What I’ve been reading

By Tyler Cowen

1. Michael H. Kater, Culture in Nazi Germany.  The best general introduction to this still-important topic.

2. Alev Scott, Ottoman Odyssey: Travels Through a Lost Empire.  Imagine setting off to write a book about Turkey, finding your access shut down, and then coming up with what is probably an even better travelogue about the former fringes of the Ottoman Empire.  I will buy the author’s next book.

3. James Walvin, Freedom: The Overthrow of the Slave Empires.  Perhaps not original, but a highly readable and very much conceptual overview of how the slave trade developed and was then overthrown.  Recommended.

4. Chester Himes, If He Hollers, Let Him Go.  Pretty brutal actually, a kind of pre-integration African-American noir, dating from 1945.  People should still read this one.

5. John Steinbeck, East of Eden.  At first I enjoyed this one, but after a while I grew bored.  If it came out today, by John Anonymous, how many people would think it was a great book?  (“Most of those who wrote the Amazon reviews” you might reply.  Maybe, but what other current books do they like?  Barbara Kingsolver?)  If Sally Rooney’s Normal People, or some time-synched version thereof, came out in the 1920s or 30s, how many today would claim it is an absolute masterpiece?  I am happy to recommend that one.

Arthur M. Diamond, Jr. Openness to Creative Destruction: Sustaining Innovative Dynamism is a good introduction to what the title and subtitle promise.

Gareth Williams, Unraveling the Double Helix: The Lost Heroes of DNA.  A good, detailed look at thought on DNA-related issues, before Crick and Watson published the solution.

I will not have time to read Anthony Atkinson’s Measuring Poverty Around the World, his final book, but as you might expect it appears to be a very serious contribution.

Linda Yueh’s What Would the Great Economists Do? How Brilliant Minds Would Solve Today’s Biggest Problems, now out in paperback, is the closest we have come to producing a modern-day version of Robert Heilbroner’s book.  As with Heilbroner, it is from a somewhat “left” perspective.