Two years after the Heretical Finance Reading group began, we are still going strong. With a core group of committed Heretics that come every month and a much larger group that come to more than half of the meetings, each meeting has a unique mix of academics, students, people who currently or previously worked in finance, those that work in civil society, and those that join out of general interest. In the past we sought to devise a list based on genre, or a mix between the ‘classics’ and ‘contemporary’ books on finance. We took some pains trying to get the correct balance between different types of books, yet when we met up it did not matter whether it was a short fiction or long academic book, the discussion was always lively.
This year we want to try something different. Co-Convenor Clea Bourne compiled an extensive list that combines our previous two (2015 & 2016) long lists as well as some recently published books and we want to crowd-source the 2017 short list. We have isolated three distinct categories of heretical finance: (1) Fiction and Literary exploration of finance; (2) Finance, the economy and policy; (3) Financial markets, trading and investment.
FICTION AND LITERARY EXPLORATIONS OF FINANCE
Atwood, Margaret (2009) ‘Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth’. Bloomsbury Publishing.
In this wide-ranging history of debt, Margaret Atwood investigates its many meanings through the ages, from ancient times to the current global financial meltdown.
Defoe, Daniel. (1719) ‘The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe’
Defoe is the acknowledged ‘father of the novel’. His famous tale is can be seen as an interesting thought experiment in economics.
Dickens, Charles (1848). ‘Dealings with the Firm of Dombey and Son: Wholesale, Retail and for Exportation’
Dombey’s power to disturb comes from his belief that human relationships can be controlled by money.
Elliot, George (1861). ‘Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe’
The famous novel is currently being interpreted as an allegory about the gold standard.
Faulks, Sebastian (2010) ‘A Week in December’, Vintage Books.
A conniving hedge fund manager is one character in this story of intersecting lives across seven days in London. This satire tackles religious extremism, market fundamentalism and celebrity culture.
Haslett, Adam (2011) ‘Union Atlantic’, Atlantic Books.
Lead characters include an egotistical Gulf War veteran-turned-banker with a troubled past, who turns a stable, traditional bank into an over-stretched global financial services corporation.
Lewycka, Marina (2013) ‘Various Pets, Alive and Dead’, Penguin.
By the author of ‘A Short History of Tractors in the Ukraine’. The story is played out against the background of the 2008 financial crisis.
Louth, Nick (2007) ‘Funny Money: The Investment Diary of Bernard Jones’, Ludensian Books.
Retired civil servant and hapless investor, ‘Bernard Jones’, first appeared in the author’s 2006 Investors Chronicle magazine columns.
Poovey, Mary (2008) ‘Genres of the Credit Economy: Mediating Value in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-century Britain’, University of Chicago Press.
How did participating in the modern financial system come to seem like a routine part of everyday life? Chronicle the process by which our most important conceptual categories were naturalised.
Sutton, Henry (2011) ‘Get Me Out Of Here: The first credit crunch novel’, Vintage Books. Unreliable narrator Matt Freeman curses his way through a day of petty annoyances in a perfect display of spoilt City boy behaviour.
Trollope, Anthony (1867). ‘The Last Chronicle of Barset’.
About debt, a curate, and a forged cheque.
Wells, H.G. (1909) ‘Tono-Bungay’.
George devotes seven years to organising the production and manufacture of Tono-Bungay, a product he believes to be “a damned swindle”. Regarded as a fictionalised tale of Coca-Cola.
FINANCE, THE ECONOMY AND POLICY
CORE-econ (2016) ‘The Economy: The Core Project’, http://www.core-econ.org/ebook/
A collaborative project providing open-access for anyone interested in learning about the economy and economics.
Earle, Joe and Moran, Cahal (2016) ‘The Econocracy: The Perils of Leaving Economics to the Experts’. Manchester University Press.
Argues that since the language and logic of economics shapes the thinking about political issues, this effectively locks out the majority of citizens, who cannot ‘speak’ economics.
Holmes, Douglas (2013) ‘Economy of Words: Communicative Imperatives in Central Banks’. University of Chicago Press.
Shows how central bankers have been engaging in communicative experiments that predate the financial crisis and continue to define its aftermath.
King, Mervyn (2016) ‘The End of Alchemy: Money, Banking and the Future of the Global Economy’, Little, Brown Publishing.
The former central banker argues that the financial crisis was and remains not a crisis of banking or of policy-making.
Klein, Naomi (2014) ‘This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate’, Simon and Schuster.
Forget everything you think you know about global warming. It’s not about carbon – it’s about capitalism.
Kunz, Rachel (2013) ‘The Political Economy of Global Remittances’, Routledge.
Based on fieldwork in Mexico, this book maps the conceptual and institutional elements of the global remittances trend, through gender-sensitive governmentality analysis.
Martin, Felix (2014) ‘Money: The Unauthorised Biography’. Vintage.
What is money, and how does it work? The conventional answer is that today’s financial universe evolved from barter. The author argues that there is a problem with this story. It’s wrong.
Mason, Paul (2015) ‘Postcapitalism: A guide to our future’, Allen Lane.
How information technology is a revolution could completely reshape familiar notions of work, production and value; and that it’s already doing so.
Pettifor, Ann (2017) ‘The Production of Money’, Verso.
How to take control back from the bankers.
Raworth, Kate (2017) Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist, Random House.
Selects best emergent ideas from ecological, feminist, behavioural and institutional economics; complexity thinking, systems dynamics and Earth-systems science to reveal insights on the economy.
Rickards, James (2014) ‘The Death of Money: The Coming Collapse of the International Monetary System’. Portfolio
This book is about the demise of the dollar – and about the potential collapse of the international monetary system. If confidence in the dollar is lost, no other currency stands ready to take its place.
Turner, Adair (2015) ‘Between Debt and the Devil: Money, Credit, and Fixing Global Finance’. Princeton University Press.
Challenges the belief that we need credit growth to fuel economic growth, and that rising debt is okay as long as inflation remains low.
Varoufakis, Yanis (2016) ‘And The Weak Suffer What They Must? Europe, Austerity and the Threat to Global Stability’, Bodley Head.
The crisis in Europe isn’t over, and it’s getting worse.
Weeks, John (2014) ‘Economics of the 1%: How Mainstream Economics Serves the Rich, Obscures Reality and Distorts Policy’, Anthem Press.
The central idea of this book concerns our blindness toward randomness, and deviations.
Bauman, Zygmunt (2000) ‘Liquid Modernity’. Polity Press.
The critical sociologist calls for a rethinking of the concepts and cognitive frames used to narrate human individual experience and their joint history. He includes capitalism in his discussion.
Werner, Richard (2003) ‘Princes of the Yen: Japan’s Central Bankers and the Transformation of the Economy’, Routledge
A disturbing look at Japan’s post-war economy and the key factors that shaped it.
FINANCE, TRADING AND INVESTING
Bagehot, Walter (1873) ‘Lombard Street: A Description of the Money Market’
A classic by the famous early editor of The Economist.
Campbell, Jeremy (2015) ‘Conjuring Property: Speculation and environmental futures in the Brazilian Amazon’, University of Washington Press.
From highly-capitalised ranchers to landless workers, property is a dynamic category that becomes salient once conjured through papers, official appeals, manipulation of landscapes and memories.
Campello, Daniela (2016) ‘The Politics of Market Discipline in Latin America’, Cambridge University Press.
Challenges conventional wisdom that financial markets impose broad, severe constraints over leftist economic policies in developing countries.
Cox, Harvey (2016) ‘The Market as God’. Harvard University Press
Only by tracing how the Market reached its divine status can we hope to restore it to its proper place as servant of humanity.
Defoe, Daniel (1719) ‘The Anatomy of Exchange Alley: or a System of Stock-Jobbing’
“Proving that scandalous trade, as it is now carry’d on, to be knavish in its private practice, and treason in its publick: … By a jobber.”
Harrington, Brook (2016) ‘Capital without Borders: Wealth Managers and the one Percent’ Harvard University Press.
Eight-year study following wealth managers in the 18 most popular tax havens.
Josephson, Matthew (2008) ‘The Robber Barons: The Great American Capitalists 1861-1901’. Transactions Publishers
Rockefeller, Morgan, Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Harriman, Gould, Frick…the story of the giant American capitalists who seized economic power after the Civil War, altering American life forever.
Kay, John (2016) ‘Other People’s Money: Masters of the Universe or Servants of the People?’ Profile Books.
Argues that the financial sector’s perceived profitability is partially illusory.
Knee, Jonathan (2007) ‘The Accidental Investment Banker: Inside the Decade that Transformed Wall Street’. Random House Incorporated.
This Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley alumnus, explores how investment banking has changed radically from back when J.P. Morgan Jr. advised peers to do “first-class business in a first-class way”.
Lewis, Michael (2011) ‘The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine’, Penguin
Michael Lewis tells the outrageous story of the misfits, renegades and visionaries who saw that the biggest-ever credit bubble was about to burst, bet against the banking system – and made a killing.
Lewis, Michael (1989) ‘Liar’s Poker’. Penguin
From mere trainee to lowly geek, to triumphal Big Swinging Dick: that was Michael Lewis’s pell-mell progress through the dealing rooms of Salomon Brothers during the heady mid-1980s.
Mehrling, Perry and Brown, Aaron (2012) ‘Fischer Black and the Revolutionary Idea of Finance’. Wiley and Sons
Fischer Black was one of a kind. Although the options formula made him famous, it was only one of Black′s numerous contributions. Amazingly, he did it all despite having no formal training in finance.
Rickards, James (2016) ‘The Road to Ruin: The Global Elites’ Secret Plan for the Next Financial Crisis’, Portfolio Penguin.
Nothing more to add. The title says it all!
Riles, Annaliese (2011) ‘Collateral Knowledge: Legal Reasoning in the Global Financial Markets’, University of Chicago Press.
Who are the agents of financial regulation? Riles explores the role of secondary agents, from legal technicians and retail investors to financiers and academics and computerized trading programmes.
Rolfe, John and Troob, Peter (2009) ‘Monkey Business: Swinging through the Wall Street Jungle’. Grand Central Publishing.
Like most other young business school graduates, Rolfe and Troob thought that life in a major investment banking firm would make their wildest dreams come true. They were in for a surprise.
Schwed Jr, Fred (1940/2006) ‘Where are the Customers’ Yachts?’ Wiley Investment Classics
A hilarious classic that has never been out of print. It seems Wall Street never changes!
Shaxson, Nicholas (2012) ‘Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men who Stole the World’, Vintage/Random House.
Tax havens are the most important reason poor people and poor countries stay poor. At the very heart of the global economy, more than half of world trade is processed through them.
Sironi, Paolo (2016) ‘Fintech Innovation: From Robo-Advisors to Goal Based Investing and Gamification’, Wiley Finance Series
Examines the rise of financial technology and its growing impact on the global banking industry. Wealth managers are standing at the epicentre of this tectonic shift.
Skinner, Chris (2016) ‘ValueWeb: How Fintech Firms are Using Mobile and Blockchain Technologies to Create the Internet of Value’, Marshall Cavendish
From bitcoin and the blockchain, and examines what financial technology means for financial institutions, governments and citizens.
Sorkin, Andrew Ross (2010) ‘Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System–and Themselves’. Penguin.
Through unprecedented access to key players, well-known journalist, Sorkin meticulously re-creates frantic phone calls, foul-mouthed rows and white-knuckle panic, as Wall Street fought to save itself.
Taleb, Nicholas (2008) ‘The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable’, Penguin
‘Black Swans’ are the random events that underlie our lives, from bestsellers to world disasters. Their impact is huge; they’re impossible to predict; yet we always try to rationalize them.
Zaloom, Caitlin (2006) ‘Out of the Pits: Traders and Technology from Chicago to London’. University of Chicago Press.
Shows how traders, brokers, and global financial markets have adapted to the digital age. Zaloom draws on firsthand experiences as a clerk and a trader, to explain the changes.
Wherry, Frederick (2011) ‘The Culture of Markets’, Polity Press.
Looks at how culture shapes markets, using this cultural approach to markets to answer some of the puzzles that markets pose when they defy standard economic expectations.
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