100 books like The Great Transformation

By Karl Polanyi,

Here are 100 books that The Great Transformation fans have personally recommended if you like The Great Transformation. 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 Reinventing the Bazaar: A Natural History of Markets

Steven K. Vogel Author Of Marketcraft: How Governments Make Markets Work

From my list on how markets really work.

Who am I?

I first got interested in how markets really work when I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on the “deregulation” movement in the United States, Western Europe, and Japan. I quickly discovered that deregulation never happened in the literal sense. In most cases, governments had to increase regulation to enhance market competition. They needed more rules to get “freer” markets. This sounds paradoxical at first, but it really isn’t. It makes perfect sense once you realize that markets do not arise spontaneously but rather are crafted by the very visible hand of the government. So I took that insight and I have been running with it ever since.

Steven's book list on how markets really work

Steven K. Vogel Why did Steven love this book?

McMillan offers a highly readable and concise book on how economists understand market institutions.

I love to assign this book to my undergraduate students because McMillan makes sense of some fairly complex topics, such as auction design. And he covers a wide range of topics of current interest, such as corporate governance and intellectual property rights.

By John McMillan,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Reinventing the Bazaar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the wild swings of the stock market to the online auctions of eBay to the unexpected twists of the world's post-Communist economies, markets have suddenly become quite visible. We now have occasion to ask, "What makes these institutions work? How important are they? How can we improve them?"

Taking us on a lively tour of a world we once took for granted, John McMillan offers examples ranging from a camel trading fair in India to the $20 million per day Aalsmeer flower market in the Netherlands to the global trade in AIDS drugs. Eschewing ideology, he shows us that…


Book cover of The Captured Economy: How the Powerful Enrich Themselves, Slow Down Growth, and Increase Inequality

Dietrich Vollrath Author Of Fully Grown: Why a Stagnant Economy Is a Sign of Success

From my list on the economic challenges of the 2020s.

Who am I?

I’m a professor of economics at the University of Houston, with a focus on long-run growth and development rather than things like quarterly stock returns. I write a blog on growth economics where I try hard to boil down technical topics to their core intuition, and I’m the co-author of a popular textbook on economic growth.

Dietrich's book list on the economic challenges of the 2020s

Dietrich Vollrath Why did Dietrich love this book?

This is a good book to understand the pervasive existence of “rents” in the economy. From the literal rents that homeowners in popular areas can charge, to the rents that accrue to copyright or patent holders, to the rents earned by firms using regulation to block competition, the authors document all the places in our economy where this restricts innovation. It is ultimately a book asking “what is fair?”.

By Brink Lindsey, Steven M. Teles,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For years, America has been plagued by slow economic growth and increasing inequality. In The Captured Economy, Brink Lindsey and Steven M. Teles identify a common factor behind these twin ills: breakdowns in democratic governance that allow wealthy special interests to capture the policymaking process for their own benefit. They document the proliferation of regressive regulations that redistribute wealth and income up the economic scale while stifling
entrepreneurship and innovation. They also detail the most important cases of regulatory barriers that have worked to shield the powerful from the rigors of competition, thereby inflating their incomes: subsidies for the financial…


Book cover of The New Geography of Jobs

Dietrich Vollrath Author Of Fully Grown: Why a Stagnant Economy Is a Sign of Success

From my list on the economic challenges of the 2020s.

Who am I?

I’m a professor of economics at the University of Houston, with a focus on long-run growth and development rather than things like quarterly stock returns. I write a blog on growth economics where I try hard to boil down technical topics to their core intuition, and I’m the co-author of a popular textbook on economic growth.

Dietrich's book list on the economic challenges of the 2020s

Dietrich Vollrath Why did Dietrich love this book?

Moretti’s book is, I think, woefully underappreciated. He gives a clear portrait of different regions of the United States, classifying them on the basis of their current economic structure and not on a predetermined political split or on industrial classifications from fifty years ago. It shows that we are in the midst of a substantial economic transformation that likely rivals the shifts seen during the early industrial revolution. This book gives you a real sense of what a “knowledge economy” will look like. More than that, though, he shows how that transformation could be beneficial to everyone (but might not).

By Enrico Moretti,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In The New Geography of Jobs, award-winning Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti looks at the major shifts taking place in the US economy and reveals the surprising winners and losers ​— ​specifically, which kinds of jobs will drive economic growth and where they’ll be located ​— ​while exploring how communities can transform themselves into dynamic innovation hubs.

“A timely and smart discussion of how different cities and regions have made a changing economy work for them ​— ​and how policymakers can learn from that to lift the circumstances of working Americans everywhere.” ​— ​Barack Obama

We’re used to thinking of the…


Book cover of The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy

Dietrich Vollrath Author Of Fully Grown: Why a Stagnant Economy Is a Sign of Success

From my list on the economic challenges of the 2020s.

Who am I?

I’m a professor of economics at the University of Houston, with a focus on long-run growth and development rather than things like quarterly stock returns. I write a blog on growth economics where I try hard to boil down technical topics to their core intuition, and I’m the co-author of a popular textbook on economic growth.

Dietrich's book list on the economic challenges of the 2020s

Dietrich Vollrath Why did Dietrich love this book?

I like this book because it takes a giant step back and asks what “the economy” means. What we measure, and what we choose to classify as “economic activity”, is a choice, not a given. By opting to classify some things as true economic activity (e.g. finance) but others as not (e.g. raising kids) we implicitly make choices about economic policy, as it can only deal with what it can count. It opens up the idea that we could stop and think about what should matter to the economy, and what may not.

By Mariana Mazzucato,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Modern economies reward activities that extract value rather than create it. This must change to ensure a capitalism that works for us all.

Shortlisted for the FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award

A scathing indictment of our current global financial system, The Value of Everything rigorously scrutinizes the way in which economic value has been accounted and reveals how economic theory has failed to clearly delineate the difference between value creation and value extraction. Mariana Mazzucato argues that the increasingly blurry distinction between the two categories has allowed certain actors in the economy to portray themselves as…


Book cover of The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic

Cass Morris Author Of From Unseen Fire

From my list on ancient Roman society.

Who am I?

I’m a writer and educator working in central Virginia, and I’ve been in love with the ancient world since my first Latin class back in the seventh grade. I’ve always been interested in social history more than just the chronology of battles and the deeds of famous men, so my research looks for sources that can illuminate daily life and the viewpoints of marginalized populations. I hold a BA in English and History from the College of William and Mary and an MLitt from Mary Baldwin University.

Cass' book list on ancient Roman society

Cass Morris Why did Cass love this book?

Duncan walks the reader through the generations leading up to the fall of the Republic, examining the political, economic, and social conditions that led to civil war and, eventually, the transition to Empire. While Duncan provides biographies of key figures like the Gracchi brothers, he also sets them in the context of their world: its constraints, its faith, its competing pressures. The Storm Before the Storm opens a window into an under-examined period of history, one which has echoes in modern-day politics.

By Mike Duncan,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Storm Before the Storm as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Roman Republic was one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of civilization. Beginning as a small city-state in central Italy, Rome gradually expanded into a wider world filled with petty tyrants, barbarian chieftains, and despotic kings. Through the centuries, Rome's model of cooperative and participatory government remained remarkably durable and unmatched in the history of the ancient world.

In 146 BC, Rome finally emerged as the strongest power in the Mediterranean. But the very success of the Republic proved to be its undoing. The republican system was unable to cope with the vast empire Rome now ruled:…


Book cover of 1984

Mark Joyner Author Of Simpleology: The Simple Science of Getting What You Want

From my list on self-help books masquerading as sci-fi.

Who am I?

I'm an author, inventor, military veteran, (mostly) self-taught scholar, and an entrepreneur. Every internet-connected person interacts with things I invented (the tracking pixel, the ebook, etc) every day, but I'm best known for my books about business and personal development. As I write this, I'm serving as the Founder and CEO of a software platform called "Simpleology." It's designed to solve what I think is one of mankind's greatest threats to survival as a species:  "The Complexity Gap." It's the gap between the amount of information in the world and our ability to navigate it. It solves this by guiding you to focus on what we call "HIME" (high impact, minimal effort).

Mark's book list on self-help books masquerading as sci-fi

Mark Joyner Why did Mark love this book?

While it seems less and less like sci-fi every day...this book forced me to face the consequences of failing to take a stand for freedom. And without the influence of the book it would have been much easier for me to take easier paths in life.

It helped me see early on something all too many discover too late: the easier paths are syren calls that, while beautiful and seductive, lead to self-destruction and decay.

By George Orwell,

Why should I read it?

40 authors picked 1984 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU . . .

1984 is the year in which it happens. The world is divided into three superstates. In Oceania, the Party's power is absolute. Every action, word, gesture and thought is monitored under the watchful eye of Big Brother and the Thought Police. In the Ministry of Truth, the Party's department for propaganda, Winston Smith's job is to edit the past. Over time, the impulse to escape the machine and live independently takes hold of him and he embarks on a secret and forbidden love affair. As he writes the words 'DOWN WITH BIG…


Book cover of The Black Swan

Roger W. Hoerl Author Of Statistical Thinking: Improving Business Performance

From my list on AI and data science that are actually readable.

Who am I?

As a professional statistician, I am naturally interested in AI and data science. However, in our current information age, everyone, in all segments of society, needs to understand the basics of AI and data science. These basics include such things as what these disciplines are, what they can contribute to society, and perhaps most importantly, what can go wrong. However, I have found that much of the literature on these topics is highly technical and beyond the reach of most readers. These books are specifically selected because they are readable by virtually everyone, and yet convey the key concepts needed to be data-literate in the 21st century. Enjoy!

Roger's book list on AI and data science that are actually readable

Roger W. Hoerl Why did Roger love this book?

A “Black Swan” is a highly unlikely event that occurs with massive consequences. Think of 9/11 or the astonishing success of Google or Amazon.

The main issue relative to Black Swans, as explained by Talib, is that after the fact people are drawn to concocting detailed explanations that make them seem less random, and more predictable. In other words, people develop causal explanations that are completely wrong, but sound reasonable, and will then use them to predict the future.

In the words of Nate Silver, they invent a “signal” to explain what is in reality “noise.” These explanations also create a false sense of security about our ability to predict future events. In short, we fool ourselves into thinking that we know more than we actually do.

By Nassim Nicholas Taleb,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Black Swan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The most influential book of the past seventy-five years: a groundbreaking exploration of everything we know about what we don’t know, now with a new section called “On Robustness and Fragility.”

A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was. The astonishing success of Google was a black swan; so was 9/11. For Nassim Nicholas Taleb, black swans underlie almost everything about our world, from the rise of religions…


Book cover of Tristram Shandy

William Caferro Author Of Petrarch's War: Florence and the Black Death in Context

From my list on economic history and testing assumptions.

Who am I?

I began this veil as a mathematics major and a first generation college student. It was not easy and I had no great plans or ambitions. I was good at math. But as I read books like these, and many others, I changed my horizons altogether, saw a place for myself and a purpose previously lacking. Economic History resembles my first love of math, but with persons and human behavior included. The latter is endlessly fascinating, as is the tendency of “experts” to misread and make broad assumptions that I, ever skeptical, wish to test where I can. I like being engaged intellectually for its own sake, and, from books like Tristram Shandy, have always endeavored to take my work seriously, but not myself as a human being.

William's book list on economic history and testing assumptions

William Caferro Why did William love this book?

It is a novel and a prolonged non-sequitur about life and worldly existence that speaks to me both as a person and as a professional. I read it in college and was astounded by the psychological depth and whimsy. “A cock and bull story, but one of the best…I have ever heard.” I think of that line from Sterne when I write my own work or read others; 

By Laurence Sterne,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With a new Introduction by Cedric Watts, Research Professor of English, University of Sussex.

Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is a huge literary paradox, for it is both a novel and an anti-novel. As a comic novel replete with bawdy humour and generous sentiments, it introduces us to a vivid group of memorable characters, variously eccentric, farcical and endearing. As an anti-novel, it is a deliberately tantalising and exuberantly egoistic work, ostentatiously digressive, involving the reader in the labyrinthine creation of a purported autobiography.

This mercurial eighteenth-century text thus anticipates modernism and postmodernism. Vibrant and…


Book cover of The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism Before Its Triumph

William Caferro Author Of Petrarch's War: Florence and the Black Death in Context

From my list on economic history and testing assumptions.

Who am I?

I began this veil as a mathematics major and a first generation college student. It was not easy and I had no great plans or ambitions. I was good at math. But as I read books like these, and many others, I changed my horizons altogether, saw a place for myself and a purpose previously lacking. Economic History resembles my first love of math, but with persons and human behavior included. The latter is endlessly fascinating, as is the tendency of “experts” to misread and make broad assumptions that I, ever skeptical, wish to test where I can. I like being engaged intellectually for its own sake, and, from books like Tristram Shandy, have always endeavored to take my work seriously, but not myself as a human being.

William's book list on economic history and testing assumptions

William Caferro Why did William love this book?

The book is, like the others I have recommended, decidedly distinctive and untraditional. It traces the convoluted history of capitalist thought prior to its advent (which is itself the subject of ceaseless debate). Reducing forces to “passion” and “order” made me look at a complicated subject in a new way.

By Albert O. Hirschman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this volume, Albert Hirschman reconstructs the intellectual climate of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to illuminate the intricate ideological transformation that occurred, wherein the pursuit of material interests--so long condemned as the deadly sin of avarice--was assigned the role of containing the unruly and destructive passions of man. Hirschman here offers a new interpretation for the rise of capitalism, one that emphasizes the continuities between old and new, in contrast to the assumption of a sharp break that is a common feature of both Marxian and Weberian thinking. Among the insights presented here is the ironical finding that capitalism…


Book cover of The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor

Liah Greenfeld Author Of The Spirit of Capitalism: Nationalism and Economic Growth

From my list on the relationship between capitalism and nationalism.

Who am I?

The Spirit of Capitalism: Nationalism and Economic Growth is the second volume of my nationalism trilogy. When I published the first volume, Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity, the accepted view on the subject of nationalism was that it is a product of economic development, specifically, of industrialization and capitalism. On the basis of historical evidence, I proved that its emergence had nothing to do with these economic phenomena: in fact, it preceded both. Reviews of Nationalism, noting that, for this reason, economic developments could not have caused nationalism, raised the question what relationship, then, did exist between nationalism and the economy, and this led me to investigate it. 

Liah's book list on the relationship between capitalism and nationalism

Liah Greenfeld Why did Liah love this book?

This book is a rare attempt by an eminent economic historian to examine cultural determinants of economic growth and answer the question why it happens, which distinguishes it sharply from the discipline’s exclusive focus on how it proceeds.

Landes, in other words, disentangles the explanation of causes from the preoccupation with the process, which is why I recommend this book.

By David S. Landes,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Wealth and Poverty of Nations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now that the old division of the world into the two power blocs of East and West has subsided, the great gap in wealth and health that separates North and South remains the single greatest problem and danger facing the world of the Third Millennium. The only challenge of comparable scope and difficulty is the threat of the environmental deterioration, and the two are intimately connected, indeed are one. David Landes argues that the North-South division is the great drama of our times, and that drama implies tension, passion, conflict and disappointment as well as happy outcomes. While Landes does…


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