Favorites

Making web pages is so simple I thought I would add a list of my favorite books, articles, hotels, or whatever. I encourage others to suggest their own favorites by making comments.

Favorite Nonfiction – Current list (most recent at top)

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. Lori Gottlieb. 2019. I loved this book! It is written by a woman who started out as a script writer for Grey’s Anatomy, who started shadowing an MD in the emergency room to better write script, who went to medical school but then dropped out when she realized she really liked the personal interaction which is rare in our health care system, who then became a psychological therapist. The book blends her own therapy with discussions of many of her clients. I liked the insights about therapy and what it is trying to achieve. It will capture you and is a good one to recommend to and discuss at a book group.

Educated. Tara Westover. 2018. This memoir written by a lifelong Mormon growing up in Idaho under unimaginable living conditions who overcomes it to become a PhD success was voted the Amazon Editors’ #1 Pick for the Best Book of 2018. I need not say anything more.

Becoming. Michelle Obama. 2018. I am probably the last person among my book reading friends to finally read this book. Fascinating. I really like Michelle and think she is not yet done having a big impact on the US.

The Moral Economy: Why Good Incentives Are No Substitute for Good Citizens, by Samuel Bowles. 2017. I have not read this book yet but Rachel Kranton’s review in the March 2019 Journal of Economic Literature was excellent, and I am looking forward to reading it. Its main thesis can be summarized as: Since economists know that policies can change beliefs and expectations, and these beliefs can affect outcomes, then when designing or studying policies we should spend more time analyzing the changes in beliefs they may cause, and designing policies to reinforce socially desirable outcomes rather than assuming that only incentives matter.

Thunderstruck. Erik Larson. 2016. The book tells “the interwoven stories of two men – Hawley Crippen, a very unlikely murderer, and Guglielmo Marconi, the obsessive creator of a seemingly supernatural means of communication – whose lives intersect during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time.” (Not as good as Devil in the White City
Night. Elie Wiesel. 1956. I recently reread this haunting personal story from the German Holocaust. Only 144 pages. “Night is a work by Elie Wiesel about his experience with his father in the Nazi German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald in 1944–1945, at the height of the Holocaust toward the end of the Second World War”
Homage to Catalonia. George Orwell 1938. ” George Orwell‘s personal account of his experiences and observations fighting for the Republican army during the Spanish Civil War. “

Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economic. Richard Thaler. 2015. This overview of Behavoiral Economics (BE) by nobel price winner Richard Thaler (U. Chicago) Who also wrote the wonderful book Nudge, is for me the best overview of not only BE, but also documentation of why it has so often been unsuccessful at being widely adopted. The points he makes in chapter 3 The Gauntlet summarizes the critiques of BE and how to rebut them, and should be essential reading for anyone trying to do their own reserach in BE since you will face them whenever you try to present or publish your work. The entire book is devoted to dismissing the gauntlet arguments, and gives a tremendous easy to read synthesis of the literature.

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds Michael Lewis Dec 6, 2016 This remarkable and easy to read book is written as a biography of two Israelis, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, but along the way covers a long list of their remarkable insights and experiments. I highly recommend it to people who tried to read the original, dense book Thinking, Fast and Slow (see below) by these pioneers of behavioral economics.

Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Mar 26, 2013. This is more of a how-to book for business managers and anyone about ways of overcoming biases in how decisions are made, but along the way has a nice overview of the many biases and irrationalities in our thought process. First example: when asked to choose between A and B, don’t. Instead figure out how to do A+B or something even better.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking Malcolm Gladwell 2007. I read this book a long time ago, but added it here since it remains a very powerful and important book. I recommend and have read almost all of Malcolm Gladwell’s work (See especially Outliers and The Tipping Point). His work gives important insights into how people actually make decisions, which are often based on simple heuristics and very little information compared to how decisions are typically modeled by economists. 

Thank you for being late. Thomas Friedman, November 2016. This book extends the previous books by Friedman called The World is Flat and Hot, Flat and Crowded (also great books). It develops the key ideas that the market has speeded up, Mother Nature is under seige from many directions, and Moore’s law are combining to accellerate the world dramatically. He makes a great point that connectivity became fast, free, easy for you and ubiquitous, in 2000, and complexity became fast, free, easy for you and invisible around 2007. I like that the book includes a healthy dose of optimism about what people can do to plan ahead.

Getting a PhD in Economics. Stuart J. Hillmon. 2014. “A good guide written with wit and an honesty that reflects an economist’s way of viewing reality.”—David Colander, Middlebury College “Clear, direct, and fun to read, this book captures all the major aspects of applying to and succeeding in a Ph.D. program in economics.”—Mark C. Foley, Davidson College.

Payoff by Dan Ariely. 2017. This short book of only 128 pages challenges the economists model of people as simply caring about income and minimizing time.  He provides abundant examples and experimental results that show that people worker when their work is appreciated, and they feel that their work is meaningful. Increasing income may be much less important than subtle, almost costless changes in work conditions and interactions.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We do in Life and Business. Charles Duhigg. Feb 28, 2012. We tend to think that many of our decisions are controlled by our analytical minds and made rationally, but this book shows how many decisions we make every day – driving a car, brushing our teeth, snacking, smoking, pleasantries  – are controlled by even more basic mental processes that are much harder to change.  He considers habits of individuals, firms, and societies. 

The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty.  Dan Ariely. 2013. This is an eye-opening overview of a large series of laboratory experiments that show that it is not the case that 90% people are honest with only a few dishonest people, but rather almost everyone will cheat a little bit when given an opportunity. The economist’s “rational crime” theory  – that people trade off the gains of dishonesty against the probability and cost of getting caught – does an extremely poor job capturing factors that motivate cheating and dishonesty. A better framework is that almost everyone cheats and is dishonest, but it is only a matter of degree, and depends on the social setting.

The Devil’s Poison: How Fluoride is Killing You. Dean Murphy. 2008  This well-documented book about the dangers of fluoride  – in our drinking water, drugs, food, and many other places – is the best medically-oriented review of the evidence that fluoride is very dangerous and should not be added to our drinking water. Since so little recent research has been funded in the US to study fluoride, it does not matter that it was published in 2008.  The evidence from early studies, and from non-US research is compelling.

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character. Paul Tough. July 2, 2013. This book, with selective, but useful cites, argues that rather than intelligence and great test scores, success in life depends more on the qualities that have to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, optimism, and self-control. Useful insights for parents with young children.

The Health Care Handbook: A Clear and Concise Guide to the United States Health Care System, 2nd Edition Paperback – November 15, 2014. by Elisabeth Askin (Author), Nathan Moore (Author)  Paper:  $15.99 Electronic: $8.99 Concise summary of the  ridiculous US health care system, particularly strong on insurance and payment systems. Excellent supplement to a text book that covers health economics models and concepts, describing US institutions.

A Guide for the Young Economist. William Thomson 2011 (Second Edition) Excellent overview of ideas for starting or improving your career as an economist, covering writing, advising, presenting, refereeing and more. “This Guide should be read by every young economist under the age of 90.” (As Daniel Hammermesh wrote on the  back cover).

Risk Adjustment for Measuring Health Care Outcomes (Fourth Edition), Lisa I Iezzoni (2013) Excellent overview of risk adjustment, case mix adjustment, datasets, propensity scoring, clinical, social and statistical issues is a must read for anyone doing empirical risk adjustment work.

Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World, Michael Lewis. 2011. W. W. Norton & Company. Describes the colossal errors in judgment that resulted in Iceland, Greece, Ireland and others to crash in 2008, with discussion of Germany and the US. Not as good as the same author’s The Big Short, but useful.

Remedy and Reaction: The Peculiar American Struggle over Health Care Reform Paul Starr. 2011. (Yale University Press, October 3, 2011). Excellent, detailed overview of why it took so long to pass health care reform in the US, and the problems and strengths with the current reform.

Thinking, Fast and Slow. Danial Kahneman, 2011 –  Remarkable insights into how people actually make choices

Health Care Reform. Jon Gruber. 2011 – Short, accesssible, important overview of why mandates, ban on exclusions, and subsidies are all key. Comic book format!

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Richard H Thaler and Cass R Sunstein. 2008. Behavioral economics insights, with some proposals for reform.

Survival of the Sickest. Sharon Moalem, 2007 – Why genetic selection can often cause “genetic defects”

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. Dan Ariely. 2010 – Wonderful insights into how choices are made.

When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order. Martin Jacques. 2009 –  Excellent overview of how world trade and production have changed.

Mountains Beyond Mountains. Tracy Kidder. 2003 – Inspiring story of how Harvard MD Paul Farmer changed health care in Haiti and the world.

Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919. Stephen Puleo. 2003. Note that this is in nonfiction. The title tells it all.

Angela’s Ashes. Frank McCourt. 1996. “A 1996 memoir by the Irish-American author Frank McCourt, with various anecdotes and stories of his childhood. It details his very early childhood in Brooklyn, New York, but focuses primarily on his life in Limerick, Ireland.

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. 1992. John Gray. Great insights into how men and women stereotypically (not always) view the world.

The Case Against Fluoride. Paul Connett, James Beck, and H.S. Micklem. 2010 –  A continuing hobby.

Favorite Fiction.

I do read fiction, several books a year, but I often don’t add them in here regularly.

Embarassing that I have not listed more. I especially like historical fiction. Or pure escapism. Here are a few favorites, some going way back.

The Killer Angels Michael Shaara, 1974. Gives an incredibly vivid story of the US civil war battle of Gettysburg, and in particular Col0nal Chamberlain and the 20th Maine Infantry on Little Round Top.
Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure, by Jeff Shaara, which are the prequel and sequel, respectively, to his father Michael’s award-winning novel The Killer Angels. There re many more by Jeff.
Eleni. Nicholas Gage. 1985. Biography of Greek civil war and World War II. One of my all time favorite books.
The Hunger Games trilogy. Suzanne Collins 2008. Science fiction.
The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo. 2005.Trilogy Stieg Larsson. Great psychology and mystery.

Twilight Trilogy Stephenie Meyer. 2005. (OK, so my daughter was reading them first…)

Everthing by Dan Brown, John Grisham, and most of Clive Cussler, John Steinbeck, Jack London, JRR Tolkein, Isaac Asimov,

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. 1997.

Ender’s Game. by Orson Scott Card. 1985 “A 1985 military science fiction novel by American author Orson Scott Card. Set at an unspecified date in Earth’s future, the novel presents an imperiled mankind after two conflicts with the Formics, an insectoid alien species which they dub the “buggers”.”

Middlesex: A Novel Jeffrey Eugenides. 2002 From the book’s web page:A dazzling triumph from the bestselling author of The Virgin Suicides –the astonishing tale of a gene that passes down through three generations of a Greek-American family and flowers in the body of a teenage girl.”


Favorite Articles

Rachel Kranton, 2019. The Devil Is in the Details: Implications of Samuel Bowles’s The Moral Economyfor Economics and Policy Research” JEL. 57(1), 147–160.

Geruso, M. and Layton, T.J., 2017. Selection in Health Insurance Markets and Its Policy Remedies. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 31(4), pp.23-50.

Ellis, Randall P. , Bruno Martins, and Wenjia Zhu (2017) Demand elasticities and service selection incentives among competing private health plans. Journal of Health Economics.

Sendhil Mullainathan and Jann Spiess 2017. Machine Learning: An Applied Econometric ApproachJournal of Economic Perspectives vol. 31, no. 2, Spring 2017 (pp. 87-106)

Kantaravic, Jasmin and Kralj Boris, (2012) Link between Pay for Performance Incentives and Physician Payment Mechanisms: Evidence from the Diabetes Management Incentive in Ontario.Health Economics. Excellent methodologically rigorous paper showing that pay for performance can significantly affect outcomes, and that a mixed system can work.
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hec.2890/pdf

Moseley et al,.  2002. A Controlled Trial of Arthroscopic Surgery for Osteoarthritis of the Knee. New England Journal of Medicine– Arthroscopies for Osteoarthritis of the Knee cost $3 billion per year in the US ($10 per American!), but don’t work, and controlled trials of surgery ARE feasible.

Ruhm, Chris. 2005. Healthy Living in Hard Times, Journal of Health Economics Recessions result in fewer deaths and better health, reminding us that medical care is secondary to lifestyle.

Bleakley, Hoyt. 2007  Disease and Development: Evidence from Hookworm Eradication in the American South, Quarterly Journal of Economics, This paper in graphs. Shows the value of wearing shoes.

Ellis RP and McGuire TG. 1986. “Provider Behavior under Prospective Payment: Cost Sharing and Supply.” Journal of Health Economics.

Ash, Arlene S., Ellis, Randall P.  “Risk-adjusted Payment and Performance Assessment for Primary Care.”Medical Care 50(8) August 2012.


Favorite Hotels

Amalfi Hotel, Chicago. 20 West Kinzie St. Free internet, abundant free continental buffet, free happy hour with horsd’oeurves, cheap (AEA discounted) price. Great boutique hotel. Not a chain. On-line rate (winter discount on 1/12/2012) from $122.  www.amalfihotelchicago.com

Bertram Inn, Boston.20 minute walk (1.1 miles) to BU, 3 minutes walk to Green subway line. Luxurious Inn/Bed and breakfast, fireplaces, quilts, home-style bedrooms. (I have never stayed there, but hear good reviews.) Ask for the BU discount (significant) when reserving and checking in. (On line winter rate on 1/12/2012 of $119, a steal for Boston) http://www.bertraminn.com/

Hotel Edelweis Rigi, Mt Rigi, Switzerland, at 1500 meters, Situated on on a ridge with fantastic views of Lake Lucerne (Luzern) and the surrounding alps. Only a two minute walk from the Mount Rigi Cog railway station. Wonderful food, views from balconied rooms and excellent hiking trails including a cliff walk trail that is one of the most special in the world. http://www.edelweiss-rigi.ch/

I welcome more suggestions for any of the above categories.