Books I read in 2016

This list is very, very late so let’s get straight to it.

1. Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty.

capital_in_the_twenty-first_century_front_cover

A brilliant analysis of the distribution of global wealth and income across centuries. Piketty argues that because the return to capital (r) is greater than the economic and population growth rate (g) then wealth will continue to accumulate to the holders of capital. He proposes a global wealth tax to prevent this. See my full review of it here.

 

2. The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

the-fishermen-coverSet in 1990s Nigeria, the Fishermen is about four close brothers whose life and their father’s dreams fall apart after a man with mental illness prophesies that the eldest of them will be killed by one of them. A nice mixture of magical realism and historical fiction, these little boys are pulled into the supernatural as well as the turbulent political environment of botched elections, communal; ethnic violence and military dictatorships. (From my goodreads review)

3. The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008 by Paul Krugman

depression-econsPaul Krugman explains how shadow banking and other unregulated financial institutions and financial globalisation returned the world to the kind of depression that many economists had thought were over. He also explains how this depression could be solved with Keynesian stimulus. Since this book was published there has been QE and negative interest rates, and perhaps an update or another book would be required to capture this new phenomena. But even so, this book is extensive enough to cover crises in Japan, Latin America, Asia and finally the 2008 crisis and show how similar they are. Very informative read from the Nobel Laureate. (From my goodreads review)

4. The Trouble with Nigeria by Chinua Achebe

trouble-with-nigeriaChinua Achebe analyses the sociopolitical challenges that Nigeria faced back in the 1980s. He describes a country held back by corruption, ethnocentrism, indiscipline, social injustice and inequality. It’s a short and insightful critique with which many people from other African countries relate. And though 34 years have passed, the critique remains relevant to this day. (From my goodreads review).

 

5. The Courage to Act: A Memoir of a Crisis and Its Aftermath by Ben Bernanke

the-courage-to-actThe book is a memoir of Ben Bernanke’s time as the Fed Chair. He defends the actions the Fed took in response to the financial crisis and the monetary policy they adopted to get USA out of the great recession. He also criticizes the Republicans and the liberal wing of the Democratic party for trying to get in the way of the Fed’s monetary policy. Bernanke criticizes the tight fiscal policy adopted by the EU and forced by the Republican-dominated house on the US also. He believes this affected the recovery and forced the Fed to seek new tools to loosen monetary policy after rates had hit the zero lower bound. I am surprised how little Bernanke talks about inequality, something which has been a major talking point since the crisis and the recovery. He hardly mentions the inequity in the recovery. Also as far as fiscal policy is concerned, he doesn’t make a distinction between tax cuts and infrastructure spending. I would have wanted to know what he thought about the fiscal multipliers of each of those fiscal policies. His writing makes for easy reading and the book would not exactly be challenging to people who are not too finance savvy. (From my goodreads review).

6. Tram 83 by Fiston Mujila

tram-83I am sure there is a compelling story in this novel. However amidst all the words and repetitiveness I may have missed it. I loved the setting and I would have wanted to know more about it. But Tram 83 seems to want to tell you as little as possible in as many words as possible.  (From my goodreads review).

 

7. Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception by George A. Akerlof and Robert J. Shiller

phishingFree markets are great but they also provide an opportunity and motivation for people to take advantage of others for profit. George Akerlof and Robert Shiller explain why the normal economic characterisation of free markets is too simplistic and show through examples in finance, the food industry, the tobacco and alcohol industry and politics how the consumer is “phished for a phool”. This is my first real foray into behavioural economics and finance and I find it an indispensable addition to the work towards understanding the dismal science. George and Robert make a compelling case for the proper regulation of free markets beyond the talk of externalities and inequality. It causes us to reexamine the “benefits” of free markets and admit that the profit motive is as likely to harm human welfare as it is to promote it. (From my goodreads review).

8. Born on a Tuesday by Elnathan John

born-on-aElnathan’s novel is mostly set in Sokoto in Northern Nigeria and tells the story of Ahmad, a young man taken under the tutelage of a sheikh and who finds himself in the midst of the political and religious violence that grips parts of his homeland. BOAT is well-researched. It contains an extensive insight into Islamic theology and factionalism, political corruption, terrorist activities and human right abuses by security services. Elnathan also gives us a glimpse of everyday life in Northern Nigeria – the quirks, the pleasures and the pain. The reader sees how Ahmad is a boy like any other trying to make sense of the world he’s in even as he experiences things that are far from ordinary. This novel is a great debut by Elnathan. He leaves the reader with the task of finding the meaning of some arabic and hausa words (which is good) and does not italicize them. The first person narrative starts off annoying but you almost forget about it as the story gets more riveting. I would have loved to read more about the people outside the political and religious context but I guess there’s only so much space in a book (in these short attention span era). (From my goodreads review).

9. The Dilemma of a Ghost and Anowa by Ama Ata Aidoo

dilemmaBoth plays exhibit rich Fante culture, religion and wise sayings. They give insight into the way of life of rural Fante folk in immediate post-colonial Ghana in the first play and colonial Ghana in the second. The humour is always present and serves as a foil against serious matters such as slavery and societal expectations of women. Well worth their reputation and a must-read. (From my goodreads review).

 

10. An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments by Ali Almossawi

bad-argumentsThis is an educative book. It is not as fun as I thought it’d be or simple enough for a true beginner to logical reasoning. The illustrations do not do enough to explain the concepts to someone unfamiliar with fallacies. Yet, I’d recommend it to those who are already familiar with logical reasoning and need a refresher. (From my goodreads review).

11. Tales Of Tenderness And Power by Bessie Head

tales-of-tenderness

The best stories in this book are the ones set in South Africa. Perhaps having read 3 of Bessie’s novels set in Botswana, I have become too eager to see Bessie write about the land of her birth. Nevertheless, her writing about South African history – the oppression and the resistance – is truly compelling. This does not mean that the stories set in Botswana are bad. Not at all. Bessie perfectly captures the climate – natural, historical and political – of early post-colonial Botswana. Definitely recommended. (From my goodreads review).

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