At the Quintessential Centrist, our goal is to furnish you with fresh perspectives from across the political, economic and social spectrum. We strive to promote ideals and tenets of the center - where compromise is often found - through our in-depth columns, articles and analysis.
The internet, print, broadcast, and social media can all be sources of interesting and timely information. However, TQC believes that books often times contain some of the most pertinent and thought-provoking facts, figures and opinions. Some books are packed with quantitative information and hard data. These books we find help us buoy (or challenge) our arguments and in some cases, tightly held beliefs. Other books are more qualitative in nature; typically adding value from a top down perspective, incorporating ideas and values across the ideological spectrum. The very best titles challenge us to think objectively, critically, self-reflect, and potentially change our minds. Below we highlight a few of our favorite books we have read over the past year.
Energy and Civilization: A History by Vaclav Smil
The 35th of an incredible 36 books penned thus far in his illustrious career; Vaclav Smil, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba in Canada, offers his readers a fascinating history lesson on mankind, their relationship with, and consumption of, energy and natural resources. Be forewarned, this book is data heavy and granular in presentation. It requires the readers undivided attention. That said, it is well worth investing the time to read it as it is jam packed with important facts and figures. Energy and Civilization helped us examine more critically man’s relationship with the planet he lives on, and off.
Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes by Jenny Anderson & Paula Szuchman
Authored by New York Times reporter and Gerald Loeb Award winner Jenny Anderson and Paula Szuchman, former managing editor of The Daily Beast and Page 1 editor at The Wall Street Journal, Spousonomics is a very fun and informative book that uses classic economic principles to target, tackle and remedy issues that arise in almost every marriage. Do not be deterred if you have never studied finance or economics. The examples given in this book are in layman’s terms (not theoretical numeric formulas), easy to understand, and applicable to “real life” situations.
Solitary by Albert Woodfox
Albert Woodfox, is a human rights activist and part of the “Angola 3.” Woodfox spent 40 years in solitary confinement at Louisiana’s infamous Angola Prison for a crime he did not commit. During his time at Angola, Woodfox endured unimaginable physical and psychological torture. This book captures the endurance of the human spirit, America’s (often) unfair and biased legal system, it’s (sometimes) ugly history, as well as progress. We do not agree with all of Woodfox’s arguments, especially concerning capitalism, but we recommend reading his memoir.
The Little Book That Beats The Market by Joel Greenblatt
This book is as informative as it is fun, quick and easy to read. Academic, value investor and writer Joel Greenblatt masterfully narrates his “magic formula investing” strategy. The aforementioned catchphrase might sound gimmicky; it is not. It is a simple, rule-based strategy that if followed consistently, has proven to increase the probability of successfully investing in public and private markets.
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis & God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens
Does God exist? This is one of humankind's longest standing debates. C.S. Lewis, the late lay theologian and renown author was a believer. In Mere Christianity, Lewis makes extremely persuasive and original points that buttress his view. The late Christopher Hitchens was an atheist. In God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Hitchens, one of the most celebrated writers in recent history, makes impassioned, logical, and witty arguments that depict why God does not exist.
Uncensored: My Life and Uncomfortable Conversations at the Intersection of Black and White America by Zachary R. Wood
This book is, in-part, a microcosm of The Quintessential Centrist’s core mission: To introduce and respectfully discuss views on an array of hot button topics that are not necessarily commensurate with one’s own. In Uncensored, Wood takes us through his dysfunctional and turbulent childhood, adolescence, and his four years matriculating at the left leaning Williams College. Wood discusses the personal challenges he faced relating to race, culture, education, money, and free speech. Uncensored – a page turner - offers readers a refreshing (and much needed) prospective, especially in academia. While Wood sometimes finds himself in agreement with his liberal classmates, he argues why it is imperative to allow and to listen to dissenting views on college campuses.
How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen
Clayton Christensen, a business consultant and professor at Harvard Business School, couples his own views with input from liberals, conservatives, the God fearing, and atheists to craft a unique self-help book that is very un-self-help like in its delivery. Christensen challenges his readers to think introspectively. He avoids overly used catchphrases that are long on sizzle short on substance that often times exist in many other self-help books. Christenson - ranked #1 in 2011 and 2013 in the Thinkers 50 (commonly thought us as the most respected survey of management consultants) – both challenges and establishes a platform for readers to self-reflect and potentially correct suboptimal habits and behaviors. Readers of this book will increase the probability of reaching not only their professional objectives, but also their personal objectives, in a more efficient and effective way.
The Holy Grail of Macroeconomics: Lessons From Japan’s Great Recession by Richard Koo
After Vaclav Smil’s Energy And Civilization, this is the most quantitatively focused book on our list. Avoid this tome if you do not have a basic knowledge (or interest) in macroeconomics. If you do have an interest in learning more about macroeconomics, then this is the book for you to read. Richard Koo, Chief Economist at the Normura Research Intitute, offers a timely, fascinating, exhaustively researched book that refutes many classic macroeconomic assumptions. As far as macroeconomics books are concerned, The Holy Grail of Macroeconomics is easy to read and surprisingly enjoyable.
The End of Doom by Ronald Bailey
This book, penned by libertarian science writer Ronald Bailey, represents both a unique perspective and rare middle ground between climate change activists and the small minority of non-believers. Bailey’s view is similar to most scientists and to most ordinary citizens – both liberals and conservatives alike– that believe in global warming. Most environmentalists advocate for more regulation and financial subsidies to halt and reverse the devastating effects of climate change. Baily champions the idea that economic incentives (not government intervention) are the most effective change agents to clean up our planet. In The End of Doom, the author provides important, thought provoking examples underpinned by exhaustive research to substantiate his thesis. We thoroughly enjoyed this book and believe you will too.
Black Man in A White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflection on Race and Medicine by Damon Tweedy, M.D.
Dr. Damon Tweedy, a Duke Medical School and Yale Law alum, is a professor of Psychiatry at Duke and an attending physician at the Durham VA Medical Center in North Carolina. In Black Man in A White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflection on Race and Medicine, Dr. Tweedy examines the role race plays in the healthcare system in America from the lens of a practicing, black doctor. Tweedy provides heartbreaking examples of personal interactions with patients, other healthcare providers and hospital and administrative staff; and the disparity in the quality of care between racial and economic lines.
Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein
Liberals sometimes have a difficult time comprehending why a disproportionate amount of rural and some suburban citizens voted for Donald Trump. “I do not understand how anybody could vote for this man” is often uttered at dinner tables and cocktail parties in cities, especially on the coasts. Let us be clear, Janesville: An American Story by Washington Post reporter Amy Goldstein is neither a “pro Trump” nor a politically focused book. It is a depiction of the general malaise and sense of hopelessness that has engulfed parts of the rust belt in America. It illustrates how hope, for something or someone to reverse this trend of decay and despair, was the primary catalyst for their decision to vote for President Trump. This book helps to provide insight as to why voters pivoted towards Trump, even if many of the policies he champions might ultimately be making their situations worse.
Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America by Chris Arnade
Chris Arnade earned a PhD from Johns Hopkins in Physics and then worked on Wall Street for two decades. Then he got bored. Chris Arnade quit his job and decided to chronicle the lives of the inner-city poor in the Bronx, N.Y. After that, he expanded on his newfound purpose, and crisscrossed the United States interviewing and photographing America’s most improvised citizens. Abandoned by politicians and fellow Americans from both political parties, this gripping book aided by riveting photos illuminates their darkened reality.
I hope you enjoyed our brief descriptions of our favorite books. We would love to hear from you. What is your favorite book, and why? Ultimately, it is your thoughts, ideas and suggestions that will enable us to improve our product. As always, we welcome our reader’s ideas and suggestions. Feel free to drop us a line with any questions, comments, explanations or declarations on any subject you deem worthy of further investigation. We look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for supporting The Quintessential Centrist.