100 books like An Extraordinary Time

By Marc Levinson,

Here are 100 books that An Extraordinary Time fans have personally recommended if you like An Extraordinary Time. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America

Benjamin C. Waterhouse Author Of Lobbying America: The Politics of Business from Nixon to NAFTA

From my list on why corporations are powerful but economy stinks.

Who am I?

I’m a professor of modern U.S. History and have written books explaining the political and cultural power of corporations, lobbyists, and business people in American life. To me, the signal event of recent history was when the rapid economic growth that followed WWII ended in the 1970s. From globalization and deindustrialization to the rise of authoritarianism under the guise of populism, from systemic racism and the rise of the carceral state to the proliferation of bad jobs and the gig economy—the effects of that historic change shape every aspect of modern life. But this topic can sometimes seem a little dry, so I’m always looking for books that help make sense of it.

Benjamin's book list on why corporations are powerful but economy stinks

Benjamin C. Waterhouse Why did Benjamin love this book?

This book is a wonderful example of how an author can explain but not judge the complexities and contradictions of our modern economy. Chatelain explains the role fast food franchising, and McDonald’s in particular, has played in African American economic and social life since the 1960s. What I found so striking about this was the honest ambivalence: McDonald’s sells unhealthy foods that contribute to obesity and other health problems, and it pays generally exploitative wages; but at the same time, owning a McDonald’s franchise can be a way for African American entrepreneurs to thrive and build both wealth and political power in their communities.

By Marcia Chatelain,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Franchise as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Just as The Color of Law provided a vital understanding of redlining and racial segregation, Marcia Chatelain's Franchise investigates the complex interrelationship between black communities and America's largest, most popular fast food chain. Taking us from the first McDonald's drive-in in San Bernardino to the franchise on Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Missouri, in the summer of 2014, Chatelain shows how fast food is a source of both power-economic and political-and despair for African Americans. As she contends, fast food is, more than ever before, a key battlefield in the fight for racial justice.


Book cover of Transaction Man: The Rise of the Deal and the Decline of the American Dream

Benjamin C. Waterhouse Author Of Lobbying America: The Politics of Business from Nixon to NAFTA

From my list on why corporations are powerful but economy stinks.

Who am I?

I’m a professor of modern U.S. History and have written books explaining the political and cultural power of corporations, lobbyists, and business people in American life. To me, the signal event of recent history was when the rapid economic growth that followed WWII ended in the 1970s. From globalization and deindustrialization to the rise of authoritarianism under the guise of populism, from systemic racism and the rise of the carceral state to the proliferation of bad jobs and the gig economy—the effects of that historic change shape every aspect of modern life. But this topic can sometimes seem a little dry, so I’m always looking for books that help make sense of it.

Benjamin's book list on why corporations are powerful but economy stinks

Benjamin C. Waterhouse Why did Benjamin love this book?

This book is the most readable treatment I’ve encountered of a very complicated and theoretical set of ideas about how corporations have changed—not only in their legal structure but as social creatures—in the last century. Lemann makes the difficult theories of thinkers like Adolf Berle, John Kenneth Galbraith, Milton Friedman, and Michael Jensen easy to understand and fun to read about. And in the process, he explains how corporations lost their “souls”—how we reached a point where companies are finance-obsessed, detached from their communities, and fixated on short-term profits and not long-term stability.

By Nicholas Lemann,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Transaction Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An Amazon Best History Book of 2019

"A splendid and beautifully written illustration of the tremendous importance public policy has for the daily lives of ordinary people." —Ryan Cooper, Washington Monthly

Over the last generation, the United States has undergone seismic changes. Stable institutions have given way to frictionless transactions, which are celebrated no matter what collateral damage they generate. The concentration of great wealth has coincided with the fraying of social ties and the rise of inequality. How did all this come about?

In Transaction Man, Nicholas Lemann explains the United States’—and the world’s—great transformation by examining three remarkable…


Book cover of The End of Loyalty: The Rise and Fall of Good Jobs in America

Benjamin C. Waterhouse Author Of Lobbying America: The Politics of Business from Nixon to NAFTA

From my list on why corporations are powerful but economy stinks.

Who am I?

I’m a professor of modern U.S. History and have written books explaining the political and cultural power of corporations, lobbyists, and business people in American life. To me, the signal event of recent history was when the rapid economic growth that followed WWII ended in the 1970s. From globalization and deindustrialization to the rise of authoritarianism under the guise of populism, from systemic racism and the rise of the carceral state to the proliferation of bad jobs and the gig economy—the effects of that historic change shape every aspect of modern life. But this topic can sometimes seem a little dry, so I’m always looking for books that help make sense of it.

Benjamin's book list on why corporations are powerful but economy stinks

Benjamin C. Waterhouse Why did Benjamin love this book?

This book captures the decline of the traditional job—stable, well-paid, with a good chance of moving up—between World War II and the end of the 20th century. Wartzman is a clear, engaging writer who tells gripping stories about workers, bosses, chief executives, and politicians to explain what the old “social contract” between big companies and American society was, and why it disappeared. But he’s also particularly good at not overly romanticizing the earlier era, when huge swaths of people—like women, people of color, immigrants, the disabled, and others—were cut out of the workforce by prejudice and racism. This book makes business and labor history engaging and entertaining, even while it will make you mad about how bad things have become.

By Rick Wartzman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The End of Loyalty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this richly detailed and eye-opening book, Rick Wartzman chronicles the erosion of the relationship between American companies and their workers. Through the stories of four major employers--General Motors, General Electric, Kodak, and Coca-Cola--he shows how big businesses once took responsibility for providing their workers and retirees with an array of social benefits. At the height of the post-World War II economy, these companies also believed that worker pay needed to be kept high in order to preserve morale and keep the economy humming. Productivity boomed.

But the corporate social contract didn't last. By tracing the ups and downs of…


Book cover of The Fissured Workplace: Why Work Became So Bad for So Many and What Can Be Done to Improve It

Benjamin C. Waterhouse Author Of Lobbying America: The Politics of Business from Nixon to NAFTA

From my list on why corporations are powerful but economy stinks.

Who am I?

I’m a professor of modern U.S. History and have written books explaining the political and cultural power of corporations, lobbyists, and business people in American life. To me, the signal event of recent history was when the rapid economic growth that followed WWII ended in the 1970s. From globalization and deindustrialization to the rise of authoritarianism under the guise of populism, from systemic racism and the rise of the carceral state to the proliferation of bad jobs and the gig economy—the effects of that historic change shape every aspect of modern life. But this topic can sometimes seem a little dry, so I’m always looking for books that help make sense of it.

Benjamin's book list on why corporations are powerful but economy stinks

Benjamin C. Waterhouse Why did Benjamin love this book?

This book—written by a scholar who also works in government—is both infuriating and enlightening. It takes on the real problem of precarious, poorly paid jobs and, by getting way into the weeds of how companies are organized, gives a clear explanation for how so many jobs became so bad and at least some hope for a policy fix. The root of the problem, Weill shows, is basically outsourcing: large companies hire out jobs (cleaners, security, customer service) to low-paying, often badly managed small companies, and that drives down wages, benefits, and job security. The most insane examples of this occur when laborers are pushed into being independent contractors or franchise owners. Officially they are “small business owners” but in practice, they have no control over their work and no opportunities to grow. The book is full of memorable (and enraging) vignettes and examples, making a dry argument about corporate structure…

By David Weil,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Fissured Workplace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For much of the twentieth century, large companies employing many workers formed the bedrock of the U.S. economy. Today, as David Weil's groundbreaking analysis shows, large corporations have shed their role as direct employers of the people responsible for their products, in favor of outsourcing work to small companies that compete fiercely with one another. The result has been declining wages, eroding benefits, inadequate health and safety conditions, and ever-widening income inequality.

"Authoritative...[The Fissured Workplace] shed[s] important new light on the resurgence of the power of finance and its connection to the debasement of work and income distribution."
-Robert Kuttner,…


Book cover of Shutdown: How Covid Shook the World's Economy

Laurie Laybourn Author Of Planet on Fire: A Manifesto for the Age of Environmental Breakdown

From my list on to help us face up to the environmental crisis.

Who am I?

I research, write and speak about the global environmental emergency and the policies and politics we need to adequately respond. Drawing on a decade of experience in academia, activism, and policymaking, my work explores the leadership needed to transition to more sustainable and equitable societies while contending with the growing destabilisation resulting from the worsening environmental crisis. I’ve worked at a range of leading policy research organisations and universities and have won awards for my work. I’ve got a BSc in physics and an MPhil in economies from the University of Oxford. 

Laurie's book list on to help us face up to the environmental crisis

Laurie Laybourn Why did Laurie love this book?

How can we make sense of the Covid-19 pandemic? Adam Tooze gives us a clear answer: it is the first crisis of the new era of environmental crisis. My work now focuses on the increasingly destabilizing effects that the crisis will bring into the future and how future leaders can be better ready to carry on the struggle under worsening conditions. The responses of current leaders to the pandemic – some good, many poor – are a key resource to learn from. This book is a first bash at learning the lessons from the pandemic. Into the future, more than anything we need leaders and governments who are capable of freeing us from the freezing embrace of fear in face of seemingly insurmountable odds. 

By Adam Tooze,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shutdown as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"This book's great service is that it challenges us to consider the ways in which our institutions and systems, and the assumptions, positions and divisions that undergird them, leave us ill prepared for the next crisis."-Robert Rubin, The New York Times Book Review

"Full of valuable insight and telling details, this may well be the best thing to read if you want to know what happened in 2020." --Paul Krugman, New York Review of Books

Deftly weaving finance, politics, business, and the global human experience into one tight narrative, a tour-de-force account of 2020, the year that changed everything--from the…


Book cover of Living in the End Times

Todd McGowan Author Of Capitalism and Desire: The Psychic Cost of Free Markets

From my list on psychoanalysis and capitalism.

Who am I?

I have spent a great deal of time exploring how psychoanalytic theory might be the basis for a critique of capitalism. I had always heard the Marxist analysis of capitalist society, but what interested me was how psychoanalytic theory might offer a different line of thought about how capitalism works. The impulse that drives people to accumulate beyond what is enough for them always confused me since I was a small child. It seems to me that psychoanalytic theory gives us the tools to understand this strange phenomenon that somehow appears completely normal to us. 

Todd's book list on psychoanalysis and capitalism

Todd McGowan Why did Todd love this book?

I could really choose any book by Slavoj Žižek as the starting for a psychoanalytic critique of capitalism, but this one is very accessible for someone who has never read him. It also gets into the current dilemmas that are rocking capitalist society. In this book, Žižek shows how psychoanalysis (combined with Hegel’s philosophy) can provide a corrective to the traditional Marxist critique of capitalism. We see here how the attempt to construct an ethical capitalism inevitably fails and obscures a new barbarism. 

By Slavoj Zizek,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Living in the End Times as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There should no longer be any doubt: global capitalism is fast approaching its terminal crisis. But if the end of capitalism seems to many like the end of the world, how is it possible for Western society to face up to the end times? In a major new analysis of our global situation, Zizek argues that our collective responses to economic Armageddon correspond to the stages of grief: ideological denial, explosions of anger and attempts at bargaining, followed by depression and withdrawal. For this edition, Zizek has written a long afterword that leaves almost no subject untouched, from WikiLeaks to…


Book cover of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Andreas Killen Author Of Nervous Systems: Brain Science in the Early Cold War

From my list on the history of torture.

Who am I?

I have been fascinated by this topic ever since the first newspaper stories exposing American involvement in torture began to appear in the early years of the so-called War on Terror. This fascination has persisted up to the present, as it remains clear – given recent accounts of Ron DeSantis’ time at Guantanamo – that this story refuses to die. Equally fascinating to me have been accounts revealing the extent to which this story can be traced back to the origins of the Cold War, to the birth of the National Security State, and to the alliance between that state and the professions (psychology and behavioral science) that spawned “enhanced interrogation.”

Andreas' book list on the history of torture

Andreas Killen Why did Andreas love this book?

Klein’s first chapter tells the disturbing story of Dr. Ewan Cameron, the eminent psychiatrist who ran the Allan Memorial Institute associated with McGill University, and whose experimental treatment, partly funded by the CIA, incorporated ECT, sensory deprivation, LSD into a research program designed to erase patients’ memories.

Especially intriguing for the way it links this story to a bold account of how efforts to reprogram people at a deep level were linked to the spread of new forms of capitalism in the late 20th century. This is history as told by an activist, in ways that academic historians are not always comfortable with.

By Naomi Klein,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Shock Doctrine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Impassioned, hugely informative, wonderfully controversial, and scary as hell' John le Carre

Around the world in Britain, the United States, Asia and the Middle East, there are people with power who are cashing in on chaos; exploiting bloodshed and catastrophe to brutally remake our world in their image. They are the shock doctors.

Exposing these global profiteers, Naomi Klein discovered information and connections that shocked even her about how comprehensively the shock doctors' beliefs now dominate our world - and how this domination has been achieved. Raking in billions out of the tsunami, plundering Russia, exploiting Iraq - this is…


Book cover of The End of Alchemy: Money, Banking, and the Future of the Global Economy

Max Gillman Author Of The Spectre of Price Inflation

From my list on Walter Bagehot’s challenge.

Who am I?

I remember in high school going to the gas pump and filling up during the oil crisis of the 1970s. Inflation was everywhere, but I had no idea what that was. I learned something about this in college and then in Congress as a legislative aide. I remember distinctly a conversation in Congress on how we were going to pay for these huge deficits that arose out of the Reagan tax cuts, all the while when inflation was peaking at that time. I had no idea. I then spent my PhD working in monetary economics to show the effect of inflation on the economy and have not stopped yet.

Max's book list on Walter Bagehot’s challenge

Max Gillman Why did Max love this book?

King was the head of the Bank of England during the financial crisis of 2008. He declared full deposit insurance for the entire United Kingdom private banking system, with no deposit premiums required. This ended the run on the banks that spilled over into the streets of the UK during the crisis, when the Bank of England at first decided not to take care of Northern Rock, a private retail bank that was headed towards insolvency.

King provides a whimsical and sharp review of the private and central bank system before and after the crisis that builds very much on Charles Goodhart and Walter Bagehot. King laudably faults economists and the Economics profession for thinking that establishing negative real interest rates worldwide is the answer to central bank crises (in his newly added Introduction to the paperback edition of his 2016 hardback by the same name). Yet King sides with…

By Mervyn King,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The End of Alchemy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Something is wrong with our banking system. We all sense that, but Mervyn King knows it firsthand; his ten years at the helm of the Bank of England, including at the height of the financial crisis, revealed profound truths about the mechanisms of our capitalist society. In The End of Alchemy he offers us an essential work about the history and future of money and banking, the keys to modern finance.

The Industrial Revolution built the foundation of our modern capitalist age. Yet the flowering of technological innovations during that dynamic period relied on the widespread adoption of two much…


Book cover of Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System—and Themselves

Robin Wigglesworth Author Of Trillions: How a Band of Wall Street Renegades Invented the Index Fund and Changed Finance Forever

From my list on financial history that are genuinely gripping.

Who am I?

I ended up in financial journalism by happenstance (it was pretty much the only corner of the media world that was still hiring when I graduated in the early 2000s). But I fell in love with it. To understand the world, you have to understand money. Whether you like it or not, it is the hidden wiring that binds us all together. I’ve found that reading history books on finance and economics has helped me better understand what is going on today, so I hope the books on this list will help you do the same. 

Robin's book list on financial history that are genuinely gripping

Robin Wigglesworth Why did Robin love this book?

This is, for want of a better word, financial porn.

It won’t explain the underlying issues or even proximate triggers for the global financial crisis of 2008, but no one has ever written a financial book as titillating as Too Big to Fail. Sorkin really brings you into the rooms of power and conveys the sweaty panic that gripped the financial system as it careened over the edge. 

By Andrew Ross Sorkin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Too Big to Fail as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

SHORTLISTED FOR THE BBC SAMUEL JOHNSON PRIZE 2010

They were masters of the financial universe, flying in private jets and raking in billions. They thought they were too big to fail. Yet they would bring the world to its knees.

Andrew Ross Sorkin, the news-breaking New York Times journalist, delivers the first true in-the-room account of the most powerful men and women at the eye of the financial storm - from reviled Lehman Brothers CEO Dick 'the gorilla' Fuld, to banking whiz Jamie Dimon, from bullish Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson to AIG's Joseph Cassano, dubbed 'The Man Who Crashed the…


Book cover of The Big Short

Claire A. Hill Author Of Better Bankers, Better Banks: Promoting Good Business through Contractual Commitment

From my list on bankers, especially bankers behaving badly.

Who am I?

I’ve always been interested—a vast understatement to anyone who knows me—in what makes people tick. I’ve focused on analyzing business actors – bankers, lawyers, investors, executives, shareholders, and others. What do they want? Some combination of money, power, or prestige? How does loving to win fit in? How about hating to lose? When is enough (money/power/prestige) enough? What do they think is ok to do to get what they want? What do they think is not ok? Amazingly, as a law professor, I can pursue that interest as part of my job, and – I think and hope – do so in a way that might help lawmakers, regulators, and policymakers do better.

Claire's book list on bankers, especially bankers behaving badly

Claire A. Hill Why did Claire love this book?

As everyone knows at this point, anything Michael Lewis writes will be enormous fun to read, while being about something really important—something he’ll make you care about even if you didn’t when you started the book.

In this case, the subject is people who bet on the direction of mortgages (and thus, house prices), and how those who bet on a huge plunge were right. This book has an amazing cast of characters, all richly drawn: some are smart, some are not so smart; some are excellent schmoozers, some can barely tolerate human interaction; some care a lot about money, some care more about being right, especially if everyone else is wrong.

Each book I've recommended cries out to be made into a movie. This one actually was.

By Michael Lewis,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Big Short as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The real story of the crash began in bizarre feeder markets where the sun doesn't shine and the SEC doesn't dare, or bother, to tread: the bond and real estate derivative markets where geeks invent impenetrable securities to profit from the misery of lower- and middle-class Americans who can't pay their debts. The smart people who understood what was or might be happening were paralyzed by hope and fear; in any case, they weren't talking.

Michael Lewis creates a fresh, character-driven narrative brimming with indignation and dark humor, a fitting sequel to his #1 bestseller Liar's Poker. Out of a…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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