Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Diane Coyle's "The Soulful Science"

Diane Coyle is a writer and Harvard economics Ph.D. whose books include Sex, Drugs and Economics: An Unconventional Introduction to Economics and The Weightless World: Strategies for Managing the Digital Economy.

A few days ago she put her new book, The Soulful Science: What Economists Really Do and Why It Matters, to the Page 69 Test.

Read the introduction to The Soulful Science.

Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist (read the results of his Page 69 Test), wrote a fine review of The Soulful Science for the Financial Times:
Those who were not paying attention could be forgiven for thinking that popular economics writing began in 2005 with the publication of the wildly successful Freakonomics. At one stage last year, Freakonomics and my own offering were exchanging first and second place on the ratings. Nobody, I think, was more surprised than I and the "freakonomists" Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner.

Diane Coyle did not think much of Freakonomics, which she attacked for its sensationalism, and The Soulful Science is not interested in making economics sexy. Dr Coyle has a very different ambition: she wants to make economics likeable.

Dr Coyle's previous book, Sex, Drugs and Economics, was excellent on the economics but the title was misleading: this reader never got the sense that her heart was in the sex and drugs. In The Soulful Science, she is on more comfortable territory. Duly liberated from the need to hype up a subject that she feels needs no hyperbole, she has produced a better, more confident book.
Do read on.

Among the early endorsements for The Soulful Science:

"At long last, economists have received credit where credit is due. Diane Coyle's authoritative, punchy, lucid, and provocative case for the vitality of today's economics and economists is like a breath of fresh air. This science is a long way from dismal and has been broadening its scope and deepening its insights for a long time. Too few people outside the discipline have noticed what has been going on. A great read, Diane Coyle's The Soulful Science will remedy that shortcoming."
--Peter L. Bernstein, author of Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk

"This book will show everybody what modern economics has to offer, and might even make economists rethink the relationship between their research and the big questions in economics. The Soulful Science is very well written, impressive in its grasp of a wide range of topics, and engaging in its enthusiasm."
--Paul Seabright, author of The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life

"Easy and pleasant reading, this informed and informative book shows convincingly that economics is not the dismal science it is reputed to be. It should be required reading for all who have no training in the field but are nevertheless convinced that they are qualified to speak out on important economic issues. Students who are puzzled by their economics courses will also find the book invaluable."
--William J. Baumol, author of The Free-Market Innovation Machine

"Economics has indeed been changing in exciting ways and Diane Coyle's new book will be essential reading for anyone who wants to know what has been going on and what has been achieved so far."
--Paul Ormerod, author of The Death of Economics and Why Most Things Fail

Of Sex, Drugs and Economics, Paul Krugman wrote: "Diane Coyle has done the best job yet of showing how economic thinking can be applied to life...."

Krugman again, on The Weightless World:
"This is a wonderfully refreshing read. You've heard the standard stories -- the gee-whiz optimism of the technophiles, the pessimism of the neo-luddites. Coyle offers something completely different. Each chapter offers a novel, often unsettling perspective about the future. For sure she will turn out to be wrong about some things -- but no matter. This is one of those rare books that force your thoughts out of their usual grooves."
Read more about Diane Coyle's work at her official website.

--Marshal Zeringue