Three short book reviews on topics that would entertain CEOs
For those who slept through Economics 101 Murder at the Margin, by Marshall Jevons (Princeton University Press, 1993, $10.95)
This quaint murder mystery, first published in 1978, has been used for years as supplementary reading in introductory economics courses. Its protagonist, economics professor Henry Spearman, employs the laws of economics to solve a series of murders that baffle local authorities on the Caribbean island of St. John. The new edition includes an introduction by economist Herbert Stein, who explains -- for those of us who actually did sleep through Economics 101 -- that Marshall Jevons is a pseudonym formed by combining the last names of Alfred Marshall and William Jevons, two distinguished but dead British economists. Authors William Breit and Kenneth Elzinga may never displace Agatha Christie in the hearts of mystery mavens, but discussions of supply and demand and opportunity costs are rarely as much fun as when they're encountered on the way to discovering whodunit.
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For those who fantasize about cashing out but can't imagine what they'd do with their time Miles Away: A Walk Across France, by Miles Morland (Random House, 1992, $21)
Let's face it: we all nurse the fantasy of getting up one morning and chucking it all. At the age of 45, Miles Morland did just that, walking out on a lucrative but frantic job that involved, in his words, "shouting down a phone" for his Wall Street employer. Suddenly emancipated, the Englishman decided to take a 350-mile trek across France with his wife. He then went on to live out the second stage of my fantasy: not only had he quit the grind, but he got paid to write about it. Pure, undiluted envy fueled my search for some excuse, however trivial, to dislike Morland. I couldn't find one. I have no idea how good he was at Shouting Down a Phone, but he's very gifted at Writing Down the Words.
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For those who need a dose of reality to keep things in perspective Workers: An Archaeology of the Industrial Age, photographs and text by SebastiÃo Salgado (Aperture, 1993, $100)
Salgado, one of the world's great photojournalists, spent the past seven years chronicling the work of sugarcane cutters in Cuba, fishing crews in Sicily, shipyard hands in Poland, and coal miners in India. The result is a photographic magnum opus that resonates with the excruciating tension between the brutality of the labor and the photographer's reverence for the laborers. These images will literally take your breath away.