At IPIA, we often get asked about the best books we've read on economic development or what we've been reading recently. There are numerous great books out there, and not enough time to read them all! Here are some old favorites and a few new additions to the IPIA bookshelf.
Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen. This book is an excellent and thought-provoking statement by the 1988 winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. Sen argues that the main goal of economic development should be to provide people with choices and self-determination in various spheres of life. But even more, he argues that freedom is both an important end goal for individuals, and the means for achieving economic prosperity for society as a whole.
The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier. Collier, a Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University, provides a useful counterpoint to Sen. Collier identifies a series of traps that create huge impediments to economic development, including conflict and geography. Collier was formerly director of Development Research at The World Bank, so his ideas are deeply rooted in experience.
A World of Three Zeros by Muhammad Yunus. Yunus, of course, won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work establishing the microfinance institution the Grameen Bank, which he documents in his earlier book Banker to the Poor. In A World of Three Zeros he brings his inspirational tone to the confluence of poverty, unemployment and carbon emissions, offering a blueprint for the future.
The Wizard and the Prophet by Charles Mann. If you read Mann's books 1491 and 1493 then you will know what a compelling historian and writer he is. This book traces the lives and ideas of the crop breeder Norman Borlaug and the early environmentalist William Vogt. This book is readable, balanced and informative. For anyone concerned about the future of mankind and the fate of the natural world, this should be required reading.
Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food by Pamela Ronald and Raoul Adamchak. If you want thought-provoking reading, look no further. Ronald is Professor of Plant Pathology at the University of California at Davis. Adamchak, her co-author and husband, is a farmer. Together, they provide a cogent and science-based argument for the combined use of organic farming methods and genetic modification to address a range of agricultural challenges.
Hungry for Disruption by Shen Ming Lee. Another forward looking book that surveys the range of scientific and technological advances that are quietly unfolding in the agricultural industry. From blockchains to drones, the author takes the reader on an interesting romp through the landscape of innovation, and how it is likely to shape the future of food.
Termites of the State by Vito Tanzi. Although this book is primarily about the role of government intervention in the economies of industrialized nations, it offers a number of insights and lessons that are relevant to the process of economic development in poor nations. It may be somewhat difficult and tedious reading for non-economists, but is impressive in its attempt to describe the history and scope of the modern public sector.