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Piketty, Keynes – what else should I be reading?


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Since this blog started a little more than a year ago, my goal has been to bring you items and ideas that might be of use in your business — or at least be mildly interesting. This week, I want to turn the tables.

I’m getting ready to go on vacation in a few weeks, which means I’m stockpiling reading material. Right now my Kindle library ranges from a couple of obscure 19th-century novels (my fun reading) to the blockbuster of the moment, Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century” (more on that in a minute).

The Kindle also is loaded with a bunch of books I don’t remember ordering, and some I definitely want to read and forgot about. One-Click, you are a menace!

Why the Piketty? Vacation is supposed to be relaxation, after all, but this 696-page academic tome — translated from the original French — is getting talked about everywhere from the major economic and business publications to the popular press. If you’ve been too busy running your business and earning a living to catch any of the hoo-haw, here’s a summary from The Economist.

The book has spiced up economic cocktail chatter like nothing since Maynard Keynes, and most of the conversations have been pretty interesting. But I don’t like to get my ideas secondhand. When I get back, I’ll let you know how far into it I got.

Meanwhile, are there any business books you’re reading right now you’d like to share? Any recommendations from past reading? I don’t often get a week away from cellphones and email so that I can really immerse myself in nonfiction that takes some effort. I don’t want to totally waste the opportunity.

I’m open to frivolity, though!

The week ahead

It’s our annual Small Business Week special issue, ahead of the SBA’s Small Business Week May 12-16. Our reporting staff has been talking to businesses that bring strong values and strong results to their sectors and the midstate. The nine range from community stalwarts with more than a century under their belts to successful startups and from service companies to manufacturers.

This week’s lists are financial consultants and management consultants.

Find the week’s networking opportunities here.

Hope Stephan

Hope Stephan

Hope Stephan is editor of the Central Penn Business Journal. A Pennsylvania native, she is a graduate of Penn State and Xavier University. Have a question or tip for her? Email her at Follow her on Twitter, @hstephan. Circle Hope Stephan on .



Kevin Earnest said:
Any business owner or managerial leader should read Social Power and the CEO, by Elliott Jaques. In this contribution, Jaques reminds owners and managers of their very special relationships with and accountabilities to their employees to create organizations based upon trust and mutual respect. Many readers have said that if Elliott's other works (Requisite Organization, The Life and Behavior of Living Organisms, etc.) describe the "how-to" of creating trust-inducing organizations, then his Social Power and the CEO describes the "why." A favorite of many of my clients. If not on Amazon, then at

May 5, 2014 8:58 am

Alan Duxbury said:
84 Charing Cross Road. It is the archetype of books about customer service, customer relationships, how to do retail - and how to love London...

Written by Helene Hanff

May 4, 2014 5:43 pm

Matthew Mueller said:
The number one book to read this year is "Currency Wars" by Jim Rickards - this guy nails it on so many levels

For Energy/Petropolitics, I recently read "The Quest" by Daniel Yergin which is a followup to "The Prize" (Which I read in Denver): Recommend reading The Prize first for an incredible history of Oil up to Desert Storm -

Quest is already outdated - essentially fracking and all the oil shale/pipeline stuff was just coming online in a big way as he published - but still interesting discussion and really gets into Hyman Rickover being the Godfather of nuclear energy - fills in some more gaps about post Soviet geopolitics and is a good primer.

I'm just finishing "How Capitalism Saved America":

The author is a libertarian Economics professor who basically hates both parties - but he talks about the cumulative effect of regulations and how in many instances the 'good' intents of government policy has created significant externalities and how actual free market economics overcame them. It is interesting in that it was originally written in 2004 and rightly discusses the lending practices created by legislation that he stated would eventually cause a default crisis in real estate - its fantastic reading and explores much of the historical revisionism that has come from the academy about the "Robber Barons" (and breaks down the true businessmen vs the political entrepreneurs who were able to convince gov't to subsidize their operations and make them rich), supposed greatness of FDR, some of the policies in the 1970s, antitrust legislation, and how politics (and the threat of legislation) has basically become extortion to make politicians rich/get reelected but then gets dressed up in "companies bathing politicians with cash" as some parts crony capitalism but fails to report on the BASIS of it which was the threat of punitive legislation.

These are the other books I recently bought should all be linked -

The Chastening: Inside the Crisis That Rocked the Global Financial System and Humbled the IMF

Confederate Money

The Poker Face of Wall Street

Death of the Liberal Class

More Money Than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite (Council on Foreign Relations Books (Penguin Press))

The (Mis)behavior of Markets (From what I understand perhaps the most interesting of the bunch)

The Kindly Ones: A Novel

Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets: Surviving the Public Spectacle in Finance and Politics (Agora Series)

Mr. Speaker!: The Life and Times of Thomas B. Reed The Man Who Broke the Filibuster

Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman

A Conspiracy of Paper: A Novel (Ballantine Reader's Circle)

The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

How Capitalism Saved America: The Untold History of Our Country, from the Pilgrims to the Present

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Economic Indicators

Gold and Iron - Building of the German Empire How politics and finance melded in the alloy of 19th C Germany is the chief subject of the book. This book once explicitly mentions how German Jews became both unwitting and witting tools of Bismarck's oppression of Prussian-ruled Poland.

The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy

The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives

May 4, 2014 3:15 pm

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