By David Haggith, the Great Recession Blog.
The following is a short reading list of books that readers of The Great Recession Blog have shown the most interest in — books suited for times of economic collapse or geared toward thinking outside the box as well as few on the history of the Great Depression and the making of the Great Recession:
(Hover over the book or title to see the full title. A video or two is included as well. They are not all books that I’ve recommended but are the books that readers have actually chosen to buy after visiting this site as reported anonymously by Amazon. I.e., I have no idea who bought what, just what was bought most often, regardless of what was recommended.)
Lowenstein (When Genius Failed) offers an overview of the causes and consequences of the financial crisis that rises above the glut of similarly themed books with its juicy behind-the-scenes detail and thoughtful analysis. He sets out to prove that the current financial difficulties began long before the summer of 2008, and long before the failure of Lehman Brothers. He begins with the history of Fannie Mae and the rise of mortgage-based securities and a dangerously burgeoning housing bubble, and hits the high points of the 2008-2009 news cycles. Lowenstein’s strong knowledge of the source material and flair for the dramatic … should draw readers who still wonder what went wrong and how.
Gordon challenges the view that economic growth can or will continue unabated, and he demonstrates that the life-altering scale of innovations between 1870 and 1970 can’t be repeated. He contends that the nation’s productivity growth, which has already slowed to a crawl, will be further held back by the vexing headwinds of rising inequality, stagnating education, an aging population, and the rising debt of college students and the federal government. Gordon warns that the younger generation may be the first in American history that fails to exceed their parents’ standard of living, and that rather than depend on the great advances of the past, we must find new solutions to overcome the challenges facing us.
A Wealth of Common Sense sheds a refreshing light on investing, and shows you how a simplicity-based framework can lead to better investment decisions. The financial market is a complex system, but that doesn’t mean it requires a complex strategy; in fact, this false premise is the driving force behind many investors’ market “mistakes.” Information is important, but understanding and perspective are the keys to better decision-making. Without the burden of short-term performance benchmarks, individual investors have the advantage of focusing on the long view.
PBS viewers will recognize this offering. Ferguson is charming and persuasive. Professor Niall Ferguson really shines in this video presentation. His vibrant animation and his laymen’s terms make the finanical history of the world quite comprehensible. General history with the application of mathematics, the science of interest-earning and speculation, the making of coins and paper money and of course ample examples of finanical crashes, depressions and recession come up in this presentation with reasons for the demise. The rise of the Chinese economy, according to Ferguson, is our next biggest financial threat.
Adair Turner became chairman of Britain’s Financial Services Authority just as the global financial crisis struck in 2008, and he played a leading role in redesigning global financial regulation. Between Debt and the Devil challenges the belief that we need credit growth to fuel economic growth, and that rising debt is okay as long as inflation remains low. In fact, most credit is not needed for economic growth—but it drives real estate booms and busts and leads to financial crisis and depression. Turner treats debt as more a form of economic pollution.
“Reasonable” people come up with all the reasons something new and different can’t be done, because, after all, no one else has done it that way. This book shares the “unreasonable” principles—from negotiating to risk-taking, from investing to hiring—that have made Eli Broad a billionaire philanthropist.
Benjamin Roth has left us a vivid portrait of the Great Depression that is all the more powerful for the similarities and differences with the financial upheavals of today. Roth enables us — in ways no historian can match — to immerse ourselves in the sense of despair that Americans of that era felt and their hope that the economy would revive, long before it did. To read the diaries now is both enlightening and chilling. FDR and the WPA may be long gone but the professional class remains, and the record of its struggle in the Depression has been thin until now. Roth’s incisive diaries are more than a precious time capsule. They speak to our economic hopes and fears directly, and to the bewilderment of our own time.
The Austrian School of Economics has proved itself as an independent approach beyond the interests of politicians and bankers. The financial system is shaking. This book presents new paths through the shaky grounds between the tectonic plates of inflation and deflation to both private and professional investors. “Austrian Economics” is the only true, rational economics, the others being superstitions created by priests, elites and fools, to fool and exploit people. And of course there are more than enough people in the world who prefer to be fooled than be told the truth.
An account of the deep economic slump of 1920–21 that proposes, with respect to federal intervention, “less is more.” This is a free-market rejoinder to the Keynesian stimulus applied by Bush and Obama to the 2007–09 recession, in whose aftereffects, Grant asserts, the nation still toils. James Grant tells the story of America’s last governmentally-untreated depression; relatively brief and self-correcting, it gave way to the Roaring Twenties. onfronted with plunging prices, wages, and employment, the government balanced the budget and, through the Federal Reserve, raised interest rates. No “stimulus” was administered, and a powerful, job-filled recovery was under way by late in 1921.
The United States is facing serious threats to its national security, from clandestine gold purchases by China to the hidden agendas of sovereign wealth funds. Greater than any single threat is the very real danger of the collapse of the dollar itself. Baffling to many observers is the rank failure of economists to foresee or prevent the economic catastrophes of recent years. Not only have their theories failed to prevent calamity, they are making the currency wars worse. The U. S. Federal Reserve has engaged in the greatest gamble in the history of finance, a sustained effort to stimulate the economy by printing money on a trillion-dollar scale. Its solutions present hidden new dangers while resolving none of the current dilemmas.
One of the main themes of this book is that most of the time, even experts are totally wrong when they predict the future. The Motley Fool’s award-winning columnist Morgan Housel, explores the economy we work in and the world we live in. Why are experts so bad at making predictions? Morgan takes something that every investor and everyone in the media is looking at and brings a really fresh and different perspective to the table. This collection of essays highlights some of Morgan’s best work for The Fool.
A fully updated follow-up to Peter Schiff’s bestselling financial survival guide-Crash Proof, which described the economy as a house of cards on the verge of collapse. Says one reviewer, “First a little disclaimer; as a college instructor and writer, I read a lot of business books. Frankly, I wasn’t much a Peter Schiff fan and it would be fair to say he still tends to annoy me especially when he gets “hyper” like on an interview I just heard this morn via Financial Sense Newshour. Having said that, over the years I’ve done a major turn-around on my opinion about Schiff.” Discusses the measures you can take to protect yourself-as well as profit-during these difficult times. Offers an insightful examination of the structural weaknesses underlying the economic meltdown. Outlines a plan that will allow you to preserve wealth and protect the purchasing power of your savings
Possibly not a book I would pick, but one readers have been interested in anyway: Shortly after assuming office in early 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt made the bold decision to take the United States off the gold standard. This was only the first act in his quest to use monetary policy as a political tool. In The Money Makers, the distinguished historian Eric Rauchway shows how FDR and his brilliant team of advisers—John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and Cordell Hull—paved the way for economic recovery. By responding decisively to the Great Depression at home, they warded off indigenous fascist movements and ensured an Allied victory in World War II, laying the foundation for decades of global peace and prosperity.
As well as, for those who think they may wind up growing their own food someday but don’t know how …
I hope that you, as readers of The Great Recession Blog, will add your own book and video recommendations below. (Readers here can easily link to those books on Amazon through any of the listings posted above if they don’t mind adding a little support to this blog.)