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April 14, 2024updated 15 Apr 2024 9:14am

Spear’s reading room: the best books to read right now

The books to read now, including Joseph Stiglitz on freedom and capitalism and a look at how women built Fifth Avenue

By Spear's

From Nobel Prize-winning Joseph Stiglitz‘s reappraisal of the relationship between capitalism and freedom to a former Bank of England economist on why big systems often make bad decisions – and the damaging consequences – the latest must-read books to add to your TBR pile.

The best books to read right now

The Road to Freedom, by Joseph Stiglitz

‘It is time to establish a global minimum tax on the very rich.’ So says Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who last year joined calls from the EU Tax Observatory for greater taxes on billionaires. Now Stiglitz digs into the doctrine of neoliberalism, examining the argument that deregulated markets can alleviate inequalities through the promotion of free enterprise. He considers how economic ‘freedom’ can be the preserve of a small number of powerful players, and notes that many are prevented from attaining it in ‘surprising ways’. 

Allen Lane, £25, from 23 April

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[See also: Review: The Price Is Wrong is another work of whistling ambition from Brett Christophers]

When Women Ran Fifth Avenue, by Julie Satow

Following her well-received book about New York’s Plaza Hotel, Julie Satow turns her attention to the history of the street on which it is located: Fifth Avenue. She focuses on the lives of three ‘visionary’ women who steered the Big Apple’s famous department stores of the 20th century, including one who encouraged enthusiasm for US designers during WWII, when Parisian fashions had been in vogue. A stylish book that befits its subject matter, Satow’s study of retail consumerism is glitzy, decadent and, most importantly, fun. 

US edition Doubleday, $32.50, from 4 June

Making Sense of Chaos, by J Doyne Farmer  

Our economic models are failing to capture the complexity of the modern world. Fossil fuels are threatening the earth’s atmospheric fabric, and when financial markets behave erratically, the instability is felt through globalised trade networks. J Doyne Farmer, the Baillie Gifford professor of complex systems science at Oxford, has spent decades on predictive methods. Here he unveils a ‘manifesto for how to do economics better’, using new models to understand economic activity through ‘complex systems’ science. 

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Allen Lane, £25, from 25 April

The Unaccountability Machine by Dan Davies 

A former regulatory economist who worked at the Bank of England, Dan Davies has previously written about the ways white-collar crime has shaped modern economies in Lying for Money. Now, he looks at a more honest (but no less troubling) dilemma facing most large institutions and governments: an inability to make good decisions at scale. Drawing on the work of economist Stafford Beer, Davies explores why big systems often make flawed decisions or duck out of them altogether – and the damaging consequences that can follow. 

Profile Books, £22, from 18 April

This feature first appeared in Spear’s Magazine: Issue 91. Click here to subscribe

Spear's Issue 91: cover image
Introducing Spear’s Magazine Issue 91 / Artwork: Diego Abreu

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