HOLIDAY BOOKS, PART 1….A few days ago I spammed a (fairly random) set of bloggers for holiday nonfiction book recommendations. It seemed like a good idea since I assume my readers like books about as much as I do and might want some ideas for their Christmas lists. I’ve gotten about a dozen replies so far, and I figure I’ll blog them a few at a time. Here’s the first batch:

From Max Sawicky of MaxSpeak

  • Social Security: The Phony Crisis, by Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot. “The best debunking of the entire campaign for privatization of Social Security, as well as the long-run budget austerity advanced by centrist Democrats.”

  • After the New Economy, by Doug Henwood, and Contours of Descent: U.S. Economic Fractures and the Landscape of Global Austerity, by Robert Pollin. “One or the other is essential for a progressive economic view of the world. Pollin is more on macroeconomics, while Henwood is more about finance.

Max also recommends Other People’s Money: The Corporate Mugging of America, by Nomi Prins. Note that Henwood’s book has been extensively discussed over at Crooked Timber.

From David Adesnik of Oxblog

  • President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime, by Lou Cannon. “This is simply the best book ever written about the Reagan presidency. Its author was a White House correspondent for the Washington Post who had covered Reagan since his days in the California State House. President Reagan is a weighty tome, but the writing is fluid and almost all of the chapters can be read as stand alone pieces.”

  • Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions, by Ben Mezrich. “You won’t be able to put this one down. The story of M.I.T.’s covert blackjack team is like a real-life version of Ocean’s Eleven. Find out how a little bit of math and a lot of dramatic flair transformed an unremarkable engineering student into an Armani-clad high-roller with a taste for fine wines and NFL cheerleaders.”

From Kieran Healy of Crooked Timber

  • The Creation of the Media, by Paul Starr. “This is a terrific, sweeping account of the communications media in the United States. The broad theme of the book is that political choices rather than technological imperatives gave America its communications media, from the postal service to the TV networks. The political tendency in America was to keep things decentralized. But technologies like the telegraph, radio and TV also led the state to take on a more direct regulatory role in its efforts to keep the public sphere open and protect it from the abuses of commercial monopolies. Starr brings the story up to the beginning of World War II, but his argument about the importance of ‘constitutive choices’ that define the ‘material and institutional framework’ of a communications technology has clear application to the emergence and governance of the internet.”

  • The Company of Strangers, by Paul Seabright. “Modern economics and sociology both have their roots in the problem of how it’s possible for large, complex, highly differentiated societies to exist in any kind of stable way. No other species has anything like the extraordinarily elaborated division of labor between strangers that we do. (The closest analog is ant and termite societies, but their members are all genetically related to one another.) By contrast, we entrust our lives to complete strangers all the time, whether it’s traveling by plane, or simply buying a bottle of water to drink. Seabright asks what institutions have made this kind of trust and cooperation possible, tries to explain how they might have evolved, and wonders about how robust they are, given the delicate balance between self-interest and cooperation they need in order to survive. This is the kind of book that starts conversations rather than ends them ? there’s plenty to disagree with ? but it’s one of the most engaging and intelligent efforts I’ve seen to put problems of modern social organization in the context of human evolution.”

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