2. The Patron’s Payoff: Conspicuous Commissions in Italian Renaissance Art, by Jonathan K. Nelson and Richard J. Zeckhauser. Put together a collaborating art historian, a first-rate microeconomist, an interest in signaling and a preface by A. Michael Spence and this is what you get.
3. White Heat: The Friendship Between Emily Dicksinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, by Brenda Wineapple. Yes, this is a very good book. But it has the same problem that most other Emily Dickinson books have. Her poems are so short you can fit them into a narrative and they are so strong they tend to overwhelm any non-fiction context they are put in.
4. Geoffrey Heal, When Principles Pay:Corporate Social Responsibility and the Bottom Line. The main point is that socially responsible behavior is often profitable for business in the long run. I know that doesn’t sound like such a compelling message right now, but this is a highly intelligent and now a sadly neglected book.
5. Samuel Johnson: A Biography, by Peter Martin. This is only the third best biography of Johnson (Walter Jackson Bate is #2) and it is still one of the best books of the year. What does that say?