Books every leader should read before the next recession

recommended by Nick Bovee-Gazett

40-year high inflation. Inverted yield curves. Record levels of corporate debt. The warning signs of another recession are everywhere. Leaders need to be prepared for when the next one inevitably strikes. These five books will help.

  • 1


    Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World
    by Adam Tooze

    There is no better place to start to understand how recessions impact the global economic and political order than Adam Tooze's tome on the Great Recession. Tooze, an economic historian at Columbia University, documents in incredible detail how the actions of banks, households, and governments interacted to bring down the global financial system. Tooze shows that the Great Recession was not just a period of economic pain, even though its effects, like the drastic decline in household wealth for black and low-income white Americans, are still with us. It was also the beginning of the end of the U.S.-led global economic order and sowed the seeds of authoritarian populism around the world.

  • 2


    2030: How Today's Biggest Trends Will Collide and Reshape the Future of Everything
    by Mauro F. Guillén

    Recessions don't happen in a vacuum. They can also influence technological, political, cultural, and demographic trends. For example, the COVID-19 recession caused a surge in the share of e-commerce retail sales that continues to shake up the retail industry. Mauro Guillen, a professor at the Wharton School of Business, has written this fascinating primer on some of the biggest macro trends shaping the future. For example, Guillen discusses the implications of the center of gravity of the world's economy moving to Asia and what it will mean when 80% of the wealth in the United States is owned by people older than 60. Leaders who read it should ask, how will reduced demand and higher unemployment brought on by a recession interact with the trends Guillen documents, and how will this affect my team and company?

  • 3


    The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
    by Bessel van der Kolk M.D.

    People don't just lose their jobs and houses during a recession. Medical research shows anxiety, depression, and suicide rates all spike during economic downturns. If a recession occurs in the United States in 2023, leaders should expect a mental health crisis in a country still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic. 30,000 more Americans died from drug overdoses in the past year compared to before the pandemic, according to the CDC. Teen suicides have risen between 12-18%, according to a recent paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research. This acclaimed book by Bessel Van Der Kolk explains the impacts trauma of all kinds can take on our bodies and shares science-backed practices for healing. This kind of knowledge will be invaluable when hard times come again.

  • 4


    Advanced Macroeconomics
    by David Romer

    Wait a minute. What is a recession? The National Bureau of Economic Research, the organization responsible for calling when the U.S. is in a recession, defines it as "a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and lasts more than a few months." Typically, it involves a contracting economy and increasing unemployment for more than two quarters. This book by David Romer, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, looks at questions like, what is a recession? What is the business cycle? Why do they happen? What are the best approaches for dealing with recessions? It's academic, technical, and challenging. However, leaders who stick with it will be rewarded with a better understanding of how economic theory explains periods of recession. It also covers many other topics like the origins of economic growth and the role of the government in the economy.

  • 5


    Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism
    by Anne Case & Angus Deaton

    If you read the Romer book, you will learn that recessions are short-term deviations from the long-term trend of economic growth. However, when you read this incredible book by husband and wife economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton, you will be left with a moving sense of how devastating those short-term deviations can be for individuals and countries. When recessions interact with deindustrialization, wealth and income inequality, the decline of social ties, and the influx of potent new drugs, entire populations can be devastated. Deaton, who won the Nobel Prize in 2015 for his work on welfare economics (including research that showed non-college-educated whites in America dying in staggeringly high numbers from drug overdoses and alcohol poisonings) joins with Case, an expert in health economics, to write about the human toll our version of capitalism is taking. They write, "the fundamental problem is unfairness, that the great wealth at the top is seen as ill-gotten in a system that gives no chance to many." Case and Deaton show how our economic system has failed and give recommendations for how it can be improved.

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