Recommended Reading for Our Times

By Frank Ahrens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 31, 2008

The credit crisis. The lurching stock market. The housing bust. The diving dollar. The Freddie and Fannie turmoil. How to make sense of it all?

Our advice: Go read a book.

We asked a number of smart people -- inside and outside economics and finance -- to scan their bookshelves for answers. Though there is no single book that can sum up and explain the current conditions, we asked each of our contributors for one book they would recommend to their neighbor, their daughter, their aunt, their barber, priest, rabbi or best friend to help them gain some perspective on these volatile times.

We imposed only one rule: You cannot recommend a book you wrote or edited. After that, no rules. It could be a macro-economics text, a popular history or a novel.

Our guests ran with the assignment, offering a range of books eclectic enough to defy categorization by the Dewey Decimal System.

If there is one unifying theme that runs through these selections, it is this: Bubbles come and go, economic theories rise and fall, fortunes are made and lost. But human nature remains unchanged, from the time of Herodotus to Homer Simpson.

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Director, Congressional Budget Office

"The Subprime Solution: How Today's Global Financial Crisis Happened, and What to Do About It," by Robert J. Shiller (2008)

What it's about: The "Irrational Exuberance" author tackles the current bubble.

Orszag says:"Bob Shiller has been leading the effort to recognize the powerful role of herd behavior, psychological framing and other irrational but potent influences on financial markets -- all factors that traditional theories ignore, to their peril.

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