Recommended Reading

The following is a far from exhaustive list of interesting books that focus on the structural challenges we face (in progress)

Post Growth

Tyler Cowen: “The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All The Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better”

This is more of an extended essay than a book, but no less insightful for that. Cowen succinctly explains why growth is getting harder and harder to come by in the modern world (but no mention, of course, of the additional twin threats of resource constraints and climate change that are barrelling toward us just as the post industrial revolution growth engine splutters). Nonetheless, give this book to cornucopian Pangloss types who see wealth only ever moving onward and upward—especially as Cowen, an accomplished academic economist, styles himself as a pragmatic libertarian.

Angus Maddison: “The World Economy”

This OECD publication is really a reference book on all things growth related by the famous economic historian Angus Maddison. The reader gets a birds eye view of levels of GDP, GDP growth rates and GDP per capita growth rates over the last 2,000 years at the global, regional and individual country level. Dip in and see what an anomaly the last 200 years has been: for most of civilisation, mankind has lived close to a Malthusian existence.

Donella Meadows, Dennis Meadows, Jorgen Randers & William Behrens: “The Limits to Growth”

A couple of clicks on Amazon will give you access to numerous second hand copies of this particular book. I urge you go get one. Why? So you will be in the unique position of being able to pontificate on a famous book while actually having read it. Then, when a thousand bar-room (and accomplished academic) bores claim that The Club of Rome said we will all run out of resources by the year 2000 you can say: “actually no, they didn’t” —and produce a photocopy of the relevant pages (which you should keep in your pocket) to prove your case (don’t hold back). I have blogged about the urban myth surrounding The Limits to Growth here.

Ugo Bardi: “The Limits to Growth Revisited”

Energy and Transport Revolution

Tony Seba: “Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation”

Chris Goodall: “The Switch: How Solar, Storage and New Tech Means Cheap Power for All”

Seth Fletcher: “Bottled Lightening: Super Batteries, Electric Cars and the New Lithium Economy”

Peak Oil 

Robert Ayres and Benjamin Warr: The Economic Growth Engine: “How Energy and Work Drive Material Prosperity”

Joseph Tainter and Tadeusz Patzek: “Drilling Down: The Gulf Oil Debacle and Our Energy Dilemma”

Charles Hall & Kent Klitgaard: “Energy and the Wealth of Nations: Understanding the Biophysical Economy”


Jared Diamond: “Collapse: How Societies Choose or Fail to Succeed”

Dianne Dumanoski: “The End of the Long Summer”

John Michael Greer:“The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of theIndustrial Age”

Thomas Homer-Dixon: “The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilisation”

James Howard Kunstler: “The Long Emergency”

Martin Rees: “Our Final Hour”

Joseph Tainter: “The Collapse of Complex Societies”

Ronald Wright: “A Short History of Progress”

Climate Change

David Archer: “The Long Thaw”

David Archer and Stefan Rahmstorf: “The Climate Crisis: An Introductory Guide to Climate Change”

Haydn Washington and John Cook: “Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand”

Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway: “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming” 

Carbon Accounting

David MacKay: “Sustainable Energy: Without the Hot Air”

Nicola Terry: “Energy and Carbon Emissions”

Tyler Volk: “CO2 Rising: The World’s Greatest Challenge”

Technology, Growth & the Stability of Societies

Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee: “Race Against the Machine”

Martin Ford: “The Lights in the Tunnel”

Ray Kurzweil: “The Singularity is Near”

Economic Prediction & Risk

Eric Beinhocker: “The Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity & the Radical Remaking of Economics”

David Orrell: “The Future of Everything”

Thomas Homer-Dixon: “The Ingenuity Gap”

Nick Bostrom & Milan Cirkovic (Eds): “Global Catastrophic Risks”

Psychology, Risk, Climate Change and the Post-Growth Debate

Daniel Nettle: “Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile

This short, but very important book is the best introduction to the burgeoning field of happiness studies that I have come across. Indeed, it is one of the best books I have ever read. Nettle is an academic psychologist, but refreshingly his prose contains neither psycho-babble nor obfuscation—traits the discipline attracts like dogs to sick. Thoroughly referenced and beautifully written, the book allows one to reflect on how we search for happiness and what it means. These are important issues, since the economic, social and political structures that have grown up to serve our current search for happiness are being torn up by resource depletion and climate change. Nettle doesn’t mention the topics covered in this blog once, but his ideas impact on everything I write about.

Glynis M. Breakwell: “The Psychology of Risk”

Gerd Gigerenzer: “Reckoning with Risk: Learning to Live with Uncertainty”

Peter Bernstein: “Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk”

Climate Change Economics

William Nordhaus: “A Question of Balance”

Frank Ackerman: “Can We Afford the Future: The Economics of a Warming World”

2 responses to “Recommended Reading

  1. I stumbled across your blog while I was looking for ways to publicise my new book, ‘The Magic Money Tree: How Money Really Works’, which explains MMT in non-technical language. (The ‘magic money tree’ connection is based on the idea of ‘fiat’ money and the serendipitous fact that the initials are the same). The book is available from Amazon, but if you, or any of your readers, would be interested in reviewing it I can send you a copy free of charge.

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