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Leading Business Books, From Harford’s ‘Adapt’ to ‘Ugly Beauty’

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July 16 (Bloomberg) -- American International Group Inc. commits “corporate suicide” and Fannie Mae becomes a Pied Piper in two of our favorite business books so far this year. Here’s a list of recommended titles.

“Adapt” by Tim Harford (Farrar, Straus & Giroux/Little, Brown). The Undercover Economist explains why “success always starts with failure.”

“Beyond the Invisible Hand” by Kaushik Basu (Princeton). India’s chief economic adviser explores the dark side of Adam Smith’s invisible hand.

“Beyond Mechanical Markets” by Roman Frydman and Michael D. Goldberg (Princeton). A groundbreaking look at how to tame asset booms and busts.

“Civilization” by Niall Ferguson (Allen Lane). The prolific Harvard historian explains how the West came to dominate the globe.

“Exorbitant Privilege” by Barry Eichengreen (Oxford). A brisk primer on the dollar’s role as the dominant international currency.

“Fatal Risk” by Roddy Boyd (Wiley). An engaging reconstruction of how AIG came unstuck.

“The Futures” by Emily Lambert (Basic). A bouncy jaunt through the history of Chicago’s trading pits.

“Guaranteed to Fail” by Viral V. Acharya, Matthew Richardson, Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh and Lawrence J. White (Princeton). Four professors at New York University’s Stern School of Business explain how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac got so big and why we must fix them.

“The Haves and the Have-Nots” by Branko Milanovic (Basic). The World Bank economist presents “a brief and idiosyncratic history” of inequality, from ancient Rome to contemporary London.

“How the West Was Lost” by Dambisa Moyo (Allen Lane/ Farrar, Straus & Giroux). A reasoned look at how the world’s most-advanced nations are squandering their economic lead.

“Idea Man” by Paul Allen (Portfolio/Penguin). This memoir by Microsoft’s co-founder offers a fascinating look at what it took to build the software behemoth.

“Money and Power” by William D. Cohan (Doubleday). The sometimes “schizophrenic” behavior of Goldman Sachs comes into focus in this history by the author of “House of Cards” and “The Last Tycoons.”

“The New Lombard Street” by Perry Mehrling (Princeton). A cogent analysis of how the financial crisis turned the Federal Reserve into America’s “dealer of last resort.”

“Oil’s Endless Bid” by Dan Dicker (Wiley). Petroleum prices have gone crazy, and a large share of the blame belongs to Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and other banks, argues this Nymex trader.

“The Price of Everything” by Eduardo Porter (Portfolio/ Heinemann). An energetic tour of how prices work, from cheap sperm to $4,731 printer ink.

“Punching Out” by Paul Clemens (Doubleday). A blackly comic journal of what happens after a U.S. factory shuts down.

“Reckless Endangerment” by Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner (Times Books). A thoughtful contribution to the debate on whether Fannie Mae really was “ground zero” in the subprime-mortgage explosion, as some critics argue.

“Red Capitalism” by Carl E. Walter and Fraser J.T. Howie (Wiley). An eye-opening look at how Communist Party bosses control China’s economy.

“Spousonomics” by Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson (Random House/Bantam). A geeky guide to finding marital bliss through economics.

“Ugly Beauty” by Ruth Brandon (Harper). An incisive history of cosmetics tycoon Helena Rubinstein and Eugene Schueller, the founder of L’Oreal SA.

(James Pressley is a book critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: James Pressley in Brussels at jpressley@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Beech at mbeech@bloomberg.net.

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