must-read books of winter 2017.
by: Vesna Ivkovic in: Thoughts
blog I give you the recommendation on the books I read during the winter season
of 2017. Most often I love to describe in detail the beauty of every book
before someone decides to read it, so I hope you will truly enjoy reading
these recommendations. The best thing to do is to make yourself some tea,
sit back in a comfortable armchair and read slowly, because it will take a
1. THINKING FAST AND SLOW (Daniel Kahneman)
Fast and Slow
is the book written by Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist who has won
the Nobel Prize for his research in the area of behavioural economy.
The book is interesting because it is about two ways of human thinking. The
intention of the author was to show the interpretation of functioning of human
mind based on the newest achievements of cognitive and social psychology.
The essence of the book is about seriousness of decision-making which people
assign to certain things and uncertain outcomes, that is, whether our intuitive
decisions are logical or not? Actually, the book points to both brilliance
and imperfections of intuitive thinking. Two different systems of human thinking
are described in this book. The first one is so-called System 1, that
is, Fast Thinking (which functions automatically, fast, effortless,
we do not sense the real feeling or control). The second one is so-called
System 2, that is, Slow Thinking (mental activities which demand
effort and attention, things related to concentration…). For example, Kahneman
gives examples of System 1: "Bread and… " , "...notice
that one object is farther from the other one...", "reading the
words on billboards etc..." It is the automatic thinking, effortless
one. System 2 is quite slower and demands more focus. The examples
are: prepare to shoot from the starter pistol which marks the beginning of
a race, tell someone your phone number, fill in the tax for etc. So these
are the situations which demand attention and concentration.
What is particularly interesting about this book is the explanation of visual
illusions. The author gives the example of Müller-Lyer Illusion, with
two lines ending in arrows being of the same length, although at first sight
it seems that one is longer than the other one. It looks as if the line below
is longer than the line above. However, if we used a ruler to measure those
lines, we would find out that the lines are actually of the same length. It
means that we naturally believe our eyes. Based on that, the author makes
a comparison stating that there are also mental - cognitive illusions.
The book explains misunderstandings which may occur due to the confrontations
between the System 1 and System 2. This is an interesting book,
closely connected to neuroeconomics, the sector of the economics which
has lately become the subject of my interest. Anyway, it is worth to read
this book, since it emphasizes some, so far, unfamiliar things. Highly recommended
for reading in winter season.
WHY NATIONS FAIL? (Daron Acemoglu, James A. Robinson)
fail is the book which describes economic inequalities in the world and
their noticeable general patterns. The essence of the story is about the extractive
and inclusive political institutions. Nations who have extractive
political institutions which disrupt or prevent economic growth are not successful
ones. The countries where there are inclusive institutions strengthen the
technology and education, enabling innovations. If it was not the case, we
would probably never hear about Thomas Edison or Nikola Tesla.
The authors conducted a thorough research. They mostly compared the countries
in terms of their economic development, as well as the differences in population
income. The book historically describes the development of civilization. What
is also interesting is the example of a story about natives, and the economic
situations which in certain points of time were horrible, illustrating it
with terrifying arguments "...the situation was so desperate that they
turned to cannibalism..."
The book analyses the world from the ancient times to modern age. In that
context, the production in Rome was seen as the work of slaves and that there
were no incentives for entrepreneurship, since only the slave-owners benefited
from that. The authors also point out that economies based on forced labour
and systems such as slavery and serfdom are extremely uninventive. Actually,
they only made a fortune to rulers. The essence of the story is that innovations
come from new people with new ideas who find solutions for old problems.
The analysis of Venice is also interesting. Namely, in Venice, apart from
fishing, there is only one economic branch, which is tourism. Citizens of
Venice make ice cream and souvenirs for hordes of tourists. The authors vividly
describe how "Venice turned from the great economic power into a museum".
I agreed with that opinion. Besides these differences, the book also explores
the differences in citizens` income, and the way the lives of teenagers in
the countries with inclusive and extractive political institutions differ.
The focus of research is mostly on England, which managed to achieve the sustainable
economic growth in 17th century. It is not a coincidence that the industrial
revolution first appeared in England: James Watt (a steam engine),
Richard Trewithic (the inventor of a steam railway locomotive), Richard
Arkwright (the inventor of a spinning frame), etc.... Anyway, there are
certain historical details in the book about some countries, which are very
Some kind of a conclusion I made: this book mostly resorts to political
and economic reasoning. I think there is a lot of things unsaid, or at least
one part of the complete picture. Although there are plenty of historical
data in the book, statistics and facts can sometimes hide the complete perspective.
The reasons why nations fail are not only of economic and political nature.
Nations may fail in luxury and splendour, they may give in to immorality which
may destroy entire society. How will people use their "useful things"
to a large degree depends on their own morality, that is, spiritual norms
they were raised by. Sometimes the nation itself plays more significant role
than the institutions, but it is not mentioned in this book, and the entire
focus of the story from the book is on institutional and political base. While
reading it, you have the impression that information is given in too many
details, often transferring from one country to another, and it seems that
this comprehensive research became too detailed. For that reason I did not
find the book completely convincing. However, it is not bad to read it in
order to compare some economic stages of human society in the past. Anyway,
you will find a lot of historical data in this book about the beginning of
the development of countries, and that is why I recommend it.
3. UNTO THIS LAST (John Ruskin)
Unto this Last is the book which is the inspiration for Mahatma
Gandhi. Gandhi started to live according to the ideals from Ruskin`s book
and he translated it in his mother tongue, calling it Well-being for
All. The book consists of four essays (four articles written by Ruskin)
about principles of political economy that were forbidden.
The first essay is about The Roots of Honour. In this essay,
Ruskin skilfully breaks down the misconceptions by describing systems which
are destructive for a man. Basic doctrines of political economy are questioned
in this part of the book. In the second essay, so-called The Veins of
Wealth Ruskin writes about "...the purple veins in people"
as the basis for any wealth. The third essay is called Qui Judicatis
Terram ("They who judge on Earth") and the fourth one is
Ad Valorem ("According to Value"). In the essay "According
to Value" Ruskin tries to interpret the definition of value,
wealth, prices and products.
The fourth essay gets the most interesting extent and intellectual acrobatics.
Here he refers to the work of John Stuart Mill, emphasizing that his
works are "true and valuable", but also emphasizes that he does
not agree with Mill`s personal assumptions, pointing out the potential mistakes
on assumptions Mill stated in his researches. In this essay he criticizes
David Ricardo by analysing the values. He discovers the meaning of
the word "useful", by stating that usefulness in a product and in
the use value of a product partly depends on the person using it, in terms
whether something will be defined as "the use", "un-use"
or "abuse". He also mentions the research conducted by David Ricardo,
saying the not even a diamond can be valuable if exchanged with a savage,
since in that particular case, a plain needle can be used for that exchange.
In that case, the exchange will depend on the amount of knowledge that a savage
man possesses and on his disability to recognize the value of the goods. The
one who possesses such knowledge is in a certain advantage when compared to
a savage. Another example is the value of the water brought from the well
next to the Gates of Bethlehem (for those who are unfamiliar with that: that
water was paid in blood) which was spilled for that reason.
The essence of Ruskin`s interpretation points to the fact that THERE IS NO
OTHER WEALTH BUT LIFE ITSELF. "The life - including all of its power
of love, joy and admiration. The richest country is the one which feds the
largest number of noble and happy human beings; the richest man is the one
who, bringing his life functions to perfection, has the largest favourable
impact, both personal and via his own property, to the lives of others."
Ruskin also says that only ignorant people can enjoy in luxury, and that only
a blind man can come to their feasts, that the light can come only through
tears, and that people cannot be happy until prosperity and the peace of mind
are not given "TO THE LAST ONE just like to you".
I almost retold the entire book, maybe some of you will not find it now interesting
enough, but I thought that these messages had to be conveyed since they are
very significant. I must admit that this book made a deep impression on me.
By questioning the truths in which we live, Ruskin broke down some misconceptions,
and the book really asks numerous questions before every person. I am not
sure whether everyone will understand this book; however, those who are familiar
with the basis of political economy will not have a problem in understanding
it. You should definitely read it!
PSYCHOLOGY OF ECONOMICS (Stanko Ilić)
This is one very interesting book I have recently read, written by Stanko
Ilic). The Psychology of Economics is the book which points
out that the synthesis between the society and the mental energy of an individual
is necessary. In other words, all the problems related to a man (directly
or indirectly) are connected to a man as an executor of the working tasks.
" a man is not only homo laborans, but also homo psihologicus
since in the working process he uses his physical strength as well as
his psychological capabilities".
What is particularly interesting about this book is the analyses of behavioural
psychology of people during shopping, hat is, how men behave while sopping
and how women do too. The author says that men enter the shop in order to
by already determined products and are not interested in other products (only
in case they run into the product related to their hobby. Female shopping
psychology is completely different. Women read magazines, catalogues, visit
shopping centres even when they do not have the intention to buy anything.
When it comes to children, if their parents offer them "a teddy bear"
or "a car", a child will insist on having them both, since it is
not capable of choosing only one.
I think this is a significant book for all of people who deal with sale. Being
familiar with customers` behaviour is the most important element of a good
sale. I might say that in this book you will find a lot of things you have
already read or heard elsewhere (especially if you studied economy). Nevertheless,
this book makes a significant supplement of previous knowledge, because it
emphasizes emotional experience of customers during shopping. Also, the book
is about the transition, seen as the only way out in the given social and
political system. I recommend it.
RISING (V. Mahajan, R. E. Gunther)
Vijay Mahajan, the author of the book Africa Rising is a consultant
for international business, and a former dean of Indian Business School, and
is one of the most quoted researchers in domain of economy. He advised companies
from the list Fortune 500 and is an exceptional researchers. Considering that
he worked as a marketing professor at University of Texas, he was giving lectures
all around Asia and Middle East. In this book you will find stories about
African entrepreneurs and healthy entrepreneurship spirit of people who solve
problems. If you take away electricity from them, they will sell generators.
For any problem, they will find a solution, through optimism. In this book
you will find a lot of information about circumstances for business in Africa,
starting from retail and mobile phone companies to banking, from music to
drugs in the market. This is an unexpectedly a very good book. It contains
a lot of information on Africa that you did not know. Africa is actually much
richer market than we thought. Rediscover Africa through reading this book.
You must read it!
6. 50 COGNITIVE BIASES (Predrag Stojadinović)
book which helps sharpening the sense of logic, recognize the truths and misconceptions
that people are constantly exposed to, through filtering the received data.
In each part, the author describes 50 types of cognitive biases which must
be known generally in life, and particularly by those who deal with economy.
For example, in the chapter The Curse of Knowledge, a dress
salesman (who possesses the curse of knowledge, that is, he believes that
everyone else knows what he knows), while selling an elegant, expensive silk
dress should know how to transfer the message to an uninformed buyer. A buyer
has no information on the dress, except for the price and the visual view
of the dress itself. However, the salesman thinks that the buyer knows what
he knows (that is his curse of knowledge).
There are some other analysis that are pretty funny, such as, for example,
so-called IKEA Effect, when a buyer assigns a priceless value to something
he made on his own entirely, or at least partially. IKEA Effect can
occur with the beginners, as well as the experts who consider themselves professionals.
That leads to the effect of sunk costs, the investment into the projects
which are no longer important. The effects of negativity and the
effects of positivity, on the other hand, describe how people can inaccurately
filter received information. There are many other effects as well. One thing
is for sure: you will definitely discover something new in this book. The
book is read pretty quickly, since it was written simply and concisely.
OBSTACLE IS THE WAY (Ryan Holiday)
The Obstacle is the Way is the book about the way of turning the obstacles
into a victory. At first sight, this book seemed to me as too ordinary book
from the area of popular psychology, and I personally have never been interested
in "bombastic titles" of the books with no depth. However, after
going deeper into its contents, I realized that this book is not superficial
at all, and that it contains significant historical information that we can
use. The book is based on the long-established principle, established by Marcus
Aurelius, who used to say that an obstacle on the road becomes the road
itself. In other words, he used to talk about how to turn challenges into
advantages. For example, the author says that better pilots were the ones
whose eye sight was not good enough, which is an interesting explanation of
practicing endurance and persistency. It is particularly interesting when
the author talks about the importance of contemplation about his own death.
I really liked the following quote: "When a man knows that he is to be
hanged in two weeks, it concentrates his mind wonderfully". Defeats are
education, whereas facing death eye to eye is a relief, but also the inspiration.
The story about a French nobleman Montaigne, who thoroughly studied death.
Memento mori (Romans used to say) - Remember you are mortal.
Just then, a man starts to think differently. All in all, it is one very optimistic
book worth reading.
In the end,
one bonus book:
NOW (Gabrielle Bernstein)
And in the end, as a bonus, Miracles Now is a typical book for larger
part of female population, but it is also the book which tells us how to reduce
stress in the world of business.
There are 108 lessons in the book. At the end of each lesson, there is a wise
sentence with hashtags for sharing on social networks. I think it is a great
idea for promoting the book;) Some lessons on meditation, given by author`s
spiritual coach, I personally did not like, but there are some life lessons
which are not bad at all. The book was published by Hey House, I read
it in English, but I think there is a translation in Serbian as well. It is
not bad to start your day with this book because it is positive, and you will
not find many boring opinions.
The book is about strategies for controlling the stress. The day should never
begin by opening the mail and drinking coffee (that is, stressors and stimulants),
which is exactly what a great number of people in the modern business era
does. The book was written in a form of short life lessons, with a message
contained within every lesson. It includes the research conducted by psychologists
who claim that we have 60.000 thoughts a day, and that 95 to 99 percent of
those thoughts are repeating. How to erase old thoughts and set the new ones
is actually what this book is about. The details on quantum physics give a
special charm to this book. All in all, it one very positive book.
Anyway, this book is pleasant for reading, it slowly relaxes the reader. My
favourite quotes with hashtags in this book are the following:
#Pray before you pay.
#Share your light with the world.
#Celebrate your small successes.
#The F in Forgiveness is for Freedom.
#Be the happy learner.
#Make money and miracles.
#Respect your money and your money will respect you.
# Your energy speaks louder than your words.
#To teach is to learn.
be all for this books recommendation. I hope that you will use your time during
winter creatively and read some of the books from my recommendation list:)