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Books for summer 2021: essential reading for understanding today

This summer, we’ve compiled a list of books that we think are vital for understanding the key geopolitical and economic issues of today. Our team has picked seven unmissable titles across a number of financial, economic and political themes, which offer some crucial insight into the world we live in. 

We hope you take some inspiration from our selection – there’s something in there for everyone!

 

China Witness: Voices from a Silent Generation

Xuē Xīnrán

Vintage 

A journey far and wide through the streets of China, Voices from a Silent Generation tells the stories, hopes, and dreams of ordinary people. The work offers a unique perspective on a process of economic transformation never seen before in history – namely, the transition of a poor, agricultural society into a technological superpower. 

China Witness straddles the private and the public, opening up a dialogue between the wider Chinese economic revolution and the people that experienced it first-hand. It’s a private story that offers a glimpse into a new world that many in the West will know relatively little about. Through ordinary people, we are offered an insight into the Chinese perspective on the world. 

 

A Random Walk Down Wall Street

Burton Malkiel

W. Norton & Co

A Random Walk Down Wall Street is an unmissable classic for anyone looking to build a better understanding of how financial markets really work. Taking the key financial stories of the last four centuries as its jumping-off point, the book dives into the fundamental principles that guide the construction of investment portfolios and form the basis of financial planning.

The work will help readers understand (and potentially prevent) the classic mistakes made by both professional and amateur investors. In his simplicity of language and caustic wit, Malkiel helps to demystify the world of investing and present it as uncharacteristically accessible. This is essential reading for both beginners and experienced investors. 

 

How China Escaped Shock Therapy: The Market Reform Debate

Isabella M. Weber

Routledge

China is increasingly finding itself at the centre of global politics and economics. However, there are still a number of common misconceptions held about exactly how China managed the shift to global prominence. This book tells the story of the fierce political competition and discord behind the economic reforms now shaping China’s future. 

The Market Reform Debate tells the story of the first post-Mao decade, in which Chinese reformers were forced to confront marketisation in an attempt to overhaul its economy. It was a period in which the core fundamentals of Chinese socialism were at risk, as the country found ways to incorporate them into the market-driven economy of the future. The work is fundamental to understanding where China was before, and the economic situation it finds itself in now. 

 

The Green New Deal: Why the Fossil Fuel Civilization Will Collapse by 2028, and the Bold Economic Plan to Save Life on Earth

Jeremy Rifkin

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St. Martin’s Press 

Faced with an imminent planetary climate emergency, the need for a sweeping energy transition has never been greater. As a result, planning this transition has become a fairly common exercise for business leaders and politicians. 

Of the various proposals out there, we’ve selected Jeremy Rifkin’s approach as one to consider. An economic theorist who has previously worked with both the EU and the Chinese government, Rifkin sets out his political and economic vision for a possible Green New Deal that could just turn the tide of global environmental collapse. It might not be light reading, but it’s vital reading. 

 

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need

Bill Gates

Allen Lane

As one of the most innovative and prominent entrepreneurs of our time, Bill Gates has transitioned seamlessly into an influential political voice. Through his activism (best illustrated by his foundation), Gates hasn’t been shy to intervene in some of the most important issues facing the world at present. More often than not, he approaches them with innovative solutions that are as bold as they are occasionally divisive. 

Gates is a cultured character with an abnormally sharp analytical eye. The book offers unique points of view, along with summations and suggestions that shouldn’t be ignored as we face some of the most important challenges in the history of mankind. 

 

Blockchain Bubble or Revolution: The Future of Bitcoin, Blockchains, and Cryptocurrencies

Aditya Agashe, Neel Mehta, Parth Detroj

Paravane Ventures 

Since its inception, blockchain technology has fascinated investors and technology enthusiasts in equal measure. After the initial fanfare has died down, though, what will remain of the potentially transformative innovation? Will blockchain technology transform the financial services industry? Can cryptocurrencies function as legitimate investments? 

This book provides some interesting insights into just about everything you’ve ever wondered about blockchain. Edited by employees of Google, Microsoft and Facebook, Blockchain Bubble or Revolution provides a balanced, accessible analysis of a technology still trying to find its place in the industries it promises to overhaul. 

 

The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy

Stephanie Kelton

PublicAffairs 

The management of public money and the broad strokes of monetary policy will always make headlines. Seldom before, though, have the debates between the various schools of thought been so central. Whatever your opinion on modern capitalism is, there’s no denying that the debate is shifting as a result of the extraordinary economic and political events seen over the last few decades. Now, some previously untouchable economic models are being challenged by previously fringe theories. 

One such argument is Modern Monetary Theory. Based on the idea that the state can and should continue to finance its debt and its public services perpetually, the theory argues that expansion and the creation of new money are viable solutions. This book offers a distinct point of view, and is a great jumping-off point for anyone looking to further develop their own views on the future of monetary policy. 

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