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My Top 5 Reads of 2020: Popular finance and economics

By D.A. Holdsworth

2020 was the year I quit my office job to focus on my writing – happy days! But it’s also allowed me to focus on my reading – which in the swirl of ‘ordinary life’ and raising a young family – had been dwindling to almost nothing.

One of the genres, in which I’ve really enjoyed rooting about, is popular finance and economics. As readers of How to Buy a Planet will know, the novel aims numerous satirical digs at investment

banking and our wider economic system. Since publishing it, I’ve hugely enjoyed reading more

widely in this area. Perhaps unsurprisingly, everything I’ve read has tended to re-confirm my worst


Anyway, here are my Top 5, along with links to my reviews on Goodreads:

5. The Finance Curse: How global finance is making us all poorer (Nicholas Shaxson)

Warning: do not read this book just before bedtime. It’s not good for blood pressure, nor for sleep. The author is angry about the financial world – how it’s run – in whose interests it’s run – and his anger is, alas, infectious.

I started this book pretty sceptical about the City and finance in general, and I… Read more

4. How to Make the World Add Up: Ten rules for thinking differently about numbers (Tim Harford)

This is a very timely book for our ‘post-truth’ world. The author acts like a kind of data hygienist, giving us advice on how to spot dodgy statistics, dodgy presentation of statistics and, equally

importantly, our own prejudices. Wanting to believe a thing is true – or not true – is the biggest risk we face in interpreting stats well.

This is all well and good and worthwhile, but here’s what I really liked about this book… Read more 

3. The Big Short: Inside the doomsday machine (Michael Lewis)

If Michael Lewis didn't exist, you'd have to invent him.

His role as Wall Street's representative on Earth, letting us mere mortals know what the masters of the universe are (or have been) doing, is essential. In fact, his role goes wider than that: as you learn in the book, most Wall Street bosses didn't know what had been going on… Read more

2. Boomerang: Travels in the new third world (Michael Lewis)

A phenomenally well written book. I'm a bit late to this title - it's nine years since it was published and over a decade since the key

events it describes took place (the credit crunch). Still, I was drawn to it because we're in the midst of the next big debt crisis, and the book feels very relevant again.

It's markedly different to most works in the popular finance / popular economics space…Read more

1. The Growth Delusion: The wealth and well-being of nations (David Pilling)

My copy of this book is a small forest of post-it notes and frenzied scribbles. A sure sign I’ve engaged with the book and – probably – loved it. In the case of ‘The Growth Delusion’, both are true.

Pilling takes the reader on a tour of GDP and our obsession with economic growth: the technical

flaws of the index itself (GDP) and… Read more

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