1. Harold James, The German Slump: Politics and Economics 1924-1936. Not economic history in the post-cliometrics sense, but a history of economic issues, very high quality, full of good information on just about every page.
2. William Rosen, Miracle Cure: The Creation of Antibiotics and the Birth of Modern Medicine. A good book on exactly what the title promises, my favorite sentence was this: “Before penicillin, three-quarters of all prescriptions were still compounded by pharmacists using physician-supplied recipes and instructions, with only a quarter ordered directly from a drug catalog. Twelve years later, nine-tenths of all prescribed medicines were for branded products.”
3. Justin Yifu Lin and Celestin Monga, Beating the Odds: Jump-Starting Developing Countries. An instructive look at how countries have to start growing before the right institutional framework is in place, and how they can get around that. Haven’t you wondered how China racked up so many years of stellar growth with such a bad “Doing Business” ranking from the World Bank? One of the better books on developing economies in the last few years.
4. Joan C. Williams, White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America. An intelligent and indeed reasonable basic approach to answering questions about class, including “Why don’t they push their kids harder to succeed?” and “Why don’t the people who benefit most from government help seem to appreciate it?” I am not the intended audience, but still this was better than I was expecting.
Rick Wartzman, The End of Loyalty: The Rise and Fall of Good Jobs in America, is a densely-written but nonetheless useful history of how America moved from paternalistic big businesses to lower-benefit jobs.
Arnold Kling, The Three Languages of Politics: Talking Across the Political Divides. This short book, revised, improved, and expanded, is so good it is wasted on almost all of you. Here are various pieces of background information.