Best books I read in 2014

Continuing my tradition of giving the best books I read in the year – generally released in other years – the best books I read in 2014 are below (albeit from a smaller pool than usual).

CoatesJohn Coates’s (2012)  The Hour Between Dog and Wolf: Risk Taking, Gut Feelings and the Biology of Boom and Bust: The best book I read this year. An innovative consideration of how human biology affects financial decision making.
The Son Also RisesGregory Clark’s (2013) The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility: Not the most exciting book to read, but an important examination of social mobility.
Complexity and the Art of Public PolicyDavid Colander and Roland Kupers’s (2014) Complexity and the Art of Public Policy: An important way to think about policy, even though I’m not convinced by many of their proposed applications.
Rationality for MortalsGerd Gigerenzer’s (2010) Rationality for Mortals: How People Cope with Uncertainty: Essays capturing a lot of Gigerenzer’s important work. I reread it following his disappointing Risk Savvy. I didn’t write a review, but posted about parts of the book here, here and here.
ScarcitySendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir’s (2013) Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much: A novel way of looking at scarcity that extends beyond the typical analysis in economics, but I’m not convinced it presents a coherent new perspective on how the world works.
Young men in spatsP.G. Wodehouse’s (1936) Young Men in Spats: Magic.

6 comments

  1. Thank you so much for this and for the year Jason. Much appreciated.

    I have a book which I know is my single most influential book of the year 2014 even though I haven’t finished reading it yet. Not only is it an amazing and mind-opening book, it is also going to change the world in a way that very few if any books on social science ever have (with the possible exception of course of “Atlas Shrugged” — which is profoundly incorrect despite its huge influence and continuing popularity).

    My choice is The Silent Sex:

    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=the+silent+sex

    which explores and explains and shows with experimental science how differences in sex/gender ratios plus the adopted decision rules affect decision-making in small groups of humans.

    Because all human decisions are implemented through the actions of small groups at first, its impact will be a dramatic and almost immediate change in the way decisions are made. The fairness and transparency of decision-making will be open to examination and revision in every human mind that understands what these authors have shown.

    For me, I already run any decision by any group through this book’s simple screen and know immediately whether it is fair, balanced and worthy of serious consideration in my forever-changed worldview. It is truly an amazing accomplishment.

    All best wishes for 2015, Jason — some (many?) of us will continue to look forward to your weekly packets of wisdom with great anticipation.

    All best regards,

    L.

  2. Thanks Lee. I’ll grab a copy.

    Rory, I went through to Amazon and received a suggestion that I should buy lipstick. I was thinking of writing something about the Amazon algorithm identifying type based on other purchases, until I realised the suggestion was actually a vibrator designed to look like lipstick.

  3. Jason, thanks for providing interesting and entertaining reading during 2014. I read 28 books in 2014, and here are my top 5:

    1. The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David Epstein
    2. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathon Haidt
    3. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
    4. Risk Savvy: How to Make Good Decisions by Gerd Gigerenzer
    5. The Hour Between Dog and Wolf: Risk Taking, Gut Feelings and the Biology of Boom and Bust by John Coates

    Notable mentions:
    – The Medicalization of Everyday Life by Thomas Szasz
    – The Richest Man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason
    – Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society by David Sloan Wilson

    1. The Sports Gene is near the top of my reading list. I have listened to Epstein speak a couple of times, and he is very good.

      The Righteous Mind was near the top of my list in 2012. Compared to Gigerenzer’s other books, I felt Risk Savvy was a real letdown.

    2. Great list Gav.

      If so many of us are reading the same good stuff more or less together, where is the change out in the world to reflect our collective new wisdom?! hahahaha…rhetorical, no answer needed.

      All of us need to read AND ACT UPON IN OUR OWN LIVES, the book called The Silent Sex, Princeton U Press, 24 August 2014. It has the potential to change the world for the better, forever, starting today.

      Best to all,

      L?

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