Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea by Mark Blyth (2013)
I could start and end my commentary with this simple imperative: BUY THIS BOOK.
Economics was one subject about which I had little interest and a lot of hostility when forced to take it in college. The teacher tried his best, but trying to explain economic theory to a bunch of kids who have possibly never had any knowledge of how much money their parents make, spend, or what things cost is a rather hopeless proposition. At least for me, combined with minimal exposure to life long enough to seen the actual consequences of economic theory in policymaking and being able to see the short-term and long-term impact of such policies, made the content just too much of a word salad to be useful.
Dumb Money: How Our Greatest Financial Minds Bankrupted the Nation by Daniel Gross, (2009)
The author writes for Newsweek and other column on money and economic subjects. This is a slim (101 pages) volume that has a great deal of detail on aspects of the 2008 financial meltdown without too much talk about LIBOR and tranches.
You can tell the author has a sense of humor by the name of the first chapter title: WTF. The utter disregard for the average person for the banksters is revealed in a quote the author cites of the still not-ashamed-enough to keep his mouth shut, Henry [Hank] Paulson (“former Goldman Sachs CEO running the financial system, quickly shifted to a clueless groper in the dark”) and the pathetic excuse for a human Alan Greenspan (BTW, married to Andrea Mitchell, broadcaster). He is, however, an undeniably interesting man when you read his Wikipedia entry. For example, he attended Juilliard, no small feat to get in, and played in a band. Music and match do often go together. But I guess it was too hard to make a living, so he moved on to economics (NYU summa cum laude). A note in the Wiki entry is that he specifically asked that his 1977 PhD dissertation be removed from NYU after he became Chairman of the Fed. Barron’s supposedly got a copy of it anyway (should be PUBLIC, especially now retired) and
notes that it includes “a discussion of soaring housing prices and their effect on consumer spending; it even anticipates a bursting housing bubble”.