Books for the 99 Percent

These are just a few titles that I’ve been reading recently that I’ve found to be relevant to our life and times.

1. The Great Divergence, by Monthly alum Tim Noah. This isn’t a work of art so much as a kind of handy guidebook to how the elites are siphoning off an ever-increasing share of our economy. Everyone should read this enough times so the arguments and statistics are right at hand.

2. The Years of Lyndon Johnson, by Robert Caro. This is a lot to work through, but it’s an excellent history of Johnson and a rare non-tedious look inside our political institutions as they were, which provides an interesting contrast to things today. All four are worth a read, but to get the most important bits, start with Master of the Senate and then The Passage of Power.

3. Why Nations Fail, by Acemoglu and Robinson. This is ostensibly a “big history” book, but I’ve found its distinction between “extractive” and “inclusive” institutions to be so useful that it has changed my thinking on a whole host of issues. Lively, interesting, and worth a read.

4. Twilight of the Elites, by Chris Hayes. There are not many writers and pundits who have really grappled with the fact that our institutions have failing at their most basic tasks. Hayes has an explanation for why this failure is happening, and a good one, but the best part of the book is how it captures what it feels like to be living in such times. Not out yet, but pick up a copy come June 5th.

What books would you add to the list?

Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper, a contributing editor of the Washington Monthly, is currently the Washington correspondent for The Week.