Non-economists I like to read
I have a very eclectic taste in my reading.
I have been a long-time fan of classical detective stories by Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. I still read them, but these days I have come to like a group of European detective story writers, like, in alphabetical order, Boris Akunin (Georgian/Russian), Andrea Camilleri (Italian), Alan Furst (American but setting his stories in Europe around and during the Second World War), Pierre Lemaitre (French), Stieg Larsson (Swedish), Henning Mankel (Swedish), Jo Nesbø (Norwegian), Richard Osman (British), and especially Fred Vargas (French). They write stories that are not only great detective stories but contain a lot of excellent socio-economics commentaries and have very complex and believable characters, who are not just cardboard stereotypes. John Le Carré is of course a giant who links the two generations under the reign of Agatha Christie to today’s generation.
I also love stories set in alternative worlds. As a boy, I read a lot of classical science fictions – H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Issac Asimov, Arthur C. Clark, and so on. But today there are writers who write about alternative worlds but defy the classical genre classifications – science fiction, fantasy, farce, detective story, historical novel, etc.. My favourites are, in alphabetical order, Douglas Adams, Jasper Fforde, Robert Harris, Philip Pullman, and Philip Reeve. I also like Eoin Colfer, Neil Gaiman, Robert Rankin, Neal Stephenson, and Lavie Tidhar. Post-Communist Russia has produced two brilliant writers in this genre-defying genre (if I may invent such a term) – Victor Pelevin and Sergei Lyukianenko. More recently, I have been absolutely fascinated by the alternative worlds created by the American writer N.K. Jemisin.
In terms of ‘high’ literature, for some reason I have read more authors from Latin America than any other part of the world (regrettably all in English translation). Gabriel Garcia Marquez is my absolute favourite, but I also love Jorge Luis Borges and Alejo Carpentier. I have also recently come to love the works of the Soveit writer, Vassily Grossman.
As you would have guessed from my latest book, Edible Economics – A Hungry Economist Explains the World, I also love reading about food – not just recipe books, but restaurant reviews, discussions on ingredients, chef’s kitchen diaries, the history of food, or even occasional labels on exotic sauces. My favourite writers on these subjects are, in alphabetical order, Heston Blumenthal, Antonio Carluccio, David Chang, Simon Hopkinson, Mark Kurlansky, Jonathan Nunn, Jay Rayner, Claudia Roden, Nigel Slater, and Jeffrey Steingarten.
Last but not least, I love reading those free-ranging cultural commentators who defy all classifications. Pre-eminent in this group is Alan Bennett, but I love Umberto Eco, Melvyn Bragg, Stephen Fry, and W.G. Sebald too.