Consilience Productions
Book Picks

On this page, we present to you links to recommended books or other publications, arranged alphabetically by title, that have to do with the world of commerce. When you click on a title below, you will be taken to another page that describes the publication in greater detail. From that individual page, we then link you to another website where you can purchase the book or publication.

If you have any suggestions for other books or publications to be included on this page, please send them in and we will consider including them on this page. Thanks!

A)

N)
Nickel and Dimed - Author and sociologist Barbara Ehrenreich spent about three months in 1998-2000 in three cities throughout the nation, attempting to "get by" on the salary available to low-paid and unskilled workers. She describes full-time workers who sleep in their cars because they cannot afford housing, and employees who yearn for the ability to "take a day off now and then-and still be able to buy groceries the next day." Her account is at once enraging and sobering.

B)
Bull - A History of the Boom, 1982-1999 - Although Maggie Mahar tries to frame this book as an investment guide, it reads more naturally as an indictment of stock analysts and the financial media. Intimidation, as well as exuberance, supported the biggest bubble of our time.
O)
Out of Gas - The End of the Age of Oil. - Our rate of oil discovery has reached its peak and will never be exceeded; rather, it is certain to decline—perhaps rapidly—forever forward. "No matter what else happens," the author states, "this is the century in which we must learn to live without fossil fuels."
C)
Class Matters - In Class Matters, a team of New York Times reporters explores the ways in which class—defined as a combination of income, education, wealth, and occupation—influences destiny in a society that likes to think of itself as a land of opportunity. We meet individuals in Kentucky and Chicago who have used education to lift themselves out of poverty and others in Virginia and Washington whose lack of education holds them back. We meet an upper-middle-class family in Georgia who moves to a different town every few years, and the newly rich in Nantucket whose mega-mansions have driven out the longstanding residents.

P)
Perfectly Legal - The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich - and Cheat Everybody Else - From 1970 to 2000, the income share of just 13,400 households - the richest hundredth of 1 percent - rose from 1 percent to 5 percent of all income, and from 100 to 560 times the national average. David Cay Johnston tells many of these stories, including the one about Bill and Melinda Gates "devising a way...to reap $200 million in profits on Microsoft stock without paying the $56 million of capital gains taxes that federal law required."

The Price of Civilization - For more than three decades, Jeffrey D. Sachs has been at the forefront of international economic problem solving. But Sachs turns his attention back home in The Price of Civilization, a book that is essential reading for every American. In a forceful, impassioned, and personal voice, he offers not only a searing and incisive diagnosis of our country’s economic ills but also an urgent call for Americans to restore the virtues of fairness, honesty, and foresight as the foundations of national prosperity.

D) Q)

E)
The Economic Naturalist: In Search of Explanations - Robert Frank is the rare economist with a gift for irony. And economic ironies abound in The Economic Naturalist, a collection of nuggets culled from an assignment Frank gives to introductory economics students at Cornell: in 500 words or less, “pose and answer an interesting question about some pattern of events or behavior that you personally have observed.” Frank sees this homework as part of an effort to bring more narrative into the teaching of economics and to make intimidated students realize they may already possess a rudimentary grasp of the dismal science.

The End of Poverty - Despite some crushing statistics, The End of Poverty is a hopeful book. Based on a tremendous amount of data and his own experiences working as an economic advisor to the UN and several individual nations, Jeffrey Sachs makes a strong moral, economic, and political case for why countries and individuals should battle poverty with the same commitment and focus normally reserved for waging war. This important book not only makes the end of poverty seem realistic, but in the best interest of everyone on the planet, rich and poor alike.

R)
Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon - "A chilling account of the reckless disregard for ethical or civilized values at the heart of our financial system. If this compelling history does not completely turn your stomach, that's good - because by bailing out these individuals, their attitudes, and their way of life, we have set ourselves up for another nauseating turn of the Financial Wheel." Simon Johnson.

 

F)
Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class - Knowing that Steve Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group made almost $400 million last year, or that he spent $3 million last February on his 60th-birthday party (entertainment: Rod Stewart, Marvin Hamlisch, Martin Short, Patti LaBelle), doesn’t simply make the typical American green with envy, and hence unhappy. Rather, Robert Frank argues, the problem is that extreme consumption — at which Schwarzman excels — helps shape norms for the whole society, not just his fellow plutocrats.

Fast Food Nation - Eric Schlosser documents the effects of fast food on America's economy, its youth culture, and allied industries, such as meat packing, that serve this vast food production empire. A must-must-read!!

Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill) - “If you’re concerned about congressional earmarks, stock options (especially backdated options), hedge fund tax breaks, abuse of eminent domain, subsidies to sports teams, K Street lobbyists, the state of our health-care system, to say nothing of the cavernous gap between rich and poor, you’ll read this fine book - as I did - with a growing sense of outrage. Free Lunch makes it clear that it’s high time for ‘We the People’ to stand up and be counted.” ~~ John C. Bogle, founder and former chairman, The Vanguard Group

Free: The Future of a Radical Price - In the digital marketplace, the most effective price is no price at all, argues author Chris Anderson.

S)
Sick: The Untold Story of America's Health Care Crisis
-- And the People Who Pay the Price
- In this addition to the growing list of exposés of the toll our patchwork, profit-based health-care system takes on Americans, Jonathan Cohn makes a plea for a universal coverage with a single-payer system regulated by the government. Cohn points out that managed care initially had an altruistic goal of making health-care affordable for all. But by 1997, two-thirds of HMOs were controlled by for-profit companies concerned with making money rather than preventing and easing sickness.

Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life - Public-relations skirmishes are no substitute for democracy. The ritual scolding of corporations in front of Congressional committees, Robert Reich argues, goes hand in hand with Congress's failure to pass follow-up laws that reward businesses for safeguarding the environment or walking away from deals with serial human rights abusers. Washington is all about the money, he writes.

G)
Gangs of America - "As every business executive knows, few elements of American society today have as little influence in government as the American businessman," wrote the late Supreme Court Justice, Lewis Powell, just 30 years ago. Boy, how things have changed! Tom Nace, the author, follows the history of the U.S. corporation from the beginning of America to the present in a convincingly humorous manner.

Generation Rx : How Prescription Drugs Are Altering American Lives, Minds, and Bodies - According to the author, almost half of all Americans use a prescription drug daily; one in six take three or more. What are the possible consequences of the staggering recent growth in the use of such drugs?

T)
The 2% Solution - Journalist Matthew Miller has a compelling way of finding the middle ground between conservatives and liberals and ending gridlock on major issues. Real solutions to seemingly intractable problems are presented in this book, and to "real-life" politicians as well, who, as Miller reports to us, are quite receptive to many of his solutions.

The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It - The industry lobbying group for the pharmaceutical industry has an oft-quoted figure that the average cost of developing a new drug is $802 million. The author of this important book, Marcia Angell, M.D., sites studies showing that between 1998 & 2002, only 133 out of 415 new drugs approved by the FDA were "new molecular entities," and of those, only 58 (or 14% of the 415) were a "significant improvement" over existing products. In addition, half of the $800 million ($400 million) is counted as lost investment opportunity on the costs of developing the "new" drug. In other words, the cost of marketing far outweighs the costs spent on Research & Development.

Too Big to Fail - In "Too Big to Fail," Andrew Ross Sorkin skillfully captures the raucous enthusiasm and riotous greed that fueled this rational irrationality. The brokers and bankers and traders he brings to life couldn't resist doing one more insanely hazardous deal because, well, everyone else was doing it, and the profits were too alluring. The only event likely to disrupt the party was if real estate went bust all across the country. And then, that’s exactly what happened. ~ NY Times

H)
The High Price of Materialism - "Does money buy happiness? For years, social scientists knew relatively little about this important question. Now that has changed. On the basis of more than a decade's worth of original research, Tim Kasser provides a powerful answer - materialism undermines human well-being." ~~ Juliet Schor, Professor of Sociology, Boston College

How Markets Fail: The Logic of Economic Calamities - Using psychology and behavioral economics, author John Cassidy presents an excellent argument that the market is not in fact self-correcting, and that only a return to reality-based economics -- and a reform-minded move to shove Wall Street in that direction -- can pull us out of the mess in which we've found ourselves.

U)
I) V)
J)
Javatrekker: Dispatches From the World of Fair Trade Coffee - "Dean is truly a singular character in the world of coffee roasters. He takes an intense interest in knowing the origins of his coffee. While most roasters and importers brag about their 'Third World' experiences, Dean travels to the 'Fourth World,' getting down and dirty with the indigenous groups growing the coffees, way out beyond where most folks will go. He is embraced universally by these groups and hailed as a true brother."
--John Cossette, Royal Coffee, Inc.
W)
The Working Poor - This, from the author, David Shipler, says it all: “Most of the people I write about in this book do not have the luxury of rage. They are caught in exhausting struggles. Their wages do not lift them far enough from poverty to improve their lives, and their lives, in turn, hold them back. The term by which they are usually described, ‘working poor,’ should be an oxymoron. Nobody who works hard should be poor in America.”
K) X)

L)
The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty - "If you think you can’t afford to give money to the needy, I urge you to read this book. If you think you’re already giving enough, and to the right places, still I urge you to read this book. In The Life You Can Save, Peter Singer makes a strong case -- logical and factual, but also emotional -- for why each of us should be doing more for the world's impoverished. This book will challenge you to be a better person. ~~ Holden Karnofsky, co-founder, GiveWell.

The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More - Author Chris Anderson offers a visionary look at the future of business and common culture. The long-tail phenomenon, he argues, will "re-shape our understanding of what people actually want to watch" (or read, etc.).

Y)

M)
The Media Monopoly - Since this classic on corporate control of the media was first published in 1983, the number of corporations dominating our media has shrunk from fifty to merely five. Once called "alarmist", Bagdikian's claims are uncanny and chilling in their accuracy. This much-needed sixth edition follows up on the digital revolution, revealing startling details of a new communications cartel within the United States.

Merchants of Doubt - "As the science of global warming has grown more certain over the last two decades, the attack on that science has grown more shrill; this volume helps explain that paradox, and not only for climate change. A fascinating account of a very thorny problem."

~~ Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

The Mind and The Market - Global markets destroy local cultures. Corporate greed breeds poverty wages. Slogans shouted at a demonstration against the World Trade Organization? Not exactly. As Catholic University history professor Muller argues, these were the concerns of European intellectuals as they witnessed the rise of modern capitalism.

Z)

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