1. Emmanuel Carrère, Limonov, The Outrageous Adventures of the Radical Soviet Poet Who Became a Bum in New York, A Sensation in France, and a Political Antihero in Russia. Blends fiction, non-fiction, and occasional social science (was a non-corrupt transformation of the Soviet Union really possible?, Gaidar ultimately decided it wasn’t), but in terms of the subjective experience of the reader it is most like a novel. Excellent and also entertaining. I consider this a deep book about why liberalism will never quite win over human nature. Here is an interesting Julian Barnes review, although in my opinion it is insufficiently appreciative.
2. Kenneth D. Durr, The Best Made Plans: Robert R. Nathan and 20th Century Liberalism. I may be biased because I just gave a talk at the Nathan Foundation and received it as a gift copy. I call this the “real history of economic thought.” It’s a look at the career of a man who worked with Simon Kuznets to improve gdp statistics, helped lead the war effort in the 1940s, supported the civil rights movement, founded a major economic consulting firm, and supported the idea and practice of economic development, most of all for South Korea and Myanmar. It’s a splendid look at twentieth century economics as it actually influenced the world, without centering the story on academia. By the way, here is Diane Coyle on Walter Lippmann.
3. Marlon James, A Brief History of Seven Killings. This account of 1970s Jamaica, centered on a plot to shoot Bob Marley, shows a remarkable amount of talent, as well as a mastery of plot construction and different novelistic voices, some of which are in Jamaican patois. If you pick up this book you will be impressed and indeed many of the reviews are glowing. Yet somehow never did I care, feel entertained, or wish to read further. I stopped. I remain interested in that era, but will instead recommend a viewing — or reviewing — of The Harder They Come or Marley.
4. John D. Mueller, Redeeming Economics: Rediscovering the Missing Element. That element would be Providence, and this work looks at how Scholastic insights can serve as a foundation for economic thought. Loyal MR readers will know that is not exactly my brew, but some of you will find this of interest.