10 unmissable books of 2022 on business, economics and finance

Each one of these books will help you make more sense of the complicated world that we live in.
Each one of these books will help you make more sense of the complicated world that we live in.


Crypto, war, India’s north-south divide and food feature in this year’s list of best books.

MUMBAI : The world has too much choice. Books are no exception to this, sometimes making it difficult for readers to decide what to read and what to avoid. So, as 2022 comes to an end, here’s a Mint curated list of 10 unmissable books on business, economics and finance, published during the course of the year. Dear reader, listed in no particular order, each one of these books will help you make more sense of the complicated world that we live in.

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Edible Economics—A Hungry Economist Explains the World 

Ha-Joon Chang

This is perhaps the most fun book of all on the list. In this book, Chang uses different kinds of food, fruit and drink, to explain what he thinks are the most basic principles of economics that all of us need to know. Of course, he also uses the book to take up his favourite cause of telling the world that free-market economics is not what it seems to be. So, he uses the humble okra (or bhindi as it is known in large parts of India), to explain the misleading language of free-market economics. Then, prawns show why developing countries need to use protectionism against superior foreign competition, and so on. Readers of Chang’s earlier book 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, may find this book slightly repetitive. Nonetheless, the book is not just about the economics it seeks to explain, but, more importantly, it’s also about how Chang manages to connect different kinds of food to different economic principles. That’s the interesting part.

South vs North—India’s Great Divide 

Nilakantan R.S.

As far as cliches go, this book was waiting to be written. In the 75 years since Independence, the states of southern India have done much better socially and economically, than their counterparts in the Indo-Gangetic plains. The southern states have been able to control population growth in a much better way than the north. They have run government programmes to benefit citizens very well, too. The positive repercussions of this have been higher incomes and a more educated and skilled workforce in the southern states. On the flip side, in the years to come, it is highly likely that the representation of the southern states in Parliament might come down, simply because they were better at controlling their population growth than other parts of the country. Nilakantan does a fabulous job of bringing these issues to the fore using lots of well-presented data. At the same time, he writes in simple English and keeps it engaging.

Four Thousand Weeks—Time Management for Mortals 

Oliver Burkeman

Dear reader, you may be wondering why we would recommend a self-help book and, that too, on time management. The answer lies in the simple fact that this is a self-help book like no other. Most books on time management tell us ways to finish doing everything and more, on our to-do lists. Burkeman flips the argument. The main point in the book is that if we live up to 80, we have around 4,000 weeks to live. So, time is fleeting. For every moment that we are alive, we have less time left. And, given that, trying to do everything is actually a bad idea. As Burkeman writes: “You need to learn how to start saying no to things you do want to do, with the recognition that you have only one life." Finally, the added advantage of this book is that unlike most other self-help books, this one is not soporific at all. It almost reads like a whodunnit.

Popping the Crypto Bubble —Market Manias, Phony Populism, Techno-Solutionism 

Darren Tseng, Stephen Diehl and Jan Akalin

Over the last few years dozens of books have built the hype around bitcoin, other cryptos and blockchains. Popping the Crypto Bubble is that rare tome which questions the entire ecosystem around which the hype is built and ends up coming to the rather obvious conclusion that cryptos are a synthetic risk created specifically to encourage people to gamble 24/7. They have no underlying asset or use, for that matter. In that sense, cryptos are a big Ponzi scheme which kept growing as newer speculators entered and were carried away by the promise of the riches that lay ahead. Of course, like all Ponzi schemes, the story works until it does and then it doesn’t. Tseng, Diehl and Akalin do a thorough job of offering technical and financial arguments on why cryptos are a speculator’s wet dream and are used by a small number of insiders to line their pockets.

Price Wars—How Chaotic Markets Are Creating a Chaotic World 

Rupert Russell

This is one of the books that really helps us understand why the world works the way it does. Earlier this year, Russia attacked Ukraine and the price of commodities, including oil, skyrocketed. Wheat is another commodity which became very expensive in the aftermath of the war, given that Russia is the largest exporter and Ukraine, the fifth largest. This supply would no longer be available given the war and, hence, wheat prices went up. Nonetheless, prices didn’t just go up because of the expected shortage of the foodgrain, they have also gone up because “speculators poured their money into commodities to “hedge" against the inflation to come". This was possible because commodities have been turned into financial assets, which can be bought and sold on exchanges. This financialization of commodities is at the heart of Russell’s book and he suggests that this trend may have been also responsible for triggering the Arab Spring in 2011. All in all, a very riveting book for those interested in the truly big picture.

The Journey of Humanity—The Origins of Wealth and Inequality 

Oded Galor

This is another big-picture book in which the author summarizes the major research of his lifetime. While every chapter in the book is very interesting, what the Indian audience will find particularly absorbing is Galor’s explanation of how the British bled the Indian economy and every other economy where they didn’t settle and procreate. In thinly-populated regions, like the US, the British tended to settle and develop these regions for themselves. As Galor said: “They therefore formed inclusive, growth enhancing institutions for their own benefit and for that of their descendants." In countries like India, they developed institutions to extract the local wealth. These extractive institutions survive and thrive now, even after the English left. According to Galor: “When these colonies gained independence, the powerful local elites who succeeded the European colonisers maintained these extractive, growth-retarding institutions, so as to sustain and gain from the persistence of economic and political disparities, condemning these regions to underdevelopment." Taking the Kohinoor away was just a small part of the English hurting India.

Money in One Lesson 

Gavin Jackson

Money is a topic on which financial journalists regularly write books. This is another such effort. What makes this book immensely readable is the fact that it keeps things simple without making them simplistic. In that sense, Jackson really follows Henry Hazlitt, whose book Economics in One Lesson has inspired the title of this book. Jackson tries to answer both simple and complicated questions. He tells us what is money, how banks work, why we pay interest on money that we borrow, why don’t countries just print money, can money make us rich, and so on. And, he also tells us, in a very fascinating way, how hawala works, something that everyone thinks they know but they probably don’t. Other than this, the book also deals with recent money topics such as bitcoin and cryptos, central bank digital currencies and the modern monetary theory. This is a one-stop shop for anyone wanting to know about the most important past, present and future concepts around the idea of money.

Chokepoint Capitalism—How Big Tech and Big Content Captured Creative Labor Markets and How We’ll Win Them Back 

Rebecca Giblin and Cory Doctorow

Successful investors who make a lot of money by investing in stocks often talk about investing in companies with moats. These are companies which lock in their customers and their suppliers and make it difficult for any new entrant to get into that line of business. Giblin and Doctorow take this concept of a moat and apply it to new-age companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple, among others. As they write: “In chokepoint capitalism, the aim is to create enduring barriers to competition to enable corporations to monopolise or monopsonize their markets." While monopoly is a situation where sellers control buyers, monopsony is exactly the opposite where buyers have control over sellers, like Amazon controls the books market, Google has control over search, ads and videos, etc. The spillover effects of a monopsony aren’t anywhere as well understood as that of monopolies. This book tries to fill that gap and is a must-read for anyone who uses Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, etc, which means practically all of us.

The Price of Time—The Real Story of Interest 

Edward Chancellor

Since September 2008 and until very recently, central banks of the rich world printed money in order to drive down long-term interest rates. This was done to encourage people to borrow and spend, and, in the process, drive economic growth. While doing this, the central bankers forgot about all the negative repercussions of maintaining interest rates close to zero. Chancellor’s book addresses the question of “whether a capitalist economy can function properly without market-determined interest". The world has seen all kinds of bubbles thanks to interest rates being close to zero. As Chancellor writes: “Bubbles in stocks and bonds, in real estate and household wealth, in cryptocurrencies and digital art, in luxury goods (supercars and Swiss watches) and household pets (Cockapoos selling for $5,000 a pup), and in collectibles (baseball and Pokémon trading cards)." This is a very important book for anyone who wants to know where the world of finance and economics is headed because we need to come to grips with the past in order to understand our future.

The Truth Pill—The Myth of Drug Regulation in India 

Dinesh S. Thakur and Prashant Reddy T.

There are very few non-fiction books that leave you very disturbed, where you can’t help but wonder, what is the point of it all when one can’t even trust the pill that one is popping. This is one such book. Thakur and Reddy show through thorough research that drug regulation is extremely dysfunctional in India and the repercussions that it can have on the country as well as other parts of the world. In fact, as luck would have it, around the time the book was released in October, 70 children died in Gambia after reportedly consuming a cough syrup that was made in India. This is one of the issues that the authors try to address in the book by asking and answering the question, can “Made in India" generic medicine really be trusted. The authors also point out violations related to the quality of drugs and the very low prosecution rates that follow. All in all, not an easy read, but an important one, nonetheless.

Finally, only so many books can make it to a list. Here are a few more interesting books, Christopher Leonard’s The Lords of Easy Money, Kathryn Judge’s Direct, Brett Scott’s Cloudmoney, Peter Zehan’s The End of the World is Just the Beginning, and Alice Sherwood’s Authenticity.

Happy reading.

Vivek Kaul is the author of Bad Money.

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