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SSEES Research Blog


A showcase of research from UCL's School of Slavonic and East European Studies staff and students


A reading list for the summer?

By Lisa J Walters, on 25 July 2017

Dr Elodie Douarin, Lecturer in Economics

Planning to read this summer? I have come up with a short list of recommendations. You can expect a little bit of an economic bias (that’s generally what I am interested in). Some of these books are directly relevant to my teaching or research, others just felt relevant…

So I am throwing my little list below with the hope that some of my colleagues will come up with their own list of suggestions… I am listing the books in alphabetical order. Any comment welcome!

Identity Economics1)Identity Economics – How our identities shape our work, wages and well-being by George Akerlof and Rachel Kranton (Princeton University Press, 2010)

The least recent book in my list, but I have only read it a short while ago and it is great. It builds on classic economic theory, making a few additional assumptions to get to truly fascinating predictions. The objective is to model how we sometimes take decisions that are costly to us on purely economic terms, but help strengthening a social norm or our sense of belonging to a group. It is very accessible, and it will get a mention in my intermediate microeconomics lectures next academic year.



Happiness by Design 2) Happiness by Design by Paul Dolan (Penguin, 2014)

I had to include something on happiness in my list and this one is quite fun. Dolan is an expert in Behavioural Science and he has made some great contributions to the “Happiness Economics” literature. The book is half review of the literature, half self-help book, which makes it quite unusual, but contributes to making it accessible. An easy introduction to the economics of life satisfaction and happiness demonstrating how taking this literature seriously leads to a departure from the traditional focus of economics.







Limits of the Market 3) The Limits of the Market – The pendulum between government and market by Paul de Grauwe (Oxford University Press, 2017)

Paul de Grauwe gave a keynote speech during our CCSEE conference last summer and his presentation was absolutely logical and crystal clear, even though the academic work behind it was complex and technical. I am now half-way through his book and it is as concise and effective as I expected: recommended for anyone who wants a more realistic view of economics, with great insights from behavioural psychology and a focus on holistic wellbeing (so looking beyond GDP growth only).






Political Economy of Independent Ukraine4) The Political Economy of Independent Ukraine – Slow Starts, False Starts, and a Last Chance? By Oleh Havrylyshyn (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017)

Oleh Havrylyshyn has produced some great work analysing the process of economic and political transformation across the transition region following the fall of the Berlin Wall. So it is with great pleasure that we will welcome him at SSEES towards the end of 2017! Among other things, we will be discussing his latest book on Ukraine, which I am about to start reading…






Other Russias5) Other Russias by Victoria Lomasko (Penguin, 2017)

I started reading graphic novels about 2 years ago after I received Persepolis as a present, and I have devoured comics ever since. I would strongly recommend “The Arab of the Future” series (by Ryad Sattouf), or any book by Guy Delisle: all fascinating studies of culture and identity. “Other Russias” is different though, because there is a sense of urgency. This comic is about day-to-day activism in Russia, showing grass-root movements at work and recording the general aversion for “doing politics” while doing it! A different view of the civic life of the citizens of the post-communist world.



Communism's Shadow6) Pop-Eleches and Tucker Communism’s Shadow (Princeton University Press, 2017)

In June, I was in the Higher School of Economics in Moscow when Joshua Tucker gave a lecture discussing his book on the legacy of communism. This question of legacy came up very prominently in discussions at SSEES in the past academic year: notably during our annual event around the launch of the EBRD transition report in November, where the discussants Claudia Senik (PSE) and Chris Gerry (HSE), both questioned how post-communist countries still differ from other countries without that experience, and what it meant for those studying them; and also during my discussions with Tomek Mickiewicz from Aston Business School on how to conclude our book “Economics of Institutional Change” (to be released in August 2017). So it was great to see that someone was tackling the issue so systematically and rigorously. The analyses presented here detail how people across the transition region now have markedly different views on democracy, markets, social welfare or even gender issues.



Misbehaving7) Misbehaving by Richard Thaler (Allen Lane, 2015)

Because the tide change brought about by behavioural economics cannot be ignored, I think this should be compulsory reading for any undergraduate student with even a minimal interest in economics. And for anyone who has ever dreamt of effectively criticising economic theory, this is a great source of arguments! It is a very entertaining read (at least to me) as Thaler is excellent at using the small stories around academic debates and day-to-day collaborations into the broader story of producing ground-breaking work and changing the face of economics.

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