Tuesday , November 30 2021
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Cogs and Monsters and Dungeons and Dragons, oh my!

Summary:
Lots of intriguing books on deck this week! Jon Peterson’s “Game Wizards” is an in-depth history – and I really do mean in-depth – of the creation of Dungeons and Dragons and in particular the ugly struggle for control of TSR. It’s vivid and incredibly well-researched, although this particular niche is… well, it’s very niche. Robin Wigglesworth’s excellent “Trillions” is at the other end of the scale: Robin describes the invention of the index fund, a hugely consequential development in financial markets that has made almost no impact whatsoever on popular culture. One estimate reckons that the Vanguard index funds alone have saved investors about a trillion dollars in fees. Not sure I can quite endorse that number but it’s in the right ball-park. Great storytelling;

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Lots of intriguing books on deck this week!

Jon Peterson’s “Game Wizards” is an in-depth history – and I really do mean in-depth – of the creation of Dungeons and Dragons and in particular the ugly struggle for control of TSR. It’s vivid and incredibly well-researched, although this particular niche is… well, it’s very niche.

Robin Wigglesworth’s excellent “Trillions” is at the other end of the scale: Robin describes the invention of the index fund, a hugely consequential development in financial markets that has made almost no impact whatsoever on popular culture. One estimate reckons that the Vanguard index funds alone have saved investors about a trillion dollars in fees. Not sure I can quite endorse that number but it’s in the right ball-park. Great storytelling; recommended.

In “Cogs and Monsters” Diane Coyle argues that we’re getting our critique of economics all wrong. The critics create a straw man of economics, attacking flaws it doesn’t have – while at the same time ignoring very real and consequential weaknesses in the discipline. Diane is extremely wise, and the best friend economics could have – one willing to offer some serious tough love.

It was very kind of Oliver Burkeman to praise my book “Messy” – it’s a book of which I am extremely fond. Oliver’s latest book “Four Thousand Weeks” needs no praise from me as it is doing brilliantly, and deservedly so. But y’all might enjoy his occasional email newslatter, The Imperfectionist.

That’s all from me for this week, except to commend to you this irrefutable argument that every movie is improved by closing with Walk of Life” by Dire Straits…

The paperback of “How To Make The World Add Up” is now out. US title: “The Data Detective”.

“One of the most wonderful collections of stories that I have read in a long time… fascinating.”- Steve Levitt (Freakonomics)

“If you aren’t in love with stats before reading this book, you will be by the time you’re done.”- Caroline Criado Perez (Invisible Women)

I’ve set up a storefront on Bookshop in the United States and the United Kingdom – have a look and see all my recommendations; Bookshop is set up to support local independent retailers. Links to Bookshop and Amazon may generate referral fees.

Tim Harford
Tim is an economist, journalist and broadcaster. He is author of “Messy” and the million-selling “The Undercover Economist”, a senior columnist at the Financial Times, and the presenter of Radio 4’s “More or Less” and the iTunes-topping series “Fifty Things That Made the Modern Economy”. Tim has spoken at TED, PopTech and the Sydney Opera House and is a visiting fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford.

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