1. Government and the American Economy: A New History, no editor but the book is dedicated to Bob Higgs by Price Fishback. Imagine essays by economic history luminaries, mostly classical liberals, covering many different eras of American economic history. For some this is a gold mine.
2. The Third Domain, by Tim Friend. An overview of archaea, those odd life forms that survive where nothing else can. A fascinating look at a still mysterious topic. It’s not as well written as the top-drawer popular science books but since you probably know little or nothing about the topic the amount you will learn is high.
3. Empires of Trust: How Rome Built — and America is Building — a New World, by Thomas F. Madden. This book is avowed pro-Roman, pro-American, and sees strong parallels across the two regimes; part of the thesis is that neither wanted to build an empire but had to.
4. The Power Makers: Steam, Electricity, and the Men Who Invented Modern America, by Maury Klein. This is a big, clunky book with lots of poor exposition. It also covers a vital era — the real Industrial Revolution — which has remained oddly neglected by too many economic historians.
5. The Race Between Education and Technology, by Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz. This is the most important book on modern U.S. inequality to date; here is my previous coverage of their ideas. I’m still waiting for Paul Krugman to write a critique but right now their core hypothesis is looking strong.