Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Tim Harford

Tim Harford is an economist, journalist and broadcaster. He is the author of The Undercover Economist Strikes Back: How to Run-or Ruin-an Economy and the million-selling The Undercover Economist, a senior columnist at the Financial Times, and the presenter of Radio 4′s “More or Less” and “Pop Up Ideas”. Harford has spoken at TED, PopTech and the Sydney Opera House and is a visiting fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Harford's reply:
I've recently been having fun looking at business and economic history.

Over Christmas I read The Idea Factory, a well-researched and fascinating account of how Bell Labs developed the building-block of modern computing - the transistor - as well as numerous other important innovations. Jon Gertner does a great job of bringing some remarkable characters such as William Shockley and Claude Shannon to life; he also explains the unique circumstances that made Bell Labs possible. He hints at lessons for innovation policy today without drawing fanciful or facile conclusions. A very good book.

Now I am half way through Walter Friedman's Fortune Tellers, which is also carefully researched and colourful. It's an account of the personalities who pioneered the idea of economic forecasting - what they did, how they did it, and how their forecasts fared. Some were charlatans, some were academics, and some were both. Like any good nonfiction book it's sparking plenty of ideas.

Next up: John Wasik's book on John Maynard Keynes's investment strategies. I know quite a bit about this already - Keynes's record as an investor was one of crazy risk-taking, failure, a sharp change of direction, and then sustained success. He's an endlessly fascinating character and I can't wait to find out more.
Visit Tim Harford's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Undercover Economist.

The Page 99 Test: The Undercover Economist Strikes Back.

--Marshal Zeringue