Tag Archives: books

Book club

This is hardly the first financial crisis the world has faced. What kinds of books were coming out fifty or even a hundred years ago to help people get a grasp on economic concepts during times of uncertainty?

There are thousands of titles, and you can find the names of many at The Wall Street Curmudgeon. The site has listed over 400 books about the U.S. market. Some of my favorite titles range from the alliterative (Fads, Fakes, Freaks, Frauds and Fools, published: 1923) to the ingenious (Where are the Customers’ Yachts?, published: 1940).

A few other gems from the list:
My Adventures with Your Money (Author: George Graham Rice, 1911)
My Stockbroker is a Bum (Author: Anonymous. Published: 1971)
Laugh With Your Investments (Author: Regina Barnes. Published: 1960)
Little Bits About Big Men (Author: B.C. Forbes. Published: 1941)

Today, the Pulitzer Prizes were announced, honoring the best journalism and writing of the year. Among them was biography winner T.J. Stiles, who wrote The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt. NewsHour’s ArtBeat blog spoke with Stiles after he won the National Book Award in November.

A few weeks ago, we looked at the best books that have come out on finance during the recent crisis. NewsHour’s Paul Solman had some big-time economists suggest their favorites.

Have you read anything worthwhile about the markets lately? Or have ideas of a title that’s not yet been written? Suggest names of books (real or imagined!) below.


McCracken County, Ky. librarians. Credit: Flickr/Circulating

McCracken County, Ky. librarians. Credit: Flickr/Circulating

NewsHour’s Patchwork Nation reported earlier this year on Laredo, Texas’s lone bookstore shutting down. Libraries are now also feeling the pinch of recent municipal cutbacks around the country.

In Florida, state funding for libraries was just cut entirely, and in other states, like California, fines are increasing and opening hours are shortening.

Libraries closing mean less Internet access for people without broadband at home, and fewer activities like readings and children’s classes.

The West Palm Beach Post reported:

Without state aid, Murray says the West Palm Beach library will have budgetary issues. It will hurt them the most with affording software that automates the library. Also, they would have to eliminate the AmeriCorps program, which provides volunteers for the library that goes to schools and works in minority communities, etc.

And while schools and libraries are facing cutbacks, publishers may be getting a boost from new standards in public schools.

Marketplace’s Amy Scott reports:

Jay Diskey is executive director of the Association of American Publishers’ School Division. He says after a big push to rewrite curricula in the 1990s, some publishers saw double-digit sales increases. Standardization could also save publishers money. Diskey says having to customize materials to meet a patchwork of state standards has driven up costs.

There’s certainly no shortage of books about the economy. Paul Solmon took a poll of economists to find out what’s on their bedside tables.

Yale University professor and Nobel Laureate Robert Shiller recommends Identity Economics: How Our Identities Shape Our Work, Wages and Well-Being, by George A. Akerlof and Rachel E. Kranton and Economics of Integrity: From Dairy Farmers to Toyota, How Wealth Is Built on Trust and What That Means for Our Future, by Anna Bernasek.

There is some overlap between the books, but each offers what seems to me to be a very important perspective for our times, that may resonate especially well in this financial crisis.

Andrew Lo, director of the MIT Laboratory for Financial Engineering, is a fan of Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique by Michael Gazzaniga.

By looking at economics as a branch of evolutionary biology and ecology, we can see new patterns and processes that explain much of the recent financial crisis, and the years of prosperity that led up to the crash.

Read it … and weep

Last week, the Houston Chronicle reported that the final bookstore in Laredo is slated to close. But readers in the small South Texas city are trying to come to its rescue with a web site to try to save the store.

Laredo is a Patchwork Nation “Immigration Nation” community, with a large Latino population and lower-than-average household incomes.

Southern Texas has a strong literary history. Lonesome Dove author Larry McMurtry wrote of the city in Streets of Loredo (and spoke with NPR about his literary journey on Morning Edition earlier this week). And recently Texas Public Radio talked to San Antonio resident Sandra Cisneros, who wrote The House on Mango Street.

The story of Laredo’s bookstore is indicative of a larger trend facing bookstores and other cultural institutions across the U.S. as the economic decline hits home.

In Massachusetts, one town’s bookmobile service was forced to close recently due to lack of funds. The 75-year-old bookmobile project closed after state funds were cut, according to NPR station WAMC in Sheffield, Mass.

Detroit’s cultural institutions are also feeling the pinch after the automobile industry’s hard times. As Michigan Public Radio reported the Symphony and other arts groups are having to make massive cuts.

“The Michigan Opera Theater is also struggling. The company lost two-thirds of its funding when Chrysler and GM went into bankruptcy. So the company has had to cut its budget, shorten its season and lay off staff.”

But fortunately these challenges haven’t yet meant that great books aren’t being written. NPR’s Best Books of 2009 list features the gems of the year, including one that may have some advice for struggling readers and writers – The Financial Lives of the Poets.