Spencer’s Summer Reading List

“Why would you want to read when you got the television set sitting right in front of you?”
–Harry Wormwood, “Matilda”

Summer is here! While you are at the beach, in the mountains or sitting on the porch, it’s also the best time of year to catch up on your reading. If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m a big reader. Reading is necessary for me to keep up with and comment on the trends that impact our business and our world.

In addition to my main sources of information—The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Economist—I read as many books as I can. Writing a review of them helps the concepts stick in my mind so that I can use them on stage and in my blog posts and articles.

Here is a list of some books I have recently read, along with my blog posts on each. If you pick any two, I’d go with “Nudge” and “Mother American Night.” “Nudge” is the most influential book on my thinking about public policy. It also recently won the co-author a Nobel Prize in economics. “Mother American Night” is a wild journey through the major events of the past 50 years on the wings of an unlikely angel—a songwriter for the Grateful Dead. If you are a techie, go with “Machine Platform Crowd” and “Mother American Night.” Enjoy and please comment with your book recommendations!

1. “Nudge” by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. Explains “behavioral economics” and how a “nudge” (incentive) is better than a “shove” (blunt legal changes) to influence public policy outcomes. http://www.cbrecapitalwatch.com/?p=3360

2. “It’s Better Than It Looks” by Gregg Easterbrook and “Makers and Takers” by Rana Foroohar. Mr. Easterbrook makes a persuasive case that despite the world’s great prosperity, limited war and other factors, we still feel bad because our leaders have incentive to make us feel that way. Ms. Foroohar’s book stands in marked contrast to Mr. Easterbrook’s. The world is going to hell in a hand basket, according to Ms. Foroohar, led by the Cerberus of Wall Street, government regulators and the business schools that teach that “greed is good.” http://www.cbrecapitalwatch.com/?p=3562

3. “Machine, Platform, Crowd” by Andrew McAfee and Eric Brynjolfsson. Although technology is quickly evolving, the need for humans isn’t going away anytime soon. Blockchain is still in its infancy and a “trusted intermediary” like the government or a large corporation will remain essential for a very long time. http://www.cbrecapitalwatch.com/?p=3349

4. “Advice and Dissent” by Alan Blinder. The former Fed vice chair proposes creation of a second central bank to control tax policy similar to the way the Fed controls monetary policy. What’s more interesting is Dr. Blinder’s turnabout on economic dogma regarding the undisputed good of “creative destruction” and how “transitional costs” are much higher than economists have historically believed. http://www.cbrecapitalwatch.com/?p=3580

5. “Us vs. Them: The Failure of Globalism” by Ian Bremmer. Echoing Mr. Blinder’s concern about transitional costs, Mr. Bremmer goes a step further and suggests that global trade of goods will slow down as the cost of automation continues to drop. This will upend our traditional notions of the young demographic advantage of most emerging economies as traditional jobs in manufacturing will be re-shored to advanced economies. http://www.cbrecapitalwatch.com/?p=3611

6. “Demopolis” by Josiah Ober. The problem with our democracy is that there isn’t enough of it. Mr. Ober makes the case that a society with a more pure form of participatory democracy has benefits well beyond the ability to make decisions. It brings people into the process and by extension brings all of us closer together. http://www.cbrecapitalwatch.com/?p=3448

7. “Mother American Night” by John Perry Barlow and Robert Greenfield. You think you lead an interesting life? This guy makes Forrest Gump look like a homebody. Read this story about John Perry Barlow, friend of everyone from John F. Kennedy, Jr. to Dick Cheney, Steve Jobs to Bill Gates, Bob Weir to Timothy Leary, tech visionary and, by the way, songwriter for the Grateful Dead (Mexicali Blues, etc.). Keep an open mind when you read this one or Mr. Barlow will suggest some unconventional ways to open it for you! http://bit.ly/2MHyMuL

8. “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” by Frank Miller and “The Watchmen” by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. These last two are just for fun. I’ll never forget the first time I read the Dark Knight in my late teens at Cornell. I liked it so much that I recently bought it for my 12-year-old son. I ended up reading it again myself, along with “The Watchmen,” which I bought after watching what I consider to be the greatest superhero movie of all time. http://bit.ly/2MEuLqW

By Spencer Levy, Americas Head of @CBREResearch | Senior Economic Advisor

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