1. Building the Intentional University: Minerva and the Future of Higher Education, edited by Stephen M. Kosslyn and Ben Nelson. The new university Minerva explains its educational philosophy, imagining redesigning higher ed from scratch. I would do something very similar to what they did, and this book explains the curricular philosophy and practice in great detail.
2. Olivier Roy, In Search of the Lost Orient: An Interview. There should be a book like this for every substantive thinker, namely a very long, book-length interview with frank rather than perfunctory answers. The dialog covers Afghanistan, Yemen, 1968 Paris and radicalism, China, “political Islam,” and women (ahem), among other topics. Recommended.
3. Aaron Carroll, The Bad Food Bible: How and Why to Eat Sinfully. Yes, that is the Aaron Carroll, the one who writes about health care policy. What does the evidence actually say about which foods are good and bad for you? I’ll just say my diet is healthier than I had thought, and beware added sugar.
I have only browsed Abbas Amanat’s Iran: A Modern History, but it appears to be a very readable and highly useful 908 pp. overview of Persian/Iranian history, though less theoretical and conceptual than what an economist might be looking for.
Harvey Sachs, Toscanini: A Musician of Conscience, is a very high quality book, I would have read more of it except I can’t stand listening to Toscanini.
Eric A. Posner has the forthcoming Last Resort: The Financial Crisis and the Future of Bailouts. He argues that much of what was done was not fully legal.
Dani Rodrik’s Straight Talk on Trade: Ideas for a Sane World Economy is a very good introduction to Rodrik’s basic ideas on trade.