John Reader’s Africa: A Biography of a Continent. Most of all it offers historical and geographic reasons why African development has proven so problematic. The author very frequently thinks in terms of mechanism, so it will be congenial to most economically-oriented readers. Have you wondered why slavery is so common in African history, or why African societies are so frequently conservative and obsessed with the veneration of elders? Why parasites can feast on humans so easily in Africa? Why Africa has been underpopulated?
This book, which came out in 1997, is old news to many of you. But I just discovered it, and it made for excellent airplane reading to the extremely livable, very beautiful, and tasty city of Denver. If you are interested in African development, or economic geography more generally, this book is a must.
But not all is bright. I now worry that, since I missed this book for ten years, there is something deeply deficient in my book-finding algorithms. I thank Karol Boudreaux, who pointed the book out to me while we were in Tanzania.