Summer Reading Recommendations from Berkeley Economists

Following on the great tradition of the campus summer reading list, here is a list of suggestions for your Summer 2020 socially distant summer reading. Each Econ faculty member was asked to recommend just one book. We have a wonderfully diverse set of recommendations here, listed alphabetically by author.

If you are buying the book, please remember your local independent bookstore. We've also included the oskicat link so that if you (and we) are back on campus, you can look for it in the library. And finally, if there's an e-version available through the UCB Library, that is indicated as well.

Happy Reading!!


How the Other Half Banks: Exclusion, Exploitation, and the Threat to Democracy by Mehrsa Baradaran (available as e-book)
Recommended by Martha Olney

Baradaran examines "the unbanked" -- people who do not have a regular relationship with a commercial bank but instead utilize payday lenders, postal money orders, check-cashing companies. She makes a strong case for a return to a postal savings system which could benefit the unbanked, boost savings, and, yes, stop the exploitation of poor families by payday lenders and the like.
Unbound: How Inequality Constricts Our Economy and What We Can Do about It by Heather Boushey
Recommended by Hilary Hoynes

If you are concerned about inequality (you should be!) and are looking for solutions, this book is a great read.
Buddhist Economics: an enlightened approach to the dismal science by Clair Brown
Recommended by Clair Brown

Buddhist Economics brings together the work of well-known economists to show how to create an economy that reduces inequality, solves the climate crisis, and reduces global suffering. This short book will help you understand how a country can move beyond the pandemic to create an economy that cares for people and the planet.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
Recommended by Maximilian Auffhammer

An amazing combination of Jewish mysticism, comics, and coming of age during one of the darkest times on planet earth - all authored by Berkeley's own Michael Chabon! I read it in one go.
The Fly Swatter by Nicholas Dawidoff
Recommended by Joseph Shapiro

Fascinating biography of an economic historian by his grandson, absorbing reading independent of the fact that is is vaguely relevant to economics. One memorable anecdote: one morning, the subject of the book announces he's giving up the newspaper because there are only so many books you can read in a lifetime — 5,000, he's calculated — and "permitting himself such a daily distraction was out of the question."
The Peripheral by William Gibson
Recommended by Bryan S. Graham

Great writer and does near future well. Plan on re-reading the first 100 pages or so.
The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt (available as an e-book)
Recommended by Jon Steinsson

Deepened my understanding of why people with different moral views from mine hold those views.
The Economic Consequences of the Peace by John Maynard Keynes (available as an e-book)
Recommended by Danny Yagan

The young economist John Maynard Keynes wrote this book in 1919 about the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I. He predicted that defects in the treaty would tragically lead to World War II.
Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu
Recommended by Ben Handel

Ambitious sci-fi book with very interesting scientific, economic, and political themes.
The War of the End of the World by Mario Vargas Llosa
Recommended by Andres Rodriguez-Clare

This is a beautifully written novel, has great characters, and offers a dramatic take on a period of upheaval in late 19th century Brazil. A good read for our crazy times.
Common Ground by J. Anthony Lukas
Recommended by Jesse Rothstein

It isn't strictly economics, but it is social science in the best possible sense. Anyone hoping to use economic models to think about policy change needs to also be aware about how those policy changes will be experienced by real people, with families, histories, and ways of seeing the world.
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
Recommended by Supreet Kaur

Fun fiction read! Because life needs a little uplifting of the spirit and sense of magic...
The Housekeeper and the Professor: A Novel by Yoko Ogawa
Recommended by Emi Nakamura

I love the way in which this book mixes together a quirky set of things-- math and literature, family and professorship (all things that have played an important role in my own life). The book takes place in Japan, and provides interesting insights into Japanese society as well.
The Origins of AIDS by Jacques Pepin (available as an e-book)
Recommended by Ted Miguel

This book focuses on the epidemiological origins of the deadly HIV/AIDS epidemic, and how it was shaped by the social, economic and political history of 20th century Sub-Saharan Africa. What lessons can we learn for the current health crisis?
The Street by Ann Petry
Recommended by Ellora Derenoncourt

The first novel written by a black woman to sell over a million copies in the US, this 1940s noir perfectly captures a young woman's maddening experience of Harlem's discriminatory housing market as she aims to provide a better life for her son.
Factfulness by Hans Rosling
Recommended by Ludvig Wier

The world is doing much better than what we think - this book displays simple facts of life that we miss when simply following the news cycle.
Misbehaving by Richard Thaler
Recommended by Stefano DellaVigna

Personal and highly readable take on the beginnings of behavioral economics from the Nobel Laurate who did so much to start the field. We are so glad Thaler now spends half the year in Berkeley.
Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
Recommended by Daniel Gros

Shelter at place is an ideal occasion to catch up on sleep. This book tells you why this might be good for both students and teachers.

Prepared by Martha Olney