It’s been almost a month since we last looked at what books the major business magazines are reviewing, so it’s about time for another look.
First up, we have The Economist. The July 19th issue has a great review of A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World by William J. Bernstein. This is a book that I’ve wanted to read since its release in April, and this review has only heightened my interest. I always love books that step back, that give us historical perspective and make us realize that, as unique an era as we live in, global trade and the debate it spawns are not unique to our times. The following paragraph compelled me to pull the book off of one of our many shelves and throw it in my bag for reading this weekend:
With an ability to switch gracefully from the macro to the micro, Mr Bernstein whisks his reader on a tumultuous journey. Along the way, it takes in the Pax Islamica established in the Mediterranean by the heirs of the Prophet Muhammad (a trader by profession himself); the rise and decline of Venice and Genoa; the devastation caused by the Black Death; the Portuguese-led age of discovery; the establishment of the great Dutch and British East India trading companies; the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade; the campaign (that led, among other things, to the founding of this newspaper) to abolish the Corn Laws; the golden period of the late 19th century in which trade flourished under the benign wing of the British empire; and the 20th century’s descent into beggar-my-neighbour protectionism.
Rebecca linked to a BusinessWeek review of this book in June, and you can find that post here.
The July 12th-18th issue of The Economist reviews three books looking at the mortgage crisis and credit crunch that resulted: The Gods That Failed: How Blind Faith in Market Has Cost Us Our Future by Larry Elliot and Dan Atkinson, The Credit Crunch: Housing Bubbles, Globalisation and the Worldwide Economic Crisis by Graham Turner, and The New Paradigm for Financial Markets: The Credit Crunch of 2008 and What It Means by George Soros. The article begins:
Almost a year has passed since the credit crunch burst into the public consciousness. As the publishing industry finally lumbers into action, authors are attempting, like real-life Hercule Poirots, to assemble the suspects in the library and identify the guilty party.
As you may be able to tell from the tone above, The Economist doesn’t come off as a big believer in these books, and the article itself eventually dismisses the remedies they contain, stating: “All three books expect more regulation of the financial system, which will inevitably have perverse consequences.” Unfortunately, there is not a very convincing argument following up that assertion.
It’s an assertion Roger Lowenstein would disagree with. In his review of Charles Morris’s The Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Money, High Rollers and the Great Credit Crash in the August issue of Conde Nast Portfolio, he writes:
…Morris says loan originators should be made to share in any eventual losses suffered by retail lenders and others down the line. After a quarter-century of deregulation, he sensibly concludes, “it’s time for the pendulum to swing in the other direction.”
Though he writes that Morris’s “book does not have the finished quality of his previous The Cost of Good Intentions, he does believe that it “is a good first take on the mortgage debacle, and it sets forth some astute policy prescriptions.”
Lowenstein reviews another book in this article, Greenspan’s Bubble’s: The Age of Ignorance at the Federal Reserve by William A. Fleckenstein. It seems he’s not as big a fan of this title.
Fleckenstein’s thesis–that Greenspan “wasn’t the only reason there was a bubble, but without his sponsorship it could never have grown anywhere near as large or as dangerous as it did”–is fair. Otherwise, his book is almost a smear.
In the July 28 Issue of BusinessWeek, Steve Hamm champions Richard J Elkus Jr.’s Winner Take All: How Competitiveness Shapes the Fate of Nations. The most entertaining snippet from that review:
The book is certainly timely. Wall Street’s latest “innovations” are crumbling, and America’s immense appetite for overconsumption seems finally to be slaked. So, with what raw material will we build the economy of the future? Probably not social-networking Web sites.
BusinessWeek‘s Hardy Green has a plethora of book recommendations in the issue of July 14 & 21, many that we’d agree with. In fact, Robert H Frank’s The Economic Naturalist was a runner up in the Finance & Economics category of our first annual 800-CEO-READ Business Book Awards, and The Last Tycoons (William D. Cohan) and In Spite of the Gods (Edward Luce) won their categories–Industry and New Perspectives respectively. Other suggestions are In Europe: Travels Through the Twentieth Century by Geert Mak, How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman, Discover Your Inner Economist by Tyler Cowen, Christopher Buckley’s Boomsday and Julia Flynn Siler’s The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty.
And, if you’re interested in wine or the wine business, Fortune looks at the industry by looking at three other books on the topic: The Battle for Wine and Love by Alice Feiring, Grape vs. Grain by Charles Bamforth and The Billionaire’s Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace.
Unfortunatley, I can’t find that Fortune review online, but hey, it’s the weekend… you should be drinking wine, not reading about it.
Have a great weekend everyone!