Dear SuN friends, 

This week we will navigate you through our TOP 3 pick of books, devoted to some fundamental questions of our society. In the ocean of literature and knowledge it’s always hard to pick only three ‘entries’ to our lists. Nevertheless, we tried to make this week’s TOP 3 as engaging, comprehensive, versatile and inclusive as possible (or at least as many-sided as the format allows).    

This week we will try to cover some crucial global issues and give you a new perspective on them. Some of the questions include (and are not limited to) the following:

  • What is wealth and how is it created? 
  • Why are some nations rich and some poor? 
  • Which are the ideas of the 20-th century that shaped the modern thought?

The books we’ve chosen are our personal favourites, as they are among the readings that have allowed us to switch our perspective from the ‘conventional’ explanations, expand our outlook and get out of the box in an exciting and engaging way.   

The bottom line: We hope that you’ll find these books as enjoyable and enlightening as we have. Our team is always up for learning new things and exchanging ideas, so please feel free to share your favourite books with us!  


1. The Origin of Wealth: The Radical Remaking of Economics and What it Means for Business and Society (Eric D. Beinhocker)   

Over 6.4 billion people participate in a $36.5 trillion global economy, designed and overseen by no one.  

  • How did this marvel of self-organized complexity evolve?
  • How is wealth created within this system?
  • And how can wealth be increased for the benefit of individuals, businesses, and society?   

In 'The Origin of Wealth`, Eric D. Beinhocker argues that modern science provides a radical perspective on these age-old questions, with far-reaching implications. According to Beinhocker, wealth creation is the product of a simple but profoundly powerful evolutionary formula: differentiate, select, and amplify. In this view, the economy is a "complex adaptive system" in which physical technologies, social technologies, and business designs continuously interact to create novel products, new ideas, and increasing wealth.

Taking readers on an entertaining journey through economic history, from the Stone Age to modern economy, Beinhocker explores how "complexity economics" provides provocative insights on issues ranging from creating adaptive organizations to the evolutionary workings of stock markets to new perspectives on government policies.

The bottom line: A landmark book that shatters conventional economic theory, `The Origin of Wealth` will rewire our thinking about how we came to be here--and where we are going. 

2. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty (Daron Acemoglu, James A. Robinson)   

`Why Nations Fail` answers the question that has stumped the experts for centuries:

  • Why are some nations rich and others poor, divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and famine?
  • Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are?    

Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence?    

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson conclusively show that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or lack of it). Korea, to take just one of their fascinating examples, is a remarkably homogeneous nation, yet the people of North Korea are among the poorest on earth while their brothers and sisters in South Korea are among the richest. The south forged a society that created incentives, rewarded innovation, and allowed everyone to participate in economic opportunities. The differences between the Koreas is due to the politics that created these completely different institutional trajectories.    

Based on fifteen years of original research Acemoglu and Robinson marshall extraordinary historical evidence from the Roman Empire, the Mayan city-states, medieval Venice, the Soviet Union, Latin America, England, Europe, the United States, and Africa to build a new theory of political economy with great relevance for the big questions of today, including:

  1. China has built an authoritarian growth machine. Will it continue to grow at such high speed and overwhelm the West?
  2. Are America’s best days behind it? Are we moving from a virtuous circle in which efforts by elites to aggrandize power are resisted to a vicious one that enriches and empowers a small minority?
  3. What is the most effective way to help move billions of people from the rut of poverty to prosperity? More philanthropy from the wealthy nations of the West? Or learning the hard-won lessons of Acemoglu and Robinson’s breakthrough ideas on the interplay between inclusive political and economic institutions?    

The bottom line: `Why Nations Fail` will change the way you look at—and understand—the world.  

3. A Terrible Beauty: The People and Ideas That Shaped the Modern Mind: A History (Peter Watson) 

`Terrible Beauty` describes the history of the twentieth century and covers all the ideas, people, great events, literary and artistic movements, scientific discoveries which have shaped the twentieth century.

`Terrible Beauty` presents a unique narrative of the twentieth century. Unlike more conventional histories, where the focus is on political events and personalities, on wars, treaties and elections, this book concentrates on the ideas that made the century so rich, rewarding and provocative. Beginning with four seminal ideas which were introduced in 1900 - the unconscious, the gene, the quantum and Picasso's first paintings in Paris - the book brings together the main areas of thought and juxtaposes the most original and influential ideas of our time in an immensely readable narrative. From the creation of plastic to Norman Mailer, from the discovery of the 'Big Bang' to the Counterculture, from Relativity to Susan Sontag, from Proust to Salman Rushdie, and Henri Bergson to Saul Bellow, the book's range is encyclopedic. We meet in these pages the other twentieth century, the writers, the artists, the scientists and philosophers who were not cowed by the political and military disasters raging around them, and produced some of the most amazing and rewarding ideas by which we live.

The bottom line: `Terrible Beauty`, endlessly stimulating and provocative, affirms that there was much more to the twentieth century than war and genocide.  

Stay tuned for more SuN TOP 3 lists every Tuesday!


The SuN team