Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas books

My family helped fill out the history/political economy of science shelf:

Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations, by David Warsh, is a popular account of the development of endogenous growth theory. This is something I'll cover in my spring macro course which is mostly on growth theory, and it will hopefully be the subject of one of my dissertation chapters.

Drawing Theories Apart, by David Kaiser, is a history of the diffusion of Feynman diagrams. Kaiser is an important historian of post-war physics that I've gone to in the past for insights on the labor market for physicists. His work as a historian on these issues has been as indispensable for me as the work on the same issue by the economist Richard Freeman. This particular book has intrigued me ever since I read Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions, since it's all about how a useful way of talking about the world developed and spread. I also anticipate I'll learn a little physics reading it.

Is American Science in Decline?, by Yu Xie and Alexandra A. Killewald, provides a middle of the road answer to the title question by two sociologists. I have to confess I don't know much about this book. It got on my radar because Hal Salzman pointed it out to me and suggested the first author has been somewhat hostile to his own work, including an Urban Institute working paper that I helped with that got a lot of media coverage.


With this subject area covered, I was left to spend an Amazon gift certificate on one economics book I've been needing, a history book I've been looking at, and three books on the history of American economic thought:

Investment Under Uncertainty, by Dixit and Pindyk, is a book on real options pricing. Bob Lerman is encouraging me to apply real options pricing to human capital investment decisions for one of my dissertation chapters, and this will be an essential resource for that.

The Creation of the American Republic, by Gordon S. Wood, really should have been in my library a long time ago and there's not much more to say about it than that. Gene Callahan has a review of a more recent collection of essays by Wood.

And three dealing with economic thought:

The Economy of Abundance, Stuard Chase's famous 1934 Keynesianish tome.

Benjamin Franklin and the Politics of Improvement, by Alan Houston, and

Modernizing a Slave Economy: The Economic Vision of the Confederate Nation, by John Majewski

It's amazing what kind of deals you can get on this stuff if you buy used!


  1. Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations is a great book! One of the most enlightening I've ever read. I think I learned more macro from it than I ever did in class.

  2. Nice, my Christmas gift were the three volumes of Marx's Capital. Not sure if I'll ever read that cover-to-cover.

  3. DK, you'll be pleased to hear that I finally decided to read The General Theory in its entirety. I have it waiting on my desk when I return from holiday, along with some others...

    On the topic of economic thought, I'll make another punt for Agnar Sandmo's Economics Evolving. I may be biased as he was one of my profs, but it provides a truly excellent exposition of the discipline and the major thinkers that shaped the development of the subject. If my own endorsement isn't particularly convincing, I've also seen very positive reviews from the likes of Dixit, Solow, Baumol, Stiglitz, etc...


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