1. Doris Kearns, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism. This Pulitzer-Prize winning book is compulsively readable and is most valuable on how the Roosevelt and Taft administrations fit together in American history. I wish it had more detail on economic issues.
2. Walter Isaacson, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution. At first I was bored but the book picks up and is then interesting throughout, most of all I enjoyed the portrait of Bill Gates. It is a good overview of how some of the main pieces of today’s information technology world fell into place, starting with the invention of the computer and running up through the end of the 1990s.
3. Russ Roberts, How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness. The best and most readable introduction to Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments.
4. Mark Metzler, Capital as Will and Imagination: Schumpeter’s Guide to the Postwar Japanese Miracle. More interesting on Japanese economic history, and in particular postwar economic planning, than on Schumpeter.
5. Jan Swafford, Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph. A consistently excellent and engaging treatment of a figure you cannot read too many books about. It does not seem like a book of 1000+ pages. The funny thing is, this book does not come close to exhausting Beethoven, in fact it barely scratches the surface. It’s as good as the classic Maynard Solomon biography.