Books I read recently

The semester is over and finally I can read books outside my required reading list for work. I have managed to read two books cover-to-cover:

  • Bursts, by Albert-László Barabási, and
  • How the Economy Works: Confidence, Crashes and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies, by Roger Farmer.

The first is from the former physicist who made his name with some incisive work on the growth of social networks, followed by his very popular book Linked. His latest, Bursts, is even better than Links in how it tells the story. The story is based on Barabasi’s latest research. It talks about the predictability of our decisions. For instance, it explains why the time intervals between repetitions of an action (say, sending an email or making a phone call) do not follow the standard Poisson process that many events in nature follow. State this way, the book appears boring, but it is chock-full of great examples and stories and you would enjoy reading it just for those.

The second is from the chair of the UCLA department of economics. It is the second of two books by Farmer, both of which appeared in the last couple of months. In this one, Farmer presents his theory of macroeconomics that attempts to understand economic crises like the Great Depression and the recession of 2007-????. His theory is well presented, with a nice overview of standard macroeconomics given first to provide background. If there is a book that the average non-economist should read to understand what macroeconomics has been up to in the last century or so, this is it. It did make me buy his other book, which presents the technical version of his theory; currently it is on top of one of the two tottering piles next to my bedside.