong. Identity, she argued, was the missing element that would help to explain why people--facing the same economic circumstances--would make different choices. This was the beginning of a fourteen-year collaboration--and of Identity Economics.The authors explain how our conception of who we are and who we want to be may shape our economic lives more than any other factor, affecting how hard we work, and how we learn, spend, and save. Identity economics is a new way to understand people's decisions--at work, at school, and at home. With it, we can better appreciate why incentives like stock options work or don't; why some schools succeed and others don't; why some cities and towns don't invest in their futures--and much, much more.Identity Economics bridges a critical gap in the social sciences. It brings identity and norms to economics. People's notions of what is proper, and what is forbidden, and for whom, are fundamental to how hard they work, and how they learn, spend, and save. Thus people's identity--their conception of who they are, and of who they choose to be--may be the most important factor affecting their economic lives. And the limits placed by society on people's identity can also be crucial determinants of their economic well-being.

Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America


Giles Slade - 2006
    And chances are even greater that the latest model won't last as long as the one it replaced. Welcome to the world of planned obsolescence--a business model, a way of life, and a uniquely American invention that this eye-opening book explores from its beginnings to its perilous implications for the very near future."Made to Break" is a history of twentieth-century technology as seen through the prism of obsolescence. America invented everything that is now disposable, Giles Slade tells us, and he explains how disposability was in fact a necessary condition for America's rejection of tradition and our acceptance of change and impermanence. His book shows us the ideas behind obsolescence at work in such American milestones as the inventions of branding, packaging, and advertising; the contest for market dominance between GM and Ford; the struggle for a national communications network, the development of electronic technologies--and with it the avalanche of electronic consumer waste that will overwhelm America's landfills and poison its water within the coming decade.History reserves a privileged place for those societies that built things to last--forever, if possible. What place will it hold for a society addicted to consumption--a whole culture made to break? This book gives us a detailed and harrowing picture of how, by choosing to support ever-shorter product lives we may well be shortening the future of our way of life as well.

The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism


Friedrich A. Hayek - 1988
    He labels as the "fatal conceit" the idea that "man is able to shape the world around him according to his wishes.""The achievement of The Fatal Conceit is that it freshly shows why socialism must be refuted rather than merely dismissed—then refutes it again."—David R. Henderson, Fortune."Fascinating. . . . The energy and precision with which Mr. Hayek sweeps away his opposition is impressive."—Edward H. Crane, Wall Street JournalF. A. Hayek is considered a pioneer in monetary theory, the preeminent proponent of the libertarian philosophy, and the ideological mentor of the Reagan and Thatcher "revolutions."

The Gated City


Ryan Avent - 2011
    Over the past 30 years, great technological leaps failed to translate into faster growth, more jobs, or rising incomes. The link between innovation and broad prosperity seems to have broken down.At the heart of the problem is a great migration. Families are fleeing the country's richest cities in droves, leaving places like San Francisco and Boston for the great expanse of the Sunbelt, where homes are cheap, but wages are low.In The Gated City, Ryan Avent, The Economist's economics correspondent, diagnoses a critical misfiring in the American economic machine. America's most innovative cities have become playgrounds for the rich, repelling a cost-conscious middle class and helping to concentrate American wealth in the hands of a few. Until these cities can provide a high quality of life to average households, American economic stagnation will continue.

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think


Hans Rosling - 2018
    When asked simple questions about global trends - why the world's population is increasing; how many young women go to school; how many of us live in poverty - we systematically get the answers wrong. So wrong that a chimpanzee choosing answers at random will consistently outguess journalists, Nobel laureates, and investment bankers.In Factfulness, Professor of International Health and a man who can make data sing, Hans Rosling, together with his two long-time collaborators Anna and Ola, offers a radical new explanation of why this happens, and reveals the ten instincts that distort our perspective. It turns out that the world, for all its imperfections, is in a much better state than we might think. But when we worry about everything all the time instead of embracing a worldview based on facts, we can lose our ability to focus on the things that threaten us most. Inspiring and revelatory, filled with lively anecdotes and moving stories, Factfulness is an urgent and essential book that will change the way you see the world.

Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire Our World


Michele Gelfand - 2018
    With a mix of brilliantly conceived studies and surprising on-the-ground discoveries, she shows that much of the diversity in the way we think and act derives from a key difference—how tightly or loosely we adhere to social norms. Just as DNA affects everything from eye color to height, our tight-loose social coding influences much of what we do. Why are clocks in Germany so accurate while those in Brazil are frequently wrong? Why do New Zealand’s women have the highest number of sexual partners? Why are red and blue states really so divided? Why was the Daimler-Chrysler merger ill-fated from the start? Why is the driver of a Jaguar more likely to run a red light than the driver of a plumber’s van? Why does one spouse prize running a tight ship while the other refuses to sweat the small stuff? In search of a common answer, Gelfand spent two decades conducting research in more than fifty countries. Across all age groups, family variations, social classes, businesses, states, and nationalities, she has identified a primal pattern that can trigger cooperation or conflict. Her fascinating conclusion: behavior is highly influenced by the perception of threat. “A useful and engaging take on human behavior” (Kirkus Reviews) with an approach that is consistently riveting, Rule Makers, Ruler Breakers thrusts many of the puzzling attitudes and actions we observe into sudden and surprising clarity.

The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Make Dumb Mistakes


David Robson - 2019
    This is the "intelligence trap," the subject of David Robson’s fascinating and provocative book.The Intelligence Trap explores cutting-edge ideas in our understanding of intelligence and expertise, including "strategic ignorance," "meta-forgetfulness," and "functional stupidity." Robson reveals the surprising ways that even the brightest minds and most talented organizations can go wrong—from some of Thomas Edison’s worst ideas to failures at NASA, Nokia, and the FBI. And he offers practical advice to avoid mistakes based on the timeless lessons of Benjamin Franklin, Richard Feynman, and Daniel Kahneman.